Posted on October 18, 2021
The Sun Devils’ 35-21 defeat to Utah may have shaped the race in the South, but the North remains wide open.
Oregon and Oregon State each have one loss in Pac-12 play, setting the rivals on a potential collision course in November.
But the Ducks are the Conference’s last hope to make the Playoff, sitting at No. 10 in the AP Top 25.
And with College Game Day coming coming to Pasadena this weekend for the matchup with UCLA, the opportunity to make a statement to the College Football world awaits.
The results of the weekend sent our writers back to the drawing board to re-rank the twelve teams. The list below is a composite of each writers’ lists, and the individual rankings appear at the table at the bottom.
1. Oregon (5-1, 2-1) ▲1
A seven-point victory over a one-win California team doesn’t inspire confidence in the minds of many east of the Mississippi River—or west of it, for that matter.
The Friday night matchup with the Bears ended around 2:00 a.m. Eastern Time, well after most AP Voters went to bed, and the box score didn’t seem to bother them.
Yet another stellar performance by then-No. 10 Michigan State led voters to jump the Spartans over the Ducks after No. 2 Iowa lost at home.
Anthony Brown continued to underperform, riling up the crowd in Eugene for a change under center. But Travis Dye went off for 218 total yards and a touchdown, leading UO in both receiving and rushing yards.
The Ducks have a golden opportunity this weekend in Pasadena, with College Game Day in town and the eyes of the College Football world on the matchup.
A win would quiet the criticism of Brown and could catapult Oregon back into realistic contention for a Playoff birth.
2. Utah (4-2, 3-0) ▲2
Kyle Whittingham’s second-half adjustments confounded the Arizona State coaching staff, leading to 28-straight Utah points in the final 30 minutes.
The win puts the Utes in control of their own destiny in the South, establishing a clear path to the Pac-12 Championship Game for a chance at the Rose Bowl.
Cameron Rising threw two interceptions, but his mobility, willingness to run, and decision-making were the difference on Saturday.
Leading Utah with 306 total yards and three touchdowns, Rising’s efforts led to a combined 8-for-12 on third and fourth downs.
The long drives allowed Whittingham’s offense to dominate the third quarter, dealing the Sun Devils a body blow they never recovered from.
But the game was won at halftime in the Utah locker room. The defensive adjustments held ASU scoreless, snatching away the driver’s seat in the South.
3. UCLA (5-2, 3-1) ◄►
Dorian Thompson-Robinson had arguably the best game of his career on the road against Washington.
The senior quarterback was an efficient 21-for-26 through the air and tacked on 87 yards rushing at 7.3 yards per carry.
His 270 total yards and three touchdowns was enough to seal the deal at Husky Stadium, after Devin Kirkwood intercepted a pass from Dylan Morris with five minutes remaining in the game.
At 5-2 overall and 3-1 in conference, UCLA has a path to win the South. Tough games remain against No. 10 Oregon, Utah, and USC, but the Bruins are within reach of a special season.
A win this weekend with College Game Day in town would be a defining point of the Chip Kelly Era, and may set the program on a path to the Rose Bowl.
4. ASU (5-2, 3-1) ▼3
The Sun Devils came out firing in the first half against Utah, jumping out to a 21-7 halftime lead.
But Zak Hill appeared to move away from throwing the ball on first down in the final two quarters, becoming predictable and easier to scheme against.
Dropped passes didn’t help, but Utah’s coaching staff feasted on ASU’s play calling after halftime. The result was a scoreless final thirty minutes and Arizona State’s fewest yards rushing since the 2019 Sun Bowl.
With a far tougher path to the Pac-12 Championship Game, the Sun Devils probably need to win out and hope Utah drops two games.
The bye week presents an opportunity for Herm Edwards’ team to get healthy, and allows the coaching staff to address its fledgling recruiting class that currently sits dead-last in the Pac-12.
5. Oregon State (4-2, 2-1) ◄►
The Beavers used the bye week to analyze the flaws in their gameplan against Washington State, after the coaching staff was arguably baited out of their run-heavy tendencies.
Likely to return to the 40-plus rushing attempts per game this Saturday, the extra practice time to prepare for Utah could prove invaluable.
Sitting with one loss in Pac-12 play, and tied for first in the North, Oregon State controls its own destiny.
And with a favorable remaining home slate featuring Utah, Stanford, and Arizona State, the toughest matchup away from Corvallis projects to be Oregon in the final week of the season.
Depending on the results of Week Eight, a victory over the Utes could make the Beavs the favorite to win the North for the first time in program history.
6. Washington State (4-3, 3-2) ▲1
Jake Dickert has it figured out.
The Cougar defensive coordinator schemed up yet another winning gameplan, holding Tanner McKee to 273 yards passing while forcing four sacks.
The second-year coordinator forced the Cardinal into two turnovers and 5-for-13 on third down, allowing the WSU offense extra possessions to get the job done.
Jayden de Laura passed for three touchdowns and Max Borghi punched in two more on the ground, as Washington State secured its third-straight victory.
The outside noise from the Washington State and Seattle media over the vaccination status of Nick Rolovich doesn’t seem to have effected the Cougar players, with the head coach receiving a Gatorade bath before shaking hands with David Shaw.
But the momentum in the program could be turned upside down if Rolovich doesn’t receive an exemption from the State of Washington and the WSU administration decides to terminate him.
7. Stanford (3-4, 2-3) ▼1
The Cardinal’s lack of a run game was once again on full display this weekend, with the longest rush of the game coming from Tanner McKee.
The one-dimensional nature of the Stanford offense allows opposing coordinators to blitz the first-year starter, hampering the Tree’s efficiency on third down.
Nathaniel Peat and Austin Jones combined for just 50 yards rushing, although Jones snagged nine catches for 75 yards and a touchdown.
The issues on the ground don’t figure to change over the remaining matchups, putting the burden entirely on McKee to win games.
The emergence of Benjamin Yurosek is a positive development, but unless Peat or Jones has a breakout game carrying the ball, the Cardinal face an uphill battle for bowl eligibility.
And with a remaining schedule that includes the likes of Utah, Oregon State, and Norte Dame, the matchup with Washington in two weeks appears to be a must-win.
8. USC (3-3, 2-3) ◄►
The Trojans’ coaching staff is staying mum on the expected return date of Jaxson Dart.
But the true freshman is participating in practice after the surgery to repair his torn meniscus, and the rumblings of a return appear to indicate Dart is expected to play this season.
Yet the question remains: Which game will he be back for?
At 3-3 overall, USC remains within reach of a bowl game. Winnable games against Arizona and California are left on the schedule, making five victories a clear expectation.
That leaves the matchups with Norte Dame, Arizona State, UCLA, and BYU as the projected deciding contests for the program to reach six wins.
9. Washington (2-4, 1-2) ◄►
Through six games, Dylan Morris has thrown eight interceptions and has -25 total yards rushing. That’s not acceptable for a Power 5 program just a few years removed from the College Football Playoff and New Year’s Six bowl appearances.
Five-star freshman Sam Huard is sitting in the wings, but Jimmy Lake has refused to go to him.
And after several other highly regarded quarterback prospects have transferred out of the program during his tenure, it becomes fair to wonder if Lake is willing to go down with the ship.
The Huskies’ 267 total yards of offense was the lowest of the Lake Era, and the fewest since UW’s 2019 defeat to Colorado. With Lake at 5-5 since taking over the job from Chris Petersen, the program appears to be at a crossroads.
If the Dawgs fail to reach a bowl game this season, it may be time for the Washington administration to take decisive action.
10. Cal (1-5, 0-3) ◄►
Losing its fourth single-possession game of the year, the Bears can’t allow their string of defeats to derail the remainder of the season.
Winnable games against Colorado and Arizona remain, and the matchups with Oregon State, USC, Stanford, and UCLA are arguably toss-ups.
It’s not out of the question for Justin Wilcox’s team to enter the Big Game with four wins and a chance for bowl eligibility in the final game of the season against UCLA.
But after its defense gave up 30 points or more in three-straight games, Cal has held its last two opponents to 22.5 per night. Yet, Wilcox’s team hasn’t put together a complete game, with his offense scoring just 11.5 points per contest over the last two.
If the Bears play to their potential on offense and defense in the same game, they can beat anyone that remains on their schedule.
11. Colorado (2-4, 1-2) ◄►
Brenden Lewis had the most productive game of his career on Saturday, a 12-for-19, 259 total yard day with two touchdowns and no turnovers. The confidence gained on the first drive carried throughout the rest of the day.
The 365 total yards of offense was the highest of the season against FBS programs, and the CU defense held Arizona to 3-for-15 on third down.
In the third quarter, Colorado forced a Pick-Six and a punt block that was returned for a touchdown, leading to a 34-0 victory over the Wildcats.
The win should re-energize the program as it faces struggling California on Saturday. But the matchup with the Bears might be the only winnable game that remains on Colorado’s schedule.
12. Arizona (0-6, 0-3) ◄►
Jedd Fisch’s offense was shutout on the road against Colorado, the first time Arizona has been held scoreless since 2012.
Questionable play calling hampered the offensive momentum, and first-string running back Drake Anderson was bewilderingly afforded just one rushing attempt.
To make matters worse, second-string quarterback Gunner Cruz is reportedly out for the remainder of the season.
Fisch’s Pro Style offense is averaging a measly 14 points per game, tied for the worst in all of College Football.
For a program that has run some version of a shotgun-based spread offense for the past decade and a half, the first-year head coach is trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.
The lone bright spot of the program is the play of Don Brown’s defense. The unit has kept UA within striking distance of games it otherwise would have been blown out of under previous staffs.
How our Senior Football Writers Voted
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