1. Oregon (↑1)
Oregon regains the top spot in this week’s rankings after skipping their way through USC. Justin Herbert threw for three touchdowns and added one more on the ground. The Heisman candidate put on a masterful performance in this one. Herbert’s success on the field was bolstered by defensive/special teams prowess including a pick six and a 100-yard kick return. Oregon was never a doubt in this game and the newly-released CFP Rankings put them at the top of the PAC 12 as well.
Oregon is on a bye week.
2. Utah (↓1)
The Utes fell one position this week after they went behind. They came back, but I’d be a liar if I said I thought they’d win the whole game. They had some uncharacteristic fumbling issues, but the combination of Zach Moss and Tyler Huntley managed to pull the Utes through. The defense forced three turnovers, but also gave up one of their highest yardage totals for a single game all season. Take that with a grain of salt though, because the Utes have more stout defensivley against the run and this was all through the air. They kept Eason barely above a 50% completion rate and limited the receivers well (with the exception of Hunter Bryant who went 6 catches for 105 yards and two touchdowns).But, they won and they covered the margin that was expected. Tyler Huntley still seemed to be injured and his mobility looked questionable at times. The Utes don’t have anyone on the injury list their expect to get back this season, but they’ll take the opportunity to rest and recover from the season’s lesser injuries. The Utes were helped by a pick six to go along with a very efficient Huntley and Zach Moss, who scored a touchdown on the ground and through the air.
Utah is on a bye week.
3. Washington (↑2)
Washington was able to put a bit of a scare in the Utes and at one point held a 14-3 lead over the #9-ranked Utes. At half time, Washington had allowed ten more Utes points, and late in the third quarter, Jacob Eason threw a pick-six. After that, it was all Utes. The Huskies were very consistent on offense, but they had a very one-sided gameplan. The Huskies threw the ball 52 times compared to the 53 total rushing yards, on 22 attempts. Overall, they played a very solid game against a top-10 team, despite the defense allowing their second-highest points total this season. The Huskies suffered from turnovers in this game with three overall, which is something Coach Petersen will definitely want to work on. They should be set up for a good matchup against the Beavers of Oregon State.
This week the Huskies will play Oregon State that has a high-powered offense and a generally tolerable defense. The Beavers have only been held under double-digit scoring once (by Utah) and average nearly 35 points scored per game. This will be a test for Washington’s defense, but I think Washington has the talent on both sides of the ball to come away with a victory. If the team shows up like they did last week (and they can limit turnovers), I think they should be able to secure a victory. The odds are firmly in Washington’s favor (by 10 points) despite the game being played at Reser Stadium.
4. UCLA (↑2)
Chip Kelly’s UCLA team has been pretty on a roller coaster ride beginning with an 0-3 start, including a loss to San Diego State. But now they are riding a three game win streak with their win over Colorado. The gameplan was stellar for this matchup; the Bruins smothered Montez to his second-lowest yardage output of the season (195) only being outdone by Oregon (who held him to 131). Defensively they only allowed one touchdown through the air, and one on the ground while forcing one turnover. Thompson-Robinson added one interception to bring his season total to eight, but otherwise had a great performance with a pair of touchdowns. Joshua Kelley continued to be the real heavy lifter on this team adding two more touchdowns following his four touchdown explosion.
This week the Bruins are on a bye week.
5. USC (↓2)
I’ve got to be quite honest with you, I have no idea what to do with this USC team anymore. They have some of the highest highs, defeating Utah and annihilating a then-ranked Stanford, and (next to Cal) lowest lows, getting doubled up by Washington, destroyed by Oregon (C, and nearly losing to Colorado. Yes — I know they’ve had injuries, but no, I’m not going to let that be an excuse. The third-string QB led this team to a victory over Utah and then the very next week with the same QB, had a three interception loss to Washington. The BYU is not as bad of a loss in my mind as it is in some people’s, because Romney Stadium can get crazy and I’ve seen a number of upsets occur there. Regardless, I think that this team needs to do better, their inconsistency is insane.
This week the Trojans will play the Sun Devils who are coming off of a bye week. Arizona State has been similarly Jekyll and Hyde, so I’m interested to see how this plays out. The Sun Devils come in to this game on a two-game win streak (and a narrow win the week before that). Currently the Sun Devils are 1.5 point favorites in this matchup (because they are at Sun Devil Stadium), but honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Trojans are able to put together an upset here (depending on which version of USC comes).
6. Washington State (↓2)
Washington State is coming off a bye. They’ve fallen a bit in our rankings partially because of their underwhelming 1-4 Conference start. However, they began with a brutal schedule facing three ranked teams in four weeks (Utah, Oregon, and ASU). Washington State has the potential for some big games because they score a ton of points, but they will either need a boost from their defense or for their opponent to beat themselves (with turnovers). Their offense is prolific and their defense so far (at least statistically) has been terrible, but I think it will improve as they face unranked teams.
The week the Cougars will play California who is coming off a bye week. California has had been horrendous offensively. They have barely more than a quarter of the points scored (61) that the division leaders have (211 and 202). The Bears are better defensively allowing roughly the same as Oregon (116 to Oregon’s 106) but falling well shoring of the Utes’ 81. Washington State needs to stay alert because I do think this Cal team has some good games in them (they beat Washington who fared well against the Utes) but they were also shutout (by the same Utes).
7. Oregon State (↔)
Oregon State is coming off a win against Arizona. Once again, Jake Luton was lights out. He added three more touchdowns to reach 19 touchdowns and 1 interception (against Utah) on the season. He went 20/26 with 3 touchdowns, no interceptions and over 300 yards of offense on an evening that Oregon State was largely in control from start to finish. As a result, there was a lot of love (and possession time) given to the running backs, who had a similarly good day totaling five touchdowns against a porous Arizona team. In total they ended up with 572 yards of total offense, and although they allowed Arizona to gain 526 yards on their own they managed to limit the damage.
This week the Beavers will play the Washington Huskies, which will prove to be a tough game. So far, the Beavers are 10 point underdogs at home. That said, there’s still plenty of scenarios in my head about how the Beavers could fare. They have only scored less than 20 points twice and have exceeded 40 points three times this season. If Luton stays at hot as he was and his receivers make some catches; there’s the potential for upset. Furthermore, Washington has an allergy to holding onto the football; Luton is at a 19:1 ratio of touchdowns to interceptions, Eason is at 4:1. Facing a prolific offense and turning the ball over a lot does not usually fare well, but I’m sure that Chris Petersen has been focusing on that.
8. Stanford (↑1)
Stanford is coming off of a much needed bye week. K.J. Costello has made a triumphant return to the starting line up (and Davis Mills is questionable). In his return, he threw for 3 touchdowns and over 300 passing yards. This also meant for the first time in a long while that Stanford wasn’t almost completely one-dimensional, indicated by Cameron Scarlett running for not one — but two touchdowns as well. This game was also the highest scoring game of their season, and the Cardinal are going to have to adapt to the new normal because with the exception of Mills, the rest of the injured aren’t coming back this year. I expect Stanford to put up a lot of points in this game with K.J. Costello returning to the helm against a nigh-bottom tier defense. The Cardinal defense has looked anything like a David Shaw defense, but I expect that to improve this week too. It’s really hard to have a dominant defense when they are on the field the entirety of the game, so being able to rest should have a significant impact on their defensive abilities.
This week they face a Colorado team coming off of a loss to UCLA. While UCLA has been up and down this season, they are still a good team. However, they did a fantastic of neutralizing a prolific passer in Steven Montez. K.J. Trujillo and starting RB Alex Fontenot is questionable, and the team has several others out for the season. Colorado seemed to struggle against both components of the UCLA offense eventually yielding two rushing and two passing touchdowns. Stanford should have the ability to serve up a similar dose for the Buffs this week, and they have strong favorites despite playing at Folsom field.
9. Arizona State (↑1)
Arizona State is coming off a bye week. Jayden Daniels has been a bright spot in the season. The true freshman has been phenomenal with almost 2,000 yards to go with his 11 touchdowns to 2 interceptions. Daniels and Benjamin are pretty much the entirety of the offense and as a result they rank 103rd in the nation in scoring offense. Defensively, Arizona State has been pretty good, in fact, despite their poor scoring, the defense has actually held their opponents to less than the offense. It’s not a sizable margin, it’s basically a field goal, but it shows that the potential is there. Arizona State played five straight games against a ranked opponent, but they only have one left (#7 Oregon) to close out PAC 12 play.
The Sun Devils will play the Trojans at home in Tempe. USC started off the season with massive expectations followed by a massive injury list. As the injury list has shortened, the team’s performances have been all over the place from beating Utah, to narrowly avoiding a Colorado loss and getting pummeled by Oregon. Arizona State are currently favored, and I can’t help but wonder if some of that has to do with the inconsistency. Is Kedon Slovis going to have another three interception game? Will USC turn the ball over four times again? The pieces are there for this USC team, but there’s also some really good pieces at Arizona State. Maybe the 942 crew (the Arizona State student section) can be the difference, as the Sun Devils have been quite a bit better (barring the Colorado loss) at home where they are 3-1.
10. Arizona (↑1)
Arizona lost by twenty to Oregon State last week. Once again the QB pendulum was swinging, with Tate getting the start and leading them to two straight field goals. Meanwhile, Oregon State hung two touchdowns on the Wildcats in the same time. Sumlin gave it to Gunnell (again) who went on to flirt with 300 yards passing as well as a pair of touchdowns. Although they ended up losing this game, it was by no fault of Gunnell or the running back duo of Taylor and Brightwell. The defense got lit up for 56 points and the only game the Wildcats have come close to that number was against their “rivals” from Northern Arizona. If you’ll remember, the defense gave up 41 points in that one, too. I am hoping that with Gunnell playing substantially better than Tate, that he might get the start out of the bye week, but until then — Sumlin needs to find some defense, badly.
The Wildcats are on a bye week.
11. Colorado (↓3)
Colorado is coming off a loss to UCLA. I tried to be high on this team, but the results just aren’t there. Aside from Shenault, Jr. there is not much to be excited for. They are not much better off than Cal, they score a little more (ok, almost double) but they also give up a lot more (almost double). With the exception of the Oregon game, they’ve been in every game more or less. Scoring hasn’t been their issue, their defense has been and it’s really hard to pull off victories against anyone when the defense allows ten more points than you can score. To even become bowl eligible, Colorado would have to win out including at Rice Eccles Stadium against the Utes.
This week the Buffaloes will face a newly reinvigorated Stanford team. A couple of weeks ago this would have seemed like a “gimme”, but with K.J. Costello back, the Cardinal have been markedly better. This matchup will take place at Folsom Field, but I have to be completely honest, I’m astounded that right now the Cardinal are only three point favorites. Sure, it might be a bit of a shoot out, but barring a magnificent performance (which we’ve yet to see) from the Buffaloes, I just can’t get my head around them winning this one.
12. California (↔)
The Bears are coming off a much needed bye week. The one conference win they have is a frankly unexplainable win against Washington. In eight games now California has only managed 139 points while giving up 166. Like Arizona, the Bears have struggled with their QB situation between Chase Garbers and Devin Modster.
This week the Bears will play Washington State. As I noted in the Washington State write up, I think the Cougars are better than they’ve shown so far. The Bears face a high-powered offense against a QB with 32 touchdowns. The Bears defense might be underrated, but I’m not sure they are going to be able to stifle the Mike Leach offense. Even with a home game, I expect a rough day for the Bears.