Rob Malara

Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week 9

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It’s time to admit we’ve been spoiled watching conference play over the past month.  There have been so many good games starting back in middle of last month with the Trojans win over the Cardinal, let alone all the late game heroics sprinkled in throughout the earlier part of October culminating with the Jail Mary.  You even had games go down to the final series last week with results determining division supremacy.

This week only features one match-up of ranked teams, but if we’ve learned anything so far in the Pac-12, it’s to not count out the underdog if they excel at any one phase of the game.

1.#9 Oregon (6-1, 3-1 Previous Rank 1)

Week 8: Defeated Washington; 45-20.

It’s safe to say the Ducks are back in the national spotlight now that their defense is playing at least reasonable and their offensive line personnel issues are getting squared away now and the best it’s looked health wise since late August.

It’s been surprising how shockingly average the Oregon pass defense has been, and it will be put to the test against Jared Goff and the Bear Raid, but as long as it makes a few stops this one should be over by the third quarter if the Ducks offense stays to the plan of feeding Royce Freeman and letting Marcus Mariota dominate on third down.

2.#14 Arizona State (5-1, 3-1 Previous Rank 5)

Week 8: Defeated Stanford; 26-10.

The good news is with consecutive wins over ranked teams the Devils are pushing that blowout loss to UCLA into the rearview mirror as they begin the second half of their schedule.  The bad news is that there is no Weber State, New Mexico, or Colorado games to be played between now and November 28.

With a win over the young and injury-stricken Huskies in Seattle this weekend, the Devils would setup quite the impressive Homecoming match-up against Pac-12 South opponent Utah going in two Saturdays time.

3.#20 USC (5-2, 4-1 Previous Rank 3)

Week 8: Defeated Colorado; 56-28.

You’ll have to excuse quarterback Cody Kessler for channeling his inner Matt Barkley and throwing for seven touchdown passes against the hapless Buffs secondary.  For the second straight game the Trojans were able to expose a relatively ineffective opposing defense (Buffs have allowed 35 points or more in five of seven games this year) with both the run and the pass.

Things get tougher this week however as the USC offense will be going up against a very stingy Utah defense that is second in the conference in scoring and rushing defense and leads the nation in sacks per game.  Utah also has the best special teams in the country, statistically speaking.  So it’s critical that the Trojans are coached up properly going into this game or they risk falling behind the peloton in the Pac-12 South.

4.#15 Arizona (5-1, 2-1 Previous Rank 6)

Week 8: On Bye.

Speaking strictly on efficiency metrics, Arizona has a better offense than that of the much publicized Cougars, their Saturday opponent.  If the Cats can run the football they should leave Martin Stadium with their sixth win of 2014 and head back home to play the Bruins to start November.

5.#19 Utah (5-1, 2-1 Previous Rank 8)

Week 8: Defeated Oregon State; 29-23.

Utah is really firing on all cylinders right now in nearly everything except quarterback play.  They have a fantastic defense that can stop the run, the pass, and make plays (check out Gary Dorn’s Week 8 Defensive Stat-Pac) and cause general havoc against opposing offenses so far in 2014.  They also have the best rated special teams in the country when you look at metrics like ESPNs special teams’ efficiency rating or Football Outsiders F +/-.

They also have a junior running back in Devontae Booker who seems to be getting better each and every week and is currently second in the Pac-12 averaging 123 yards rushing per game.  But he can’t throw the football, and that’s the biggest flaw of this Utes team right now as Kyle Whittingham is struggling to find his go-to signal caller between Travis Wilson (lowest in the Pac-12 in completion percentage among starters) and newcomer Kendal Thompson.

6.UCLA (5-2, 2-2 Previous Rank 4)

Week 8: Defeated Cal; 36-34.

The Bruins showed back bone on the road last week intercepting a ball in their own end zone with less than a minute to play against Cal.  The game ending turnover snapped a seven game losing streak at Memorial Stadium not to mention a run of back-to-back losses this season in the Rose Bowl and allows the Bruins a chance to catch their breath, get healthy, and pad their stats against Colorado this weekend.

7.#23 Stanford (4-3, 2-2 Previous Rank 2)

Week 8: Lost to ASU; 26-10.

The Cardinal free fall this week in the rankings because they just aren’t playing the brand of football this school re-introduced to the conference back in 2007 when Jim Harbaugh was just getting started in Palo Alto.  By being horribly inefficient offensively teamed with poor special teams, Stanford seemed lost throughout most of the 60 minutes at Sun Devil Stadium last Saturday night.

And while you’d assume things will get much easier against the Beavers on The Farm this week, keep in mind Oregon State plays bend but don’t break defensively allowing the fewest amount of big plays in the conference.  Stanford is dead last in the conference in red zone scoring, so this could be one that plays out a lot closer than two score spread it currently sits at.

8.Washington (5-2, 1-2 Previous Rank 7)

Week 8: Lost to Oregon; 45-20.

C.S. Lewis once said “some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”  Sadly, Washington has not been able to grow old fast enough to shake the streak that is losing to Oregon.  Make it eleven games now.

It also looks like Chris Peterson will be going into this week’s game against ASU dealing with multiple injuries at key positions including quarterback that really could limit his team’s chances of winning other than by playing exceptional defense and hoping the rain really plays a factor on Saturday night.

9.Cal (4-3, 2-3 Previous Rank 9)

Week 8: Lost to UCLA; 36-36.

You just can’t lose games the way Cal did last week.  It’s embarrassing and it makes folks outside the program really lose respect for the program after seven weeks of progress throughout the first half of the 2014 Bears season.

That being said, the Cal of September could wipe the slate clean on public opinion if they keep it close (albeit highly unlikely) with Oregon on Friday night.  The problem is that they are playing the Oregon of October and not the Oregon of September.  Make sense?

10.Oregon State (4-2, 1-2 Previous Rank 10)               

Week 8: Lost to Utah; 29-23.

It seems like each year as of late the Beavers put together a good patch of play and there is a swirl of fan reaction that the team could really be a contender in the Pac-12 North.  Then a crippling loss takes place and Beaver Nation puts back on its flannel and gets comfortable headed back to their customary spot right above Cal towards the bottom of the division.

The fact is that in order for the Beavers to go bowling again they’ll need to win at least two games in their final six against the likes of Stanford, Cal, Washington State, Arizona State, Wasington, and Oregon.  Mike Riley may like his chances but skepticism persists.

11.Washington State (2-5, 1-3 Previous Rank 11)

Week 8: On Bye.

Connor Halliday had a chance to heal both his body and his mind over the course of the bye week after the tough loss to Stanford.  This week’s potential shootout against Arizona could end up being one of the better games on Saturday.

12.Colorado (2-5, 0-4 Previous Rank 12)

Week 8: Lost to USC 56-28.

Things don’t get any better in Boulder this weekend as UCLA needs to copy the blueprint laid out by their cross-town rivals last week and blow the doors off the Buffs to get become relevant again in the polls.  If the Buffs give up nearly nine yards per play again this week it won’t matter how their offense plays or who the opponent is however.

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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