The clash of conference titans did not disappoint, but the end results wound up more or less as expected, leading to little movement in the power rankings.
1. Washington (last week: 1)- Washington passed its first true test of the season, earning the victory late against the Utes to stay unbeaten. The beat goes on as they head to Cal next week.
2. Utah (last week: 2)- Utah was seen by many as a paper tiger going into this game, but they showed their teeth and played like potential South champions. They get a desperately needed bye to get healthy for the closing games of the season.
3. USC (last week: 3)- The Trojans absolutely demolished an ill-prepared Cal team at home to stay at the outer edges of the South race. The Ducks, another North bottom dweller, visit the LA slaughterhouse on Saturday.
4. Colorado (last week: 4)- Colorado took their bye week headed into the home stretch. Next week, they get a hungry UCLA squad who is on the edge of missing a bowl game.
5. WSU (last week: 5)- WSU squeaked out a win against Oregon State with a late surge. They get a visit from Arizona on Saturday in what should be a bloodbath.
6. Stanford (last week: 6)- Stanford found its stride against the hapless Wildcats and steamrolled right over the top of them. Oregon State is another soft landing for a team that might wind up with a surprisingly good finish.
7. California (last week: 9)- Although the loss was ugly, the Bears were on the road, had only five days rest after a double overtime game, and were up against a team coming off a bye. The visit from Washington probably won’t give them a chance to prove it was a fluke.
8. UCLA (last week: 8)- Spent their bye week licking their wounds and facing down the possibility of a losing season. If they want to right the ship, they’ve got to beat Colorado this weekend.
9. ASU (last week: 7)- The Sun Devils just keep collapsing, this time taking a lopsided loss to a simply awful Oregon team. They are on bye this week, and will no doubt be trying to straighten out whatever is broken.
10. Oregon (last week: 11)- The Ducks are working their way back up, having won their first PAC 12 game of the season. Next week’s matchup on the road against USC does not hold the same promise.
11. Oregon State(last week: 10)- The Beavers were game, but fell short in the end against a superior WSU team. Can they shock Stanford on Saturday and suggest that they’ve returned to conference relevance?
12. Arizona (last week: 12)- Stanford has barely been able to get a first down for weeks, but against Arizona they racked up plenty of yardage and 34 points. They play WSU next Saturday, who should be able to score at will against a paper bag defense.
Colorado is the class of the South right now, although Utah is waiting in the wings. The Rocky Mountain Rivalry looms as the crucial moment- if the Utes beat Colorado, they win the South 69% of the time. If Colorado prevails, they win the division 85% of the time. USC looks close, but a tough closing schedule and needing virtually everything to break their way keeps them out of serious South contention.
There’s a decent chance the North division will already have been decided by the time we get to the Apple Cup. WSU has to get past at least two of Arizona, Cal, and Colorado so there isn’t much margin for error. Washington will almost certainly hold serve headed into that game, with a home tilt against USC the only legitimate threat to their undefeated record.
My algorithm refuses to put the Utes in the New Years’ 6, and probably won’t do so until (if) they actually defeat Colorado and win the South. The experts are not so hesitant, uniformly projecting the Utes to the Rose Bowl. FPI is typically hard on the Utes, so there’s plenty of justification for the rosier projections. The bye week won’t do much for the Utes in any regard; at this point it’s win to get in.