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Runnin’ With The Pac: Week 3

Once again, rankings of who had the best week in the Pac-12.  These are not overall power rankings, just who had the best game/week last week.  Teams on a bye are excluded unless something warrants it.

1. UCLA Bruins beat Nebraska 41-21

What a tough week for the Bruins.  Last Sunday they lost a player, Nick Pasquale, who was killed in a car wreck.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, teammates and coaches.  Dealing with a death like that is so far beyond anything happening on the football field, and it showed as UCLA struggled in the first half on Saturday.  They stormed back to blow-out Nebraska and earn the Pac-12’s best victory thus far.  No matter how you usually feel about UCLA, this was a win everyone can be excited for them to get.  It doesn’t replace losing a member of their family, but if it helps give them meaning and a chance to move on, it will be worth something.  Best wishes to everyone involved, and we hope you find overwhelming love and support through the next months.

2. ASU Sun Devils beat Wisconsin 32-30

ASU didn’t always look good, but they looked better most of the game than did the Badgers.  And come on, how great was that ending!  It was wrong in oh so many ways, and Wisconsin has every right to be furious.  It was also one of the craziest things I’ve seen on the field in a while.  I’d put them number two just because of how much enjoyment it brought me, but it was also a solid win against a ranked team.  ASU didn’t look perfect, but they’re a tough team when they get rolling.

3. USC Trojans beat Boston College 35-7

After their terrible showing against WSU, the Trojans finally did some things right.  Kiffin named Cody Kessler as quarterback, and he was solid.  Even more encouraging was a strong day in the running game and signs that Marquise Lee is getting untracked.  He only caught two balls, but they went for 90 yards.  BC isn’t good, but USC did exactly what they needed to get their season at least going in the direction of the right track.

4. Oregon Ducks beat Tennessee 59-14

Not much to say here, as Oregon pummeled yet another mediocre opponent.  I wish we could see them play someone, but they’re disposing quickly of anyone they see.

5. UW Huskies beat Illinois 34-24

Illinois is probably about as good as Tennessee, but the Huskies weren’t nearly as dominant as Oregon was.  Still, road wins are always good, and the Dawgs were a few mistakes from a blow-out.  They need to stop making mistakes.  Don’t do dumb stuff, Huskies!

6. Oregon State Beavers beat Utah 51-48

The Beavs are tied with WSU for the Pac-12 lead.  Have a good laugh.  Take your time.  The good news is that, in what was something of a must win, the Beavers did, and salvaged any hope their season had.  The bad news is they didn’t look too great doing it and the defense continues to struggle mightily.  OSU usually improves over the year, except for that year they really didn’t.  They’re going to score plenty of points, but the defense doesn’t have any answers right now.  Glad to see Storm Woods is okay, though.  That was a scary moment for a talented guy.

7. (Tie) Arizona Wildcats beat UTSA 38-13 WSU Cougars beat Southern Utah 48-10

Both teams beat weak opponents fairly handily, so I’m giving them the tie.  I saw some of the WSU game and none of Arizona’s so I can’t say a ton.  WSU looked shaky early, but they managed to take care of business.  Both teams are doing what they need to do, but stiffer challenges await.

9. Stanford Cardinal beat Army 34-20

Unimpressive win for a top five Stanford squad.  The passing game is looking better than expected, but the defense struggled a bit with Army.  That shouldn’t happen.  Stanford is probably fine, but they look a bit suspect, and that’s enough to drop them to 9th in a strong week for the conference.

10. California Golden Bears lost to Ohio St. 52-34

Cal got whupped by OSU, but they did manage to put up 34 points.  QB Jared Goff is a keeper (literally. I have him in fantasy.  I might keep him) and the offense is fairly loaded and in a system well-fitted to their strengths.  Unfortunately for the Bears, the defense is horrendous.  I mean, it’s really bad.  Really really bad.  Cal could be good soon, but I don’t think it’s going to happen this year.

11. Utah Utes lost to OSU 51-48

The Utes get the basement for losing a conference game at home they were in position to win.  The good news is they were in position to win, and the offense is dramatically improved from last year.  Alas, they still lost, and the Utes aren’t good enough yet to be losing conference games at which they have a shot.

Honorary Listing: Colorado Buffaloes

Colorado had their match with Fresno State postponed due to the incredible flooding taking place.  Again, prayers and well wishes to all those suffering loss in the tragedy.  Cancelling the game was the right move.  Still, it was probably unfortunate for Colorado, who have been playing reasonably well and were looking for some revenge against FSU for last year’s beating.  Last I heard, they haven’t decided for sure if the game will be rescheduled, although they hope to.  Hopefully Colorado dries out soon and the Buffs can resume their slow improvement on the field.

Here’s to a week with fewer tragedies and even more great games.  Stay safe everybody.

-Matthew

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Head of the Pac: Week Two

This is a new thing I’m trying this season.  Last week it was just called Ranking the Pac-12.  Prepare yourself for a slew of bad “Pac” related titles until I find one I like.  Anyway, this is not a power ranking.  It is a subjective ranking of who had the best week the week before.  Teams who didn’t play will be left off unless something significant enough to merit a ranking happened. This week there was one interesting game and lots of blowouts of cupcakes.  The schedule gets a lot better in week 3.  Let’s do this.

1. WSU Cougars beat USC 10-7

I have some misgivings putting the Cougs at the top, because they really didn’t look too great, USC looked horrific, and they’re the Cougars.  Still, WSU got a road win over USC and is leading the Pac-12 North.  I would never have guessed either of those things would have happened this year.  WSU’s defense looked good, but there’s no arguing it was helped significantly by terrible quarterbacking and worse play-calling for USC.  The offense didn’t manage a touchdown, and was maybe worse than USC’s before the big catch and run that put them in field goal position.  The Cougars are certainly better than they were, but I’m unconvinced of how much.  Strangely, it’s the defense that has made the greatest strides under Mike Leach.

2. Oregon Ducks beat Virginia 59-10

The Ducks weren’t perfect, but any complaints are extremely minor when you beat an FBS  team on the road by 49 points.  I doubt Tennessee will fare much better this week.  The Ducks might not be challenged much before coming to Husky Stadium in a few weeks.

3. Utah Utes beat Weber State 70-7

Everything gets a little murky through the vast middle of these rankings.  No one played anyone good and most teams won big.  Extra points and the number three ranking to Utah for doing something I wouldn’t have believed them capable of before the season: putting up 70 points.  That’s a lot, regardless of the opponent.

4. ASU Sun Devils beat Sacramento St. 55-0

I like blowout shutouts.  This is an appropriate score given the teams involved, but it’s always encouraging to see a team nearly perfect on opening night.  This Saturday gets much tougher with Wisconsin coming to town.

5. Stanford Cardinal beat San Jose St. 34-13

Stanford wasn’t incredible, but they handled one of the week’s better opponents easily.  Offense is going to be the question for the Tree.  They’re lacking in established skill players outside of QB Kevin Hogan.  The defense and O Line will have to carry them until they can get clicking.

6. Arizona Wildcats beat UNLV 58-13

Another big win over a weak opponent. The passing game is struggling for the Cats.  Luckily they have All-American Kadeem Carey back from suspension.  Carey is one of the few players to ever be suspended for being an All-American.  The guy’s amazing in so many ways.

7. Oregon State Beavers beat Hawaii 33-14

We have reached the section: “Unimpressive wins against terrible opponents”.  Hawaii is terrible.  Even USC beat them handily.  OSU did too, but it took a while.  The game was in question for the first half before the Beavs pulled away.  They also lost the defense’s captain and maybe best player, LB Mike Doctor. At least he should heal quickly (Doctor joke).  Actually, probably not: 6-8 weeks out. The O Line is beat up as well.  We’ll see if the Beavers can rally, but it’s looking like a potentially long season.  Sean Mannion and Brandin Cooks are pretty great though.

8. (Tie) California Golden Bears beat Portland St. 37-30; Colorado Buffaloes beat Central Arkansas 38-24

Many similarities here.  Both teams struggled to beat bad opponents.  Both had some standout offensive performances: Jared Goff went over 450 yards for the second game in a row for Cal, with many of those yards going to WR Bryce Treggs; Buff WR Paul Richardson had his second straight 200 yard receiving game.  That’s never been done before in the Pac-12.  Good stuff.  Unfortunately, the rest of the team isn’t that great, for both squads.

10. USC Trojans lost to WSU 10-7

Oh, USC.  Where to even begin?  This was one of the worst offensive performances I have ever seen.  Both quarterbacks are bad and made worse by Lane Kiffin’s poor handling and ridiculously terrible play-calling.  Maybe my biggest question is why both quarterbacks are so bad.  Both guys were highly rated and possess obvious physical skills.  It’s no surprise if one of them doesn’t develop, but I find it quite strange that both are struggling so greatly.  One more strike against Kiffin.  Unfortunately for him, he’s already wearing a Golden Sombrero.  The defense is good enough to sustain them if they can show even the slightest threat on offense, but that’s looking like a lot to ask for at the moment. That sentence is really depressing if you simultaneously look at their roster.  They have so much talent it’s crazy.  This team is going to have to drastically improve if they want to save Kiffin’s job, let alone get to a bowl game.  I’d put Kiffin at about a 3% chance of returning next year.

-Matthew

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Pac-12 Rankings: Week 1

Hello there, and welcome to the first week of the Good Guys Pac-12 power rankings!  These aren’t really going to be true power rankings though, because everyone does those and they never really change from week to week.  Instead, I’m going to rank teams based on who had the best week.

As such, this will mostly be a ranking of who had the weekend’s best wins to worst losses.  It has no bearing on who is the best overall team.  I repeat, these are not rankings of which team is the best.  Looking ahead, UW is number one on the list, because they demolished a ranked team.  I don’t think they’re the best team in the conference, but they easily had the best win.  All clear?

Stanford and Arizona State didn’t play, so I’m leaving them off.  That will be the case for most teams with byes throughout the year, unless something terrible or great happens to them during practice.  Not likely, but players get hurt during practice or arrested in Eugene.  Things happen.  On to the rankings!

1. Washington Huskies

No team made more of a statement than the Huskies.  Whether or not Boise State is a bit down this year, they were maybe the best opponent of any Pac-12 team this weekend.  The Huskies disposed of them with little mercy.  It was a dominating win for a program that needed one.

2. UCLA Bruins

It gets a little harder to distinguish at this point.  Nevada’s a decent team and UCLA whupped them 58-20.  I’m giving them bonus blowout points to bump them ahead of a couple of other teams.

3. Colorado Buffaloes

Colorado beat Colorado State 41-27.  CSU isn’t very good, but if you remember 2012, the Buffs didn’t win too many games.  One, to be exact.  They also lost to CSU to start last year, so this is a big improvement.  By all accounts, Colorado looked greatly improved, and for a program in need of some hope, this is a big win. Continue reading

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Good Guys Pac-12 Preview

The season is two days away, so let’s fire up a conference preview!  More comprehensive previews abound, so if you want a rundown of UCLA’s secondary, you’ll have to check somewhere else.  For this preview, I’m telling you two things: which player from each team I would want on the Huskies, and how scared I would be if the Dawgs were playing given team tomorrow.  I’ll rate that 1-10, with one being an almost certain win for the Dawgs and 10 an almost certain loss.  I’ll also go through the teams in the divisional order I’d expect them to finish.  So I guess you get three things!  Enjoy.

South Division

1. Arizona State

Player I Want (PIW): This is the easiest choice in the conference, because  DT Will Sutton might be the best player in the conference.  He’s one of the best pass rushing tackles in recent memory, and has a chance to win conference defensive player of the year for the second time in a row.  That hasn’t happened since Mr. Steve Emtman.  Sutton would fit perfectly next to Danny Shelton, transforming the Husky D Line from a bit of a worry to a huge strength.

Scare-o-meter: 7.  ASU took a big step forward last year, and I think they’ll continue to move up.  They have some issues, but they also have a ton of talent on both sides of the ball.  Taylor Kelly was one of the best QBs in the conference last year, and DJ Foster and Marion Grice is the top running back duo in the Pac-12.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see them finish as low as third in the south, but I’m betting they fight off a tough early schedule to make the Pac-12 Championship Game.

2. USC

PIW: Also an easy choice: Marquise Lee, the best receiver in all the land.  Lee brings me to an interesting point in deciding on these players.  The best player on a team isn’t always the guy who would help the Huskies the most.  Defensive lineman Morgan Breslin, for instance, plays at a position of greater need for UW.  In close calls, UW’s need wins out.  Sometimes the greatness of one player far outweighs the utility of another, though.  Anyone who would turn down a chance to see Marquise Lee on their side every Saturday is crazy.

Scare-o-meter: 6.  As usual, USC has as much talent as anyone in the conference.  They have three questions holding them back: 1. Who’s QB? Max Wittek and Cody Kessler are both expected to play on Thursday. 2. Running back is uncertain, with Silas Redd injured.  Lots of talent here though.  3. Lane Kiffin is still coach.  He’s a complete x-factor.  Still, aside from losing Matt Barkley and a few others, this is a roster that was expected to challenge for a national championship last year.  They could be a load if a QB emerges and Kiffin doesn’t sabotage them.

3. UCLA Continue reading

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UW vs. Utah Predictions

I don’t have a lot of time, so here’s a joke.

Once there was a tiny little baby who could somehow talk. Even more amazingly, this baby found itself standing next to Kareen Abdul-Jabbar on the subway. The baby looked Kareen up and down. Both stood in silence, eyeing each other, waiting for either to make the first move.

Finally, when the tension was too much for the master of the skyhook to bear, the baby winked at him and said, “Utah.”

Joe

As confident as I am the Huskies will win Saturday night, I am not confident they’ll win big. Utah is not a good team, but they are tough, which is a reflection of their coach. Kyle Wittingham is no non sense, and his teams are always ready to play. The Utes are coming off two blowout home wins over the hapless Cougars and Golden Bears, which really doesn’t tell us much. The Huskies are coming off an ugly win over those same Golden Bears, but also over a highly ranked and very good Oregon State team. I look at that win over OSU as the bar. The Dawgs play vastly better at home vs the road, and Utah has been very poor away from campus. I expect the UW to run the ball well, and work in play action with Price to ASJ and Kasen. If this sounds familiar, it should, it’s what I said they had to do last week. And they did. And they won. The Huskies have a golden opportunity to run the table and get to 8 wins, which would be a tremendous milestone for this program under Coach Sark. Quite honestly, anything less than running the table will be a massive disappointment. Utah is very beatable, and we know the chaos ensnaring UW’s last two opponents. I think the Huskies know this, and they’ll play with urgency on Saturday night, the final home game before going back home to the new Husky Stadium next season.

UW 23 – Utah 17

Matthew

We know a couple of things about the Huskies at this point. At home against an FBS team, they will probably score 17 or 21 points. They will also hold their opponent to between 13-17 points, meaning they usually win (as long as the opponent isn’t USC). Utah is playing better of late, but they still have a weak offense with a true freshman quarterback. The big challenge will be for the Huskies to deal with a stout Utah defensive line led by All-American Star Lotulelei. If they can do that well enough to get Bishop Sankey to 100 yards and give Keith Price some time to throw, this might be the time we see the Huskies break that 21 point barrier. Even if they don’t, I think they win this one.

UW 28 – Utah 17

Dan

At this point in the season we pretty well know what the Huskies are. The offense is not going to suddenly revert to 2011 form like we've all hoped, nor will the defense go back to last years dismal level. Keith Price is an average QB and Sankey is the key to the offense, surprising as that is to say. My only fear about tomorrow's game is that we don't know this Utes team. I don't just mean Husky fans, but everyone, Utah fans included. I suspect Utah fans want to know if their team has taken the next step with Wilson at QB and a re-energized team following a rough start. I think Utah is closer to the team it was at the beginning of the season than the juggernaut that rolled over Cal and WSU, which is why I see a Huskies win tomorrow on Senior Night at the Clink.

UW 27 – Utah 17

Andrew
Lately I’ve been giving reasons why the Huskies will win and then picking them to lose because I’m superstitious and all that. The Huskies are a good team at home and Utah has Bern a bad team on the road. It’s that simple to me. If the trend continues the Huskies will win. I’m worried about Trufant not playing and if that happens the game may be a little closer or a loss. Also, Utah very well could be a good team. They have improved a lot no doubt. With that being said, I’m taking the Huskies.
UW – 20 Utah – 13

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Pac-12 Power Rankings

The college football season is roughly a third of the way over, and nearly everyone has played a conference game or two (the Huskies are the only team without one, strangely).  There have already been quite a few surprises, so let’s take a second to step back and see where everyone stands.

I don’t claim these power rankings to be any better than anyone else’s.  I watch a good number of games and read a lot more, but there are plenty of teams I haven’t seen much of.  Still, everyone loves a power ranking, so I’ll throw one up here.  I’m ranking teams based almost entirely on what they’ve done so far, both in terms of record and how they’ve looked.  If two teams are close or if there are significant outside circumstances, I’ll look at who is most likely to be successful in the future.  That’s secondary though, and this will mainly be a ranking of how good teams have been thus far.  Here goes nothing:

1. Oregon

Oregon is the second ranked team in the country and has demolished everyone it’s faced.  That’s not saying a lot though, as Arizona is the only decent team they’ve played.  The Wildcats hung with them for a while last night, but eventually the Ducks pitched a shutout and won 49-0.  To me, they don’t look as good as they have in the last couple of years, but it’s hard to say for sure until they play someone who will test them offensively and defensively.

2. Stanford

The Cardinal has the best win in the conference, over USC, a pounding defense, and plenty of power in the running game with Stepfan Taylor and a big offensive line.  What they also have is a rookie quarterback and a couple of unimpressive wins before the USC game.  That’s just to say that we’re not positive where they’ll go from here, especially when they hit the road, but they certainly looked the part against USC.

3. USC

This is where the rankings get a little difficult, as 3-5 could all be argued as interchangeable.  We’ll go with USC because of pedigree, talent and the quality of their loss, but they have questions.  They need to dramatically improve on the offensive line and hope they don’t lose any more players to injury.  More interestingly, what will Lane Kiffin do the rest of the year?  He seems on the verge of melting down and is starting to show the attitude that got him in trouble in Oakland and Tennessee.

4. Oregon State

OSU has two impressive wins and a stifling defense.  I seriously considered them at #3.  In the end, they’re here because they’ve only played two games (through no fault of their own) and had an extra week to prepare for each of them, as Andrew pointed out to me last night. It’s too early to call them a definite contender, but they look the most legitimate of all the surprise teams thus far.

5. Arizona State

The Sun Devils have had plenty of talent recently.  Last year they were the popular pick to win the South before imploding completely.  This year they look like they’ve ironed out the attitude problems and are playing great football.  They have a bunch of playmakers, a decent defense, and a surprisingly efficient and effective quarterback in Taylor Kelly.  It may not last, but they look tough at the moment.

6. Arizona

Arizona might have been #4 before last night, but Oregon brought them back to reality quickly.  One could argue that UA held the Ducks down for a bit, but that’s often how Oregon wins games.  The Wildcats are definitely improved, but it’s hard to know how much or if it will last.

7. UCLA

This might be too low, but I’ll be a skeptic on UCLA until they do something for a full season or two.  The Nebraska win was good, but they’ve had big early wins before falling apart in the past.  They have a great young QB in Brett Hundley, but will he hit the freshman wall at some point?  Maybe the biggest question is whether Jim Mora’s toughness campaign has had any effect.

8. Washington

UW is the hardest team to call in the conference.  They have blowouts going both directions that were completely unsurprising.  The San Diego State win is decent, but they’ve looked fairly mediocre on both sides of the ball.  Really, the Huskies have done exactly what they were supposed to do, so the only thing to do is see if they can pull off an upset in the next month.

9. Utah

Utah has a decent win against BYU, but otherwise they look nothing like a team expected to be the biggest South challenger to USC.  The offense is a big question, with a hole at quarterback and their only real star, RB John White, hampered with injury so far.  I would bet that Utah pulls it together to win a few more, but I’d be surprised if they break .500.

10. California

I don’t have a clue what to make of the Golden Bears.  Talent-wise, they should be at least middle of the pack, and they looked that way against Ohio State.  Otherwise, it’s not happening on the field.  The only thing that seems clear is that QB Zach Maynard and the offensive line have to be consistently effective, and that isn’t happening right now.

11. Colorado

Congratulations to the Buffs, who stampeded their way out of the cellar yesterday.  Colorado showed good resolve and fight to pull out the win over WSU, but the talent doesn’t look to be there for many more wins.  I would imagine if they get to three or four, fans will feel moderately hopeful for the future after a dreadful start.

12. Washington State

And here are the Cougars, back in their familiar resting place.  Other than possibly USC, I don’t think any team has had a more disappointing start to the season than the Cougs.  With all of the hope from the Mike Leach hire, a 4-0 start and a bowl game seemed like a solid possibility.  Instead, they’re 2-2, with neither of the wins looking impressive and one of the losses to a team that was being talked of as potentially going 0-12.  The defense looks untalented and mistake-prone, a bad combination.  The offense has talent, but the Air Raid is taking longer to click than most expected.  At this point, the quarterbacks are a bit of a question.  Jeff Tuel is hurt and looked unsure of himself when he did play.  Connor Halliday has been better than Tuel, but he’s a gambler type prone to interceptions.  Even more concerning is the psyche/attitude of the team.  Leach didn’t seem to bring the reset they needed.  It’s hard not to wonder whether this group of players will ever understand what it takes to win football games.  I’d expect a little bit of improvement, but a shot at a bowl game seems out the window.

-Matthew

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