Andrew Fielding-US PRESSWIRE
Divisional races up for grabs in latest rankings
It was another eventful week in the Pac-12, as Oregon continued its rampage through opposing defenses and Colorado got humiliated again. So nothing new at the top or bottom.
But the middle is slowly starting to take shape, as both the North and South races are still three-team affairs. Luckily, this week will basically knock one team out from each race, as Arizona State-USC and Oregon State-Stanford are virtually elimination games as far as division races are concerned.
Here are this week's rankings:
HAPPY FAN BASES
1. Oregon (9-0, 6-0 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Ducks cruise past supposed obstacle
Why they're not lower: Signature road win against preseason No. 1 team? Check. It wasn't earth-shattering, but Oregon took care of business against USC, despite a strong day from Matt Barkley and the Trojan offense. Some are questioning Oregon "only" winning by 11, which is ludicrous for several reasons (no SEC team ever gets questioned for an 11-point win, Oregon was up by 17 before letting USC score in garbage time so the final score is misleading, 11 points still covered the spread, and it was a record-setting performance on multiple levels). This team is for real, and there should be no doubt about it.
First thing on fans' minds: BCS computers. This is still the only question mark with this team. Yes, Kenjon Barner should be on everyone's minds after his 321-yard performance against USC, but Oregon fans are doing what Chip Kelly refuses to do: looking ahead. There has been no sign that anyone left on Oregon's schedule, even though there are good opponents ahead, can threaten the Ducks, so the biggest threat left is the BCS leaving Oregon out of the title game. All the Ducks can do, though, is keep on winning in impressive fashion.
Last week: 62-51 win over USC
Up next: at Cal on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
2. UCLA (7-2, 4-2 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Bruins lay a beatdown on Arizona
Why they're not lower: UCLA ascends to No. 2 thanks to one of the most surprising scorelines of the entire college football season. Arizona came in hot after beating USC, and conventional wisdom had this game being a tight shootout. Instead, the Bruins handed the Wildcats a historic smackdown, pulverizing the visitors with both offense (over 300 yards passing and over 300 yards rushing) and defense (held Arizona to 257 total yards and 10 points, forced three turnovers). The shocking 66-10 thrashing puts UCLA in the driver's seat for the Pac-12 South crown, and with tiebreakers over Arizona and Arizona State, the South has a good chance of coming down to the USC-UCLA game next week. So I guess that game might be kind of a big deal.
First thing on fans' minds: South supremacy. As in the Pac-12 South, but perhaps just as importantly, the South of California. For the first time in 11 years, UCLA has a better record than USC at this point in the season, and the Bruins have a higher ranking than their cross-town rivals. Nothing would mean more to UCLA fans than clinching the division title by knocking off the Trojans.
Last week: 66-10 win over Arizona
Up next: at Washington State on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
3. Oregon State (7-1, 5-1 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Beavers still in Rose Bowl contention
Why they're not higher/lower: Whether it was a hangover from last week's loss or just a rough start to the game, Oregon State looked bad early against Arizona State, falling behind 19-10 in the second quarter. Then the Beavers seemed to wake up, rattling off 26 unanswered points to secure the victory. At 7-1, Oregon State is way past any preseason expectations, so the Beavers have about as little pressure on them as any ranked team.
First thing on fans' minds: Cody Vaz. This quarterback issue just cannot get settled, which is crazy to think for a 7-1 team. Vaz did enough to win, throwing for 267 yards and three touchdowns. At the same time, he completed just 14 of his 33 passes and had a fumble returned for a touchdown and an interception. With huge games against Stanford and Oregon upcoming, Mike Riley's crew could use some stability at quarterback, and it looks like it will be Vaz's job to lose.
Last week: 36-26 win over Arizona State
Up next: at Stanford on Saturday at 12 p.m.
4. Stanford (7-2, 5-1 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Cardinal may have found new quarterback
Why they're not higher/lower: Stanford beat Colorado, which in itself tells you nothing. The Buffaloes have been so outmatched that it's hard to read into anything they do. Still, the story of the game (apart from the historic Stanford defense effort) was Kevin Hogan. The redshirt freshman quarterback got his first opportunity for extended action, and he delivered in a big way. After starter Josh Nunes moved Stanford just 21 yards total in two scoreless drives, Hogan made the most of his chance, leading the Cardinal offense to five touchdowns and a field goal on his first six drives.
First thing on fans' minds: Hogan. Stanford fans have been begging for a change at quarterback all season as Nunes has continued to struggle. Hogan has started making fans believe, as his numbers (18-23, 184 yards passing, 48 yards rushing) paled in comparison to the feeling of command and potential he showed. For the first time all season, the Stanford offense really looked like the Stanford offense, and optimism is skyrocketing at the Farm. Of course, that was just against Colorado. The big question is whether Hogan can do that again in his first start, a brutally tough matchup with Oregon State.
Last week: 48-0 win over Colorado
Up next: vs. Oregon State on Saturday at 12 p.m.
SO-SO FAN BASES
5. Washington (5-4, 3-3 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Huskies finally get road win
Why they're not higher/lower: Washington was by no means impressive, but a win on the road is exactly what this team needed. The Huskies committed four turnovers, gave up 450 yards, went 4-13 on third and fourth downs, and had 12 penalties for 108 yards. But Washington still came out on top, getting back over .500 for the season and coming within one win of bowl eligibility. The Huskies get one final home game on Saturday before two road trips to play the two worst teams in the conference.
First thing on fans' minds: Bishop Sankey. The stats (and the game) were pretty ugly for the most part, but Sankey's performance was not. The sophomore ran for a career-high 189 yards (two more than he had all of last year) and two touchdowns to lead the Huskies, although he did lose one of his two fumbles. For a team that has yet to score more than 21 points against an FBS team this year, any kind of offense is a big boost.
Last week: 21-13 win over Cal
Up next: vs. Utah on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
6. Utah (4-5, 2-4 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Utes looking for another second-half surge
Why they're not higher/lower: After failing to score more than 28 points over their first six FBS games, the Utes have taken off, scoring 49 points each against Cal and Washington State. Yes, it's Cal and Washington State, but points are points and wins are wins, and suddenly bowl eligibility is looking very achievable.
First thing on fans' minds: Reggie Dunn. Again. Utah dominated in all three facets of the game, and the Utes really did not need a big return against Washington State. But still, a third 100-yard kickoff return touchdown in two games? Seriously? There are many great things to take from a 49-6 win, but none can match Dunn's return.
Last week: 49-6 win over Washington State
Up next: at Washington on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
7. Arizona State (5-4, 3-3 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Sun Devils lose third straight
Why they're not higher/lower: Arizona State's 5-1 start is long gone, after the Sun Devils dropped their third straight game. It's not as though ASU has folded; the Sun Devils lost a heartbreaker to UCLA and outplayed Oregon State in the first half. But with road contests against USC and Arizona remaining on the schedule, a 1-5 finish is definitely possible for Arizona State. On the other hand, ASU could still with the division. Ah, the Pac-12 South.
First thing on fans' minds: Defense. Coming into the Oregon game, ASU was in the top 10 in the nation in total and scoring defense. The Sun Devils then proceeded to 124 points in their next three games. With potent offenses ahead in USC and Arizona, the Arizona State defense will need to improve quickly.
Last week: 36-26 loss to Oregon State
Up next: at USC on Saturday at 12 p.m.
MISERABLE FAN BASES
8. USC (6-3, 4-3 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Trojans can't stop Oregon
Why they're not higher/lower: What can you say about a team that gets shown up at home despite putting up 51 points? USC knew it would have to score a ton against Oregon to have a chance. The Trojans did... and they still had no chance. The term "losing streak" has no place in the USC vocabulary, but the Trojans will have to beat a feisty Arizona State team on Saturday to avoid their first three-game losing streak in 11 years.
First thing on fans' minds: Defense. How can it be anything but defense after you set the wrong kind of school records for points allowed and yards allowed? How can it be anything else after you give up more touchdown passes than incompletions? How can it be anything else when you let one guy run for 321 yards and five touchdowns? Let's just say, Monte Kiffin's defense got lit up, and it's going to need to regroup if USC has any shot of running the table to get back to the Rose Bowl.
Last week: 62-51 loss to Oregon
Up next: vs. Arizona State on Saturday at 12 p.m.
9. Arizona (5-4, 2-4 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Wildcats lay big egg in Pasadena
Why they're not higher/lower: What a difference a week makes. Last week, Arizona was riding high thanks to a thrilling 39-36 win over USC. The Wildcats suddenly controlled their own destiny in the Pac-12 South, and there was suddenly a slight chance at that elusive Rose Bowl berth. Then Arizona played a regular season game in the Rose Bowl and got absolutely crushed. There really is no way to accurately describe a 66-10 loss like that, but it does leave Arizona in a bad spot. Luckily, here comes a meeting with Colorado.
First thing on fans' minds: What happened? Arizona fans had to expect a tough game against UCLA, but I don't think anyone saw it ending up like that. The Wildcats were dominated in every facet of the game, and the embarrassing loss throws a wrench into what could have been a great season for Arizona. To make matters worse, quarterback Matt Scott had to leave the game with an injury, and he's questionable this week. Now the team has to regroup to ensure itself of at least a decent bowl game in Rich Rodriguez's first year in Tucson.
Last week: 66-10 loss to UCLA
Up next: vs. Colorado on Saturday at 10:30 a.m.
10. Cal (3-7, 2-5 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Golden Bears secure losing season
Why they're not higher/lower: Cal hung around a while against Washington, which is more than the Bears could say in their previous two games. Still, it's hard to feel good about losing as a four-point home favorite, especially when you commit four turnovers and convert your 450 yards into just 13 points. It makes matters even worse that this loss ensures Cal will finish below .500, and with games against Oregon and Oregon State all that remains, a 3-9 season looks to be on its way.
First thing on fans' minds: Mistakes. Cal had so many opportunities to win this game, but the Bears just did not come up with big plays when they needed to. Cal twice had to settle for field goals inside the 10-yard line, and Vincenzo D'Amato also missed a 41-yarder. Add that to four turnovers and a missed chance late for backup Allan Bridgford, and it's hard to expect to win.
Last week: 21-13 loss to Washington
Up next: vs. Oregon on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
11. Washington State (2-7, 0-6 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Cougars blasted at Utah
Why they're not higher/lower: So much for making progress. Washington State looked to be getting on track against Stanford, but the Cougars looked more pitiful than ever against Utah, giving up 49 points and not scoring until the final play of the game. Mike Leach is furious with his program, the players don't seem to be to fond of him, and Marquess Wilson, the team's best player, has been suspended after walking out on a conditioning session.
First thing on fans' minds: Regrouping for next year. Losing to Utah officially eliminated Wazzu from bowl contention, but that has been a long time coming. With a new scheme leading to a step backwards and no conference wins, thoughts immediately start drifting to the future of the team. Who will stick around for season 2 under Leach? Will Wilson ever play for the Cougars again? Is this team actually any closer to being competitive than it was a few years ago? There are lots of questions, and it may take a while to see any of them answered.
Last week: 49-6 loss to Utah
Up next: vs. UCLA on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
12. Colorado (1-8, 1-5 Pac-12)
Why they're here: Buffaloes make new (bad) history
Why they're not higher: Every week just seems to be a new low for Colorado, and this week was no different. Everyone knew Stanford would kill Colorado, but the Cardinal did something that no opponent had done to the Buffaloes in 26 years: shut them out. It was even worse than the 48-0 score indicated. Colorado had just 76 yards of total offense, and the Buffs ran just two plays in Stanford territory. Those two plays went for -22 yards. That just about sums up the season for Colorado.
First thing on fans' minds: Make it stop...
Last week: 48-0 loss to Stanford
Up next: at Arizona on Saturday at 10:30 a.m.