Sunday Afternoon Quarterback

… Game Five … Colorado v. Arizona … Game Story can be found here … Essay for the game:Keeping An Eye on the Big Picturecan be found here …

My Week Six Pac-12 Power Rankings

1. Oregon (4-1, 2-0) … Previous ranking … No. 1

This weekendNo. 13 Oregon 17, Cal 7. Oregon had a bye week to prepare for a struggling Cal team which had lost its quarterback. The Bears’ backup quarterback, Devon Modster, had gone 5-of-14 for 23 yards and an interception in stinking it up against Arizona State, and went only 17-of-34 for 190 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions against the Ducks, but Oregon trailed at halftime, 7-0, and Cal was in this game until late. Still, with Washington losing, all of Oregon’s challengers for the Pac-12 North title already have two losses … except for Oregon State. The North was supposed to be the better division, but the race is over one weekend into October.

Up next … Colorado, Friday, 8:00 p.m., MT, FS1

2. Utah (4-1, 1-1) … Previous ranking … No. 3

This weekendIdle. Utah couldn’t have asked for a better setup – a bye week followed by a game against Oregon State. The Utes dominated Washington State, and seemed to have righted the ship after falling on the road against USC. A probable victory in Corvallis will be followed by home games against Arizona State and Cal. The next road game after this weekend will come on November 2nd against Washington, in what could be a preview of the Pac-12 title game.

Up next … at Oregon State, Saturday, 6:00 p.m., MT, Pac-12 Networks

3. Arizona (4-1, 2-0) … Previous ranking … No. 8

This weekendArizona 35, Colorado 30 … Give credit where credit is due. The Wildcats faced down a resilient Buff team and a sell-out crowd to remain the only Pac-12 team this side of Eugene without a conference loss. That makes it four straight wins since a Week Zero loss against Hawai’i for the Wildcats, and with Kahlil Tate and running back J.J. Taylor back, there is reason for optimism in Tucson. The home game against Washington next weekend appears to be much more winnable than it did a week ago, and the Wildcats get preseason Pac-12 South pick Utah at home. A run for the Pac-12 South is not out of the question.

Up next … at Washington, Saturday, 7:00 p.m., MT, FS1

4. USC (3-2, 2-1) … Previous ranking … No. 4

This weekendIdle. The Clay Helton watch is on. USC is 3-2, and faces a significant challenge in taking on No. 9 Notre Dame on the road. A 3-3 record might be enough to end Helton’s run with the Trojans … except for the fact that USC is currently without an athletic director. The football coach is perhaps the most important move an athletic director can make, and it would make sense for the Trojans to have a new AD in place before making a move. The Trojans’ loss may be the Buffs’ gain … The only other game between the Notre Dame game and a date in Boulder on October 25th is a home game against Arizona. USC will likely be a 4-3 team, with Clay Helton on the sidelines, when the Buffs go for win No. 1 over USC.

Up next … at Notre Dame, Saturday, 5:30 p.m., MT, NBC

5. Washington (4-2, 1-2) … Previous ranking … No. 2

This weekendStanford 23, No. 15 Washington 13.  Thud. The showcase game between Washington and Oregon in two weeks has now lost most (if not all) of its meaning. The Huskies, in losing to both of the Bay Area schools, has two conference losses, meaning that even if Washington were to beat Oregon, the Huskies would still need Oregon to lose another game to get them back into the title hunt … and that’s assuming that Washington wins all of its other conference games, which is by no means a given at this point. Jacob Eason, who was supposed to be an upgrade from Jake Browning, went 15-of-35 for 181 yards, with one touchdown and one interception, against the Cardinal.

Up next … at Stanford, Saturday, 8:30 p.m., MT, ESPN

6. Arizona State (4-1, 1-1) … Previous ranking … No. 7

This weekend Idle. Arizona State got a week off to enjoy beating a ranked Cal team on the road. The victory gave the Sun Devils back-to-back wins over ranked teams on the road (the other win coming over Michigan State) for only the second time in school history. The other year that happened? 1986 … when the Sun Devils went to the Rose Bowl for their first time in school history. Will Arizona State get to Rose Bowl No. 3 (the other coming in 1996)? A win over the reeling Cougars would be a significant step towards that hope. ASU gets Oregon and and USC, and miss Washington, so, who knows?

Up next … Washington State, Saturday, 1:30 p.m., MT, Pac-12 Networks

7. Stanford (3-3, 2-2) … Previous ranking … No. 10

This weekendStanford 23, No. 15 Washington 13 . The Cardinal not only beat Washington, they did so with a backup quarterback. Running back Cameron Scarlett had a career day, with 33 carries for 157 yards and a touchdown, as Stanford played keep-away from the Washington offense, controlling the ball for almost 40 minutes of game clock. “Most people wouldn’t understand a team like us playing with confidence but that’s fine,” said Stanford coach David Shaw after the game. “People don’t have to understand.” Buff fans understand … that a game they had penciled in as a “W” in November is now looking a great deal more difficult.

Up next: … Idle … Next game: v. UCLA, Thursday, October 17th, 7:00 p.m., MT, ESPN

8. Colorado (3-2, 1-1) … Previous ranking … No. 5

This weekendArizona 35, Colorado 30 … Nine lead changes … Neither team leading by more than six points all afternoon … The Buffs settling for three field goals … Nine penalties for 85 yards … Woulda, coulda, shoulda … “The best thing to do is to forget about this game and move onto Oregon,” said corneback Delrick Abrams of the loss. “We’ll restart tomorrow and start preparing for our game against Oregon on Friday.” The future of the program remains positive, but it’s hard not to view the loss to Arizona as a short term blow to CU’s bowl chances. The Buffs still only need to go 3-4 the remainder of the season to become bowl-eligible, but the UCLA game (and that’s on the road) may be the only game left on the schedule in which the Buffs are favored. The Buffs will be competitive in every game in 2019, but will need to have some of these 50/50 games to fall their way in order to post a winning record.

Up next … at No. 13 Oregon, Friday, 8:00 p.m., MT, FS1

9. California (4-2, 1-2) … Previous ranking … No. 6

This weekendNo. 13 Oregon 17, California 7. The Golden Bears showed some moxie in staying with the Ducks in Eugene. Cal lead Oregon, 7-0, at halftime, thanks to three forced turnovers from the Ducks’ offense. The clock struck midnight for the offensively challenged Bears, however, in the second half, as the tough Cal defense could not overcome the deficiencies of its offense (Cal’s second half play chart: three-and-out; three-and-out; three-and-out; three-and-out; interception; missed field goal; downs). The Bears now get a week off to try and figure out a way for Devon Modster to become a Pac-12 quarterback, so that Cal’s excellent defensive efforts will no longer be in vain.

Up next … Idle … next: October 19th v. Oregon State

10. Oregon State (2-3, 1-1) … Previous ranking … No. 12

This weekendOregon State 48, UCLA 31. The Beavers jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first six minutes of their game against the Bruins, and never looked back, with UCLA never getting closer than 10 points the remainder of the contest. Jake Luton threw for a career-high five touchdowns, including three to the (now, with Laviska Shenault sidelined) best wide receiver in the conference, Artavis Pierce. Hard as it is to believe, the Beavers are in second place in the Pac-12 South, with every other team not named Oregon already having at least two conference losses after the first weekend of October. Don’t look now, but the home game against Cal, after a bye week, now has significance in the Pac-12 race.

Up next … Idle … next: October 19th v. Cal

11. Washington State (3-2, 0-2) … Previous ranking … No. 9

This weekendIdle. Two straight losses, a meltdown against UCLA and a blowout loss to Utah, has left a bad taste in the mouths of the Coug Nation. It didn’t help that Mike Leach called out his team after the 38-13 humbling by the Utes. “And what’s amazing about this is that most of these guys were on the same team last year that was a tough team,” said Leach. “Last year’s team was a tough team for us. And we got nearly the same guys. All of the sudden they’re not tough. They’re fat, dumb, happy and entitled.” How will the Cougars respond to the verbal abuse from their coach … and the firing of their defensive coordinator? We’ll see next weekend against Arizona State. If Cougars can’t beat the Sun Devils, they will return home to face the Buffs on a three-game losing streak.

Up next … at No. 20 Arizona State, Saturday, 1:30 p.m., MT, Pac-12 Networks

12. UCLA (1-5, 1-2) … Previous ranking … No. 11

This weekendOregon State 48, UCLA 31. After surrendering a touchdown to the Beavers on the game’s opening drive, UCLA went for a first down on fourth-and-one at its 34-yard line on the Bruins’ first offensive drive … and didn’t pick up the first down. Oregon State scored again on the short field, and then went for – and got – an onsides kick, resulting in another touchdown drive. Six minutes in, UCLA had run four plays for nine yards, and was down, 21-0. Such has been the UCLA season. “There’s not a magic formula,” said Chip Kelly, who continued to blame the players instead of himself for the Bruins’ plight. “There is no trade or a waiver wire. You don’t get to add players at this point in time”. The Bruins now get a week off before facing a resurgent Stanford team.

Up next … Idle … Next game … at Stanford, Thursday, October 17th

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