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Pac-12 Power Rankings, Week 8: Where Arizona Made Some Noise

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The Pac-12 stayed the course in week eight, with no teams separating themselves drastically from the others and with Oregon continuing its dominance.

Of course, the Ducks seemed to hit another gear in this eighth week, embarrassing a 5-1 Arizona State team on national television on a Thursday night. Meanwhile, Oregon State won rather unconvincingly — as it is wont to do in 2012 — against Utah, while Stanford beat Cal in a rivalry game that seemingly no one went to.

Additionally, Arizona demolished Washington 52-17 while the USC Trojans slaughtered the Buffalo 50-6.

Now that you’re caught up, let’s delve into this week’s rankings:

1. Oregon (7-0, 4-0 Pac-12)

We know a score of 43-21 against a 5-1 ASU team looks like a bit of a blowout already, but if we’re being honest, the game was nowhere near as close as the score indicates.

Because the Ducks had this in the bag within the first five minutes of play. After Arizona State got off to a quick start, forcing a Marcus Mariota fumble (what else is new?) and scoring on their first play from scrimmage, the Ducks would score 43 unanswered points … by the 11 minute mark of the second quarter.

Then Oregon head coach Chip Kelly called off the dogs, putting in the reserves midway through the second period.

What happened afterwards really doesn’t matter (Oregon was held scoreless, if you really want to know, but anyone who watched the game could care less), and the Ducks solidified themselves as one of the top two teams in the nation when the dust settled.

And if you enjoy watching Oregon play 15-minute-long football games, remember that the Ducks play Colorado next week. Enjoy!

2. Oregon State (6-0, 4-0 Pac-12)

We’re six games into Oregon State’s season, and it’s still hard to come up with a reasonable conclusion as to whether this team is as good as its record suggests. They haven’t won convincingly all season, but they’ve managed to take on a billion different identities to win a billion different ways.

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This week? They beat a middling Utah team 21-7, and believe it or not, the Utes had several chances to pull off the upset against the Beavers — while down 14-7 for the better part of three quarters — before Oregon State put the game away with a touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

But Utah does what it always does: Its defense kept the game competitive while the offense was entirely unwatchable. It’s clear that the Utes’ freshman QB Travis Wilson needs serious work, the entire Utah offensive line needs a makeover and RB John White needs to return to the 2011 version of himself which was not held to 68 yards on 20 carries against Oregon State, like he was against these Beavers.

No one knows what kind of game Oregon State will play against Washington next week, but if the Beavs’ trend of alternating defensive battles with high-octane offensive performances continues, they’ll win it in a shoot-out.

3. USC (6-1, 4-1 Pac-12)

Matt Barkley busted his way into the record books on Saturday, breaking Matt Leinart’s previous Pac-12 record for career touchdown passes, earning six touchdown passes while going 19-for-20 and throwing for nearly 300 yards. Barkley now has 100 touchdown passes for his career.

Of course, this monstrous performance came against the Colorado Buffaloes, the resident whipping boy in the Pac-12; Barkley was a lock to break the record anyway, but it helped that he got to play one of the worst teams in the FBS.

USC beat these lowly Buffs 50-6, and they did so while playing what Michael Castillo at USC site Reign of Troy described as a “vanilla offense.” Basically, it’s the same offense we’ve seen USC employ all season, laden with screens and draws while holding off on pulling the trigger for deep bombs.

And thus, it’s tough to gauge if this team is “back” in the sense that they’ve become the dominant Trojans everyone has expected to see all season. If head coach Lane Kiffin has been guarding his playbook all season, he wasn’t going to  unleash all hell against a 1-5 Colorado team anyway.

USC has benefited from a relatively easy schedule, but that’ll change, starting next week when the Trojans travel to Tucson to play an explosive Arizona offense that is fifth in the nation in passing yards and just out of the top-25 in points scored.

4. Stanford (5-2, 3-1 Pac-12)

After losing a heartbreaker against No. 7 Notre Dame, the Stanford Cardinal bounced back against Cal in the Big Game by a score of 21-3.

The game was pretty ugly though. All 24 of the points scored were in the first half, and both offenses were rendered useless in the second. Stanford won the possession battle, though, holding on to the ball for nearly 37 minutes to Cal’s 23.

Of course the more important number was three: No, not the number of points that Cal had but the amount of rushing yards the Golden Bears accumulated. Just three. That’s it. Close your mouth, a trombone player might fly in there.

That’s how miserable Cal’s season has been though, save for a 43-17 shellacking of UCLA in Berkeley, which turned out to be an aberration.

Stanford gets a bye week next week, and by that we mean they get to play Washington State at home to build some steam before heading into an epic match-up with Colorado on November 3.

(Yes, it’s a joke.)

5. Arizona (4-3, 1-3 Pac-12)

Arizona reached above .500 for the first time in three weeks, knocking off Washington, which was also at 3-3, vying for a winning record.

Given all that, you’d think this was a close game. Instead, the Wildcats dominated the Huskies, 52-17, behind QB Matt Scott, who threw for four touchdowns and ran for another, while his counterpart, UW QB Keith Price continued his struggles, throwing just one touchdown and two picks.

The Wildcats were bound for a bounce-back game, though, after losing three in a row to Oregon, Oregon State and Stanford in that order. The three-game-long murderer’s row seemed to pay off against the Huskies, making their game with the Trojans next week a few hairs above “enticing.”

6. UCLA (5-2, 2-2 Pac-12)

Last week, UCLA was ranked number eight, but given the fact that Arizona State and Washington suffered horrifying losses, they get a nice bump in the rankings this week despite having a bye.

Of course, the Bruins will have to play an Arizona State team that was humiliated on national television, and given ASU’s history in the second half of seasons, this could bode well for the Bruins to gain some momentum as they reach the toughest stretch of their schedule which sees them play Arizona, WSU, USC and Stanford in that order.

Or Arizona State comes back entirely ticked off, in which case, UCLA might have some trouble down in Tempe, AZ.

7. Arizona State (5-2, 3-1 Pac-12)

Heading into their match-up with Oregon, Arizona State was sitting pretty, one game away from bowl eligibility six games into the season. They were ranked top-25 in nearly all major statistical categories and were poised to make a run at the Pac-12 South title.

Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE

And then Oregon beat the Sun Devils in essentially 18 minutes and, after re-examining their schedule, you wondered if Arizona State could even finish the season above .500.

And they might not. Save for home games against UCLA and Washington State, Arizona State will likely be underdogs for the remainder of their schedule which includes road games against Oregon State, USC and in-state rival Arizona.

There’s likely one win there (at home against WSU) and perhaps up to three wins (if you’re including at home against UCLA and at Arizona), but that’s a stretch.

Not all hope is lost, though, since Todd Graham was brought in to right the ship and stop the team from suffering late-season collapses, but after seeing these Sun Devils as listless as they were against Oregon? It’s going to be a tough sell.

8. Washington (3-4, 1-3 Pac-12)

The Huskies were destroyed by Arizona, losing their third straight game (the previous two came against Oregon and USC), while this was the Huskies’ second straight game in allowing 50 points or more.

This was a disappointing loss for the Husky faithful, especially after Washington held USC scoreless in the second half last week, losing only because Keith Price couldn’t stop turning the ball over. After that game, and preceding this one to the Wildcats, Washington fans were sure they could pull off a road win against Arizona, which was coming off a three-game losing streak itself.

That didn’t happen, which is a huge blow for the Huskies heading into their showdown with the top-10 ranked Beavers next week.

The good news? Things get easier, when they finish out the season at Cal, at home against Utah, at Colorado and at Washington State, meaning bowl eligibility is still within reach, even seven games in.

9. California (3-5, 2-3 Pac-12)

Jeff Tedford is losing his job now; there’s no other way around it.

And it isn’t because Cal lost to Stanford in a somewhat-embarrassing manner; 21-3 isn’t so bad, especially when the Cardinal were held to zero second-half points.

But Cal needed to win certain games to become bowl eligible for the season, specifically games against Nevada in week one and at home against Arizona State in week five, which would’ve put the Bears at 5-3 for the season instead of 3-5.

That didn’t happen, and as a result, they’ve got two guaranteed losses at home vs. Oregon and at Oregon State to end the season, a winnable game in Salt Lake City at Utah (their next game) and a total toss-up at home vs. Washington.

Cal needs to win three out of four of those to become bowl eligible and, at this point, there’s no way in hell the team beats Oregon or Oregon State.

The Tedford era’s coming to a close, Bears fans. Enjoy it — or not — while you can.

10. Utah (2-5, 0-4 Pac-12)

Utah is still winless in conference play after losing to Oregon State 21-7, which is embarrassing to say the least.

Dear Larry Scott, can we trade the Utes for Utah State? Sincerely, Pac-12 fans. Douglas C. Pizac-US PRESSWIRE

That said, they haven’t exactly had it easy to start the  season. Their weakest opponent was Arizona State, and they lost to that team 37-7. After that, they lost to USC 38-28 — a game that was closer than the score indicates — to UCLA 21-14 and, most recently, the No. 8 Oregon State Beavers.

And as a result, they’ll get their chance to end the season strong, because of their five remaining games, four are against losing teams (vs. Cal, vs. WSU, at Washington and at Colorado) while the other is against 4-3 Arizona. The magic number is four, which would get the Utes to six wins, earning them a bowl berth.

Utah has played all of its opponents — save for ASU in Tempe — tougher than everyone thought they would, and have come away with countless “moral victories” (although those cease to become useful after four straight losses). Can they turn these “teachable moments” into wins and find themselves at .500 to end the season?

11. Washington State (2-5, 0-4 Pac-12)

The Cougars had a bye this week, which is ironic since they’re every team’s bye week this season.

WSU will not earn a bowl berth because they have a relatively difficult schedule to end their season; of their five games, three are against winning teams (Stanford, UCLA and Arizona State) and the two losing teams have looked somewhat competitive for most of the season (Washington, Utah).

WSU will be the “guaranteed win” every team needs for the season. Pac-12 fans should probably thank them for taking the spankings each week so their respective teams get closer to bowl eligibility.

12. Colorado (1-6, 1-3)

Why is this team in the Pac-12?

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