Pac-12 Power Rankings: Carey, Cooper Take Honors
By Christopher Wuensch
The Pac-12 was no stranger to the upset-fueled temblor that rattled college football’s rankings this weekend.
Aside from Oregon — who has been firmly entrenched in our No. 1 slot all season — every team finds a new home in this week’s Power Rankings.
Victories bump Arizona State, Colorado and Stanford up a spot in the rankings; same for Southern California, which rose despite losing to Notre Dame.
It was a bad week for the Evergreen State, which witnesses Washington and Washington State each slide two places in our pollsters’ minds. UCLA also dropped two places.
Not many teams can surrender 557 yards in the air and still win by 24 points. Then again, few teams are the Oregon Ducks. Connor Halliday put up some gaudy numbers on the Oregon defense, but Washington State did little to stop Marcus Mariota (327 passing yards, 2 TDs) and Byron Marshall (192 rushing yards, 3 TDs).
Despite the 62-38 win and sitting at No. 2 in the AP rankings all season, the Ducks find themselves behind Florida State at No. 3 in the first BCS Standings, released on Sunday.
We’d say perhaps it’d serve as a chip on the Ducks’ shoulder, but we don’t know how Oregon — who is outscoring teams by an average score of 57-15 through seven games — could lay any more hurt on its opponents.
Oregon will host UCLA on Saturday in what should be one of the Pac-12’s marquee games this season.
Stanford is back in our No. 2 spot after taking down last week’s No. 2 UCLA on Saturday.
The Cardinal loss to Utah two weeks ago apparently is already a thing of the past, rendered outdated by Stanford’s convincing 24-10 win over the Bruins.
Kevin Hogan has yet to throw for more than 300 yards in a game, but the Cardinal quarterback finds ways to win. Having the 18th-best rush defense in the nation and one of the Pac-12’s best special teams units certainly helps.
Stanford’s Pac-12 title hopes will likely be determined in the next two weeks, starting with this week’s trip to Corvallis to play Oregon State. The following week will be the Cardinal-Oregon matchup we’ve been pining for all season long.
Oregon and Oregon State are the remaining undefeated teams in the Pac-12. At No. 3, the Beavers are the highest they’ve been in our rankings.
They could go even higher with a home win over Stanford this weekend. The Cardinal are tough against the run, but Oregon State lives through the air — where Stanford is way more susceptible, yielding 247.1 yards per game (85th in the nation).
Quarterback Sean Mannion, the nation’s leading passer (2,992 yards, 29 TDs), and Brandin Cooks, the country’s top receiver (1,176 yards, 12 TDs), are putting up cartoon numbers. But they might need a win over an elite program such as Stanford to make a case for their own postseason awards and rightful inclusion in the rankings.
The Bruins failed in their first chance at sending a message to the North Division that the South was not to be reckoned with. Instead, the Cardinal held UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley to his lowest passing performance (192 yards, 1 TD) and second multiple-interception game of the season.
The Stanford matchup was the first of two brutal road trips on consecutive weekends, concluding with a trip to Eugene to face No. 2 Oregon.
The Bruins are banged up, especially along the offensive line where UCLA will be forced to start two freshmen. The Oregon defense is stingy on the ground, which could make for a long day for the Bruins, who could fall into a three-way tie in the Pac-12 South with a loss and Arizona and Southern California wins.
Taylor Kelly’s passing totals have returned to Earth the last two weeks, but the Sun Devils are still riding high.
Arizona State enters this week’s bye owners of a two-game win streak. A two-game shellacking streak, that is, having outscored Colorado and Washington by a combined 109-37.
The offense now has a week to rest and prepare for winnable games against Washington State and Utah before a home tilt against Oregon State.
It’s possible the Sun Devils can be 6-1 and in control of the South Division by the time their highly-anticipated matchup against UCLA rolls around Nov. 23.
A once-promising season for Washington appears to be spinning its tires in the mud of late.
The Huskies dropped to 1-3 in Pac-12 play Saturday with a bad loss to Arizona State. The Sun Devils have struggled against the run this year, but put the clamps down on the conference’s top back Bishop Sankey, holding the senior to a season-low 22 yards on the ground.
The Huskies, which have lost three in a row to Oregon, Stanford and ASU, get some relief in their schedule with home games against California and Colorado the next two weeks. Any slip-up there and you might hear some whispers in Seattle.
Weeks ago Southern California was at No. 10 in our rankings among threats by our voters to drop them all the way to No. 12. But the Trojans are proving pesky in our eyes and are steadily climbing back up our board. Heck, USC lost to Notre Dame this week, yet still rose a spot from last week.
The good news for USC is the return of Silas Redd. The senior rushed for 112 yards last week in the loss to the Irish. If the Trojans are going to make a late run in the Pac-12 South, they’ll need the Penn State transfer, especially with nagging leg injuries slowing Marqise Lee and the rest of the Trojans’ receiving corps.
They’ll play host to Utah this week, which should help us iron out our Pac-12 rankings — or serve to cloud them.
Perceptions can change fast in the rankings. One week after stunning Stanford, the Utes fell to Arizona and into a quarterback quandary.
Travis Wilson, who led spectacular charges against UCLA and the Cardinal, is questionable against USC with injuries to his throwing hand. If Wilson can’t go, the Utes will rely on Adam Schulz under center.
They’ll be facing a USC team ranked No. 1 against the run in the Pac-12 and No. 5 against the pass.
That’s not too comforting for a Utah team that will need every win they can get to become bowl eligible. Remaining games after USC include: Arizona State, Oregon, Washington State and Colorado.
While Utah fights for their postseason lives down the stretch, Arizona looks like it will garner its fifth bowl game in the last six years. But they can’t afford to slip up the next two weeks against Colorado and California — lest they have to beat Arizona State, UCLA, Oregon or Washington State to reach the postseason.
Ka’Deem Carey has returned to his dominating form and leads the nation in rushing yards per game with 161.0. But the Wildcats are thriving due in large part to their pass defense, which sits at No. 14 in the country. Arizona has only allowed seven touchdowns through the air this season. The national leaders, Florida State, Marshall and Miami, each have surrendered four throwing touchdowns.
Washington State is sliding, down two spots this week. As Arizona, Utah and USC battle it out, the Cougars, at No. 10, may have found a spot for a while.
The Cougars are coming off a sweep at the hands of the Oregon schools and have lost three of four after beginning the season 3-1.
Their defense has given up 114 points in two games, while their offense continues to sputter on the ground (see Marcus Mason’s team-high 22 rushing yards last week against Oregon).
The good news is that quarterback Connor Halliday has thrown for more than 500 yards in two of his last three games. The junior will welcome Arizona State into Pullman this week. Expect a high-scoring affair.
Colorado has leapfrogged California in our rankings. And why not? Everyone else has a new spot.
The Buffaloes are embarking on the Sefo Liufau era with a much-need 43-10 win over Charleston Southern on Saturday. The freshman has 169 and 198-yard passing performances since taking over for Connor Wood two weeks ago.
Liufau will be fine as long as he has Paul Richardson to catch passes. Richardson hauled in 122 yards, nearly half of which came on a 60-yard scoring strike from the freshman. Richardson now has six touchdowns. Of them, only one was less than 30 yards and four of them (82, 75, 60, 55) were more than 55 yards.
If the Buffaloes can pull off a homecoming win over Arizona, CU will have four wins on the year and need two more for bowl eligibility with winnable games against California and Utah remaining. You never know…
Injuries and the inexperience of youth are beginning to take a toll in Berkeley. The Golden Bears are winless in conference play and have a daunting schedule ahead of them.
Early indications suggest first-year coach Sonny Dyke’s Bear Raid offense can thrive in Berkeley. The Bears have the No. 7 passing offense (359.9 ypg) in the nation.
Not many teams, however, can win with eight of their 11 defensive starters out with injuries or suspensions.
California drops to our ranking’s basement after climbing to No. 11 for a few weeks. The barometer of which team belongs in this spot likely will be settled on Nov. 16 when the Bears travel to Boulder to face the Buffaloes.
Players of the Week
Ka’Deem Carey, Arizona (236 yards, 1 TD)
Ka’Deem Carey is back. The Arizona running back and incumbent national rushing leader is back atop the NCAA leaderboard in yards per game with 161.0 ypg.
The junior outrushed the entire Utah team on Saturday, 236-172. Carey was the game’s offense and ran as he pleased over the Utes.
Several more of these performances and folks will have to include him in the Heisman conversation.
Also Considered: Michael Adkins II, Colorado (137 rushing yards, 4 TDs); Brandin Cooks, Oregon State (232 receiving yards, TD); Connor Halliday, Washington State (557 passing yards, 4 TDs); and Byron Marshall, Oregon (192 rushing yards, 3 TDs)
Xavier Cooper, Washington State (8 TKL, 2.5 TFL, 2 FF, FR, sack, TD)
Had it not been for Xavier Cooper, the Oregon Ducks might still be scoring on Washington State. Cooper has a monster game against a monster offense, including forcing Marcus Mariota’s first turnover of the year. Mariota’s second turnover resulted in a 29-yard fumble-recovery touchdown rumble for the 6-foot-4, 298-pound redshirt sophomore.
Also Considered: Cory Littleton, Washington (4 TFL); Jordan Richards, Stanford (2 INT, 1 PBU); and Trevor Reilly, Utah (3 TFL, 2 sacks, FR)