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Week 5 Power Rankings and Bowl Projections

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The Utes figured out how to win a bye week, and have become the sole possessor of first place in the South. A big upset and a handful of lackluster performances shook up the power rankings. No one knows what the PAC 12 will look like next week, but here’s what it looks like right now.

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Power Rankings

1. Utah (no change)- Utah’s big wins continue to look better and better with Oregon handling Colorado and Michigan dominating Maryland. The Wolverines have allowed 14 points since their loss in Salt Lake City. Not 14 on average. 14 total. Travis Wilson and the Utes’ offense might be pretty darn good. They ought to look good against a suspect Cal defense, anyway.

2. Stanford (+1)- Stanford is racking up dominant wins week after week and scoring a ton of points. Meanwhile, the Northwestern loss is becoming less ‘baffling defeat’ and more ‘hard fought struggle’; the Wildcats are undefeated and highly ranked. They get a bye next week.

3. USC (+1)- As Stanford improves, so do the Trojans. With UCLA looking flawed, USC has emerged as the most legitimate threat to Utah’s place atop the conference. Advanced metrics love this team, but our eyeballs have yet to be convinced. If FPI is accurate, Washington shouldn’t give them any trouble.

4. Cal (+ 1)- The Bears were either overlooking the lowly Washington State Cougars or aren’t nearly as good as advertised. Our voters think their minds were on Gameday in Salt Lake City and not on the task at hand. A win over a top ten opponent on the road would bring them to 6-0 and earn them an instant spot in the playoff discussion.

5. UCLA (-3)- The Bruins fell hard to Arizona State in a game that was never really close. Injuries have plagued the defense, and the problem that keeps cropping up is a run defense that just can’t get it done. The Bruins get a bye week to lick their numerous wounds.

6. ASU (+2)- The Sun Devils earned respect on Saturday by taking it to the Bruins, although their South championship hopes are going to need a lot of help from the teams above them. Colorado awaits, a chance for ASU to solidify their spot… or give it away to the Buffs.

7. Oregon (-1)- The Ducks looked solid, and handled a lesser opponent fairly comfortably. They face Washington State next week in a match up that promises to test their beleaguered secondary. They ought to be favored, but there’s clear upset potential here.

8. Washington (+1)- Washington was on a bye last week, and now they get the opportunity to demonstrate if their apparent improvement over the first few games was a mirage or the real deal; the Huskies head to the Coliseum to take on number 17 USC.

9. Arizona (-1)- You can’t put it any better than Alex Stark, who had the Wildcats last in his power poll: "Arizona has gotten smashed two weeks in a row, and they haven’t beaten a team with a pulse yet. At least Colorado and WSU have been in a conference game in the fourth quarter."

10. WSU (+2)- The Cougars get to climb atop the bottom three carousel this week. They hung tough against Cal, and get another chance at a big upset this week. Utah shocked the nation by heading into Autzen and getting a win; what would happen if the Cougars did the same thing?

11. Colorado (+1)- Like most teams that play Oregon, Colorado eventually lost steam and ceded control of the game to the Ducks, but they matched them blow for blow for most of the game. The Buffs continue to be a team that appears on the brink of getting a big upset; ASU wouldn’t be huge, but it would re-calibrate the pecking order in a mostly muddled South division.

12. OSU (-1)- The Beavers are going to have to get used to the view from down here. OSU hasn’t shown anything that would suggest they can compete on a Power 5 level this year. Arizona is reeling and has looked like a mess, but they can’t possibly lose to the Beavers. Right? Guys?

Bowl Projections

Buoyed by a rapidly improving win over Michigan (currently 20th in FPI), and a win over Oregon that is being respected as much for the margin as for the opponent, the Utes cruised through their bye week. UCLA’s loss to ASU wasn’t just an upset; it caused a massive drop in their FPI and changed the complexion of the South. Although the Utes are in first right now, FPI favors the Trojans, who are ranked 2nd in the nation in this stat. The road to the PAC 12 championship runs through the Coliseum. The Utes visit on October 24th.

The Utes moved up to 10-2 without playing a down, mostly thanks to UCLA’s cratering. Utah and USC are the only teams projected as having a realistic shot at finishing 10-2 or better, which is the absolute floor for a playoff spot. The PAC 12 looks like a league that will earn at least two New Year’s six berths, but the fierce competition in the South (and Stanford’s loss to open the season) cast doubt on the league’s playoff hopes.

The bye week softened the bowl projection picture somewhat, although the Utes have still been picked to play in a New Year’s bowl by ESPN. The Alamo bowl is an exciting second choice; it’s a game that would likely feature two top-15 teams. CBSSports (and FPI, which is what BlockU uses to generate it's bowl choices) is waiting to see more before they anoint the Utes as true conference powerhouses. A win over Cal this weekend, especially a dominant one, would put the Utes at the very top of most national rankings.