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Power Rankings and Bowl Projections

Some surprising results this week, and the Utes are reeling from their first loss of the season, one that exposed a few fundamental flaws that may be difficult to overcome when playing the most talented schools on the schedule. There’s some shakeup in the power rankings, but the conference races are still about where they were last week.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Power Rankings

1. Stanford (+1)- The Cardinal thoroughly handled UW, delivering exactly the result you would expect if Stanford is an elite team this year. Washington State is suddenly a very important game, although the smart money is on Stanford.

2. Utah (-1)- The loss allowed the Utes to correct to where they’d been playing of late: not the best team in the PAC 12, but the wins don’t lie. Oregon State at home SHOULD be an easy win. The Beavers have given the Utes trouble in the past, though.

3. UCLA (+4)- UCLA are big movers this week as they return to form and thrash a Cal team that has rapidly fallen off the national radar. They get a Colorado squad that’s totally overmatched, but no doubt hungry for another win.

4. USC (+5)- By notching a win over an elite team, and looking entirely like a contender for the PAC 12 south, USC has re-entered the conversation in a big way. They had to Cal, which is a must-win game if the Trojans want to win the South.

5. WSU (no change)- Cougars notched a win over an Arizona squad that had no answers for them on defense, especially impressive considering how big next week’s matchup is; If they can upset Stanford, the Cougars will be in first place in the North.

6. ASU (-2)- Arizona State slipped in the power rankings while they were on bye, with impressive wins from several schools. Their matchup against Oregon will answer a lot of questions about the conference pecking order.

7. Cal (-3)- There’s no shame in losing to UCLA, but Cal looked completely adrift all night long. They get a chance to prove it was just an aberration if they can upset USC on Saturday.

8. Oregon (+2)- The Ducks shuffled a little closer to relevance while on their bye. They can announce their return emphatically if they can beat ASU.

9. Arizona (+1)- Arizona took a loss this week, but it’s starting to look like there’s no shame in losing to Washington State. They’ve got a game against Washington this week to settle who deserves to be at the bottom of the conference.

10. Washington (-2)- A big win over USC is fading into the background. Stanford blew the Huskies away, exposing the weaknesses on offense that don’t look fixable, at least not this year. It’s a strength vs. strength matchup this week as the Wilcats offense comes to town to face the stout Huskies D.

11. Colorado (no change)- Well, they won, at least. That’s something, isn’t it? UCLA should eat these poor guys alive, though.

12. OSU (no change)- At least the defense looked solid this week. They’ve got a chance to play spoiler against the Utes this week, but there’s a much larger gap between these teams than in years past.

Bowl Projections

Utah’s loss surprised a lot of people, but the metrics we use to formulate this segment didn’t expect the Utes to win that game. As a result, it hasn’t impacted the win projections that much. Utah and USC are both favored in all of their games going forward, but there’s still enough of them left that odds are both teams slip up once somewhere. The Utes are still favored to win the South and get to a New Year’s bowl, although most pundits are projecting more than one slip up for the Utes and a finish in the Alamo bowl. That seems disappointing, but it’s in line with our highest pre-season expectations and would be a top fifteen matchup.

The Utes have the advantage, still, and USC needs the Utes to slip up again while they win out. UCLA is also firmly in the mix. The conference races are really heating up, but it’s hard to say where these teams are going to shake out. Next week we'll start processing possible PAC 12 division championship scenarios, and using FPI to give you odds for those.

Two New Year’s Bowls, two Alamo bowls, all against highly ranked, interesting opponents. This loss hurts, but the Utes are still a respected team that’s expected to win the vast majority of its games going forward. Winning the South is the primary goal, but USC is a solid loss; the playoff is still well within reach if the Utes were to win out.