1. USC (+1)- Whatever problems USC’s O line might have, they weren’t tested on Saturday as they cruised to an easy fifty point victory over the Idaho Vandals. The offense will be tested by Stanford next weekend in Los Angeles as conference play begins.
2. UCLA (+1)- Josh Rosen wasn’t as perfect as he was last week, but the Bruins’ casual 37-3 rout of UNLV on the strength of 151 yards and two touchdowns from Paul Perkins left no doubt that they are a playoff contender. BYU looms next week; the Bruins opened as 14 point favorites and I’m sure Ute fans are hoping they beat that spread.
3. Oregon (-2)- Oregon fell to Michigan State in a major tilt that shifted the balance of power away from the PAC 12. A weak secondary continued to be a problem, and Vernon Adams Jr. occasionally looked overcome by the size of the moment. Nonetheless, Oregon was in it until the final tick of the clock and will contend in the PAC 12.
4. Arizona (+1)- The Wildcats looked more comfortable than last week with a 24 point win over Nevada, but they continue to not put away teams as easily as they have been expected to.
5. Utah (-1)- Speaking of not putting teams away, the Utes let USU hang around all night. Questions continue to linger about the offensive line, and the coaches have begun shifting players around in an attempt to answer them. Fresno offers a get-right opportunity before the big match-up at Oregon.
6. Cal (no change)- Cal has continued to impress our voters, and had no trouble at all with San Diego State. The #2 team in the North, they are ahead of Stanford in every contributor’s ballot.
7. ASU (no change)- The 35-21 score over Cal Poly doesn’t look great, and this game was worse than the final score; the Sun Devils were tied at 21 entering the fourth quarter. New Mexico next week should present no challenge.
8. Stanford (no change)- Stanford took care of business on Saturday, but not much more than that. Voters are still waiting for a demonstration that they’ve found some kind of offensive mojo before returning them to the upper part of the ballot. USC would fit the bill, but can Stanford handle the Trojans?
9. Washington (no change)- Washington delivered a complete performance against an FCS foe (which is more than quite a few teams this year can say). It doesn’t sound like much but it’s a step in the right direction for the Huskies. Their home tilt against Utah State will provide a measuring stick against the rest of the conference.
10. Washington State (+2)- Despite several earnest attempts at Couging it, WSU pulled out a win against a similarly hapless Rutgers squad. A Big 10 notch in the belt is a good thing for the conference, and the voters promoted WSU to the coveted ‘least bad of the three awful teams’ spot.
11. Colorado (no change)- The Buffs dismantled a MAC squad this week, winning by 34 points and looking like a proper PAC 12 team. 390 rushing yards was excellent, but 168 through the air is a cause for concern as Colorado looks towards more legitimate opponents. The rivalry game with Colorado State should be interesting.
12. Oregon State (-2)- The Beavers got plowed into the mud by Michigan’s potent rushing attack, and were utterly stymied on offense. Special teams miscues and other erratic play made this a pretty ugly game to watch. Michigan’s strong performance is a good thing for the PAC 12, though: Utah’s win looks better every time the Wolverines write in a W.
Utah took a slight hit in FPI this week and most other PAC 12 teams moved up, causing the Utes to slide backwards in the muddled four-way 7-5 tie. FPI has the Utes looking at the Vegas bowl again. With Oregon’s loss to the presumptive second-place Big 10 team, the PAC 12 is in danger of being on the outside looking in at the College Football Playoff.
The Utes still project as a 7-5 team, with 8-4 or 6-6 being pretty likely. Their 10% shot at a 9-3 record is the target most Ute fans would like to see them hit; FPI needs to see the Utes play better before the stat reflects those hopes.
Another tough week for the Mountain West has it looking like they won’t make the New Year’s bowls over a team like Houston (or, perish the thought, BYU). The Utes are pegged for the Vegas bowl by every press service except ESPN’s PAC 12 blog, who predict that the Utes will finish ahead of a handful of other muddled middle teams. FPI has slightly cut the Utes’ chances of reaching bowl eligibility, down 2.8% since last week to 88.4%. Fresno doesn’t provide much in the way of opportunity here; all eyes (except hopefully the players’ and coaches’) are on Oregon in two weeks.