Sunday Afternoon Quarterback

… Game Nine … Colorado v. USC … Game Story can be found here … Essay for the game: “What Is It Going To Take?” can be found here …

My Week Ten Pac-12 Power Rankings

1. Oregon (8-1, 6-0) … Previous ranking … No. 1

This weekendNo. 7 Oregon 56, USC 24. Oregon may have made Mike Bohn’s job a little easier. The former Cincinnati (and Colorado) athletic director is expected to be named Monday as the new athletic director at USC. With the beat down of the Trojans, the Ducks are making it more and more difficult for the College Football Playoff committee to ignore Oregon as a Playoff contender. Oregon only has the Arizona schools and Oregon State left on the regular season scheduled, and are positioned to coast through November while other Playoff contenders knock one another off, allowing the Ducks to continue to rise up the rankings.

Up next … Idle … Next game … Arizona, Saturday, November 16th … TBA

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

This weekendNo. 9 Utah 33, Washington 28.  While both Oregon and Utah responded to early deficits to win big games on the road, the Utes win against Washington was the more impressive. Washington jumped out to a 14-3 lead in the second quarter, and appeared to be in control of the game. But the Utes kept chipping away, waiting for the Huskies to make a mistake … and they did. Jacob Eason threw two third quarter interceptions, the second being returned for a touchdown, to get Utah back into the game. From there, the rock solid Utah defense kept the Huskies in check, allowing Tyler Huntley and Zach Moss to do their things as the Utes pulled away in the fourth quarter. Utah only has UCLA, Arizona and Colorado – the three worst teams in the Pac-12 South – between it and a second-consecutive Pac-12 South title.

Up next … Idle … Next game … UCLA, Saturday, November 16th … TBA

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

This weekendNo. 9 Utah 33, Washington 28. Who else are you going to put here? Every other team in the Pac-12 North has a 4-4 overall record, and the only other teams in the Pac-12 South who have winning records are USC (which just got thumped by Oregon, and may well be looking for a new coach within the month) and Arizona State, which is on a two-game losing streak after falling to both Utah and UCLA. Washington faces Oregon State this weekend in a battle for the No. 2 position in the Pac-12 South, before finishing with Colorado and Washington State. The Huskies are still probably on their way to an 8-4 record. A disappointing 8-4 record, but an 8-4 record all the same.

Up next … at Oregon State, Friday, 8:30 p.m., MT,  FS1

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

This weekendIdle. Washington State remains in the top half of the rankings more due to the lack of quality teams in the Pac-12 than for the Cougars’ record. Washington State is 1-4 in Pac-12 play, and has lost four of its last five (with the only victory coming over Colorado), but the Cougars not only could have beaten Oregon on the road last Saturday night, they should have won the game. Two turnovers – an interception in the Oregon red zone and an interception returned for a touchdown – kept the Cougars from a fifth-straight win over the Ducks. Washington State has now had a week off before getting to take on a struggling Cal team. Washington State has struggled at times this season, but will be a bowl team with games to spare if they can take down the Bay Area teams the next two weekends.

Up next … at California, Saturday, 5:00 p.m., MT, Pac-12 Networks

5. Stanford (4-4, 3-3) … Previous ranking … No. 6

This weekendIdle . Don’t look now, but the left-for-dead Stanford Cardinal have won three of their last four, including an impressive win over Arizona in their last game. Without a quarterback, Stanford was pathetic (witness the 34-16 loss to UCLA), but against Arizona, quarterback K.J. Costello was back, going 30-for-43 for 312 yards and three touchdowns. Cameron Scarlett had 19 carries for 102 yards and two touchdowns as the Cardinal offense had 472 yards of total offense. Now, as fate would have it, the Cardinal have had a week off to get even healthier before traveling to Boulder to face Colorado. Sigh …

Up next … at Colorado, Saturday, 1:00 p.m., MT, Pac-12 Networks

6. Arizona State (5-3, 2-3) … Previous ranking … No. 8

This weekend Idle. The Sun Devils are a fickle bunch. Arizona opened up with a 3-0 non-conference record (and a No. 24 national ranking) before falling at home to Colorado. The Sun Devils then won their next two games in impressive fashion, knocking off a ranked Cal team before besting Washington State, 38-34. The once-again ranked Sun Devils then went on the road to face Utah and UCLA … and came home with two losses. Herm Edwards is starting a freshman quarterback, and can get to bowl eligibility with a win over either Oregon State or Arizona, but home games against USC and Oregon will define whether Arizona State belongs in the top 25 in the country, or is just settling in for a third consecutive 7-5 season.

Up next … USC, Saturday, 1:30 p.m., MT, ABC or ESPN

7. Oregon State (4-4, 3-2) … Previous ranking … No. 9

This weekendOregon State 56, Arizona 38. Oregon State has the oddest Pac-12 run of them all. The Beavers are 0-2 in conference games at home, but 3-0 on the road, picking up wins over UCLA, Cal, and now Arizona. The Oregon State offense ran all over the Wildcat defense, going for 572 yards of total offense. The only thing keeping the Beavers from rising higher in the rankings is the remaining schedule. The next two games are at home (which should mean losses, if the Beavers hold true to form) are against Washington and Arizona State, before finishing on the road against Washington State and Oregon. Oregon State could get to six wins and a bowl bid in Year Two under Jonathan Smith, but it’s a tough road.

Up next … Washington, Friday, 8:30 p.m., MT, FS1

8. UCLA (4-5, 4-2) … Previous ranking … No. 7

This weekendUCLA 31, Colorado 14. Only in the mediocre-in-the-middle Pac-12 could a team like UCLA dominate a team like Colorado … and drop a spot in the rankings. The Bruins are on a three-game winning streak, and made it look easy against the Buffs, but I’m not completely sold on UCLA’s resurgence. The Bruins now get a week off to enjoy their success, before taking to the road to face Utah and USC. Assuming a loss to Utah, the Bruins will have to defeat both USC on the road and Cal at home to become bowl-eligible. Even with the improved play, that still seems like a tough sell.

Up next … Idle … Next game … at Utah, Saturday, November 16th … TBA

9. USC (5-4, 4-2) … Previous ranking … No. 3

This weekendNo. 7 Oregon 56, USC 24. USC had the chance to go up 21-0 in the first quarter, but turned an interception returned to the Oregon seven yard line into a field goal, and had another drive into the red zone turn into an interception by the Ducks. As it turned out, even a 21-0 lead might not have been enough to hold off the Oregon offense, but it certainly would have changed the dynamic of the game. Losing big, and losing big at home to a top team, is not good news for a Clay Helton coaching staff trying to keep their jobs. Depending on who USC hires to replace Helton (assuming that comes to fruition), the Buffs may long rue the day that they let a 31-21 lead in the fourth quarter get away.

Up next … at Arizona State, Saturday, 1:30 p.m., MT, ABC or ESPN

10. Arizona (4-5, 2-4) … Previous ranking … No. 10

This weekendOregon State 56, Arizona 38 … You can make the argument that, as poorly as Colorado has played the last month, that Arizona is playing even worse. The Wildcats are on a four-game losing streak of their own, and have looked awful in doing so. Since defeating the Buffs, 35-30, the Wildcats have given up 51 points to Washington (51-27), 41 to USC (41-14), 41 to Stanford (41-31) and now 56 to Oregon State (56-28). Arizona fired its defensive coordinator, Marcel Yates, after giving up 133 points in three games. Now it’s up to 189 points (47.2 points per game) … with a trip to Eugene up next.

Up next … Idle … Next Game … at Oregon, Saturday, November 16th … TBA

11. Colorado (3-6, 1-5) … Previous ranking … No. 11

This weekendUCLA 31, Colorado 14. The start of the UCLA game was reminiscent of the Cal game last November. The Buffs were 5-6, and, despite losing five in a row, had a chance to get to a bowl game with a road win. How did the Buffs open against the Bears? Pick-six; pick-six; punt; fumbled punt return. It was 21-0 before CU had its first first down on offense. The game finished 33-21, but the end result was never seriously in doubt. CU’s next return to the Golden State? Down 17-0 before posting the first first down to UCLA. The Buffs now take on a Stanford team which has won three of its last four, has K.J. Costello back at quarterback, and comes to CU off of a bye. Anything else which can be stacked up against the Buffs? …

Up next … Stanford, Saturday, 1:00 p.m., MT, Pac-12 Networks

12. California (4-4, 1-4) … Previous ranking … No. 12

This weekendIdle. Cal was 4-0, had impressive road wins over Washington and Ole Miss, and was ranked No. 15 in the country. But that was a month ago, before starting quarterback Chase Garbers was injured. The Golden Bears have not only lost their last four games, they have looked very bad in doing so. The most recent catastrophe was a 35-0 shut out loss to Utah, the Utes first shut out of a Pac-12 opponent. Cal not only failed to score, the Bears managed only 83 yards of total offense. The Cal offense has yet to score more than 17 points in a Pac-12 game, and that most certainly won’t be enough to beat Washington State’s offense (which is averaging 41.8 points per game).

Up next … Washington State, Saturday, 5:00 p.m., MT, Pac-12 Networks

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