Pac-12 Power Rankings: Good Week For Utah, Oregon State
By Christopher Wuensch
Utah and Southern California are the big jumpers in this week’s rankings, each sliding up two slots. Utah’s upset win over Stanford drops the Cardinal one spot, a boon for UCLA, who takes over at No. 2. Washington State, courtesy of a home loss, is the only other team to drop a spot.
A voting logjam exists at No. 8 where Arizona, Southern California and Washington State are deadlocked between the Football.com writers. We deferred to old-fashioned head-to-head to determine the order; Washington State beat USC, who, in turn, dealt a loss to the Wildcats.
Last Week’s Rankings
Washington was able to keep Oregon off the scoreboard to start a game longer than anyone so far, keeping the Ducks out of the end zone for the first nine minutes. Oregon struck and kept on striking for relatively easy 45-24 win. Even without injured star running back De’Anthony Thomas, the Ducks registered 100-plus yard performances by running back Byron Marshall and receivers Bralon Addison and Josh Huff. Oregon returns home this week to host Washington State.
UCLA will get a chance to dole Stanford a damning blow this week when Bruins travel to The Farm to face the Cardinal. Brett Hundley and crew disposed of California to stay unbeaten on the year. The trip is the first of two consecutive road tests for UCLA, which heads to Eugene the following week to square off against Oregon. If Jim Mora’s squad can split the road trip, the Bruins potentially will be sitting pretty in the Pac-12 — that is, until they face Washington, Arizona State and rival Southern California in the final three weeks.
Kevin Hogan had his shot on the Utah 6-yard line with a minute left to play and a six-point deficit, but the Stanford quarterback couldn’t prevent the Cardinal from dropping its first game of the season. Stanford’s shot at a North Division title isn’t dashed by the 27-21 loss, but it never helps to lose to a foe with a losing conference record. The Cardinal doesn’t have any time to dwell on the loss. They’ll face UCLA at home next week. The winner likely reclaims or keeps the No. 2 spot in our rankings.
Oregon State is close to being back in the national conversation with a resounding thumping of Washington State. The Beavers now are tied for first in the North Division with cross-state rival Oregon and are riding a hot streak. When Oregon State travels to Berkeley this week, they’ll bring the nation’s leading passer, leading receiver, as well as the country’s interceptions leader to face the Golden Bears. It's reasonable to assume Beavers quarterback Sean Mannion can flirt with a 500-yard day against California’s 121st-ranked defense.
Washington remains tied for the No. 4 spot in our rankings, despite dropping its second game in a row. Our voters, apparently, give sympathy to those who square off — and eventually lose badly — to Oregon. Washington fought the Ducks tough and only trailed by seven at halftime, but Marcus Mariota and the Oregon offense proved too much, even for the nation’s 20th-ranked defense. It doesn’t get much easier for the Huskies, who have to travel to Tempe this week to face Arizona State.
Statistically speaking, Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly had his worst game of the year, throwing for only 233 yards Saturday. That’s all the Sun Devils needed, however, to make easy work of Colorado. Arizona State is one of only two teams in the South Division with a conference record North of .500. But the Sun Devils have yet to have a running back eclipse the 100-yard rushing mark in a game this season. They’ll welcome Washington to town this week.
No one wants to play Utah right now, especially on the Utes’ home turf. A game after giving UCLA a scare in Salt Lake City, the Utes pulled off the biggest upset in the conference so far this season by downing Stanford. Travis Wilson threw for a season-low 234 yards against the Cardinal, but that didn’t prevent the Utah quarterback from orchestrating the biggest home upset win in program history. Arizona gets the unenviable task of facing Utah next. Luckily for the Wildcats, that game will be played in Tucson.
Washington State slides a spot in this week’s rankings, courtesy of a drubbing at the hands of Oregon State. The Cougars fought and even led through three quarters, but collapsed in monumental proportions in the fourth quarter, surrendering 35 unanswered points to the Beavers. The Wazzu run game is abysmal and dead last in the nation. They’ll face an Oregon defense that gives up 137.7 yards per game on the ground, or roughly double the 66 the Cougars average.
Ed Orgeron now is 11-25 in his career as a head coach in the FBS. But he’s 1-0 at the helm of Southern California, and that’s enough to mollify Trojan Nation for at least one week. The Trojans jumped out to a big lead on Arizona, only to see it dwindle by game’s end. The result still was a much-needed win in Los Angeles. Silas Redd made his 2013 debut, rushing for 80 yards. The senior was the projected starter before a spring knee injury sidelined the Penn State transfer. If USC leading rusher Tre Madden can return from a hamstring injury, the Trojans backfield suddenly will be contender for the deepest running corps in the country. Southern California and its 200.3 rushing yards per game will head to South Bend this week to face the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.
B.J. Denker broke out of his passing doldrums against Southern California. The Pac-12's worst passer tossed four touchdowns and 363 yards against the Trojans and had a chance to tie the game late. He couldn’t pull off the come-from-behind win, but Wildcats Nation has to be breathing a sigh of relief at the semblance of a passing game in Tucson. Denker’s previous passing totals were 87, 81, 158 and 119 in Arizona’s first four games. The Wildcats will be searching for their first conference win on Saturday when they play host to the upstart Utah Utes.
California ran its losing streak to four games Saturday with a 37-10 loss to UCLA. The Golden Bears are another Pac-12 team without a 100-yard rushing performance this season. Instead, Cal relies heavily on the Bear Raid passing attack. The results are there. The Bears are 25th in the nation in total offense, churning out an average of 483 yards per game. The problem resides on the other side of the ball. On a bright note, the 37 points they coughed up to UCLA represented the best effort by the Cal defense since Portland State posted 30 on the Bears in Week 2. California welcomes Oregon State this week, pitting the nation’s leading passer in Sean Mannion against the country’s penultimate passing defense.
The Buffs are becoming fixtures in the ranking’s basement. It’s been a rough go for Colorado this season. After starting the season 2-0, the floodgates opened — literally — and the Buffs sat out for three weeks. The affect of the Boulder flooding still is being felt. Colorado will play host to Charleston Southern this week after scrambling to find an opponent to replace the hole on the schedule left by the cancelled Week 3 contest against Fresno State.
One bright spot for the Buffs, who have lost three in a row, is that the Sefo Liufau era is underway in Boulder. The true freshman replaced starting quarterback Connor Wood on Saturday in the Buffs’ loss to Arizona State. Wood began the year on fire with 400 and 340-yard passing games as Colorado doubled their win total from last season. But Wood and the Buffs struggled since and Liufau got the call from first-year head coach Mike MacIntyre. He responded with 169 yards in the air on 26 attempts to go along with two interceptions and a touchdown.
Players of the Week
Brandin Cooks, Oregon State: 137 receiving yards, 2 TDs, 34 rushing yards, 1 TD
Sean Mannion threw for close to 500 yards, but his favorite target had the bigger impact in Oregon State’s come-from-behind throttling of Washington State. Brandin Cooks scored three times in the fourth quarter as the Beavers erased a seven-point third-quarter deficit. Cooks caught two touchdowns (8, 30 yards) and rushed for another score from eight yards to pace Oregon State to a 52-24 win.
The junior led the Beavers in receiving and rushing yards. His 137 receiving yards and 2 touchdown catches bolsters his season totals to 944 yards and 11 touchdowns — both tops in the nation.
Also Considered: B.J. Denker, Arizona; Brett Hundley, UCLA; Sean Mannion, Oregon State; Bishop Sankey, Washington
Rashaad Reynolds, Oregon State: 6 tackles, 2 INTs, 2 FF, 1 PBU
Rashaad Reynolds filled out the stat sheet nicely for Oregon State in the Beavers’ resounding win in Pullman. The senior finished with 6 tackles (5 TFL) and two forced fumbles, but it was his interceptions on consecutive Cougar drives that fueled Oregon State’s 35 unanswered points in the fourth quarter.
Also Considered: Anthony Barr, UCLA: Carl Bradford, ASU; Damante Horton, WSU; Wade Keliikippi, Oregon