Posted on October 25, 2021
Oregon’s victory over UCLA bumped the Ducks to No. 7 in the AP Poll, but no other Pac-12 teams made their way into the Top 25.
Oregon State’s eight-point win over Utah only garnered the Beavers seven votes in the media poll, but it sets the Beavers on a potential collision course with UO for the North title.
And after the Pac-12 went 0-2 against nonconference foes this past weekend, there are just five teams in the league with winning records.
The final scores sent our writers back to rework their Power Rankings. The list below is a composite of our football writers’ rankings, while the individual lists appear at the bottom.
1. Oregon (6-1, 3-1) ◄►
Anthony Brown’s two interceptions in the fourth quarter allowed UCLA to claw its way back within striking distance, nearly costing Oregon the game.
But Brown arguably played his best game of the year, and the Ducks’ superior offensive gameplan was enough to secure the victory at the Rose Bowl.
Joe Moorhead utilized screen passes to counteract the Bruins’ run defense, and broke tendencies by throwing on first and second down. The unexpected play calling flustered Jerry Azzinaro’s defense, effectively out-scheming and out-coaching the UCLA staff.
The win kept Oregon’s Playoff hopes alive: Having already defeated No. 5 Ohio State, simply winning out should be enough to land the Ducks a spot in the CFP, with teams above them losing.
Oregon has winnable matchups remaining against struggling Colorado, Washington, and Washington State before finishing with tougher contests at Utah and at home against Oregon State.
2. Oregon State (5-2, 3-1) ▲3
The Beavers’ historic season continued with a 42-34 victory over Utah. Jonathan Smith got back to the play calling that’s made OSU successful with 38 rushing attempts to 19 passes.
B.J. Baylor averaged eight yards per carry on 19 attempts, putting up 152 yards rushing with a score. And Chance Nolan executed the passing plays efficiently, completing 14-of-19 for 208 yards and two touchdowns.
The victory kept OSU tied for first place in the North as it faces back-to-back road games over the next two weeks. The next two matchups away from home are the Litmus Test of Oregon State’s staying power at the top of the division.
The Beavs are 1-2 on the road and likely need to win both matchups to keep pace with Oregon.
3. UCLA (5-3, 3-2) ◄►
The lack of counter-adjustments to the screen plays utilized by the Oregon offense were ultimately the undoing of UCLA’s 14-point first quarter lead.
Jerry Azzinaro’s defense held stout in the first 15 minutes. But once the Ducks reacted with running back and receiver screens, the Bruin defense couldn’t get off the field.
Oregon went 7-for-9 on third down, despite rushing for just 121 yards and turning the ball over three times.
And on offense, Chip Kelly’s commitment to the run in the second and third quarters stalled drives after Tim DeRuyter figured out how to slow UCLA’s run game. The Bruins’ 110 yards on the ground was the fewest since 2019.
The defeat makes the path to the South title a long shot dependent on multiple ASU and Utah losses. Yet, with Utah, Colorado, USC, and Cal left on the schedule, it’s not out of the question for UCLA to win out.
4. Arizona State (5-2, 3-1) ◄►
The Sun Devils used their bye week to recruit, with a flurry of offers made to prospects in various classes.
But the investigation into alleged recruiting violations may have taken a turn for the worse, if clues from Antonio Pierce’s social media are indications of action taken by the administration.
The defensive coordinator removed recent references to Arizona State on his Twitter and Instagram accounts, and is reportedly not taking part in off-campus recruiting.
At the center of the allegations, Pierce is an integral part of the Sun Devils’ defense. If the coordinator is put on administrative leave or terminated, ASU’s path to the Pac-12 Championship Game could be in jeopardy.
5. Utah (4-3, 3-1) ▼3
Cameron Rising’s 341 total yards and two touchdowns weren’t enough to win on the road in Corvallis. A blocked punt returned for a touchdown and an unsuccessful fourth down attempt from the goal line changed the game.
The 42 points surrendered to Oregon State was the highest of the year, and the Utes weren’t able to capitalize on the 11 Beaver penalties for 114 yards.
The loss cost Utah sole possession of first place in the South, but the Utes still control their own destiny, due to the tie-breaker over Arizona State. Yet, another pivotal battle in the race for the divisional title awaits this Saturday against UCLA.
And with Stanford and Oregon still on the schedule, the Utes might have the toughest remaining slate in the Pac-12.
6. Washington State (4-4, 3-2) ◄►
There are always drawbacks to promoting a coordinator to the interim head coach role. The promotion requires the coordinator to relinquish some of his old duties, and forces changes across the board to reorganize responsibilities.
Those changes may have bit the Cougars against BYU, as the independent school lopped 238 yards rushing on Jake Dickert’s defense. Known for stopping the run, it’s fair to wonder if Dickert’s promotion had a negative effect on the unit.
The 238 rushing yards allowed was the third-most since Dickert joined the staff in 2020.
And without the primary play-caller to operate the Run-and-Shoot, Washington State’s offense appeared to stumble as well. Jayden de Laura didn’t have a passing touchdown, although Max Borghi scored three.
Still, the difference in the game turned out to be a special teams mistake and an unsuccessful two-point conversion.
To reach bowl eligibility, the Cougs must find a way to split matchups with Oregon, Arizona State, Arizona, and Washington.
7. Stanford (3-4, 2-3) ◄►
The Tree put their bye week to good use, landing three-star defensive lineman Jaxson Moi. Holding the Pac-12’s No. 2 recruiting class for the 2022 season, David Shaw has momentum for next year.
But bowl eligibility remains in play for this season. The Cardinal face Washington on Saturday, and have a winnable game against California at the end of the year.
If Stanford wins both of those matchups, a 6-6 record could be reached with a victory over either Utah or Oregon State in November.
8. USC (3-4, 2-3) ◄►
Firing Clay Helton after just two games may have allowed the USC administration to get a jump on finding its next head coach, but it torpedoed the Trojans’ 2021 season.
The 31-16 loss to Norte Dame was the final nail in the program’s current national perception.
And with Arizona State, UCLA, and BYU left on the schedule, the remainder of the year has the potential to get even uglier. Jaxson Dart remains sidelined with an indefinite timeline to return, while Kedon Slovis continues to underperform.
Although Keaontay Ingram rushed for 138 yards with a score, and Drake London snagged 15 receptions for 171 yards, USC doesn’t wield much offensive firepower.
Its line can’t protect long enough for a pocket-passer like Slovis, and its coordinator is unwilling to change schemes.
Apart from this weekend’s matchup with Arizona, it’s possible USC goes winless the remainder of the year.
9. Cal (2-5, 1-3) ▲1
Justin Wilcox and the Bears finally broke through.
Chase Garbers had 321 total yards against the Buffs on Saturday, while the Cal defense held Colorado to just seven first downs, 104 total yards, and a field goal.
The 26-3 victory has the potential to springboard the team to bowl eligibility over the final five games of the season. The margin is razor-thin, but California can get it done with remaining games against Oregon State, Arizona, USC, Stanford, and UCLA.
Putting aside the defeat to WSU, each of the program’s losses have come by a single-possession. Just a play or two away from a 4-3 record, there arguably isn’t a more dangerous sub .500 team in the nation than Cal.
10. Washington (3-4, 2-2) ▼1
The Dawgs struggled against lowly Arizona, needing a fourth-quarter interception to spark a comeback in Tucson. Washington’s offensive line gave up four sacks and its offense put up just 88 yards rushing.
If the Wildcats weren’t down to their third-string quarterback and missing their first and second-string running backs, the result in the desert may have spurred the termination of Jimmy Lake.
But the second-year coach survives another week after Dylan Morris threw two touchdowns and passed for 217 yards.
At 3-3, the Huskies enter the make-or-break part of their season. Washington faces Stanford, Oregon, and Arizona State over the next three games before finishing the year against Colorado and Washington State.
A path to bowl eligibility remains, yet Washington must find a way to win one of its next three.
11. Colorado (2-5, 1-3) ◄►
Nothing worked on the road against California.
Brendon Lewis passed for just 69 yards with an interception, and Jarek Broussard ran for only 28 yards on 11 carries. The 26-3 loss was deflating after the strong performance against Arizona, and it doesn’t get any easier from here.
Colorado faces Oregon, Oregon State, UCLA, Washington, and Utah over the final five games of the year. The slate almost guarantees a two-win season and a six-game losing streak entering the 2022 campaign.
But the game in Boulder against Washington could be a toss-up and figures to be a matchup Karl Dorrell and his staff have in the back of their mind.
At this point of the year, the offensive production is what it is and the only way for CU to win games is through its defense.
12. Arizona (0-7, 0-4) ◄►
Jedd Fisch’s defense came out firing against Washington, forcing a three-and-out on the first possession and blocking the ensuing punt.
But a devastating interception in the fourth quarter led to a quick Husky touchdown, and the team’s confidence went out the window.
With no margin for error, penalties and turnovers are too much for the Wildcats to overcome. The Cats’ 10 penalties for 73 yards and two interceptions were back-breakers on Friday night, contributing to the 21-3 second half margin.
The collapse happened in front of the lowest fan turnout since the early 1970s, a vital missing element of Arizona’s home field advantage.
But true freshman running back Stevie Rocker Jr. had his most productive game of the season. The Tucson-native ran for 87 yards on eight carries, while freshman Jalen John tacked on 65 yards on 19 attempts.
How our Senior Football Writers Voted
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