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Power Rankings and Bowl Projections

A couple of close calls for some of the best teams in the league, and an easy win for the Utes that was about two touchdowns shy of where Ute fans wanted it to be. There’s not a whole lot of football left and the Utes and Stanford remain on top of the division. The South is muddled, the North is clear, and the power rankings look nothing they did in week 1.

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Power Rankings

1. Stanford (no change)- Stanford came away with a win on Saturday, and that’s what matters most. There’s virtually no set of circumstances left where they don’t win the North any more, but some of their flaws were showing. Can they win out and stay playoff-relevant? That quest continues in Colorado.

2. Utah (no change)- The Utes didn’t look great on Saturday, but they were brutally efficient, particularly on offense. Despite an underwhelming final score, there was never a moment where it seemed as though the Beavers might win the game. The upcoming trip to Washington has massive conference and playoff implications.

3. USC (+1)- USC appears to have rounded into form, winning a close one against a suddenly reeling Cal team. The Utes have to hope it’s too little too late. A matchup against Arizona should be a cakewalk, but who knows in the Wild West.

4. UCLA (-1)-  UCLA survived a late surge from the Buffaloes to stay relevant in the conference. They are the only south team other than the Utes who doesn’t need help to win the division, and they’ve got a soft spot in their schedule moving forward, starting with Oregon State.

5. WSU (no change)- So close. So, so close. WSU led Stanford for most of the game, but took their eyes off Kevin Hogan on a handful of big plays that kept the Cardinal in it. Then the Cougars missed a long field goal and their hopes of a North championship withered on the vine. The Cougs get a mediocre ASU team and a chance to maneuver for better bowl position next weekend.

6. Oregon (+2)- With Vernon Adams under center, the Ducks are as scary of an offense as any in the conference. Their defense is still terrible, but they can outscore teams in a number of different ways. They are the only team in the north with a realistic shot of knocking off the Cardinal; they will have to beat Cal to get it done.

7. Cal (no change)- Cal has sandwiched an embarrassing loss to UCLA between two good-looking losses to the Utes and USC. Good looking or not, the Bears have lost three conference games in a row, and a Saturday matchup with Oregon won’t be much easier.

8. Washington (+2)- The Huskies pulverized the Wildcats last week, completely stifling their offense and taking advantage of a defense that can’t stop anyone. Ute fans can only hope they got it out of their system and will be ripe for being upset (yes, Vegas has the Huskies favored by 1) by the Utes.

9. ASU (-3)- ASU lost a #PAC12AfterDark special, a defeat that all but knocked them out of South contention. There’s no doubt they are a dangerous team this year, but the Sun Devils are staring down the barrel of a losing season. They’ll have to knock off the Cougars if they want a good shot at making a bowl game.

10. Arizona (-1)- The Wildcats only dropped one spot this week, but that’s because there isn’t much room left to fall. They looked absolutely awful against Washington. It’s hard to give them a chance to beat USC on the road, but it would be so "PAC 12" if they did.

11. Colorado (no change)- Once again, Colorado plays juuust barely below the level of their competition. It feels like the Buffs are going to notch one big upset this season. Hopefully it doesn’t come against the Utes. This week they get a chance to upset mighty Stanford.

12. OSU (no change)- OSU brought everything it had to Salt Lake City, and the Utes brought about half of what they are capable of. The game still wasn’t even close to close. They get UCLA at home next week; a bad game from Rosen and a few lucky plays and maybe, just maybe, Oregon State can make some noise.

Bowl Projections

Utah is running out of games to lose. The special season it looked like after Utah thumped the Ducks (still something no one else has managed to do) is becoming a reality, one game at a time. There’s two tough matchups left that are going to control this team’s postseason fate, and then hopefully a crack at Stanford in the PAC 12 championship game. 9-3 looks like a worst case scenario at this point, and 9-3 was pretty much a best case scenario in August. It’s already been a very, very good year.

The South situation is a bit too complicated still for me to give you precise championship odds. There are roughly one thousand different combinations that are relevant to the South championship, and since a few hundred of those create complicated three way ties, it’s just a hair more math than I can do between Saturday night and Monday morning. Best guess? USC has the best chance to win the conference (say 50%), with Utah a close second (about 40%). That’s because USC has a relatively easy schedule, and all they need is for the Utes to lose one game. Next week, with only about a hundred combinations to crunch, I’ll be exact. Stanford, meanwhile, pretty much has the North locked up. It would take a bunch of losses and perfection from one of the lesser North teams to upset that apple cart. I’ll get exact odds for the North next week too; it is going to be very close to 100% for Stanford.

Alamo bowls almost as far as the eye can see here. Most have the Utes either winning the South at 10-2 and losing to Stanford, or losing the South to USC at 10-2 or 9-3. The question is whether 10-2 will be good enough for a New Year’s bowl berth. Most of the pundits (and our FPI projections) don’t think that record will quite do it, although a matchup against a top ten Big 12 team is pretty attractive, as consolation prizes go.