Rob Malara

Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week 6

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UCLA proved last Thursday that although it underwhelmed in its three previous contests, it belonged among the big boys of the conference after its win over Arizona State.  It was also good to see teams that lost close games in previous weeks get their redemption (we’re looking at you Cal and Washington State).

1.#2 Oregon (4-0, 1-0 Previous Rank 1)

Week 5: Bye

Oregon no doubt schemed for revenge on their bye after falling to Arizona last year.  And with clear weather it looks to be yet another Pac-12 track meet between these two school starting to build a rivalry after the Ducks got blown out by Arizona 42-16.

Marcus Mariota performed poorly in the game in Tucson, and the Wildcats made him pay for each of his two interceptions.  On the flip side, standout cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is ready to show that his poor game against Washington State in man-coverage was simply a one game bump of the record player in an otherwise fabulous college career.

You can expect better things from the Ducks offense with a healthy signal caller and a more seasoned secon year coach Mark Helfrich, who by the way is off to the best start of any coach in the conference in nearly 70 years.

2. #8 UCLA (4-0, 1-0 Previous Rank 3)

Week 5: Defeated Arizona State; 62-27.

UCLA showed proved two statements correct during their Thursday night demolition of the Devils.  First, Brett Hundley is indeed a Heisman candidate and big play machine.  And second, this team can win big games on the road in hostile conditions.

While there was a lot you could attribute to ASU doing wrong, rather than UCLA doing right, in the end the Bruins beat a ranked Pac-12 South opponent by five touchdowns and it’s hard to do that without good coaching and talent.  The Devils also learned the hard way that you have to stay away from Ishmael Adams, be it on kickoffs (best return average in the nation), or when throwing the ball (2 interceptions and leads the team in passes defended).

3.#14 Stanford (3-1, 1-1 Previous Rank 2)

Week 5: Defeated Washington; 20-13.

In one of the ugliest offensive games in recent memory this side of the SEC, Stanford prevailed against Washington in a game that showcased both teams stand-out front sevens while also spotlighting the flaws each team has on the opposite side of the ball.  We now know that this team can win games simply flexing its muscles and trusting its defense.  What we don’t know yet is if the offense can hold serve against the likes of Oregon, UCLA, and to a lesser extent ASU in upcoming games.

4.#16 USC (3-1, 2-0 Previous Rank 5)

Week 5: Defeated Oregon State; 35-10.

Justin Wilcox’s defense held Beavers quarterback Sean Mannion to just 123 passing yards, his worst game in his career as the most experienced player at his position in the country.  The Trojans defense keeps getting better each week with its only blip being the embarrassing loss at Boston College.  In fact the defense is the only one left in the country not to have allowed a passing touchdown.

The game against the Devils this week will either show last year’s loss at Sun Devil Stadium was an aberration, or open a new chapter where the Devils will have shown their former ten game losing streak to the Trojans dating back to 1999 was all but a distant memory.

5.Arizona State (3-1, 1-1 Previous Rank 4)

Week 5: Lost to UCLA; 62-27.

Losing at home hurts.  Losing at home by 35 points on the most marketed game of the year while trying to attract a larger fan base hurts worse.

Make no mistake, Todd Graham and his staff, not to mention his players, were completely embarrassed in the third annual ASU blackout game.  Between the four turnovers, the poor tackling, and the repeated critical situations in which the team failed to execute, the game against the Bruins was nothing less than a monumental failure at all levels.

How they respond in their game against the Trojans this week could dictate whether they go to the Sun Bowl or head back to the Holiday Bowl.

6.Washington (4-1, 0-1 Previous Rank 6)

Week 5: Lost to Stanford, 20-13.

Chris Peterson fought the law and the law won.

The Pac-12 is called the Pac-12 and not the Moutain West for a reason.  You can’t squander your opportunities in a field position-type game, especially against David Shaw’s Stanford.  As a result, even though the Huskies played fantastic football defensively, they ultimately paid the price.

It’s safe to say after five games that the offense hasn’t been able to replace the likes of Keith Price, Bishop Sankey, or Austin Sefarian-Jenkins.  And no one is blaming them for that inability as each was one of the best to ever at the position for the school.  But they’ll have this week’s bye to figure out a game plan of how to stop one of the hottest offenses in the country while coming up with some semblance of an offense to keep up with the well-oiled machine that is the Bear Raid.

7.Arizona (4-0, 1-0 Previous Rank 8)

Week 5: Bye

The Cats head to Corvalis undefeated at 4-0 for only the twelfth time in school history, but do so this year with sixth best offense in the country.  Now some of that has to do with how weak their non-conference schedule played out this year, but a win against Cal showed this team looks to be better than average in 2014.

Can quarterback Anu Soloman follow the Washington State gameplan of spreading the Ducks out wide and then throwing the ball down field to his big-play wide receivers in Cayleb Jones (six touchdowns the last three games) and Austin Hill (21-straight games with a reception)?

8.Utah (3-1, 0-1 Previous Rank 7)

Week 5: lost to Washington State, 28-27.

Utah scored defensively and on special teams last week and still managed to lose to the Cougars after being able to conjure only two touchdowns on offense against an average defense.  Utah gets thrown back into the unreliable pile of teams with this result after an impressive road win against Michigan a week earlier.  Things don’t get any better as the Utes head to the Rose Bowl this Saturday.

9.Cal (3-1, 1-1 Previous Rank 10)

Week 5: defeated Colorado, 59-56.

Cal gets its redemption a week after a heartbreaking loss to Arizona, and man was it gifted to them by shoddy play calling by the Buffs down at the goal line in double overtime.

After scoring 59 points last week, one can only hope head coach Mike Leach is shooting for 60 in an all-offense, no defense match-up against Washington State.  While Cal is only 41st in the nation averaging 78.3 plays per game, Washington State ranks just outside the top 25.  So it’s easy to imagine each team getting off around 85 total plays in this one, get ready for a four hour game folks.

10.Washington State (2-3, 1-1 Previous Rank 11)

Week 5: Defeated Utah, 28-27.

Speaking of the Cougs, congrats to Mike Leach for finally winning a game in the fourth quarter.

11. Oregon State (3-1, 0-1 Previous Rank 9)               

Week 5: lost to USC, 35-10.

Sean Mannion loves his deep threat wide receivers, which is why he hated to face USC without Victor Bolden.  And the Trojans made the Beavers earn every yard gained throughout the contest, squeezing the life out of the Oregon State offense by being able to cheat up into the box on every down and distance outside out of long yardage plays.

While Mannion has a set of great tight ends, it is now clear that Mike Riley does not yet trust his run game, something they’ll need to figure out against Colorado who gives up five yards a rush so far this season.

12.Colorado (2-3, 0-2 Previous Rank 12)

Week 5: Lost to Washington State, 59-56.

Would you believe that Colorado is 4th in the country averaging 49.4 pass attempts per game?  That’s nearly 15 more attempts than last year’s team.  And while it’s understandable to ride their horse, wide receiver Nelson Spruce, it may be in the team’s best interests to start running the football more effectively as the season wears on or those two wins just may stay the same between now and December.

How do you rank the Pac-12 top-to-bottom? Let us know on Twitter 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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