Football.com Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week Five
By Christopher Wuensch
The first real week of conference games was about as non-competitive as it was rain-slogged. The average margin of victory for Arizona State, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford and Washington was 28.6 points. The five victors averaged 49.4 points to their opponents’ 20.8 points.
Three of those teams, Arizona State, Oregon State and Stanford, scored at least 55 points.
Southern California, by virtue of its throttling at the hands of Arizona State, not only lost its head coach, but was the only team to move more than one spot in our rankings — down to No. 10 from No. 8.
Only Oregon could score 55 points and drop in total offense. The Ducks, averaging 59.8 ppg, rolled California, yet still managed to fall behind UCLA (614.3 ypg) for the No. 2 total offense in the nation with 599.2 ypg. They’ll get a chance to leapfrog the Bruins next week when they travel to Boulder to face Colorado.
Stanford wrested our No. 2 spot back from UCLA, courtesy of a 55-17 pasting of Washington State. The Cardinal wasn’t too convincing in their first two games, but hit conference play with a vengeance. Kevin Hogan has yet to pass for 300 yards and Stanford hasn’t had a 100-yard rusher the last two weeks, but Stanford is rolling. They’ll play host to Washington next week in a matchup that will go a long way toward determining the Pac-12 North.
UCLA enjoyed its second bye week of the young season last week. The Bruins undoubtedly used the hiatus to prepare for their trip this week to Utah to kick off their Pac-12 schedule against the Utes. They’ll hit the conference slate with the No. 2 offense and No. 36 defense in the nation, as well as the Pac-12’s best punt return unit.
Bishop Sankey can get four carries like he did the week before against Idaho State, or he can rush for a school-record 40 times. Either way, Washington wins. Sankey set the new program mark for carries while wearing down the Arizona defense to the tune of 161 yards and a touchdown on the ground. The junior is now leading the nation in rushing yards per game (151.8).
Oh, and for the record, it needs to be mentioned how insanely awesome the Huskies’ new gold chrome helmets looked in the rain against Arizona.
Arizona State didn’t just blow the doors off of Southern California, the Sun Devils beat the Trojans so badly that USC fired its head coach after the game.
For the second week in a row, ASU proved to be a second-half team. After coughing up the lead early in the fourth quarter on Saturday against USC, the Sun Devils reeled off a 42-20 scoring run to rout L.A.’s now coachless team by a 62-41 score.
The second-half Sun Devils have outscored the first-half Sun Devils by a 102-75 margin, a number that drops to 89-33 if you discount ASU’s opening win over Sacramento State, the only game in whichArizona scored more first-half points than second-half points.
Arizona didn’t necessarily flunk its first true test of the season — after all, going into Seattle and winning during a driving rain is an impossible task for just about anyone. But the Wildcats struggled against Washington, despite 181-all-purpose yards from incumbent national rushing leader Ka’Deem Carey. Arizona failed to get a first down on its first five possessions. But the silver lining for the Wildcats is that, despite the sputtering first-half offense, Arizona limited the potent Huskies' offense to just 11 first-half points.
The Wildcats now have 12 days off to regroup for its Thursday night game against a Southern California squad that will be trying out a new coach.
If Oregon State keeps up this torrid pace, we might have to take back all the bad things we said about them after they lost to Eastern Washington to start the season. The Beavers also might find themselves back inside the AP polls before long if Sean Mannion keeps up his blistering pace. The junior quarterback threw for 414 yards as the Beavers beat down Colorado 44-17 in a pouring rain. Mannion is the nation’s top passer with 2,018 yards — 368 more yards than the next-closest quarterback, Keith Wenning of Ball State.
Washington State was unable to pull off its second major upset in less than a month, easily falling to Stanford, 55-17, on a rain-soaked Saturday in Pullman. The Cardinal defense held Cougars quarterback Connor Halliday to 184 yards in the air. The junior entered the contest averaging 322 yards passing. The loss saw a rare lapse for the Wazzu defense, which hadn’t yielded more than 10 points in a contest in the last three weeks. They’ll get another high-powered offense next week when they travel to Berkeley to face California.
Utah’s stock soared in our rankings this week, despite the fact that the Utes were home sitting on their couches just like us. Our writers voted Utah anywhere between No. 7 and No. 10. Utah has the No. 4 offense in the Pac-12, made possible by red zone offense that scored 93.8 percent of the time, good enough for second-best in the conference. The Utes will face another well-rested team next week when they play host to UCLA.
Where to begin? While the Trojans struggled early this season to convincingly put teams away, the USC defense did not surrender more than 17 points in its first four games. Arizona State’s 62 points on Saturday were 21 points more than the Trojans gave up all season combined. The offense finally came alive, but at a potential cost. Star wide receiver Marqise Lee had to be helped off the field with an apparent knee injury against the Sun Devils. USC gets a week off to catch its breath and find a new head coach before taking on Arizona in a Thursday-night battle.
Jared Goff has led the nation in passing for most of the season, yet his struggles on Saturday versus Oregon have re-open the quarterback debate at California. Zach Kline spelled the freshman early and led the team with 165 yards passing, to go along with a touchdown and interception. The Golden Bears defense has yet to hold an opponent to less than 30 points. Yet, despite the defensive woes and a 55-16 drubbing by a Top-5 opponent for the second week in a row, the Bears still managed to rise a spot in our polls.
If a team (Cal in this instance) can lose 55-16 and rise in the polls, what does that say for the team they leapfrogged? Introducing the Colorado Buffaloes. The Buffs’ 44-17 loss to Oregon State wasn’t as close as the final score indicates. That is to say, the Beavers at one point led 38-3. Brandin Cooks won the battle of the nation’s top wide receivers between him and CU’s Paul Richardson. Cooks hauled in 168 yards and two touchdowns. Richardson finished with 70 yards receiving and a score, but only had two yards receiving as late as the third quarter. It doesn’t get much easier for the Buffaloes, who have to face Oregon next week.
Players Of The Week
Marion Grice, Arizona State: 63 rushing yds., 36 receiving yds., 4 TDs
Rushing for a grand total of 63 yards isn’t overwhelming by any means, especially considering that five other Pac-12 running backs actually eclipsed the century mark on the ground. But Grice outperformed them all in one important category: Scoring.
The Arizona State senior scored four times against Southern California — including three times in the second half as the Sun Devils trounced the (then) No. 4 defense in the country. His 24 points are impressive and a Pac-12 season best. What’s even more impressive is that he’s tallied 24 points twice this season, the first coming against Wisconsin.
Half of his touchdowns came on receptions (11 and 8 yards). Grice is eighth in the Pac-12 in reception`s.
His dozen scores are tops in the nation. As Doug Haller of the Arizona Republic points out, Grice has found the end zone more times than 28 FBS teams.
Others Considered: Brandin Cooks and Sean Mannion, Oregon State; Bishop Sankey, Washington,
Alden Darby, Arizona State: 7 tackles, 2 INT, 1 FF, 1 FR, 1TD
You’d be hard-pressed to find a better defensive performance than Alden Darby’s on Saturday against Southern California. The senior safety forced and recovered a fumble and added 7 tackles. But the highlight of his night was taking one of his two interceptions 46 yards for a pick-six.
It’s the second interception for a touchdown in Darby’s career against USC. Last year he returned a 70-yard pick to the house in Los Angeles.
Darby personally helped ASU score 17 points off turnovers on Saturday.
Thanks to efforts such as Darby’s, the Sun Devils not only sweep our Player of the Week awards, but Arizona State finds itself back in the AP Top 25 (No. 22).