Rob Malara

Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week 11

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Lucidity is such a beautiful thing as we had into the final third of the Pac-12 season.  On better put by artist Vincent van Gogh “I experience a period of frightening clarity in those moments when nature is so beautiful.  I am no longer sure of myself, and the paintings appear as in a dream.”

Much like the snake bite I drank early on Sunday morning, we’re starting to see a true separation between the good, the bad, and the ugly in conference.  Whereas early on in the season perception was there were a lot of good but not great teams, the cream is starting to rise to the top and after the newest round of playoff rankings, the Devils find themselves right in the thick of things.

1.#4 Oregon (8-1, 5-1)

Week 10: Defeated Stanford; 45-16.

The best Pac-12 game of the week pits the Ducks against the Utes in the highly disputed west coast prime time slot.  It’s the best offense in the league against the second best scoring and rushing defense statistically.

Marcus Mariota, landing his second straight Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week award, shredded the vaunted Stanford defense last week and few feel he can’t do the same this week against the Utes.  Can he hold on to the award for three straight weeks?

2.#9 Arizona State (7-1, 5-1)

Week 10: Defeated Utah; 19-16.             

ASU find themselves this week behind the likes of six other one-loss teams in the playoff rankings but with a win over Notre Dame could leap frog the likes of Michigan State, Kansas State, or TCU depending on how these other teams fare.

The run defense held its ground and needed to with Taylor Kelly’s inconsistent play and the salty Utah defense keeping its team in the game until Zane Gonzalez’s game winner in the extra period.

The match-up with Notre Dame represents the biggest regular season game played at Sun Devil Stadium in quite some time and would go to the top of Todd Graham’s resume if he were able to come out victorious.  Especially with the Devils expected to be without the services of defensive tackle Jaxon Hood, according to co-defensive coordinator Keith Patterson.  While the Devils welcome back Demetrius Cherry, suspended for the Utah game, they will have to adapt the heavy front they found so much success in using the past three games on early downs.

3.#17 Utah (6-2, 3-2)

Week 10: Lost to ASU; 19-16.

Kyle Whittingham has to rally the troops quickly as they face the Ducks high scoring attack.  Getting to Marcus Mariota while only rushing four will be the key to their success in the game as they lead the FBS in that number (74 percent of their total sacks).

The Ducks have been a different team since getting starting left tackle Jake Fisher back into the lineup so this could prove to be a fantastic match-up of top shelf skill and production in the trenches during the game.

4.#18 UCLA (7-2, 4-2)

Week 10: Defeated Arizona 17-7.

UCLA seemed to get rid of the A.D.D. and took care of business last week with both a stout run game and a top shelf performance by their defense.

Few teams had been able to stifle Arizona both running and throwing the ball, but to the Bruins credit, they did both against the Cats and will need to continue to do so on the road against the Huskies this week.  If UCLA lets down their guard Washington has a chance to hit them in the mouth with a physical downhill run game lead by Shaq Thompson and a tough as nails run defense.

How the Bruins (Pac-12 worst 29 sacks allowed) manage to protect Brett Hundley against the likes of Hau’oli Kikaha and Danny Shelton will dictate the outcome of this game.

5.#20 USC (6-3, 5-2)

Week 10: Defeated Washington State; 44-17.

True freshman JuJu Smith has had five touchdowns in the last three games for the Trojans who will need as much offensive firepower as they can get going up against the high-flying Bears next week.  As a team short on depth, they’ll use every bit of help before finishing up with UCLA and then Notre Dame following Cal.

6.#19 Arizona (6-2, 4-2)

Week 10: Lost to UCLA; 17-7.

Since beating Oregon the Cats have lost two of three games including both of the L.A. schools but they now head to Boulder, safe haven for those looking for a win.  Albeit, not exactly the pushover of a home game as it used to be against the Buffs.

Arizona would be smart to start figuring out how to run the ball effectively again before finishing the season against Washington, Utah, and ASU.

7.Stanford (6-3, 3-3)

Week 10: Lost to Oregon; 45-16.

This is now officially a down year for Stanford.  Getting blown out by Oregon was the emphatic punctuation to that statement last week.

Things don’t get any easier after the bye as it faces a very good shot of winning eight games or fewer for the first time since Jim Harbaugh was running the show back in 2009 with Utah, Cal, and UCLA on the horizon.

8.Washington (6-3, 2-3)

Week 10: Defeated Colorado; 38-23.

Washington found their wings in the run game, like most schools, against Colorado University.  In fact, they had their best offensive output of the season averaging 7.5 yards per play against the Buffs.

This week, they face a re-made UCLA running attack spearheaded by Brett Hundley.  If the Huskies can contain the one-time Heisman hopeful and force him to throw the ball, they’ll have a shot they’ll continue their hope of leapfrogging Stanford as the second best team in the Pac-12 North.  But, can they defend the pass without their best corner after news came out this week that Marcus Peters was dismissed from the team after multiple run-ins with the coaching staff?

9.Cal (5-4, 3-4)

Week 10: Defeated Oregon State; 45-31.

You have to hand it to Cal in 2014, they beat who they are supposed to beat and have only been blown out by two opponents so far.  That’s a monumental improvement from Sonny Dykes’ 2013 team that did the deed on nine such occasions.

They trail just Oregon among scoring offense and yards per play in the conference.  If they could just figure out how to slow down their opponents passing game they might have won one or two more games so far this season and somehow be sitting in the standings just under Oregon in the North.

10.Oregon State (4-4, 1-4)               

Week 10: Lost to Cal; 45-31.

The flip side of Cal is Oregon State.  They can stop the pass defensively, but even with Sean Mannion at the helm, their offense has been tough to watch, finding the end zone the fewest times of any team in the conference.

Without the Cougars statistically brilliant quarterback, the Beavers have a chance at Reeser if they could consistently run the football this week.

11.Washington State (2-7, 1-5)

Week 10: Lost to USC; 44-17.

As the Cougars get prepped to play their final three games of the season I feel it necessary to give Connor Halliday a tip of the cap.  After 21 consecutive starts where he put up eye-popping numbers and took many shots in the pocket, players with his bravado and toughness don’t come around that often at the quarterback position.

College football is a game of dealing with constant transition however and in steps redshirt freshman Connor Luke to get a leg up on next year’s quarterback competition in Pullman.  His performance last week had more to do with his receivers letting him down than to the rust of holding a clipboard through the first eight games of the season.  Throwing for 370 against USC isn’t something to pass over, but Oregon State has the second stingiest defense to throw on in the conference.  In fact they’ve only allowed seven passing touchdowns through eight games, tenth best in the country.

12.Colorado (2-7, 0-6)

Week 10: Lost to Washington 38-23.

Turning the ball over four times against Washington leads few to guess at why the Buffs have now lost five in a row.  Especially when you look at the flow of the game with the Trojans.  It was certainly tight for a while, but this conference has become so competitive each and every game that you just can’t shoot yourself in the foot that many times, even at home, and expect an outcome any different.

How do you rank the Pac-12 top-to-bottom? Let us know on FacebookTwitter, or e-mail and you could make it on the next ASU Devils Den Podcast.

About Rob Malara

Rob Malara

Rob Malara is a 2002 Sun Devil grad having spent the majority of his time in Tempe as a football, basketball, and baseball season ticket holder and front row inhabitant. A member of the Football Writers Association of America, he hosted the ASU Devils podcast and was its sub-optimal technical producer through its lifespan. Currently the president of the ASU Alumni Association's Northern Colorado Club, he is part of a family of maroon and gold residing in Fort Collins with his Sun Devil wife and nearby Sun Devil sister.

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