Posted on November 1, 2021
The media voters don’t have much love for Utah, either, with the Utes landing at No. 34 and receiving fewer votes than Appalachian State.
And with 10 teams in the Pac-12 with two conference losses or more, the standings are as jumbled as they’ve been all season.
The results sent our writers back to drawing board to re-rank the teams heading into this weekend’s games. The below list is a composite of each writers’ picks, and the individual rankings appear in the table at the bottom of the page.
1. Oregon (7-1, 4-1) ◄►
The Ducks took out most of their first and second string players at various points in the second half, allowing Colorado to bring the game within two possessions in the fourth quarter.
But the 52 points scored was Oregon’s highest of the year, and most of the credit goes to Anthony Brown.
The grad-transfer played his best game since arriving in Eugene, connecting on 25 of his 31 attempts and passing for 307 yards with three touchdowns. Brown added another 38 on the ground, averaging 5.4 yards per rush.
True freshman Byron Cardwell had his coming out party, rushing for 127 yards and a score on just seven attempts. The lone offensive letdown was Ty Thompson’s interception that led to a CU touchdown drive in the fourth quarter.
The win keeps Oregon in contention for the College Football Playoff, if it wins out.
2. Utah (5-3, 4-1) ▲3
Kyle Whittingham’s offense ran wild on UCLA, posting 290 yards rushing on one of the top run defenses in the country.
Tavion Thomas went off, running for 160 yards and four touchdowns against Jerry Azzinaro’s 4-2-5 scheme.
Cameron Rising did what he needed to do, throwing for 179 yards with a touchdown and adding 63 on the ground on just six attempts. Rising’s rushing touchdown was his third of the season, and his 10.5 yards per carry was the highest of the year.
Holding a tie-breaker over Arizona State in the South, Utah has a two-game stranglehold over the rest of the division. Only four games remain in the season, with three of them coming against Stanford, Arizona, and Colorado.
Ute fans might as well start making their plans for Vegas, as the program is almost guaranteed a spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game.
3. Washington State (5-4, 4-2) ▲3
Jake Dickert must have looked himself in the mirror after the loss to BYU and thought, “What do I need to do better?”
The answer, apparently, was re-focusing on what put him in the interim head coaching role: defense. WSU’s 4-2-5 scheme shut down Arizona State’s potent ground game, holding the Sun Devils to their fewest yards rushing of the season.
Dickert’s unit forced three fumbles and two interceptions, allowing the Cougar offense to take advantage of short fields. Jayden de Laura had three total touchdowns, while receiver Calvin Jackson Jr. snagged eight catches for 139 yards and a score.
Up 31-7 at the start of the fourth, the statement victory in Tempe sets the program on a path to bowl eligibility. Needing just one more win to reach the postseason, the Cougs face Oregon, Arizona, and Washington to close out the year.
4. Arizona State (5-3, 3-2) ◄►
The absence of leading running back Rachaad White probably played a role in the Sun Devils’ 34-21 defeat to Washington State, but the lackluster performance in Tempe was arguably the most unexpected result of the week in the Pac-12.
Favored by more than two touchdowns, the ASU defense was put into a tough spot with early turnovers by its offense deep in its own territory.
Coughing the ball up three times in the first 10 minutes of the game, Antonio Pierce’s unit was on the back foot from the opening drives of the day.
Second half adjustments were made, and ASU held the Cougars to just six points in the final two quarters, but the damage was done.
The defeat all-but eliminated Arizona State from the Pac-12 Championship Game and the South Division title. For a program that had sky-high hopes during the offseason, the defeat is as morally deflating as they come.
5. Oregon State (5-3, 3-2) ▼3
The Beavs stumbled on the road against California, dropping their third game of the year away from Corvallis.
Playing from behind the entire game, Jonathan Smith was forced to pass the ball more than his gameplan calls for. Chance Nolan threw two interceptions, and the OSU running backs were shut down for the first time this season.
B.J. Baylor had just 42 yards rushing on 13 carries, while Deshaun Fenwick posted 48 yards on 10 attempts.
Winning away from home is never easy, and a -3 turnover ratio is almost impossible to overcome. The OSU defense gave up 517 total yards to the Bears, as Chase Garbers scored four touchdowns and notched over 300 total yards of offense by himself.
The North title remains in reach if the Beavers win out and Washington State loses again. But with remaining games against Colorado, Stanford, Arizona State, and Oregon, Smith and Company must walk a tight rope to get there.
6. UCLA (5-4, 3-3) ▼3
Despite getting off to the strongest start of the Chip Kelly Era, the Bruin media have doubled-down on the criticism of the coach in his fourth season in Westwood.
For the 15th time since Kelly took over in 2018, UCLA has allowed 40 points or more, after Utah lopped 44 on the Bruins in Salt Lake City.
The run defense is normally the strength of Jerry Azzinaro’s unit, but the Utes scored five times on the ground and ran for 290 yards.
The total yards rushing allowed was the third-highest of the Kelly Era and the most since giving up 309 to Oklahoma in 2019. The five touchdowns on the ground tied for the most allowed during Kelly’s tenure.
Over the past two games, opponents have scored 10 rushing touchdowns on the Bruin defense that gave up just seven in the first seven games combined. But the unavailability of Dorian Thompson-Robinson arguably doomed UCLA from the onset.
Nonetheless, a bowl game remains within reach. With just one win needed, the Bruins figure to get it done against Colorado on Saturday.
7. California (3-5, 2-3) ▲2
Justin Wilcox can’t help but wonder what could have been if his team knew how to win close games.
The four losses by a single possession could easily have gone the other direction, and Cal might be 5-3 instead of 3-5. But Wilcox can’t change the results, and his program is still brimming with confidence.
The 39-25 victory over Oregon State was a statement win for California, providing an inch of wiggle room on the path to bowl eligibility.
Chase Garbers had himself a day, scoring four touchdowns on 312 total yards with zero turnovers. Damien Moore contributed his fair share as well, putting up 111 yards rushing and a score on just 11 attempts.
But needing to win three of their last four, the Bears face a must-win game in Tucson where they haven’t won since 2004.
8. USC (4-4, 3-3) ◄►
Drake London had to leave the game against Arizona with a season-ending ankle injury suffered on a touchdown catch in the second quarter.
The loss of USC’s primary offensive weapon had a significant impact, with the Trojans getting out-scored 13 to 27 over the remainder of the game.
The injury throws USC’s offensive capabilities into question, as London was the arms, feet, and legs of Graham Harrell’s game plan. Keaontay Ingram stepped up in his absence, posting 204 yards rushing on 7.6 yards per carry.
But the remainder of the Trojans’ opponents do a much better job at stopping the run, and its offense may sputter over the final four games of the season.
Needing two more wins to reach a bowl game, the program faces an uphill battle with Arizona State, California, UCLA, and BYU left on the schedule.
9. Washington (5-4, 3-2) ▲1
For the first time since 2007, the Huskies walked away from the Farm with a victory. Needing a stop in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter, the Washington defense forced a poor throw from Tanner McKee and got the ball back.
Dylan Morris then engineered the game-winning touchdown drive, connecting with Jaden McMillan with 20 seconds remaining.
The lone Husky touchdown was enough to seal the deal, as the Dawg secondary held McKee in check and forced two interceptions. On the ground, Sean McGrew posted 114 yards rushing and Cameron Davis added 99.
The victory is arguably the lone signature win of the Jimmy Lake Era to date, cooling the hot seat on the second year coach—at least for the time being.
Just two wins away from bowl eligibility, UW must find a way to split Oregon, Arizona State, Colorado, and Washington State.
10. Stanford (3-5, 2-4) ▼3
Without a run game to ease the pressure on Tanner McKee, the Cardinal are predictable and easy to gameplan against.
Austin Jones had 91 yards of total offense, and Benjamin Yurosek added 93, but the one-dimensional nature of Stanford’s offense is why it’s 3-5 heading into Week 10.
McKee struggled against the Washington secondary, throwing two picks and zero touchdowns. The 265 total yards of offense was the Tree’s second-fewest of the season, and for the first time all year it failed to throw a touchdown pass.
The offensive issues have no end in sight, with Utah, Oregon State, California, and Notre Dame left on the schedule. Likely to be favored in just one of its remaining four games, the Cardinal appear destined for a losing season.
And having lost four of its last five, the disappointment in this year’s campaign is tangible.
11. Colorado (2-6, 1-4) ◄►
Karl Dorrell’s offense shined against Oregon’s third and fourth-string units, bringing the game within two possessions in the fourth quarter.
But even before the Ducks took out their top players, Colorado was moving the ball effectively. Brendon Lewis’ 224 yards passing was his second-highest of the season, and his three touchdown passes were the most on the year.
Penalties hurt CU in the first half, and its defense didn’t force any turnovers. But there’s no denying the momentum gained in Eugene.
The matchup in Boulder with Washington in three weeks remains the circled matchup on Colorado’s schedule, yet a confident Lewis could change the perception of the matchups with Oregon State and UCLA.
Still, the 52 points given up to Oregon was the most CU has allowed to a Conference opponent since the 2014 season.
12. Arizona (0-8, 0-5) ◄►
Will Plummer had the most productive game of his career, a 295 total yard night with a touchdown, as the Wildcats lost to USC by a single possession.
The confidence gained from the performance at the Coliseum should carry over through the remainder of the year, arguably putting Arizona in the best position it’s been in all season to end the losing streak.
But Don Brown must analyze his gameplan against the Trojans and throw it in the trash. The defensive coordinator appeared to shy away from his blitz play-calling, letting his corners stay on islands without bringing pressure on the quarterback.
The result was a USC offense that rolled, putting up 41 points and arguably costing the Wildcats the win.
Penalties and turnovers continue to hold the Cats back, but the chances of winning a game this year appear higher than they did last week.
How our Senior Football Writers Voted
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