Christopher Wuensch
Author's Pac-12 Power Rankings: USC Jumps Two Spots

Created on Nov. 20, 2013 1:42 AM EST

There’s something familiar about this week’s rankings. Perhaps it’s the bottom five teams remaining in the same spots they were in last week. Perhaps it’s unanimous voting selections among our writers for Washington, Oregon State, Colorado and California. Most likely, it’s Oregon back in our No. 1 spot after a week’s hiatus.

Southern California was the big winner this week, leaping two slots to No. 3. Notice Oregon wasn’t among the unanimous selections. That’s because the Trojans stole a few No. 1 votes from the Ducks, by virtue of their upset victory over Stanford.

UCLA, despite winning, and Oregon State each plunged the furthest, dropping two places.

1. Oregon 9-1, 6-1 (Last Week: No. 2, +1)

That didn’t take long. The Ducks reclaimed our top spot after spending their first — and only — week this season not ranked No. 1 in our polls.

The loss to Stanford hurt badly. No doubt. Now Oregon must sit and pray for some monumental collapses between the four teams (Alabama, Florida State, Ohio State and Baylor) that rank ahead of them in the BCS rankings (though a Tide loss to Auburn may lift another team above Oregon).

The Ducks now will try to fend off their own upset bids by the likes of Arizona and Oregon State to close out the season as North Division champs. Arizona, it should be noted, once upset an 8-1, No. 2-ranked Oregon team nearly six years ago to the day in 2007.

2. Stanford 8-2, 6-2 (No. 1, -1)

That didn’t take long. Stanford slides back into its familiar slot behind Oregon in our rankings after losing to Southern California. Road losses to Utah and the Trojans have decimated the team's one-time NCAA title hopes, but Stanford still can reach the Rose Bowl with a little help — namely an Oregon loss.

The Cardinal hasn’t lost two games in a row since dropping consecutive games to Arizona and Oregon State in 2009. Expect that streak to continue. Stanford plays host to California this week in a tune-up before the season-finale against Notre Dame.

3T. Arizona State 8-2, 6-1 (No. 3, —)

Arizona State’s new nickname is 3T. It doesn’t matter how well the Sun Devils play, they always seem to end up tied for third in our polls. Usually it’s with UCLA. This week, however, it’s the Bruins’ cross-town counterparts USC.

This is a big week for Arizona State, who travels to Los Angeles to face the aforementioned UCLA. A win over the Bruins and the Sun Devils essentially punch their ticket to the Pac-12 title game.

3T. Southern California 8-3, 5-2 (No. 6, +3)

After losing to Arizona State earlier in the year, there were hints and whispers that Southern California was potentially the worst team in the Pac-12. Things happened, coaches were yanked off team buses and, before you knew it, the Trojans are right back in the hunt for a division title.

With games left against Colorado and UCLA, there’s a real chance the Trojans can finish the year with 10 wins — seven belonging to interim head coach Ed Orgeron. USC reportedly interviewed Jack Del Rio recently to take over the program at season’s end. You get the feeling that Orgeron needs to win the South Division, the Pac-12 title game and Rose Bowl to have a shot at remaining at the Trojans’ helm.

5. UCLA 8-2, 5-2 (No. 3, -2)

UCLA won its third game in a row, handily disposing of a worthy foe in Washington. Their reward was to be dropped two places by our voters.

The postseason has essentially begun for the Bruins, who have to beat Arizona State and USC in their final two games to claim the South Division and a return trip to the Pac-12 Championship game.

6. Washington 6-4, 3-4 (No. 7, +1)

Unlike UCLA, which won and dropped two places, Washington lost and rose a spot in our rankings.

Queue that cartoon sound that you often hear when Scooby Doo shakes his head in disbelief.

The Huskies essentially have proven that they belong in the middle of the pack. Washington’s four losses have come to the first- and second-place teams in both the North and South divisions.

Easily winnable games against Oregon State and Washington State remain and would give the Huskies eight wins on the season. That’d be the most in program history since Rick Neuheisel led UW to an 11-1 record and a Rose Bowl win in the 2000 season.

7. Oregon State 6-4, 4-3 (No. 5, -2)

The good news: Sean Mannion (3,860 yards) leads the NCAA in passing by 372 aerial yards. The bad news: The Beavers have the bare minimum amount of wins to earn a bowl game. That’s a shame considering they began the year ranked in the AP’s Top 25. Oregon State has the requisite six wins, but they’re not impressive ones: Hawaii, Utah, San Diego State, Colorado, Washington State and California don’t exactly qualify as quality wins. Adding to the insult is a three-game losing skid and two games remaining: A Washington team that’s desperate for a win and conference-leader Oregon.

8. Arizona 6-4, 3-4 (No. 8, —)

Incumbent NCAA rushing leader Ka’Deem Carey enters the season’s final two contests facing a 457-yard difference between him and national-leader Andre Williams of Boston College. The junior is roughly 30 yards per game behind Williams for the NCAA rushing lead.

Arizona’s loss last week to UCLA officially put the kibosh on the Wildcats’ chances of winning the South Division. Still, RichRod’s squad is bowl eligible and has the chance to upset either Oregon or Arizona State — both division leaders — down the stretch.

They’ll be celebrating in Tucson, regardless. Carey needs 118 yards to eclipse Trung Canidate as the Wildcats’ all-time leading rusher. Carey is working on a 13-game streak with at least 100 yards on the ground. His lowest rushing total during that stretch? That would be 119 yards.

9. Utah 4-6, 1-6 (No. 9, —)

The news was dire this week out of Salt Lake City, where Utah announced that quarterback Travis Wilson is done for the season after suffering a concussion. The sophomore, who’d also been battling a hand injury, is sidelined for the season, and possibly for his career, after a “pre-existing condition” was discovered during his concussion tests.

Utah moves forward this week with Adam Schulz under center. The Utes need two wins to become bowl eligible. Despite its four-game losing slide, Utah has an excellent chance at reaching the six-win marker with games against Washington State and Colorado to round out its regular-season schedule.

10. Washington State 5-5, 3-4 (No. 10, —)

Washington State clocks in at No. 10 among our voters, but perhaps the Cougars deserve a higher spot. One more win and Washington State is bowl eligible. It hasn't been to the postseason since Bill Doba beat Texas in the 2003 Holiday Bowl using a host of players left over from the Mike Price era.

Washington State ranks behind Utah, which is still riding the coattails of its win over Stanford. But that’s the Utes’ lone conference victory and it came at home. The Cougars have two impressive road wins (USC and Arizona) under their belt.

Washington State and Arizona (No. 8 according to our voters) have identical Pac-12 records at 3-4. Arizona has one more overall win, albeit with a weak non-conference schedule. Wazzu went on the road in Week 1 to Jordan-Hare Stadium and gave Auburn quite a scare.

Perhaps the Cougars have to string together wins for the first time since Week 4 to finally jump Utah in our rankings. Up next on Saturday for Washington State? Utah. (How convenient.)

11. Colorado 4-6, 1-6 (No. 11, —)

All year our writers have debated which team belongs in the rankings’ basement. Colorado and California flip-flopped the spot several times throughout the season. After the Buffs' 41-24 pasting of California last week, the debate is over.

Believe it or not, first-year Buffs head coach Mike MacIntyre has Colorado within two wins of becoming bowl eligible. Unfortunately, Colorado’s slate consists of an inspired Southern California squad and a Utah team that is tough to beat at Rice-Eccles in Salt Lake City.

True freshman quarterback Sefo Liufau had his break-out game last week against the Golden Bears, tossing for 364 yards via the air.

13. California 1-10, 0-8 (No. 12, —)

Mercifully, it all ends this week. California’s season to forget is just about over — but not before potentially posting one more dubious mark.

Last week’s loss to Colorado gave the Golden Bears nine straight losses, one shy of equaling a program-worst. California will round out its 2013 schedule on Saturday against what’s likely to be an angered Stanford team coming off a bad loss to USC.

The silver lining is that Cal head coach Sonny Dykes, a noted quarterback guru, has three more years to build a stellar offense around freshman QB Jared Goff, who is fifth in the nation in passing with 3,141 yards and 17 touchdowns.

Also buried in this miserable season in Berkeley is the performance of Khalfani Muhammad, who is 16th in the country in all-purpose yards with 145.56 yards per game as a running back and kick return man.

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