Be thankful that Stanford is back on top
Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Rule of Tree!
And really, what more could we be thankful for than seeing Stanford atop the Pac-12 power rankings?
Also, in honor of Turkey Day, no one is feeling so-so this week. It's a happy time for some teams, and it's a week (or year) of misery for others.
Here are this week's rankings:
HAPPY FAN BASES
1. Stanford (9-2, 7-1 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Cardinal pulls shocking upset, controls Rose Bowl fate
Why they're not lower: All year, we've been wondering if anyone could keep up with Oregon. Apparently, this was the wrong question. Stanford showed that it's actually possible to slow down the "unstoppable" Duck offense, as the Cardinal defense held Oregon to only 14 points. That was one of the most impressive performances by any team in the nation this season, and it certainly shifted the Pac-12 picture radically. All of a sudden, Stanford is two wins away from Pasadena... one of which will be played in Pasadena.
First thing on fans' minds: Defense. Oregon led the nation with 54.8 points per game and had scored 30+ points in an NCAA-record 23 straight games. The Ducks scored 14. Oregon was third in the nation in rushing yards at 325 yards per game. The Ducks had 198. Kenjon Barner had averaged 6.83 yards per carry. He ran for just 3.1 yards per carry. Marcus Mariota led the nation with a passing efficiency of 176.96. His efficiency was 107.26. All that is a credit to the Stanford defense.
Last week: 17-14 win over Oregon
Up next: at UCLA on Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
2. UCLA (9-2, 6-2 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Bruins win South with win over rival
Why they're not higher/lower: UCLA had been having a very successful season in Jim Mora's debut in Los Angeles, but the season could not be a total success without the Bruins finally knocking off their biggest rival. Saturday, UCLA finally did it, ending a streak of five straight and 12 of 13 losses to USC. In doing so, UCLA also won the Pac-12 South and ensured that, no matter what happens this weekend, one win separates the Bruins from playing in the Rose Bowl (the game, not just the stadium).
First thing on fans' minds: Johnathan Franklin. The star of UCLA's offense all season, Franklin had one of his best games in the team's most important contest of the year. Franklin rushed for 171 yards and two touchdowns, including the final score that put the game out of reach. If UCLA is going to win the Pac-12 Championship Game, and possibly the Rose Bowl, it will need big efforts from Franklin.
Last week: 38-28 win over USC
Up next: vs. Stanford on Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
3. Oregon (10-1, 7-1 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Ducks stunned at home
Why they're not higher/lower: Oregon was three wins from the BCS National Championship Game, and then all of a sudden the Ducks forgot how to score, and now Oregon has a good chance of not winning its division. That doesn't sound like a very happy fan base to me. The only thing keeping Oregon this high is that, if a couple things go the Ducks' way (USC beats Notre Dame, Florida State beats Florida), Oregon could still go to the title game. It's not as hopeful as the Ducks' chances were last week, but there's still a chance.
First thing on fans' minds: Getting back in the national title picture. The loss to Stanford was brutal with the Ducks so close to a national title. Still, all hope is not lost, and only a few things need to happen for Oregon to get back in the mix. The Ducks could even go to the title game without winning the Pac-12 North, although Oregon could still win the division if UCLA beats Stanford. Of course, all this is moot if Oregon doesn't take care of business in the Civil War, which will be no easy feat.
Last week: 17-14 loss to Stanford
Up next: at Oregon State on Saturday at 12 p.m.
4. Arizona (7-4, 4-4 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Wildcats win on the road
Why they're not lower: Arizona was bowl-eligible before playing Utah, but Saturday's game still felt like an important game to see how good this season would really be for the Wildcats. Arizona had had some good wins (beating Oklahoma State and USC) and some bad losses (losing to Oregon and UCLA by a combined score of 115-10), but the one thing Arizona lacked was a road win. It wasn't easy, but the Wildcats eked one out with a strong fourth quarter, entering the rankings and knocking Utah out of bowl contention in the process.
First thing on fans' minds: Territorial Cup. The division title and bowl eligibility are not on the line, but there's always something on the line in a rivalry game. The winner will also finish over .500 in conference play, something Arizona hasn't done since 2009. Also, with so many teams bunched up in the Pac-12, every win is crucial to secure the best possible bowl bid.
Last week: 34-24 win over Utah
Up next: vs. Arizona State on Friday at 7 p.m.
5. Oregon State (8-2, 6-2 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Beavers bounce back for big win
Why they're not higher/lower: Oregon State assured itself of being in the "easily in a bowl game but not in a BCS bowl game" category by losing to Stanford, so it was unclear how motivated the Beavers would be against Cal. OSU answered that question emphatically in a 62-14 romp, bringing about an unceremonious end to the Jeff Tedford era in Berkeley while keeping the Beavers' hopes alive of winning 10 games for the first time since 2006.
First thing on fans' minds: Spoiling Oregon's hopes. The Civil War always has that little extra something that makes it an even more entertaining game than the average rivalry. This year, both Oregon State and Oregon are having excellent seasons, and the Beavers have the chance to, once and for all, eliminate Oregon from national title contention and even Pac-12 North contention. Add in the fact that it's being played in Corvallis this year, and you've got the makings for a classic matchup.
Last week: 62-14 win over Cal
Up next: vs. Oregon on Saturday at 12 p.m.
6. Washington (7-4, 5-3 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Huskies win fourth straight
Why they're not higher/lower: Washington got the pleasure of playing Colorado this week, so another win was expected. Still, a four-game winning streak with the margin of victory growing each game is quite an accomplishment this late in the year. The Huskies seem to be reaping the benefits of their front-loaded schedule, and all that stands between a five-game winning streak, a ranking in the final BCS standings, and the team's first eight-win season since 2001 is a win in the Apple Cup.
First thing on fans' minds: Keith Price. It's been a down year for Price, who was supposed to be one of the top two quarterbacks in the conference and maybe even a darkhorse Heisman contender. Price entered the game with just 11 touchdown passes to 10 interceptions on the year, but he looked like his 2011 self against Colorado, throwing for five touchdowns and no interceptions in the romp. In his past two games, Price has completed over 70 percent of his passes and accounted for over 500 yards and eight touchdowns with no interceptions.
Last week: 38-3 win over Colorado
Up next: at Washington State on Friday at 12:30 p.m.
7. Arizona State (6-5, 4-4 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Sun Devils become bowl eligible
Why they're not higher/lower: Arizona State was in a major tailspin, having dropped four straight following a 5-1 start. If the Sun Devils came up short against Washington State, the year may very well have ended with a six-game losing streak and no bowl game. Instead, the early-season ASU team came out and walloped the Cougars 46-7 to get that all-important sixth win and make the upcoming Territorial Cup that much more interesting.
First thing on fans' minds: Momentum. Losing five straight games is not the way to enter a rivalry game, so the win over Wazzu was huge. The fact that the win over Wazzu was huge on the scoreboard also helps as the Sun Devils face their archrivals for supremacy of the Grand Canyon State.
Last week: 56-31 win over Colorado
Up next: at Arizona on Friday at 7 p.m.
MISERABLE FAN BASES
8. USC (7-4, 5-4 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Trojans lose another important game
Why they're not lower: Ok, this season is officially a disaster for USC. Even after an early loss to Stanford ended the Trojans' dreams of an undefeated season and losses to Arizona and Oregon dropped them further down the standings, there was still hope that some of it could be redeemed. Instead, USC lost to its biggest rival with the Pac-12 South title on the line, and in the process lost Matt Barkley to a shoulder injury. Talk about a disappointing way to go out. Now in comes the No. 1 team in the land with a chance to drop the preseason No. 1 team in the land to an unthinkable 7-5.
First thing on fans' minds: Spoiler? What is left of this USC team has a big chance to do a lot of people (fans of Florida, Oregon, Kansas State, and exciting football among them) a big favor by knocking off Notre Dame. But with freshman quarterback Max Wittek standing in for Barkley against the vaunted Irish defense, not to mention USC's lack of any reason to care, will the Trojans even put up a fight? There is definitely a lot of talent still on this team, and Notre Dame is USC's second-biggest rival. But the Trojans have failed to show up in big games all year, so will this game be any different?
Last week: 38-28 loss to UCLA
Up next: vs. Notre Dame on Saturday at 5 p.m.
9. Utah (4-7, 2-6 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Utes clinch first losing season in a decade
Why they're not higher/lower: There weren't many Utah fans (or even knowledgeable college football fans) that expected to see this Utah team fail to make a bowl game this year. After a strong finish to their first year in the Pac-12, the Utes were poised to challenge for the South crown. Instead, Utah failed to defend its home turf, dropping to 3-7 in games against FBS opponents. The loss was particularly painful considering the Utes had a 24-17 lead in the fourth quarter with a chance to all but secure bowl eligibility (Utah plays Colorado to end the season), but Arizona outscored the hosts 17-0 in the fourth quarter to end Utah's bowl dreams.
First thing on fans' minds: Big games. To have a good season, you have to win beat some good teams. That much seems obvious. It didn't work that way for the Utes, though. Utah played eight games against bowl-eligible teams. The Utes were an abysmal 1-7 in those games, with the lone win coming in overtime against 6-5 BYU. In those eight games, Utah scored just 17.4 points per game while giving up over 29 points per game. That is not going to get it done.
Last week: 34-24 loss to Arizona
Up next: at Colorado on Friday at 12 p.m.
10. Cal (3-9, 2-7 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Golden Bears end season with blowout loss
Why they're not higher/lower: The disastrous 2012 season is finally over for Cal football. It ended in very fitting fashion: an absolute drubbing from Oregon State. Cal was outscored 121-31 in its final two games, which was as good a signal as any that Jeff Tedford's time as Cal's head coach was at an end. Tedford did remarkable things for the Bears in his tenure in Berkeley, but it is tough to ignore the direction this program appears to be headed.
First thing on fans' minds: New coach. Tedford is officially out, which means it's time to find a new coach. Rumors are already swirling, as this has been expected for most of the season. The choice of the next coach will go a long way toward determining if this program falls back to its pre-Tedford hole or works up to the solid program it was for much of the 2000s.
Last week: 62-14 loss to Oregon State
Up next: No more games in 2012
11. Washington State (2-9, 0-8 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Cougars get demolished again
Why they're not higher/lower: Washington State showed some positive signs in the second half against UCLA, but all that went out the window against Arizona State. The Cougars were outgained by over 300 yards, gained a total of one rushing yard, and went 1-16 on third-down conversions. Maybe this team did give up after all.
First thing on fans' minds: Anything to build on? If it weren't for Colorado being in the same conference, people would be talking about if Wazzu is the worst major-conference team in the nation (although Colorado did beat Washington State...). The Cougars are 100th or worse out of 120 teams in scoring offense, scoring defense, passing efficiency, passing efficiency defense, and turnover margin, just to name a few. Add to that the worst rushing offense and the most sacks allowed in the country, and you've got a recipe for a lot of blowout losses (four by 24+ points).
Last week: 46-7 loss to Arizona State
Up next: vs. Washington on Friday at 12:30 p.m.
12. Colorado (1-10, 1-7 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Buffaloes get blown out again
Why they're not higher: What is there left to say about Colorado at this point? The Buffaloes aren't even competitive against the spread this season (2-9) which is saying something, because these spreads are enormous. The fact is that Colorado has been so bad that a 38-3 home loss isn't even one of the worse losses this season.
First thing on fans' minds: Worst team in the nation? Usually the worst team in the country isn't from a major conference, but Colorado could have a claim to that awful distinction. Of full-fledged FBS teams, the Buffaloes are last in the nation in points scored and points allowed, and it's hard to get much worse than that.
Last week: 38-3 loss to Washington
Up next: vs. Utah on Friday at 12 p.m.