Just a quick note: I have been pretty sporadic about which days I do my power rankings and my weekly picks. From now on, I will be posting my power rankings on Monday, my conference picks for the week on Wednesday, and my game preview and prediction for the Washington game the morning before the game, so Friday morning unless the Huskies are playing on a different day. Obviously it’s a Tuesday, so I’m off this week, but from now on I’m sticking to that schedule.
Something worth noting, considering Washington is about to play the Ducks, is that throughout the first half of the season, Oregon has played the first half one of two ways. They have either gone out and dominated from the start, resulting in a meaningless second half and an easy win, or they have been contained and perhaps even struggled a bit, as they did against Washington State last week. What is remarkable, and frightening, is that each and every time the latter situation has played out to begin a game, Oregon comes out for the third quarter having completely solved whatever issues led to a close first half, and the game is over by the time the fourth quarter rolls around. It happened against Arizona, and it happened against WSU.
September 29, 2012; Tucson, AZ, USA; Oregon State Beavers quarterback Sean Mannion (4) and running back Storm Woods (24) celebrate after Woods scored a touchdown against the Arizona Wildcats in the third quarter at Arizona Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-US PRESSWIRE
2.) Oregon State
Against Wisconsin, it looked like the Beavers had a gritty defense capable of grinding out a win, and an offense that just barely managed not to screw said defense over. In the two games since then, Sophomore quarterback Sean Mannion has thrown 80 passes and completed just over 66% of them for 812 yards and five touchdowns to go with only a single interception. Now, it appears the Beavers have no intention of allowing themselves to be easily quantified, as the defense gave up 35 points last week against Arizona, but with a quarterback throwing like that, and the wonderfully named halfback Storm Woods keeping defenses honest, I am confident OSU will beat WSU, BYU, and Utah in their next three games, meaning they would face the Huskies at CenturyLink Field on October 27th with a 6-0 record. So much for an easy Washington win.
It might seem odd to place USC so high, especially above a Stanford team that recently defeated them, but I just think it’s foolish to sleep on the Trojans any longer. The talent that had them ranked #2 in the preseason polls hasn’t gone away, and now that the expectations are lowered and the team can go about their business in relative peace and quiet, I believe they may be more dangerous than they were at the beginning of the season. Certainly dangerous enough to destroy a very unimpressive Utah team.
Football continues to do a terrific job of making people like me that spend all year trying to make predictions look incredibly foolish, this time by taking a Huskies team many thought would have to lean on the offense and turning them into a team that is 2nd in the conference in defense but 11th in offense. Still, no matter how they have gotten there, the Huskies are 3-1 and ranked #23 in the nation. If on Saturday Washington manages to defeat Oregon on the road, it will be the defining moment of the Sarkisian era, and will likely result in a top-15 ranking to go along with a 4-1 record. Do I think that is likely? No, not really, but while a victory would surprise me, it would not shock me, and as pessimistic as this sounds, that is serious progress for a team that, for the last few years, has struggled to stay competitive against highly ranked opponents. Much more likely, at least in my eyes, is a win against USC, and by the time that game comes around, I may very well have switched UW and the Trojans around in these rankings, depending on this Saturday’s games.
What to make of the Cardinal. They are still talented, and they still have that USC win on their resume, but on Thursday, it sure looked like Stepfan Taylor and the offense were flat out shut down by Justin Wilcox and Co. Now, it was an incredibly close game, and, if you want to play the hypothetical game, one or two plays going a bit differently could have resulted in a Stanford win, but a loss is a loss, and this loss in particular exposed the serious shortcomings of Josh Nunes. That defense, which did a very sound job against the Huskies, will win Stanford games, but with a quarterback that was not able to step up when Washington dared him to throw, it’s tough to see Stanford winning the conference.
The Bruins are the type of team that is capable of losing to nearly anyone, but also capable of pulling off an upset of any team at any time. The offense is scary productive, and all it would take is an adequate performance from the defense to allow Brett Hundley and Johnathan Franklin to do what they do best: put up points.
7.) Arizona State
4-1, with every win by at least 10 points and the lone loss by 4 points on the road to Missouri. If the Sun Devils had started out this season with a little bit more hype, I’m sure they would be ranked, and ranked pretty highly. Still, Arizona State is not an easy win, and if I were USC or UCLA, I’d be looking over my shoulder all season long, because this team will compete for the Pac-12 South.
September 29, 2012; Tucson, AZ, USA; Arizona Wildcats quarterback Matt Scott (10) throws for a first down against the Oregon State Beavers in the fourth quarter at Arizona Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-US PRESSWIRE
Arizona is facing a stretch of games that is absolutely brutal. After losses to #3 Oregon and #18 Oregon State, the Wildcats have to play Stanford, then they have a bye, followed by Washington, USC, and UCLA. That is six straight games against ranked opponents. If Rich Rodriguez’s team can manage a few wins while running that ridiculous gauntlet, they deserve to be commended.
In my head, I continue to bundle Utah and California together as a pair of teams that had fairly high expectations and have completely disappointed. The Utes 37-7 loss to Arizona State does nothing to change my mind. Now, it’s three straight games against ranked opponents: #13 USC followed by road games against #25 UCLA and #14 Oregon State. Looks like a 2-5 record is only three weeks away.
The Golden Bears have been bad, and that is the primary reason why they carry a 1-4 record into this week. But, I must say, I feel a little bad for Tedford, who is now battling for his job. Cal slipped up against Nevada, won against an FCS opponent, played Ohio State very close on the road, and now they have lost to USC and Arizona State, two good teams. The season is spiraling downward, but it’s a decline that doesn’t necessarily represent some sort of massive failure of leadership or of coaching, the Bears are just getting beat, mostly by pretty good teams. Still, it’s tough to see this team finishing with more than 3 or 4 wins, and that probably means a coaching change.
September 29, 2012; Berkeley, CA, USA; California Golden Bears defensive back Marc Anthony (2) walks off the field after the game at Memorial Stadium. Arizona State defeated Cal 27-17. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-US PRESSWIRE
After the win against Washington State, it appears that the Buffaloes are back to being pretty terrible following a 42-14 loss to UCLA. Maybe they can beat Utah to close the season, but if not, it appears Colorado may be destined for a 1-11 record.
12.) Washington State
To be honest, it feels wrong to rank WSU below Colorado. I understand that the Cougars lost, at home, to the Buffaloes, but when you look at these two teams, it is plain to see that Colorado is still the doormat of the conference while Washington State is capable of more. Hell, they have already doubled the win total of CU. I’m respecting the head to head for now, but by next week, if Colorado still looks listless while Washington State is making superior teams work hard for victories, these two will be switched around.