Sunday Afternoon Quarterback

… Game Ten … Colorado 16, Stanford 13 … Game Story can be found here … Essay for the game: “Credible Evidence” can be found here

My Week Eleven Pac-12 Power Rankings

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

This weekendIdle. Oregon may have made Mike Bohn’s job a little easier. The former Cincinnati (and Colorado) athletic director is the new athletic director at USC. With the 56-24 beat down of the Trojans (in a game in which, ironically, USC could have had a 21-0 first quarter lead), 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 schedule, 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 … Arizona, Saturday, 8:30 p.m., MT, ESPN

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

This weekendIdle.  While both Oregon and Utah responded to early deficits to win big games on the road last weekend, 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, winning 33-28. 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 … UCLA, Saturday, 6:00 p.m., MT, Fox

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

This weekendWashington 19, Oregon State 10. Glass half full, Buff fans? Washington was held to 19 points by an Oregon State defense which had been surrendering 32.4 points per game. Glass half empty? Oregon State was held to 119 total yards (with the only score coming on a pick-six). Washington running back Salvon ran for a career-high 174 yards, scoring twice. Washington is bowl-eligible, and is looking at a road game against Colorado and a home game against Washington State to close out the season. An 8-4 record would be a disappointment for the Husky faithful considering where the season started, but, with the jumble of mediocrity surrounding the rest of the conference, would probably give Washington an Alamo Bowl or Holiday Bowl to look forward to as a consolation.

Up next … Idle … Next Game … at Colorado, Saturday, November 23rd … TBA

4. USC (6-4, 5-2) … Previous ranking … No. 9

This weekendUSC 31, Arizona 26. USC raced out to a 28-7 first quarter lead against Arizona State, and it appeared as if a rout was in the making. The Trojans, though, couldn’t sustain the success, scoring only a field goal in the final three quarters. Against a backup quarterback, the USC defense allowed the Sun Devils back into the game. Trojan quarterback Kedon Slovis threw for 432 yards and four touchdowns, but it took a tipped ball interception in the final minute to preserve the win for USC. The Trojans are bowl-eligible a year after missing the post-season, and, if Utah stumbles down the stretch, USC could still win the Pac-12 South … Will that be enough to keep Clay Helton as head coach?

Up next … at Cal, Saturday, 9:00 p.m., MT, FS1

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

This weekendIdle. The Bruins are on a three-game winning streak, and, after an easy win, have fans liking Chip Kelly again. I, however, am not completely sold on UCLA’s resurgence. The Bruins have had a week off to enjoy their success, but now have two road games …. 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 Bruins’ improved play, that still seems like a tough sell.

Up next … at Utah, Saturday, 6:00 p.m., MT, Fox

6. Arizona State (5-4, 2-4) … Previous ranking … No. 6

This weekend USC 31, Arizona 26. The Sun Devils were behind 28-7 after one quarter at home against the Trojans, with freshman quarterback Joey Yellen subbing for injured freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels. The Sun Devils had lost their previous two games, and the wheels were coming off the Herm wagon. Instead of folding, though, the Sun Devils rallied, out-scoring the Trojans 19-3 the remainder of the game, and were in USC territory when Yellen threw a game-ending interception. The Sun Devils failed in their first two attempts at getting win No. 6 and becoming bowl-eligible. With a road game at Oregon State followed by a home games against Oregon and Arizona … it may come down to the Territorial Cup for the Sun Devils to get their bowl bid.

Up next … at Oregon State, Saturday, 2:30 p.m. or 5:30 p.m., MT, FS1 or Pac-12 Networks

7. Colorado (4-6, 2-5) … Previous ranking … No. 11

This weekendColorado 16, Stanford 13. The Buffs had the lead entering the fourth quarter against USC, at home, two weeks earlier … and lost. The Buffs had the lead entering the fourth quarter against Stanford, at home … and lost it. The Cardinal had only six points for the game, but scored on a 79-yard touchdown pass in the first minute of the fourth quarter to take a 13-10 lead. This time, though, the Buffs didn’t blink. The Buff offense put together two long field goal drives to tie the game and then win the game on the final play. Will there be carry over for the Buffs as they take on preseason Pac-12 favorites Washington and Utah? Perhaps not, but the groundwork for future is being laid by this young Buff team.

Up next … Idle … Next Game … Washington, Saturday, November 23rd … TBA

8. California (5-4, 2-4) … Previous ranking … No. 12

This weekendCal 33, Washington State 20. Cal was on a four-game losing streak, and had ineffective quarterback Devon Modster going up against the point-a-minute Washington State offense. The result? Devon Modster threw a career-high four touchdown passes, and the Bears dominated the now 4-5, 1-5 Cougars (with the only Washington State conference win coming over Colorado). Cal has gone from 4-0 and ranked 15th nationally, to 4-4 and left for dead. Now, the Bears are one win away from bowl-eligibility. Cal has a home game against USC this weekend before heading out on the road to face Stanford and UCLA. Cal could finish 8-4 … or 5-7.

Up next … USC, Saturday, 9:00 p.m., MT, FS1

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

This weekendColorado 16, Stanford 13. The Cardinal had won three of their last four before coming to Boulder, with K.J. Costello back in command after a 322-yard, three-touchdown performance against Arizona. Against a defense which was giving up 34.4 points and 480 yards of offense per game, Stanford mustered … 372 yards and 13 points. Like everyone else in the Pac-12, the Cardinal still has hopes of playing in the post-season. Like almost everyone else, however, the Cardinal have some serious question marks. Stanford still has Notre Dame on the schedule, so it will likely take wins over both Washington State and Cal for Stanford to extend its Pac-12 longest-active streak of ten straight bowl games.

Up next … at Washington State, Saturday, 2:30 p.m., or 5:30 p.m., MT, FS1 or Pac-12 Networks

10. Oregon State (4-5, 3-3) … Previous ranking … No. 7

This weekendWashington 19, Oregon State 7. Oregon State seemed ready to take a step forward in the conference hierarchy. The Beavers were 3-2 in Pac-12 play, with all three wins – impressively – coming on the road, defeating UCLA, Cal and Arizona. Unfortunately, the Beavers are now 0-3 at home in Pac-12 play, falling to Stanford, Utah, and Washington. Assuming a year-end loss against Oregon, the Beavers will have to defeat Arizona State and Washington State the next two weekends in order to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2013.

Up next … Arizona State, Saturday, 2:30 p.m. or 5:30 p.m., MT, FS1 or Pac-12 Networks

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

This weekendCal 33, Washington State 20. Looking for the team which has yet to win a second conference game? Look no further than the Cougars. A melt down against UCLA turned the Washington State season, with the only win since coming against Colorado. Like three of other Pac-12 teams, the Cougars are looking for two wins in the final three to get to a bowl. Like Oregon State (Oregon) and Stanford (Notre Dame), Washington State is looking at a season-ending loss (Washington), meaning the Cougars will have to defeat both Stanford and Oregon State to get to six wins and a bowl.

Up next … Stanford, Saturday, 2:30 p.m., or 5:30 p.m., MT, FS1 or Pac-12 Networks

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

This weekendIdle … 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 then 56 to Oregon State (56-28) last weekend. Arizona fired its defensive coordinator, Marcel Yates, after giving up 133 points in three games – but it didn’t help. Now the tally is up to 189 points in the last four games (47.2 points per game) … with a trip to Eugene up next.

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

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