As part of continuing coverage of the PAC 12 Conference, we present the PAC 12 Power Rankings Week 13 rendition! This is the first week that all twelve teams will be in action (and on the same day) since Week 8. The Week 13 Power Rankings contain a top-tier with Utah and Oregon, and then, honestly, everyone else.
The Utes regain the top spot after their absolute demolition of UCLA. I heard rumors from the rest of the sports media community that “this might be the game” that UCLA fires on all cylinders. Maybe we were thinking about different cylinders, but UCLA was entirely stifled on offense. The Utes provided two good (for UCLA) opportunities for the Bruins, including a fumble about the 20-yard line, and the Bruins went away with nothing. Tyler Huntley continued to have remarkable accuracy rising to second in the nation behind only LSU’s Joe Burrow in completion percentage. The defense extended their streak to include another game without a touchdown, and the rushing game continues to be successful. Arizona got Oregon last week, and now they get Utah, and I don’t expect the result to change.
The Utes face the University of Arizona Wildcats this week. The Wildcats are coming off a game completely devoid of offensive touchdowns, and they were shut down on offense. The Utes have only allowed 41 points in their last five games (8.2 points/game), and a big chunk of those were allowed at Washington. The Ducks doubled up the Wildcats offense when they met last week, and I expect a similar scenario again. Unlike most teams in this write-up, the Utes still have everything to play for. To make matters even worse for the Wildcats, they are rumored to be without two members of their offensive line at a minimum. This could be another shutout for the Utes defense, especially if the turnover-prone Khalil Tate starts things off for the Wildcats.
Oregon recorded a win over Arizona at Autzen Stadium but fell in our rankings just slightly. Utah and Oregon have taken turns leading these rankings since we began them. Oregon still looked good, but their win just wasn’t as dominating as Utah’s win. Oregon helped the Wildcats to two field goals in the second quarter and blanked them for the remainder of the game. Justin Herbert continued to add to his total and draft stock with a four-touchdown performance (though he did also throw a pick). The Ducks recorded almost 500 yards compared to Arizona’s 240. Despite the margin of victory, the Ducks recorded only three more first downs than the Ducks and were the only team to commit a live-ball turnover. The passing game was very effective, but the rushing game only averaged slightly higher than what the Ducks allowed the Wildcats to do (3.5 yards per carry compared to 2.8 yards per carry) with the same number of attempts.
Oregon gets to play both the Arizona schools in quick succession with ASU as this weekend’s matchup. Arizona State has a four-game losing streak but can make bowl eligibility still even with a loss to the Ducks. Jayden Daniels has been good, but he’ll face a defense that held the Wildcats to barely over 100 yards passing, and Eno Benjamin still hasn’t shown up for the Devils. This should be another big margin of victory for the Ducks as they plow on towards the PAC 12 Championship game.
3. USC (↔):
USC recorded a win over the Cal Bears who got their starter back (for a little over a quarter) before they were forced to go to Modster. USC did surrender one fumble to the Bears, but nothing came of it. Kedon Slovis had yet another 400+ yard game, that’s three in the past four weeks, and the Trojans have regrouped after the Oregon demolition with two straight games. USC decimated the Bears throw the air completing 29 catches for 406 yards. The Trojans’ rushing game was limited to less than 60 yards on almost 30 attempts. USC is still mathematically in the hunt for the PAC 12 South Title and the associated berth in the PAC 12 Championship game. Yet, as of now, they would need Utah to have a catastrophic slip up against either Arizona or Colorado (and USC needs to win out).
USC will play their crosstown rivals from Westwood, in the Memorial Coliseum. While USC has been trending in the right direction after three early-season losses and recognized as #23 in the nation, the Bruins have not. UCLA was kept entirely in check by the Utah defense (one which the Trojans shredded earlier in the season) and was very limited on both sides. With a rather underwhelming season, UCLA will likely come into this one with a vengeance, but I’m concerned about Dorian Thompson-Robinson’s propensity for interceptions. They amassed five turnovers last week against Utah, and, arguably, the Trojans have better athletes at most positions. I’ve got to go for a big home win off the back of some pressure-induced interceptions by the Bruins youngster.
4. Washington (↔):
The Huskies have now officially been eliminated from PAC 12 Championship contention, so now it’ll be all about bowl placement. Washington is coming off a bye week following a low-scoring, defensive battle with Oregon State. Washington is already bowl eligible but will need to put on a good show to end up with a good bowl placement. It’s looking like the winner of the PAC 12 Championship would move on to the College Football Playoff, while the loser would go to the Rose Bowl. The rest of the games are trying to position the Huskies to go to the best bowl they can.
The Huskies are on a bye this week.
5. Oregon State (↑2):
Oregon State moves up in our polls based on the fact that they survived ASU’s late onslaught because of the failed two-point conversion to win outright. Despite the victory, the Beavers actually were outgained by the Sun Devils (by 15 yards), although they won the possession game by nearly ten minutes. Jake Luton threw for just under 300 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions. The running game was split between Pierce and Jefferson, but together they didn’t make 100 yards. Ultimately it took five Beavers players and 39 attempts to break the 100-yard rushing mark. They did manage one rushing touchdown via Jemar Jefferson bring his season total to five and an average of five yards per carry.
Oregon State will play one of their most important games of the season, the “Civil War” against archrival Oregon. Both teams are coming off wins, although one was by a hair while the other was annihilation. The beavers will have it all to do against the PAC 12 North champions; however, both teams bring in prolific offenses. Although Oregon State has a much harder matchup on paper, rivalry games often bring something entirely new. That said, the PAC 12 would be best served by Utah and Oregon continuing to win out.
6. UCLA (↓1):
UCLA came to Utah and was vastly outplayed. The Bruins scored (a field goal) on their first drive, and that was the final time they would record points. They were gifted two golden opportunities on turnovers but were utterly unable to capitalize — including one on a Demari Simpkins fumble inside the Utes defensive half (on the 28-yard line). They also forced a turnover on downs, which placed the ball at the UCLA 48-yard line, which resulted in zero points. UCLA suffered from turnovers, five total, two interceptions, and three fumbles. UCLA fell to 4-6 on the season with the result, and their schedule doesn’t get easier. They will play (#23) USC at the Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, and then they’ll play California at home to close out the season.
Coming off a big defeat against Utah, the Bruins will play the one team that has beaten them so far, USC. Kedon Slovis has been putting up video game numbers in most of his games. This is going to be a challenging game for UCLA, and it may turn into a shootout. If it does, I’m concerned that Dorian Thompson-Robinson will succumb to the pressure and make a mistake, either a fumble or an interception.
7. Washington State (↑2):
Washington State is coming off a victory over Stanford after a monster game from Anthony Gordon, where he eclipsed 500 passing yards while recording five touchdowns and a lone interception. In last week’s edition of the Power Rankings, I talked about the possibility of Gordon throwing for 50 touchdowns (he’s at 39 with two games to go), and the Cougs still have to win one more game to be bowl-eligible this blowout keeps them right on track. In addition to Gordon, Borghi also had a big role to play, he ran 15 times for 111 yards and a touchdown as well as having receiving touchdown. I am still concerned about the defense (which yielded 500 yards to Stanford), but as long as they continue to outscore their opponents or prevent them from turning yards into points, they still have potential.
Washington State will enter this week’s matchup against Oregon State on the back of a five-game win streak over the Beavers. During that timespan, only two of the five games have been closer than a touchdown margin. Washington State is the current favorite by almost 11 points. If they can win this matchup, they will become bowl eligible. Washington State has the average yardage advantage by nearly 150 yards, but both good quarterbacks’ accuracy will be tested in this expected shoot out.
After much fanfare about Stanford getting K.J. Costello back, it was instead Davis Mills who started for Stanford. This suggests that Costello could be facing more injuries or has yet to recover from their previous ones fully. Despite racking up over 500 yards, Stanford would ultimately lose to Washington State from their inability to keep pace with the Cougars scoring (and two interceptions were thrown). It certainly didn’t help matters that Stanford was completely one-dimensional garnering six rushing yards (no — that’s not an error, six) on ten attempts. I expect Stanford to shut down K.J. Costello for the rest of the season as they really don’t have anything to play for at this point. Their next two opponents are Cal and #16 Notre Dame, and the Cardinal would have to win both to earn bowl eligibility.
Stanford enters this Cal matchup with a current nine-game win streak dating back to the 2010 season. During that timespan, the Cardinal has had some impressive players on the field from Andrew Luck to Christian McCaffrey. This team has somewhat less star power (and even less healthy), and it shows in the projected sub-3 point spread. It’s looking unlikely that Stanford would be able to come up with a win here. Expect some new guys to feature in this one as they really only have next season to prepare for.
9. California (↓1):
Cal got starting-QB Chase Garbers back, although he only played a little over a quarter before the injury-riddled quarterback suffered yet another. As a result, the ball was relinquished to Devon Modster. The Bears ultimately lost to USC, behind a massive gained-yardage differential and a pair of Modster-interceptions. Cal had a balanced game, running 29 times and throwing 32. However, they managed 200 fewer yards than the Trojans. The balancing act yielded 128 passing yards and 135 rushing yards. Before going out injured, Garbers was 4/10 for 33 yards, after which Modster went 11 for 22 for 95 yards and two interceptions. Cal faced a potent offense in USC, but they still allowed almost 500 yards, which doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in their defense.
Cal will head to Stanford Stadium, where they will have one of their best opportunities in nearly a decade to win. Both teams have been offensively challenged this season, and both teams have struggled with injuries to key starters. The odds are basically even when you account for the home team advantage. This Cal team needs to recover from last week, and they need to get their defense back in order. They also need to take care of the ball (I’m looking at you, Mr. Modster). There’s no room for error if they want to leave the stadium having broken Stanford’s domination of Bears in the conference.
10. Arizona (↔):
The Wildcats traveled to Autzen, where Oregon soundly beat them. Kevin Sumlin finally started reading my weekly piece and put Grant Gunnell in to start. Gunnell went 10 for 14 for 82 yards for the game, although Sumlin opted to return to Tate for a big chunk of the second and third quarters. Tate had a poor game going 7 for 16 and 50 yards. The Wildcats as a whole failed to score a touchdown and instead scored all six points via the field goal. The Wildcat run led by J.J. Taylor was nearly able to equal the Oregon rushing totals, but the Wildcats were absolutely obliterated in the passing game. Oregon basically recorded three receiving yards for each yard gained by Arizona. The chances of them winning bowl eligibility are poor with their matchup this week, so they are just playing to win the in-state rivalry game against the Sun Devils.
This week is unlikely to be better than last week as for the Cougars, although the Wildcats have played spoiler to Utah before. The best chance the Wildcats will have this season will come by taking advantage of Utah turnovers. The Utes have relinquished at least two turnovers in each of their last few home games, but they’ve yet to be punished for it. A win here doesn’t really help the Wildcats to anything within the PAC 12 standings, but it would go a long way for ego; however, I expect the Utes to edge this one without much fanfare.
11. Colorado (↔):
Colorado has a long-shot chance of becoming bowl eligible, but would take upsets over both Washington and Utah. Colorado is coming off a bye week following a low-scoring game against Stanford. The Buffs are not expected to fare well against Washington, which would leave them only an opportunity to affect who represents the PAC 12 South in the Championship game. Alternatively, the Buffs may also just be looking forward to next year and trying to get the players that will return some snaps in the home finale.
The Buffs welcome Washington to Folsom Field, but the Huskies are strong favorites in this match up. Neither school comes in on the back of particularly good results, over the last five games Colorado has won one game and Washington has one two. However, it is worth noting that two of the three Husky losses came against Utah and Oregon. This should be a high scoring game with two powerful offenses, but only one of the two teams comes in with any semblance of a defense. Colorado has been ravaged all year by their inability to keep their opponents out of the endzone, and I have no reason to believe it will be different in this one. The Huskies should win, comfortably.
12. Arizona State (↔):
Oregon State handed the Sun Devils their fourth consecutive loss in a game that Arizona State came up just short. The Sun Devils scored a touchdown in the closing moments, but rather than kicking the extra point to force overtime, they opted to go for the win and were unsuccessful. I thought this was a somewhat questionable decision by Herb Edwards as the Beavers did all their damage in the first three quarters. The Sun Devils halved their point-scoring in the third quarter and shut them out in the fourth. Based off of the game flow, Arizona State seemed to have the hot hand on both sides of the ball. However, they went for two points to win the game (and undoubtedly end their losing streak) but came up short. They tried for the onside kick recovery but were also unsuccessful.
The Sun Devils welcome Oregon to Tempe, but this is far from an ideal situation for a team with a considerable losing streak. Facing the PAC 12 leading Ducks is likely to further expose their weaknesses. The Sun Devils were held to a solitary field goal when they played the best defense in the PAC 12 (Utah), but the second-best defense (Oregon) is not far behind. ASU has been very one-dimensional this season without being able to establish a run game (other than QB scramble). The once-feared Benjamin Eno has seemingly evaporated and has contributed only a small percentage of what he was able to last year. The Sun Devils will surely try for an upset, but Oregon are substantial favorites against an ASU team that might be looking ahead to next week’s Territorial Cup (against in-state rival, Arizona), hoping to win bowl eligibility.