Posted on October 11, 2021
But in the Pac-12, the lone ranked team in action handled its business in convincing fashion.
Arizona State’s 28-10 victory over Stanford advanced the Sun Devils to 5-1 on the year, putting ASU in control of the South.
And after Utah dismantled USC at the Coliseum, the two programs face each other this weekend in a game that could determine the divisional title.
The final scores of the week’s games sent our writers back to revise their Power Rankings. The list below is a composite of each writers’ picks, and the individual rankings appear at the bottom.
1. ASU (5-1, 3-0) ◄►
Herm Edwards’ defense forced Tanner McKee to do something he hadn’t done all season: throw an interception. And the Sun Devils forced three of them.
The picks were the product of stout run defense, as Arizona State held Stanford to just 13 yards rushing. Boxed into a one-dimensional offense, the results were five sacks, three interceptions, and a 28-10 victory.
Sitting in first place in the South and No. 18 in the AP Poll, expectations of a run to the Rose Bowl are growing.
The matchup this Saturday with Utah will be ASU’s toughest conference game to date, and a win would all-but lock up the South divisional championship.
2. Oregon (4-1, 1-1) ◄►
Voices continue to grow for Ty Thompson to take over at quarterback for Anthony Brown, but Mario Cristobal doubled down on his commitment to the grad transfer.
The decision could be a turning point in the season, if Brown continues to struggle in the passing game. And with the season-ending injury to CJ Verdell, the quarterback play in Eugene figures to define the remainder of the year.
But at No. 9 in the AP Poll heading into Week Seven, Oregon remains in position for a Playoff birth, if it wins out. Margin of victory will remain important, and the Ducks will probably need some help, but the dream is still alive.
3. UCLA (4-2, 2-1) ▲2
Dorian Thompson-Robinson didn’t exploit the Arizona secondary the way many expected him to, but Chip Kelly’s running backs ate the Wildcats for dinner.
The 329 yards rushing was UCLA’s highest of the Chip Kelly Era and its most in a single game since the 2015 Alamo Bowl against Kansas State.
The proficiency on the ground covered up two turnovers and eight penalties for 95 yards, and an 8-for-19, 110 total yard night from DTR.
But a win is a win, and road victories are never gimmies.
At 4-2 overall and 2-1 in the South, UCLA is on a path to its first bowl game in six seasons.
4. Utah (3-2, 2-0) ▲3
After a tumultuous two weeks following the passing of Aaron Lowe, the Utes dissected the Trojans in Los Angeles for the first time since 1916.
Up 42-18 midway through the fourth quarter, the win set the tone for the remainder of the year. Cameron Rising passed for 306 yards and three touchdowns, while Tavion Thomas rushed for 113 and a score.
The victory improved Utah to 2-0 in Pac-12 play, putting Kyle Whittingham’s team in control of its own destiny.
And with a favorable remaining schedule that features games in Salt Lake City against Arizona State and UCLA, the sky is the limit for the Utes.
5. Oregon State (4-2, 2-1) ▼2
The Beavers tasted defeat for the first time since the opener, a seven-point loss on the road in Pullman.
Chance Nolan struggled for the second game in a row, throwing two interceptions without finding the end zone.
The stumble was a setback, but it doesn’t change the trajectory of OSU’s season. Remaining in first place in the North, Jonathan Smith’s team enters a bye week at 2-1 in conference play.
But Nolan is 18-for-40 over the last two games, with zero touchdowns, three interceptions, and just 206 yards passing.
The Beaver offense is limited when he’s not throwing the ball well, presenting Smith with an area to focus on over the next two weeks.
6. Stanford (3-3, 2-2) ▼2
The Cardinal’s lack of a ground game was on full display in Tempe.
The struggles running the ball were nothing new, but up against what might be the top defensive coordinator in the Pac-12, the Tree couldn’t pass their way out of it.
Tanner McKee threw his first interception of the season, and followed it up with two more later in the game. Despite passing for 356 yards, Stanford could only score 10 points and was 5-for-14 on third down.
The defeat dropped the Tree to 3-3 on the year as it prepares to take on Washington State this weekend in Pullman.
7. Washington State (3-3, 2-1) ▲2
Jake Dickert is in the heads of offensive coordinators. His 4-2-5 scheme forces opponents out of their comfort zone and into game plans that de-emphasize their strengths.
Oregon State averaged 50 rushing attempts and 17 passing plays in its first two games of Pac-12 play. But Dickert’s defense forced the Beavers into 26 passes and just 45 rushing attempts, despite OSU averaging its most yards per rushing attempt (6.9) on the season.
The power to force changes to its opponent’s tendencies is a sign of Washington State’s ceiling in 2021. And when Jayden de Laura passes for 399 yards and three touchdowns, the goal of bowl eligibility appears achievable.
8. USC (3-3, 2-3) ▼3
Drake London is one of the few bright spots of the Trojans’ 3-3 start to the season, as the junior receiver furthered his case for the Biletnikoff Award with 16 catches for 162 yards and a touchdown.
But other than London, USC is in shambles. For the third time this season, the Trojans were blown out at the Coliseum by a team they were favored to beat.
The Utes scored 28-straight points in the second and third quarters to take a 35-10 lead into the fourth, leaving the stadium with a 42-26 victory.
The defeat put an exclamation point on the program’s demise in 2021, begging the question for the remainder of the season: Where do the Trojans go from here?
9. Washington (2-3, 1-1) ▼1
The Husky coaching staff utilized the bye week to recruit, with Jimmy Lake making an appearance at Salpointe High School in Tucson to watch five-star tight end Duce Robinson.
The additional time allowed Washington to prepare for UCLA’s rushing offense, a scheme-on-scheme battle that figures to loom large on Saturday.
At 2-3 overall and 1-1 in conference play, a defeat to the Bruins would put the program at risk of missing a bowl game for the first time since 2009.
10. Cal (1-4, 0-2) ◄►
It remains to be seen if Cal’s bye week came at just the right time, or if it compounded the issues within the program.
There’s no getting around the 1-4 start to the season, and the matchup with Oregon on Friday night is probably the tipping point of the year.
A victory against the Ducks would re-energize the Bears, potentially opening a glimmer of light on a path to bowl eligibility.
But a loss could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, and might even spur Justin Wilcox to look for another opportunity over the offseason.
11. Colorado (1-4, 0-2) ◄►
The Buffs used the extra week of practice to prepare for Arizona and address the offensive issues holding the program back through five games.
After scoring 35 points on Northern Colorado to open the year, CU put up a total of 34 points over the following four games. And over those four games, the Colorado defense allowed more points in each successive game.
But that could change against Arizona on Saturday.
The struggling Wildcats present Colorado with what might be its only opportunity to secure a conference victory. It goes without saying, but a defeat to UA would easily be the worst loss of the Karl Dorrell Era.
12. Arizona (0-5, 0-2) ◄►
As Arizona was driving down one possession in the fourth quarter against UCLA, the air was let out of the building after Jordan McCloud suffered a season-ending leg injury.
The largest crowd in two years was left to wallow in thoughts of what could have been, as the cold wind blew away the rebuilt optimism within the program.
Backup Gunner Cruz is set to start against Colorado, but the deflation from losing the team’s top quarterback may be too much to overcome.
To make matters worse, Fisch lost one of his top recruits the next morning in a decommitment that could start a trend over the next two months.
How our Senior Football Writers Voted
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