Joe Nicholson-US PRESSWIRE
Upsets have rearranged our rankings, Stanford drops despite winning, and there's a new No. 2.
Here at Rule of Tree, we pride ourselves on staying current and being on top of what's going on in Stanford football. While others are out trick-or-treating with the same old sheet with eyeholes cut out 10 years ago, we're planning our Star Wars Episode VII costumes. Because, natural disasters aside, it's never too soon.
This "what have you done for me lately" mentality is on display in this week's power rankings. We've always stressed that these power rankings reflect the here-and-now, and this week shows just what we mean. After a week with several surprising results, your team may not be where you expect. In fact, only No. 1 and No. 12 stay put from last week.
Here are the rankings:
HAPPY FAN BASES
1. Oregon (8-0, 5-0 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Ducks appear miles ahead of the rest of the conference
Why they're not lower: Oregon is the best team in the Pac-12. That much has been clear for a while. As weeks go by, the gap between Oregon and the rest of the conference has grown into an enormous chasm, and this Saturday will be a good measuring stick for how far out in front the Ducks are. It's not the Game of the Year anymore, but it should still be a reasonable test... of whether or not anyone can test Oregon.
First thing on fans' minds: BCS computers. Oregon has cruised so much that its fans can spend most of their time worrying about inanimate objects, namely the six computers that comprise one-third of the BCS formula. Last week, other than Oregon's humiliation of Colorado, was not good for the Ducks, as both Kansas State and Notre Dame passed their toughest tests, leaving Oregon in fourth place. To make matters worse, Oregon's two best remaining games lost some luster as both Oregon State and USC suffered road upsets. Now the only question is, will Oregon be thinking about the BCS and fall victim to the Colorado curse against USC?
Last week: 70-14 win over Colorado
Up next: at USC on Saturday at 4 p.m.
2. Arizona (5-3, 2-3 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Wildcats have new life in Pac-12 South
Why they're not higher/lower: What? Arizona is second?!?! Yes, you read that right. A team with a sub-.500 record in conference play ascends to the second spot in our rankings because the Wildcats withstood one of the best receiving performances ever to knock off USC, which suddenly puts Arizona in the thick of the Pac-12 South race. Despite starting 0-3 in conference play, Arizona will control its own destiny in the South as long as Oregon takes care of USC.
First thing on fans' minds: Pac-12 Championship Game? It's a possibility now, as Arizona's last four games come against the other four teams in the Pac-12 South (besides USC). If the newly ranked Wildcats can take care of business, it will likely be Arizona who is 60 minutes of football away from a spot in the Rose Bowl. Of course, one loss at UCLA this week, and the Wildcats can forget about making a return trip to Pasadena.
Last week: 39-36 win over USC
Up next: at UCLA on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
3. Oregon State (6-1, 4-1 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Beavers' undefeated run comes to an end
Why they're not higher/lower: Well, it was fun while it lasted. Mike Riley's crew finally came up short in Seattle, ending dreams of a perfect season. It was a tough loss for sure, and the quarterback questions stemming from it only make things worse. Still, a 6-1 record at this point in the season has to count as a success for fans of a team that had just half that many wins all of last season. A trip to the Rose Bowl is still within reach for Oregon State, and that's about as lofty as most Beaver fans could have ever dreamed for this team.
First thing on fans' minds: Quarterback situation. How many times have we seen this? A quarterback does well but gets hurt. His backup comes in and plays great. When the starter comes back and struggles, everyone wants the backup again. What do you do? That's the scenario Riley has been confronted with, as Sean Mannion threw four interceptions in his first game back before Cody Vaz rallied the troops to tie things up late. After the Beavers lost, Riley decided to go with Vaz as his starter this week in Tempe, but don't be surprised if this issue lingers throughout the season.
Last week: 20-17 loss to Washington
Up next: at Arizona State on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
4. UCLA (6-2, 3-2 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Bruins win classic in Tempe
Why they're not higher/lower: UCLA is much like Arizona, as the Bruins are coming off what could be a season-changing win. UCLA's buzzer-beating win over Arizona State on Saturday was one of the best games of the season, and it also put the Bruins smack-dab in the Pac-12 South race. UCLA has a tougher road - three of its final four games come against ranked teams - but the Bruins will be playing their difficult games in Pasadena.
First thing on fans' minds: The fourth quarter. What a crazy game. UCLA led from midway through the second quarter all the way until 1:33 left in the game, when Arizona State appeared to win it with a late touchdown. The Bruins were not to be denied, though, as Brett Hundley led his team down the field in the waning moments, and Ka'imi Fairbairn (who had not kicked a field goal all day) did his best impression of another UCLA kicker with the same initials, burying the 33-yarder as time expired to give the Bruins the win.
Last week: 45-43 win over Arizona State
Up next: vs. Arizona on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
SO-SO FAN BASES
5. Stanford (6-2, 4-1 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Cardinal wins, but not in impressive fashion
Why they're not higher/lower: I have heard from several fans who disagree with my assertion that Stanford fans should be happy about how their team has played this season. At 6-2, Stanford has still done plenty to make its fans happy (I think anyone that expected this team to be better than No. 14 in the country at this point in the year is crazy). However, it's not just about a team's record, and fans have the right to feel pretty lousy about how Stanford played against Washington State. There was no fight, no energy, and only defensive playmaking saved the Cardinal from a pitiful home upset.
First thing on fans' minds: Quarterback situation. While I'd like to say that everyone is excited about the truly dominant performance by the Stanford front seven (a team-record 10 sacks is something to cheer about), just about every Stanford fan has spent this week thinking about Josh Nunes. Through eight games, Nunes has had his moments (the second halves against USC and Arizona stand out), but most of the time, he has been a liability. David Shaw has already stated that Kevin Hogan will get more snaps this week, but many Stanford fans want a permanent change under center. It shouldn't matter this week against Colorado, but you can bet it will be a big deal against Oregon State, Oregon, and UCLA.
Last week: 24-17 win over Washington State
Up next: at Colorado on Saturday at 11 a.m.
6. Washington (4-4, 2-3 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Huskies notch second big home upset
Why they're not higher/lower: There's no place like home for the Huskies, who found a way to grind out another home win over a top-10 team, slipping by Oregon State. All of a sudden, Washington's schedule is looking manageable, as its final four games come against teams with a combined record of 9-24.
First thing on fans' minds: Road games. Most teams are better at home than on the road, but Washington takes it to another level. The Huskies are a top-25 team at home, going 4-1 with a 2-1 record against ranked teams. On the road, though, Washington has been abysmal, going 0-3 while losing by over 30 points in each game. Yes, the competition has been tough, but the Huskies need to play better away from home if they are going to make a bowl game, as three of their final four games are on the road.
Last week: 20-17 win over Oregon State
Up next: at Cal on Friday at 6 p.m.
7. Utah (3-5, 1-4 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Utes notch first conference win
Why they're not higher/lower: Just like last year, it took until the fifth Pac-12 game for Utah to get in the win column, but at least the Utes found a way to break that four-game losing streak. Playing Cal seems to help with that. Now, with games against Washington State and Colorado still on the schedule, Utah has a chance to sneak into a bowl again.
First thing on fans' minds: Reggie Dunn. Despite beating Cal by 22, Utah was actually outgained by 97 yards. The Utes won in part from turnovers, but mostly from Dunn, who set an NCAA record by returning TWO kickoffs for 100-yard touchdowns. For the 105th-ranked scoring offense, two touchdowns is a big deal.
Last week: 49-27 win over Cal
Up next: vs. Washington State on Saturday at 12 p.m.
8. Arizona State (5-3, 3-2 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Sun Devils lose heartbreaker
Why they're not higher: While Washington and Arizona are finally reaping the benefits of a front-loaded schedule, Arizona State has to suffer through a backloaded slate that is seeing the Sun Devils come down to Earth after a quick start. The 5-1 start seems long ago, particularly with three more games against ranked teams - all on the road - left to play.
First thing on fans' minds: Chances. ASU had several chances to win against UCLA but fell just short. The Sun Devils had fewer turnovers than the Bruins and both outpassed and outrushed the visitors. But ASU had to settle for three field goals in the red zone, went just 7-19 on third downs, and failed to hold a two-point lead in the final 1:33.
Last week: 45-43 loss to UCLA
Up next: at Oregon State on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
9. USC (6-2, 4-2 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Trojans fall on the road again
Why they're not higher/lower: Remember the preseason, when USC was considered by many to be the favorite to win the national title? You can forget about that now after the Trojans dropped another close road game. Just about everyone assumed the Pac-12 would come down to two Oregon-USC games, but even that is no longer a certainty. The only thing keeping USC from the Miserable section is that the Trojans still control their fate in terms of getting to the Rose Bowl. That said, coming into the Oregon game at 6-2 is certainly a disappointment.
First thing on fans' minds: Turnovers. The first thing on their minds should be Marqise Lee, whose 345 receiving yards were a Pac-12 record. But the loss overshadows individual accomplishments, and USC lost for one reason: turnovers. The Trojans came in at No. 11 in the nation in turnover margin, but five turnovers - compared to just one for Arizona - made the difference in the game.
Last week: 39-36 loss to Arizona
Up next: vs. Oregon on Saturday at 4 p.m.
MISERABLE FAN BASES
10. Washington State (2-6, 0-5 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Cougars come up just short of upset
Why they're not higher/lower: Only so much good can be taken from a fifth straight loss in Pac-12 play, but Washington State definitely looked like an improved team against Stanford. Jeff Tuel threw for over 400 yards, and the maligned Cougar defense held Stanford to only 256 total yards. Still, a loss is a loss.
First thing on fans' minds: Offensive line. Looking at the stats, it is hard to see how Washington State managed to lose the game. At least, until you get to the rushing yards. Wazzu was held to -16 rushing yards, and a big reason for that was the whopping 10 sacks allowed by the offensive line, including crucial sacks on the final drive. Yes, Stanford has a good pass rush, but it's hard to have a chance when your quarterback cannot even throw the ball and there is no running room.
Last week: 24-17 loss to Stanford
Up next: at Utah on Saturday at 12 p.m.
11. Cal (3-6, 2-4 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Golden Bears' bowl hopes all but done
Why they're not higher/lower: When a team starts struggling and its coach is put on the hot seat, one of two things usually happens. Either the team rallies and fights hard for its coach and program, or it collapses. It looks like Cal is choosing option B, as the Bears followed up a demoralizing Big Game loss by getting dominated in what was supposed to be a toss-up game. It could have been even worse, as Utah was up 42-6 before letting Cal make the score slightly more respectable.
First thing on fans' minds: Coach's future. At this point, Cal would need to win its final three games, including matchups against Oregon and Oregon State, in order to make a bowl. That looks to be out of the question, so now the issue becomes whether or not Jeff Tedford can survive another very disappointing season. All indications are the answer is no, but Tedford can seal his fate if his team keeps underperforming for the final three games.
Last week: 49-27 loss to Utah
Up next: vs. Washington on Friday at 6 p.m.
12. Colorado (1-7, 1-4 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Buffaloes blown out again
Why they're not higher: There is getting dominated, and then there's just not even putting up a fight. Colorado seems to be playing the second role instead of the first of late. Everyone knew Oregon would crush the Buffaloes, but 56-0 at halftime is even worse than most people would predict. The Ducks didn't even try for most of the game and still outgained Colorado by 372 yards. At this point, the best thing that can be said about Colorado is that they must tire out their opponents, because every FBS team to play Colorado this year has lost the following week.
First thing on fans' minds: Basketball season. Not that Colorado has ever been a basketball school, but Buffalo fans have to be excited that another sport is starting up to distract them from this team.
Last week: 70-14 loss to Oregon
Up next: vs. Stanford on Saturday at 11 a.m.