1. Utah (↑1)
The Utes were dominant in this week and held the Bears to a shutout. Beginning the fourth quarter, the Utes had outgained the Bears 421 yards to 41 yards. The Utes also had time to put the second string quarterbacks and running backs into the game. Huntley was just short of 65% completion with one touchdown through the air and one more on the ground. The Utes backup, Jason Shelley, also scored once through the air and once on the ground. Zack Moss capped off a record-breaking performance (for total rushing yards) last week, by taking sole ownership of the most rushing touchdowns. Overall, it was a very dominant performance for the Utes and is perhaps best indicated by the Utes 23 first downs, compared to Cal’s six. This game was never in doubt.
Utah will face Washington, who is 2-3 in the conference having lost to California, Oregon, and Stanford. Only one of those can be considered a “good loss”, but Utah had their own bizarre loss to USC. Washington has appeared to be susceptible to the run, as both touchdowns against California were rushing and against Stanford, they allowed one through the air and one on the ground. The Oregon Ducks game was a whole different story as they allowed four touchdowns through the air and one more rushing. Washington did record a win over Utah’s kryptonite (USC), but the Utes have allowed two touchdowns in their last four games. One of those came in the Oregon State rout with most of the defensive starters out of the game.
2. Oregon (↓1)
Oregon drops a little in our power rankings this week because of the close call they had with Washington State. The Ducks did all of their damage via the ground game, although Justin Herbert was still fairly efficient and exceeded 200 yards. Oregon got one-third of their points from the kicker position and some additional help with a pick-six by Jevon Holland. CJ Verdell was the workhorse and he was a definite bright spot in the game with three touchdowns and over 250 yards rushing on 23 attempts. The Ducks were able to come up big in the fourth quarter to secure the victory, but I think it was a lot closer than people were comfortable with.
Oregon heads to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum this week to take on a USC team that’s been all over the place this year. They blew out Arizona and Stanford, beat Utah by a touchdown, and squeaked by Colorado. The Ducks go into this game as favorites, but they’ll no doubt be wary of this one. USC is perfect at home with all three of their losses (one conference loss) coming away. Oregon needs to keep winning (and hope that Utah does as well) so that they can have a top 10 battle for the PAC 12 Championship. If that happens, I’m pretty confident that the winner gets in.
3. USC (↔)
This USC team has been Jekyll and Hyde all season. Last Saturday was no exception. USC started with the ball and scored on their first possession, after that, Colorado was in the driver’s seat. Then, Kedon Slovis put a four-touchdown performance with two receiving touchdowns by Michael Pittman to seal the deal. Despite their multitude of injuries, they manage to keep competing (and co-leading) in the PAC 12 South although it’s not always convincing. USC has been great at home where they won both of their top 25 games. Unfortunately for USC, they are in the same boat as Utah and Oregon, there aren’t really any signature wins. If USC can pull this off, they would definitely get a better bowl, though I think they are probably limited to a PAC 12 Championship Game appearance. A win here though, might also doom the conference from having representation in the College Football Playoff.
USC’s week 10 opponent is also coming off of a narrow win to maintain their perfect 5-0 in the PAC 12 North. Oregon holds a slight edge at the time of writing, even though they are coming to the Colosseum. I expect this to be a high-scoring affair as both teams are averaging nearly 450 yards of offense per game, USC’s defense has given up nearly the same number. USC is surrendering an average of 28 points per game in the conference (and only slightly less overall). However, a potent offense gave them a run for their money against Washington State and Oregon only survived by a last-minute, game-winning field goal. This is Justin Herbert’s second consecutive come from behind victory in as many weeks.
4. Washington State (↑1)
The low point of the Washington State season probably came immediately after the loss in Utah where they were vastly outplayed on both sides of the ball. During the press conference, Mike Leach said some choice words about his team and their efforts. Since then the Cougars had a blowout win over Colorado and two losses by less than a combined ten points against Arizona State and Oregon. This week’s game is basically a must-win if the Cougars want to go bowling because they need two wins in the last four. Remaining on their schedule is Cal, a newly-resurgent Stanford, Oregon State, and then Apple Cup rivals, Washington. According to ESPN’s FPI, Cal is the hardest remaining game besides Washington; although I think KJ Costello has already shown what he can bring now that he’s back.
The Cougars have the benefit of a bye week to refocus.
5. Washington (↔)
Washington remains where they were last week with the bye week, but hopefully, they’ve been studying up. The Huskies will also have been trying to get some of their injury losses back into game shape. Right now they could potentially be getting Chico McClatcher and Sean McGraw back, but there has not been any official word to date. Washington played well against Oregon in their last game and need it to continue if they want to knock off the Utes.
Washington next faces Utah in the confines of Husky Stadium, and Vegas has noticed the home-field advantage. However, they are still giving the Utes a slight edge (-3.5) in the matchup. There’s been quite a rivalry developing between the Utes and Dawgs because of the serious implications their late-season meetings have held. The Utes have been making a habit of holding high-powered offenses to very few points, something that the Huskies will need to change if they want a good result. To add insult to injury, the Utes defense is coming off holding Cal to less than 100 yards of total offense. The Utes are healthy with only Britain Covey out (medical redshirt) and Cameron Rising (eligibility), while the Huskies have a lengthy injury list.
6. UCLA (↑1)
UCLA was the dominant team in three out of the four quarters last week at home in Pasadena. Joshua Kelly had a career night where he ran 34 times, for more than 150 yards and four touchdowns. In addition to Kelly’s night to remember, Dorian Thompson-Robinson’s night wasn’t far off as he went 20-29, 250+ yards passing, and two touchdowns of his own. UCLA definitely needs to find a way to hold onto the ball as they still gave up three turnovers which might be acceptable against a struggling ASU team, but won’t be against other teams. When the third quarter closed, UCLA looked to be firmly in the driver’s seat, but quarter four was all ASU with the Bruins giving up 22 consecutive points to get the Sun Devils back into the game.
UCLA will up with a Colorado team that kept USC on it’s heels until the final moment. Although the Buffaloes come in at 1-4, they shouldn’t be underestimated and Steven Montez (and Laviska Shenault Jr.) are coming off their best game of the season. Shenault has spent large chunks of the season injured, but he seems to finally be shedding the injury bug. This should be a high scoring affair which both teams renown much more for their offense than their defense.
7. Oregon State (↓1)
Oregon State is coming off a bye week so it’ll be interesting to see how they fare. They need to get their offense firing on a few more cylinders to escape Arizona, but coming off their loss this may be one of the best chances they have this year to add to the win column.
The Beavers will face Arizona who comes in off a surprise upset by one of the lowest teams in our Power Rankings last week. Stanford did get KJ Costello back and he was instrumental in the win. Regardless, Sumlin needs to figure out his quarterback situation — he seems to have blind faith in Tate, who continues to go basically one touchdown for one interception. The Wildcat defense is not a position for this to be a successful formula. Oregon State only did damage against Cal through the air, but Luton has been good enough that those turnovers could be turned into points for the Beavers and a nice cushion to work with. Arizona showed some weakness against the run last week, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Beavers push their running back, Pierce, into a more prominent role in the actual run game (as opposed to the passing game where he’s been most successful this season).
8. Colorado (↑2)
The Buffs make a big jump this week because of their play against USC. They were in great position to post their first win over the Trojans, and, although they fell short it was because Kedon Slovis woke up for the final quarter and led the comeback. Montez got his star wideout involved in the game to the tune of nearly 200 yards (and a touchdown). Despite the running game recording reasonable rush yardage, it wasn’t particularly effective. Montez got the only rushing touchdown and was responsible for almost a quarter of the run yards along with three touchdowns and no interceptions.
The Buffs will meet up with the Bruins in what promises to be a high scoring affair. Neither team holds opponents under 450 yards of offense, although neither team gains that much yardage normally. Both teams are relatively rush avoidant leaning heavily towards the run (more than two to one in terms of yards). UCLA generated 42 points en route to their victory over Arizona State, and the Buffs generated 31 in their loss to USC. The game will be held in Pasadena which is giving the Bruins a slight advantage because of playing at home — but I think overall it will be a high scoring and relatively close game. The current points total is greater than sixty points, so look for some action to happen.
9. Stanford (↑2)
Stanford exploded back into second place in the North. It’s unlikely they’ll be competing for much more than going to a bowl this season, but they put up a great fight and knocked off Arizona. This coincided with KJ Costello’s return to the starting line up and a massive performance by the quarterback, and the additional dimension freed up Scarlett for two touchdowns on nineteen carries. Costello passed for 322 yards and three touchdowns in his return. Now, the Cardinal need to set their expectations for the rest of the season and find a way to get there.
The Cardinal have a bye week during which they’ll hope to get some more players back to compliment KJ Costello’s return.
10. Arizona State (↓6)
Our power rankings expected Arizona State to beat UCLA handily, but instead, they were annihilated by Joshua Kelley. His four rushing touchdowns were nearly enough to overcome the Sun Devils single-handedly. They were vastly outplayed in all but the fourth quarter, but that point it was far too late for the Sun Devils to have any semblance of a chance to come back. Entering the fourth quarter it was 42-10, which is a seismic task for any team to recover from. Jayden Daniels continues to show his ability, but he can’t do everything — Coach Edwards needs to find a way to get the rest of the team involved. Daniels was responsible for 28 of the teams’ 32 points, and that’s not a recipe for success. They need to get more production from their running backs to at least help offset the pressure on the Freshman.
The Sun Devils will use their bye week to figure out a plan moving forward.
11. Arizona (↓2)
Arizona fell in our rankings after losing to Stanford. While Stanford had been atrocious the last several weeks, the return of KJ Costello saw a new version of the Cardinal that was able to move the ball for the first time in several weeks. Khalil Tate has managed to keep a hold of the starting job despite throwing two interceptions to go with his two touchdowns. Grant Gunnell continues to make cameos after the worst of Tate’s errors and plays very well. At some point, I think Sumlin will have to make the move to try Gunnell as the starter and I personally think he’ll have a great showing when this happens. JJ Taylor was questionable coming into the weekend and he clearly wasn’t 100% as he only carried the ball sixteen times. He was fairly efficient during that time, eclipsing 100 yards rushing and averaging almost seven yards per carry.
Their opponent, Oregon State, is coming off of a bye week after escaping Berkeley with a four-point win. Jake Luton continues to be one of the few bright spots on this team, although even his performance was muted. He tallied 18 completions on 34 attempts for 174 yards and two touchdowns. Through 40 rushing attempts the Beavers only managed 100 yards to finish with a dismal 270 yards. Despite the win, they actually gained less yardage than the Bears and the Beavers fell well short of their average of 400 yards of offense per game.
12. California (↔)
Cal gave me absolutely no reason to consider putting them anywhere else. They got shut out by the Utes, blown out by 35 points, and weren’t able to do anything with the ball. Although the final box score is a little more favorable for Cal (because they made gains in garbage time), the Utes at one point in the fourth quarter had ten times the total yards of Cal. Brausch completed 7 of 19 passes for an average of 2.5 yards and no touchdowns, perhaps the one bright stop of his day was no interceptions thrown but it was not a good day at the office. He also was sacked three times in “Sack Lake City”. Cal as a whole finished with 21 rushing attempts for 23 yards. They did manage decent punting statistics with nine punts at a net average of just under 42 yards.
The Bears have a bye this week and really need to get things in order.
The next game is not looking much brighter for them either, as they’ll host Washington State who was able to give undefeated Oregon a scare with one minute remaining in the fourth quarter. Although Anthony Gordon has high interception numbers, the Cougars are going to put up a stiff fight. They’ve looked much better since their head coach aired their dirty laundry on national TV calling them “fat, happy, dumb, and entitled” after a blowout loss to Utah. Mike Leach was undoubtedly pleased with their efforts against Oregon, but they ended up on the wrong side of the board at the final whistle.