Thursday, 24 October 2013

2013 Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week Eight

1. Oregon (Overall: 7-0, Conference: 4-0, Last Week: 1)
Oregon obliterated Washington State by a deceptively close margin of 62-38. It was deceptive because Washington State's first two scores came off uncharacteristic fumbles by Marcus Mariota and the last two came in garbage time against Oregon's scout team late in the 4th. After a few weeks of looking like a pass first team the Ducks got back to being a dominating ground attack as both Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner had career games. The Ducks have both a positive and negative outlook on the injury side. De'Anthony Thomas will return this Saturday after missing the last four games with an ankle injury but perhaps more importantly is the status of right tackle Jake Fisher. Fisher surprisingly missed the Wazzou game with an undisclosed injury and true freshman Cameron Hunt started in his place and really struggled. If Hunt has to play again we'll have to see if he can play better and rise to the challenge of UCLA's pass rush.

2. Stanford (6-1, 4-1, LW: 4)
Stanford rediscovered its identity against UCLA by establishing a great power running game and absolutely suffocating UCLA's offense with an unblockable front seven. The real test will be whether Stanford can maintain its identity and grind a game out on the road against Oregon State.

3. Oregon State (6-1, 4-0, LW: 3)
While the Ducks get all the attention, Oregon State has quietly combined with the Ducks to make the state of Oregon undefeated in conference play. The Beavers have righted the ship following a disastrous opening weekend loss to Eastern Washington and have done it with the nation's most productive passing game and an opportunistic (albeit leaky) defense. It was somewhat predictable that OSU would redefine its season against a weak schedule but in the coming weeks we will see if Oregon State is a good team after all. The Beavers first four conference opponents are a combined 12-16 but the next five are currently 26-8.

4. UCLA (5-1, 2-1, LW: 2)
UCLA's offensive line has totally fallen apart and that has put UCLA at risk of watching its entire season crumble. The Bruins have already been forced to insert true freshmen Alex Redmond and Scott Quessenberry due to injuries and may be forced to play a third freshman going forward. Left tackle Simon Goines went down against Stanford and is highly questionable to play against Oregon on Saturday. His replacement Conor McDermott as well as Redmond and Quessenberry played very poorly against Stanford. Frankly the Bruins were probably lucky just to get to 10 points. The Bruins' reshuffled line as well as an injury to productive running back Jordan James has removed UCLA's ability to run the ball as well as the play action pass which are both crucial to UCLA's game plan. If the Bruins can't raise their level of play up front, the Bruins could fall into a tailspin.

5. Arizona State (5-2, 3-1, LW: 7)
Every time you pronounce the Sun Devils overrated and locked into the middle tier they go out and score a big win and blow out a previously good team. The Sun Devils embarrassed Washington along both lines by out rushing them 305 to -5. Yes, that's -5 as in the Huskies failed to produce positive yardage on the ground. We know the Sun Devils offense is great but all year we had been expecting ASU's defensive line to come up big and were routinely left disappointed. The Devils' line finally showed up last week by corralling the now former Pac-12 leading rusher Bishop Sankey and putting relentless pressure on Keith Price.
6. Arizona (4-2, 2-1, LW: 10)
Maybe B.J. Denker's performance against USC was not a fluke. Denker was far from spectacular but he was mistake free and really efficient on third down. That made him the perfect compliment to the new leading rusher in the Pac-12, Ka'Deem Carey, who run over Utah to the tune of 236 yards. The Wildcats defense also got back on track by knocking around Utah's great QB Travis Wilson (more on him in a second) and holding both Bubba Poole and Kelvin York to under four yards per carry.
7. Utah (4-3, 1-3, LW: 5)
Utah played a sloppy game and suffered an unfortunate letdown against Arizona after its huge win over Stanford and now find themselves back in a desperate search for six wins. Greatly hampering that run for a bowl game is the health of QB Travis Wilson who sustained an injury to his right index finger. He tried to play through it against Arizona but went 3/9 with two interceptions before the Utah training staff put their foot down and made him sit on the bench. Wilson said he will "suck it up and play" against USC and that sounds great right now but that goes out the window if he can't throw.

8. Washington (4-3, 1-3, LW: 6)
Washington reopened a beautifully renovated stadium, added some new uniform combinations, and overhauled its offense. The Huskies tried as hard as they can to be the Ducks and for five weeks they fooled a lot of people into thinking they were on that level. You can dress up Steve Sarkisian and his Washington program to look like Oregon for awhile but eventually the facade wears off and the Huskies get exposed for being the same team they always have been. Washington put forth a pathetic effort against Arizona State and were humiliated in every phase of the game. The Huskies are now on a three game losing streak and with road games against Oregon State and UCLA still to come, the Huskies sure look like a lock to be the same mediocre seven win team they have been the last four years.

9. Washington State (4-4, 2-3, LW: 8)
Washington State's fight and all around effort against Oregon was impressive especially compared to their defeatist mentality against Stanford and their fourth quarter meltdown against Oregon State. That said, the Cougars were pushed around in the run game by a short handed Oregon offensive line but more importantly, the Cougars have reached a critical mass with their quarterback situation. Connor Halliday played poorly again by throwing four interceptions and although he passed for over 500 yards and four touchdowns, he needed an NCAA record 89 pass attemtps to do it. The Cougars were once a feel good story and looked to be well on track to qualify for a bowl game but they won't win another game if they don't get improved quarterback play and start making a stand on run defense.

10. USC (4-3, 1-2, LW: 9)
Forget USC's pitiful offensive performance against Notre Dame. If you watched a second of that horror show I'm sure you are as eager as I am to forget it ever happened. The far more important thing for USC right now is the team's health. The Trojans could only play 53 players against Notre Dame and this week pronounced cornerback Anthony Brown and tight ends Randall Telfer and Xavier grimble out for the Utah game. That puts USC at 50 total scholarship and walk-on players (the normal scholarship limit is 85) available this week and the status of top receivers Marqise Lee and Nelson Agholor is in doubt after both left the Notre Dame game in considerable pain. USC was able to get excited and play well for one game under Ed Orgeron but the weight of the team's injuries sure looks like it has crippled them.

11. Colorado (3-3, 0-3, LW: 11)
Okay so maybe Colorado's roster is not quite akin to an FCS team. The Buffs allowed the game to become interesting in the second quarter but, they ultimately pulled away with a sound 43-10 victory over Charleston Southern. Colorado still has no hope of competing with any team in the conference other than California (and dare I say, USC), but it was nice to see the young Buffs play well for a change.

12. California (1-6, 0-4, LW: 12)

The Award Tracker:

Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year:
1. QB Marcus Mariota, So., Oregon (LW: 1)
Marcus Mariota is no longer turnover free after fumbling twice against Washington State but he is still without an interception and is the only quarterback with at least five starts this season that has not been picked off. Mariota now has 28 total touchdowns and after struggling with his accuracy early in the season, he has completed better than 71% of his throws in consecutive games.

2. WR Brandin Cooks, Jr., Oregon State (LW: 3)
Yes Oregon State's secondary is an abomination but Cooks' performance of 13 catches for 232 yards and a touchdown was amazing regardless. The skill of Cal's DBs was obviously suffering but Cooks was being double covered on every play and still could not be contained.

3. RB Ka'Deem Carey, Jr., Arizona (LW: NR)
Bishop Sankey was leading the Pac-12 in rushing but his dud of a performance (13 carries for 22 yards) dropped him from third to eighth nationally while Carey exploded against a very good Utah defensive front and now leads the nation with 161 rushing yards per game. Carey has not been held under 128 yards this season and has scored at least once in every game except for one.

Honorable Mentions:
QB Sean Mannion, Jr., Oregon State

QB Brett Hundley, So., UCLA

RB Bishop Sankey, Jr., Washington

Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year:
1. LB Anthony Barr, Sr., UCLA (LW: 1)
Barr was great again against Stanford recording eight total tackles including one for a loss (a rather impressive one at that) and made numerous other stat-less plays by controlling the edge and preventing Stanford's ball carrier from breaking outside for big gains.

2. DE Scott Crichton, Jr., Oregon State (LW: 2)
After Washington State spent the entire game trying to avoid Crichton, the big defensive end returned to the stat sheet in a big way against Cal`s patchwork offensive line. Crichton made two tackles for a loss and also had a sack, a forced a fumble, and he knocked down a pass at the line of scrimmage. Crichton also had four solo tackles, giving him his best all around performance of the season to date.

3. LB Trent Murphy, Sr., Stanford (LW: 3)
Murphy sacked UCLA's Brett Hundley twice last week and has been on an amazing hot streak with three consecutive games of at least two tackles for loss and one sack.

Honorable Mentions:
LB Shayne Skov, Sr., Stanford

LB Addison Gillam, Fr., Colorado

CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Jr., Oregon

Pac-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year:
1. QB Jared Goff, California (LW: 1)
I've said all along that Goff would stay in this spot all year because he is the only freshman QB starting in the conference and therefore would put up bigger numbers and have a greater impact than any other offensive freshman in the conference. Goff might be knocked from his perch next week after committing three turnovers against Oregon State and being benched once again in favor of fellow freshman Zach Kline. Goff was benched in the Oregon game but was quickly reinstalled as the starting QB the following Monday. Goff wasn't so lucky this week as he shared reps equally with Kline and Sonny Dykes has remained mum on the identity of his starter against Washington this Saturday.
2. RB Thomas Tyner, Oregon (LW: NR)
Tyner came a yard short of his first career 100 yard game but gained his 99 yards on only seven carries. Tyner also impressed as a receiver with 42 yards on three receptions and his all around production now puts him way out in the lead among Pac-12 freshman in yards from scrimmage. Tyner has been an under the radar name in the Oregon offense thus far and may fade a bit with De'Anthony Thomas reentering the fray. You might be surprised to know Tyner has scored in five of the six games he has played and has very quietly entered the top 10 in the conference in rushing yards per game.

3. RB Michael Adkins, Colorado (LW: 3)
Tyner isn't the only impressive true freshman tailback who has really come on lately. Adkins made his first official start as a college player against Charleston Southern and blew away the Buccaneers with 137 yards and four touchdowns on only 13 carries.
Honorable Mentions:
RB Paul Perkins, UCLA

RB Justin Davis, USC - Davis was a mainstay in the race for this award but he was recently pronounced to be out for the year with an ankle injury. This will be Davis' last appearance in this section.

QB Sefo Liufau, Colorado
Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year:
1. LB Addison Gilliam, Colorado (LW: 1)
Gillam had a quiet game by his standards with only six tackles (although all of them were solo) and did not make any plays in the backfield. Despite a relatively pedestrian effort, his performance to date puts him well ahead of the pack. Gillam is still the leader in most defensive category among Pac-12 freshmen including tackles, tackles for loss, and sacks.

2. LB Myles Jack, UCLA (LW: 2)
Jack was a busy man against Stanford as the Cardinal tried to run away from Barr and toward Jack, the outside linebacker on the other side of the field. Jack was a bit of a mixed bag as he did produce nine tackles and made a number of nice plays but he took a few poor angles to the ball that hurt his team and looked frozen and unsure of what to do against play action passes.

3. LB Scooby Wright, Arizona (LW: 3)
Wright had another steady and unspectacular performance with six tackles. There is nothing flashy about the way he plays and you often don't notice him on the field but that is actually a good thing as his mistake-free style keeps him out of the spotlight.

Honorable Mentions:
DB Daquawn Brown, Washington State

DL Eddie Vanderdoes, UCLA

LB Torrodney Prevot, Oregon

Pac-12 Coach of the Year:
1. Jim Mora, UCLA (LW: 1)
UCLA may have suffered its first loss of the season but it was not Mora's fault. The Bruins could not move the ball at all but Mora's defensive game plan kept the Bruins in the game and at least gave them a chance late. Mora's body of work this year, particularly with his in game defensive adjustments have been great and you can not oversell how well he has rallied his team following Nick Pasquale's unfortunate death.

2. Mark Helfrich, Oregon (LW: 2)
Anyone who questioned Helfrich's harsh handling of the Colt Lyerla fiasco can probably put that to bed. In case you haven't heard, Lyerla was arrested earlier this week for possession of cocaine and interferring with a police officer. Helfrich was criticized by some for how he treated Lyerla but in retrospect its obvious that he handled it in the best way he could.

3. Mike Riley, Oregon State (LW: NR)
What is possibly left to say about the most underrated coach in America? Riley has had to patch together a team with no running backs and a shoddy defense and recover from a horrible loss to start the year but his team has rebounded under his guidance to six straight wins.

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