With the PAC 12 finally coming into conference play, we’re finally going to start learning more about these teams. It will be good to put a disappointing out of conference season into the rearview; there are only four undefeated teams left in the PAC and one of them is Arizona State, who hasn’t exactly been impressive.
1. Stanford (last week: 1)- Stanford had a casual air as they deconstructed the once-mighty Trojans. Next week they look to break UCLA and take possession of California.
2. Washington (last week: 2)- The Huskies did what they were supposed to do against an overmatched FCS opponent. They head to Arizona next week; if these power rankings are correct the Wildcats should get their doors blown off.
3. UCLA (last week: 3)- UCLA thoroughly dominated BYU on defense, but so did the last two teams BYU has played. They are going to need to round into form in a hurry if they want to upset Stanford and make a statement for the South.
4. Utah (last week: 5)- The Utes got off the bus in the second quarter, and the rout was on. USC is an entirely different animal. Win this and they make a profound statement about the pecking order in the South.
5. California (last week: 9)- Cal scored a ton of points on their way to knocking off No. 11 Texas, the latest poster child for the case against preseason national rankings. They travel to Arizona State next week, in a game that will likely defy even the most reasonable expectations.
6. Oregon (last week: 4)- Oregon played well and lost a heartbreaker to a Nebraska team that will rack up a number of wins this year. Colorado at home has been a get-right game in the past, but don’t overlook the Buffs this year.
7. Colorado (last week: 8)- The Buffs lost to Michigan, but they led for substantial stretches and showed themselves to be a complete team. Gone are the days when you could take them for granted.
8. USC (last week: 6)- Another week, another slipshod effort for a collapsing Trojans team. No doubt they will be feeling the pressure on campus and at practice to right the ship, but the Utes are going to have a thing or two to say about that.
9. ASU (last week: 7)- The Sun Devils barely scraped out a win against lowly UTSA. This is the fourth undefeated team in the conference, and they appear to have gotten there entirely by accident. Will it all come crashing down against Cal, or will the wild ride continue?
10. Arizona (last week: 10)- Arizona beat Hawaii easily, but so will everyone else this year, likely as not. Our panel didn’t think that win warranted a move in either direction. Washington comes to town, and the Wildcats will have the opportunity to show them to be overrated.
11. WSU (last week: 11)- Even a dumpster fire should be able to beat Idaho, and the Cougars did. So that’s worth something, we guess. They are on bye this week, so at least things can’t get much worse.
12. Oregon State (last week: 12)- The Beavers beat Idaho State with the ease you would expect of a PAC 12 team, which is a step in the right direction for them. They’ll have the opportunity to register a big upset and knock off Boise State next week.
USC’s loss to Stanford and lackluster performances by ASU and Arizona in wins have set the stage for a showdown between UCLA and Utah to determine the South crown. Stanford is starting to challenge Washington for that top spot in the North, and what noise Oregon was making has died down as their record and their FPI took a hit after losing to Nebraska.
Almost every team has a decent shot of making a bowl, but with so many out of conference losses it’s hard to see how they all get there. Only OSU, WSU, and Arizona have less than a 40% chance of making a bowl game. This glut of 6-6 and 7-5 projections makes figuring out who goes in what bowl a tricky proposition, but my algorithm came out with more or less the same answers as the experts.
Our panel tended to put the Utes in the Sun Bowl, which is a bit lower than most projections. The Utes are in the thick of the PAC 12 South race, which would put them one game against Washington or Stanford away from a New Year’s bowl or better. That’s a lofty ceiling. A win against USC this Friday would put them much closer to it.