Rob Malara

Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week 7


The Washington schools are all of a sudden the toast of their fan bases while the Oregon Ducks may limp their way into bowl season, this is the Pac-12 world we live in as we near the halfway point.  ASU and Utah will square off Saturday for Pac-12 South supremacy while UCLA and Stanford play at Stanford Stadium to help shake out who belongs just under the Utes as the second best team in our rankings.

Still finding the landscape of conference supremacy murky? Just imagine what happens if ASU beats Utah and UCLA beats Stanford, boy are we going to have fun sorting things out next week.  

  1. #4 Utah (5-0, 2-0, S&P+ 13th, Previous Power Ranking: 1)

Week 6: Defeated No. 23 Cal; 30-24.

The Utes become the last of the unbeaten’s in the Pac-12 after picking off Cal quarterback five times in their win at Rice Eccles Stadium.  This is a team oozing with confidence that is much more than just standout running back Devontae Booker, with Travis Wilson doing just enough both with his arms and legs to keep defenses honest.

And then there’s Old Faithful, Whittingham’s always dependable defense where the front seven just outside the FBS top ten in havoc rate, forcing Jared Goff into throwing five interceptions last week.  By the numbers, they look to have the advantage over an ASU offense that was finally clicking against the Buffs.

  1. #15 Stanford (4-1, 3-0, S&P+ 10th, Previous Ranking: 2)

Week 6: On Bye.

After taking a nosedive throughout much of the 2014 season, it’s been over year since David Shaw has had his team this high in the AP Poll.   Much of this team’s assent is due to the maturation of the offense thanks in part to an improving offensive line and its standout guard Joshua Garnett. Things will only get better Kevin Hogan gets healthier not to mention Christian McCaffrey who is third in the Pac-12, averaging 153.8 yards from scrimmage per game.

  1. Arizona State (4-2, 2-1, S&P+ 37th, Previous Power Ranking: 4)

Week 6: Defeated Colorado; 38-23.

It’s been a steady climb for the Devils since that horrendous 35-0 first half against the Trojans back in late September.  As the roster has gotten healthier and the coaching staff has made some adjustments the needle has pointed up for this team.  If the Devils can slay the dragon that is Utah on their home field before heading into their bye week, it will go a long way towards calming down the fan base with a game against a deflated Oregon looming in two weeks.

  1. #18 UCLA (4-1, 1-1, S&P+ 24th, Previous Power Ranking: 5)

Week 6: On Bye.

If Jim Mora has identified his kryptonite during his time as Bruins head coach, it’s been playing Stanford.  But defeating Shaw’s team is exactly what Mora will need to do if he doesn’t want to fall behind in the race to win the Pac-12 South division.  And UCLA was fortunate to have a week of rest to prep for this game and heal up, what has been a beaten up defense in terms of personnel through the first month and a half of the season.

  1. #23 Cal (5-1, 2-1, S&P+ 49th, Previous Power Ranking: 6)

Week 6: Lost to No. 5 Utah; 30-24.

Jared Goff and this offense was going to have to come back to earth at some point.  But it was hard to predict he’d throw five interceptions against the Utes, even if it was a tough Pac-12 road contest.  That being said, the fact the offense turned the ball over so many times and yet this team lost by one score should be something of a positive for a team still learning how to win in this conference.

Sonny Dykes’ team will be on a by this week before playing UCLA on what should be another fantastic Thursday night conference match-up.  

  1. Washington (3-2, 1-1, S&P+ 23rd, Previous Power Ranking: 9)

Week 6: Defeated No. 17 USC; 17-12.

It’s tough what to make of the Huskies win over the Trojans when you sort through the numbers and the turmoil of what was going on behind the scenes with the Men of Troy.  Indeed a young Washington defense played fantastic against a vaunted USC offense, making Cody Kessler look lost at times by taking away his favorite target JuJu Smith-Schuster.  

At the same time, you wanted to see more from freshman quarterback Jake Browning in this game as the Huskies had multiple opportunities to really step on the Trojans throat and turn this game into a laugher.

  1. USC (3-2,1-2, S&P+ 6th, Previous Power Ranking: 3)

Week 6: Lost to Washington; 17-12.

From preseason playoff hopefuls to a complete dumpster fire as they near the mid-way you just have to shake your head at the opportunities that were wasted by now former head coach Steve Sarkisian.  The Trojans talent is second to none in this conference, but the turmoil the players have had to deal with from those who have been asked to lead them over the past few years is completely unacceptable and embarrassing at best.

In another dimension, given a stable athletic department, and sound coaching staff, and no recruiting limitations, you could see this team playing for championships year-in and year-out.

Instead you have a senior quarterback in Cody Kessler who will finish his career more than likely playing more games for interim head coaches (Clay Helton for the second time) then for those originally hired for the job by Pat Haden.  That’s astonishing.

  1. Oregon (3-3, 1-2, S&P+ 64th, Previous Power Ranking: 7)

Week 6: Lost to Washington State; 45-38.

One of the things we always liked to do on our podcast back in the day, was dream about schools who were one player short of being really good, “what would happen if?” scenario.  In the Ducks situation, it would be, what would happen if they had a good defense or good quarterback play.  Because Royce Freeman is putting up numbers that are putting opposing run defenses to shame, and fantastic talent at the receiver position is being wasted in 2015 due to an inability for the quarterback to get them the ball.

None of that makes any difference though when you have a pass defense as bad as the Ducks do right now.  In terms of total defense, they’ve slipped from third, to eighth, to dead last in the Pac-12 over the last two and a half seasons, just inside of the top-100 in defensive S&P+.  Defensive coordinator Don Pellum may want to hold off on any lavish vacations or frivolous purchases after the season ends.  Just a suggestion.

  1. Arizona (4-2, 1-2, S&P+ 70th, Previous Rank: 8)

Week 6: Defeated Oregon State; 44-7.

Rich Rod circled the wagons in a game his team easily could have failed to get up for.  After missing the previous game due to a concussion, Anu Solomon was inconsistent but just what the doctor ordered and was pulled after three quarters for added rest.  The defense actually played well against the Beavers holding them under 250 yards of offense.  

Looking ahead at their opponents over the next month, and if Scooby Wright comes back and is effective, we could certainly be looking at five game run where the Cats get themselves right back into the Pac-12 south picture with a little bit of luck.

  1. Washington State (3-2, 1-1, S&P+ 84th, Previous Power Ranking: 10)

Week 6: Defeated Oregon; 45-38.

Two accomplishments took place in the Cougs game against the Ducks they justify commendations.  First was the ending of an 8-game losing streak to the Ducks, the second, and perhaps more importantly, was Mike Leach’s willingness to run the football.  Nineteen times Washington State running backs were handed the football in this double overtime extravaganza.  Nineteen carries for 185 yards out of the Cougs backfield.  Think about the last time that happened for this school?

  1. Colorado (3-3, 0-2, S&P+ 116th, Previous Power Ranking: 11)

Week 6: Lost to ASU; 48-23.

Colorado struggled to protect Sefo Liufau behind a shuffled offensive line at Sun Devil Stadium last Saturday night, and it was tough to watch at times as wave after wave of ASU defenders continued to hit the junior quarterback.  In the end he was sacked or hurried over twenty times in this contest, kudos for leaving Tempe on your own two feet Sefo.

The team looks to be at a crossroads as they welcome in Arizona on Saturday.  While few expected much from Mike MacIntyre’s team in 2015, it seems as if Liufau’s development has leveled off in his third year as the starter for this team.  The Buffs are buried in an ultra competitive conference, if not division.  But he will have to pull off a surprising win or two if he wants to bring in the impact players that will get this school to the next level, if not save his job.

  1. Oregon State (2-3, 0-2, S&P+ 85th, Previous Power Ranking 12)

Week 6: Lost to Arizona; 44-7.

Gary Andersen’s boys hit a buzz saw last week when they were demolished by a motivated Arizona team.  But these are the types of peaks and valleys you go through when you completely overhaul your team from a scheme standpoint and start a true freshman quarterback.  We’ll learn a lot more about them and their opponent when they head to the Palouse this week to play an upstart Washington State team.

How do you rank the Pac-12 top-to-bottom? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter.
** S&P+ rating was created by : The S&P+ Ratings are a college football ratings system derived from the play-by-play and drive data of all 800+ of a season’s FBS college football games (and 140,000+ plays).  

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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