Posted on November 22, 2021
The dramatic margin of defeat takes the Conference out of the discussion, once again relegating it to mediocrity on the national stage.
But the blowout loss doesn’t eliminate the path to the Rose Bowl. The Granddaddy of Them All remains the crowning achievement in the Conference of Champions, and several North Division teams have a shot to get there.
Oregon State’s victory over Arizona State late Saturday night keeps the Beavs in contention, while Washington State’s demolition of Arizona in the fog has the Cougs in the mix.
The results of the weekend sent our writers back together to produce a new Power Ranking. The list below is a composite of each writers’ picks, and the individual lists appear at the bottom.
1. Utah (8-3, 7-1) ▲1
Nothing went wrong at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Saturday.
The Utes went 11-for-14 on third down, and Tavion Thomas scored three touchdowns while averaging 4.5 yards per attempt.
Brant Kuithe caught five passes for 118 yards, while Britain Covey delivered the dagger just before halftime: a 78-yard punt return for a touchdown that expanded the lead to 28-0.
The 38-7 victory over Oregon secured Utah’s third Pac-12 South Division title over the past four years.
And facing Colorado on Friday, Kyle Whittingham can afford to start early preparations for the Pac-12 Championship Game, where an invitation to the Rose Bowl will be on the line.
It’s been a long, arduous season, but the Utes are just two victories away from their first-ever appearance in the Conference’s most prestigious bowl game.
2. Oregon (9-2, 6-2) ▼1
The loss in Salt Lake City could be seen coming, perhaps, but the margin of defeat was a shock. The 31-point gap was the highest of the Mario Cristobal Era, and the seven points scored tied for the fewest in single game since Cristobal took over in 2018.
Utah shut down the Ducks’ rushing attack, limiting UO to just 63 yards on the ground, while Kyle Whittingham’s team scored four rushing touchdowns of its own.
And after forcing 19 turnovers this season, Oregon’s defense didn’t produce any. But Oregon’s special teams had a field goal blocked and gave up a punt return for a touchdown.
The defeat takes UO out of Playoff contention, yet the Ducks can still make the Rose Bowl, assuming they don’t stumble against Oregon State this week.
3. Oregon State (7-4, 5-3) ▲2
It’s been a historic season for the Beavers, as Jonathan Smith’s team improved to 6-0 at home with a 24-10 win over Arizona State.
If not for a mishandled snap on a punt leading to a block, the Sun Devils probably wouldn’t have scored a touchdown at Reser Stadium.
But when the game suddenly flipped and the score was within a single possession, Oregon State answered with a 47-yard touchdown run from Jack Colletto.
Depending on the results this week, the Beavers appear on track for an invitation to the Holiday Bowl or the Sun Bowl. Each game is respectable in its own right, and both feature matchups with the ACC.
Regardless of what happens against the Ducks, Oregon State will likely be favored against whichever program it ends up facing in the postseason.
4. UCLA (7-4, 5-3) ◄►
Dorian Thompson-Robinson went out against USC in style, posting six touchdowns in a 62-33 shellacking of the Trojans. Chip Kelly’s offense feasted on Todd Orlando’s defense, scoring the most points in the history of the rivalry.
The win advanced the Bruins to 7-4 on the year, with a remaining matchup against California. Assuming Kelly engineers another victory at home, UCLA appears destined for the revamped Las Vegas Bowl at Allegiant Stadium.
Featuring a matchup with a Big 10 program, the Bruins would carry the Pac-12’s reputation with them, and the game would be one of the closer watched matchups of the non-Playoff postseason.
And after weeks of consistent drumbeats for Kelly or Jerry Azzinaro’s termination, the L.A. media appear to have called off the dogs. At least for now.
5. Washington State (6-5, 5-3) ▲1
Snow and fog obscured Martin Stadium on Friday night, but Washington State’s Run-and-Shoot ate up the Arizona defense. Unable to counter-scheme against WSU’s delayed handoffs, the game was out of hand by midway through the third quarter.
Max Borghi rushed for a career-high 139 yards, while Deon McIntosh added 73 yards of his own. Jayden de Laura only passed the ball 22 times, but connected on 13 of his attempts for four touchdowns.
The 44 points scored on the Wildcats was the most UA had given up all season, and the victory pushed the Cougs into bowl eligibility.
It remains to be seen where Washington State will end up, but the new LA Bowl at SoFi Stadium seems to be a possibility.
6. Arizona State (7-4, 5-3) ▼3
For a team four years into the Herm Edwards Era, there’s no excuse for the number of penalties the Sun Devils commit. Constantly shooting itself in the foot, the self-inflicted problems haven’t been fixed by the staff.
On Saturday night at Reser Stadium, Arizona State had 10 penalties for 64 yards. To put it into perspective, ASU had just one more third down attempt than it had penalties, and it had two-and-a-half more penalties than third down conversions.
But the 24-10 loss to Oregon State is not that damaging in the long run. Already removed from contention in the South Division and a shot at the Rose Bowl, the Sun Devils will probably wind up in a bowl game featuring an opponent they should beat.
7. California (4-6, 3-4) ▲2
For the second time over the past three years, the Bears won the Big Game. The visiting California students rushed Stanford’s field after the win, a sight that’s unheard of in College Football.
In nearly every other stadium in the country, a field rush by students from the visiting team would result in an all out brawl and significant fines handed out by the Conference.
But most of the Cardinal students had already left the stadium in the 41-11 blowout.
Chase Garbers went 17-for-26 with 246 yards passing and two touchdowns, while adding 59 on the ground on just seven rushes.
Marcel Dancy had a 76-yard touchdown run, but Christopher Brooks led the way with a 131 yards rushing, averaging 10.1 yards per carry.
The Bears can still reach bowl eligibility if they win out against UCLA and USC over the next two weeks.
8. Colorado (4-7, 3-5) ▲2
Karl Dorrell and his staff probably had the Washington game circled for weeks. The matchup in Boulder was one of the few games this season that CU had a realistic chance to win, and the Buffs took full advantage.
Despite struggling once again on offense, Colorado’s defense forced four turnovers and limited the Huskies to 17 points. Brendon Lewis scored the offense’s only touchdown of the afternoon, a two-yard run with just under five minutes remaining in the game.
But the Play of the Game was a 88-yard scoop and score by Jack Lamb that extended the lead to 10-0 in the first quarter.
Facing Utah to end the year, with no chance to reach a bowl game, the development of Lewis should be the primary talking point for CU football heading into 2022.
9. USC (4-6, 3-5) ▼2
The 2021 season will be one that is quickly forgotten by the Trojans and their fans. Locked into a losing season for just the third time in the past 30 years, the hiring of USC’s new coach could not come any sooner.
Having already lost two five-star recruits since Clay Helton’s termination, the new leader in L.A. must hit the ground running.
The 62 points given up to UCLA was the highest in the rivalry’s history, but Jaxson Dart appeared to be limited by play calling through more than half of the game.
The true freshman didn’t appear to be slinging the ball all over the field as most expected, but instead was executing short passes, screens, or handing the ball off as late as the middle of the third quarter.
It was an odd way to utilize the future star, and Graham Harrell probably won’t be retained by the new head coach.
10. Washington (4-7, 3-5) ▼2
The 20-17 loss to Colorado in Boulder is a microcosm for Washington’s 2021 season. Starting the year with high expectations, the fall has been sharp and dramatic.
Needing to beat the Buffs to save a chance at bowl eligibility, the defeat seals the program’s first losing season since 2009.
True freshman Rome Odunze had his second-consecutive strong game, but the Husky running backs never got going and Dylan Morris threw his 11th and 12th interceptions on the year.
And after Washington State beat Arizona to reach bowl eligibility, the possibility of playing spoiler against the Cougars has been taken away as well.
With nothing more to play for than pride, the Dawgs will seek to extend their winning streak over WSU to eight games this weekend.
11. Stanford (3-7, 2-6) ◄►
If David Shaw didn’t have the Pac-12’s No. 2 recruiting class coming in for next season, there could be serious questions about whether he should remain the Cardinal’s coach.
The trajectory of the program has been down-trending over the past several seasons, and the 41-11 defeat to Cal isn’t the result of just a single bad year.
Recruiting has been inconsistent since 2018, with two classes over the past four years ranked seventh-best in the Conference. And after starting his tenure 8-0 against the Bears, Shaw has lost two of the last three Big Games.
Perhaps most telling, the Tree had 10 winning seasons in a row before finishing two of the last three years with a losing record.
On Saturday, it was more of the same problem that Stanford has faced all season: an ineffective run game resulting in a predictable one-dimensional offense that can’t score points.
12. Arizona (1-10, 1-7) ◄►
The Cats took a step back on the Palouse. On the heels of four-straight weeks of better-than-expected results, hopes were high that Arizona could stay competitive with the Cougars.
But Don Brown’s scheme was dismantled by Washington State’s delayed handoffs, and Jayden de Laura had no problem dealing with the Wildcats’ pressure.
The 44-18 defeat changes the perception of the Territorial Cup on Saturday.
The strong performances against Washington, USC, Cal, and Utah led some to believe the Cats had a chance against the Sun Devils. But the blowout road loss was a dose of reality that reminded the fan base where the program stands.
And if Arizona gets embarrassed by Arizona State, it’s fair to question if Jedd Fisch is the answer moving forward.
How our Senior Football Writers Voted
—More from Dane Miller—
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Miller: Pac-12 Hoops Attendance a Measure of SuccessLarger home crowds generally correlate to more wins and a recruiting advantage - April 29, 2022
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