1. Oregon (+1)- The Ducks didn’t deliver a flawless performance against EWU, but the Eagles are a talented, well coached team, energized by the prospect of facing their former QB. With their history of success and the very successful debut of Vernon Adams, Oregon slides into the top spot.
2. USC (-1)- The 55-6 score is hard to fault, but USC’s pass protection looked suspect, giving up five sacks to a Sun Belt team with little hope of major success. A week 2 tilt against Idaho doesn’t promise to reveal much more information.
3. UCLA (+3)- Josh Rosen emphatically answered every question there was about his readiness, picking apart a (presumably legitimate) Virginia defense to the tune of 28/35 with 351 yards, 3 TDs, and no picks. Paul Perkins struggled to get it going, but UCLA looks like one of the nation’s better teams.
4. Utah (+1)- Utah gave a balanced, effective effort and never trailed in a win over a talented blue chip opponent. The Utes don’t seem to have any glaring weaknesses, and that was enough for voters to put them ahead of other schools with more obvious struggles last weekend.
5. Arizona (-1)- Scooby Wright III is expected to miss a few weeks, and Arizona struggled to contain the offense of a Roadrunners squad that lacks the experience they brought to the table in 2014. The Wildcats still won by 10, and promise to be a threat to beat anyone on their schedule.
6. Cal (+2)- Cal put together a sterling performance against a completely overmatched Grambling State team. Up 66-0 at the half, Cal impressed voters and may have something this year they lacked in 2014: a defense.
7. ASU (-4)- The Sun Devils plummeted in the rankings, soundly beaten by unranked Texas A&M. There’s a lot of season left, but this kind of loss has to deflate ASU’s aspirations to play in a major bowl this year.
8. Stanford (-1)- The only saving grace to Stanford’s complete flop against an unheralded Northwestern opponent is that it wasn’t the worst loss of this week. Kevin Hogan’s three game resurgence in 2014 looked like a mirage on Saturday, and Stanford has lost the undercurrent of hype the Cardinal entered the season with.
9. Washington (no change)- The Huskies fought valiantly in a loss to Chris Petersen’s former team. Washington clawed their way to within a few points of their ranked opponent (the Broncos are expected to challenge for a New Year's bowl berth), and voters appreciated the intensity of their effort, particularly in light of the sad sack performances of the worst teams in the conference.
10. Oregon State (+2)- Look. Weber State isn’t exactly a stiff contest, but the teams below the Beavers this week have proven that a solid victory over an inferior foe can sometimes be hard to come by. It took a quarter or two for the Beavers offense to get off the ground, but they ultimately earned a comfortable 19 point victory over their FCS opponent.
11. Colorado (no change)- The Buffs looked absolutely awful in an embarrassing loss to Hawaii. Despite possessing advantages in athleticism at nearly every position, Colorado was unable to put together a decent game. Poor officiating played a role in the loss, but if you are playing Hawaii, you should win by enough that the officiating doesn’t matter.
12. Washington State (-2)- WSU’s loss to FCS Portland State (who ended 2014 at 3-9) was an utter disaster. To add injury to insult, it appears that Luke Falk has injured his throwing shoulder. The worst part of this game is that WSU didn’t just look unprepared or uninterested in playing a bad FCS team… they looked thoroughly overmatched. Mike Leach is going to have to figure this out in a hurry, or he’s going to wind up locking himself in a shed.
This was a bad week for the PAC 12, but a good week for the Utes, who moved into position to stand atop many of the tiebreaker scenarios in the middle of the PAC 12 South. The FPI metric used to generate these numbers saw several PAC 12 teams completely fall apart this weekend. The Utes strength of schedule dipped with lackluster performances by many upcoming opponents, and their strong showing against Michigan (the Wolverines are still ranked ahead of the Utes here, at 29th) pushed them up the FPI ranks. The Utes’ odds of winning each of their remaining games improved by 5.7% compared to last week, on average, the biggest uptick in the conference.
Among this week’s projections are the ESPN PAC 12 blog’s bowl projections; I used FPI’s rankings to fill in the opponents, just as I do for my own projections.
*Now that we know Colorado lost to Hawaii, we can go ahead and add one loss to their projected 12 game record from here on out.
The Utes still project as most likely a 7-5 team, but the projection is starting to improve, and Utah actually has a better chance of going 8-4 than either Arizona or Arizona State at this point. FPI does not see the Utes as contending for the South crown, though, as they are still solidly 2 or 3 games behind UCLA and USC.
The Mountain West’s top teams had a generally weak showing, and BYU’s win over Nebraska puts them into the Vegas bowl, which makes that an intriguing (if disappointing) landing spot for the Utes. BlockU and ESPN both project a mid-tier bowl game for the Utes, while services less familiar with the PAC 12 continue to pin them near the bottom of the bowl-eligible teams in the conference. The biggest change for the Utes is that FPI gives them a 91.2% chance to get to bowl eligibility, a huge jump from the 71.6% before the Michigan games. The Utes are certainly trending in the right direction, although FPI won’t give the Utes much credit if they beat the Aggies, who have sunk to 84th in the nation.