Friday, 18 October 2013

The Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week Seven

1. Oregon (Overall: 6-0, Conference: 3-0, Last Week: 1)
The narrative that Oregon was finally going to be tested against Washington faded fairly quickly. The Huskies had some success against the Ducks and Washington even outscored Oregon in the 3rd quarter but the Ducks controlled the game from start to finish. The Ducks were overwhelming on offense, defense, and special teams and Washington never started a second half possession with a chance to tie or take the lead.

2. UCLA (5-0, 2-0, LW: 3)
Bruins fans probably hoped UCLA would beat up on a woeful Cal team much more than they ultimately did but, UCLA ultimately won and covered the spread and that's all you can really ask for as a fan. QB Brett Hundley was stellar again and the Bruins defense completely stifled Cal but UCLA's run game has become a concern. For the second week in a row, UCLA wasn't able to get anything going with its running backs. The Bruins played their first full game without right tackle Torian White and during the game starting tailback Jordan James went down with an ankle injury. UCLA will need to cure what ails its run game quickly as the Bruins will need a balanced attack to win at Stanford.

3. Oregon State (5-1, 3-0, LW: 5)
The Beavers were in a heated duel with Washington State late into the 3rd quarter and were in danger of undoing all the work they have done to repair their image following their week one loss to Eastern Washington. The Beavers trailed the Cougars 24-17 late in the third but thanks to a complete meltdown by Washington State, the Beavers reeled off 35 unanswered points to make the final score look like a blowout. The fact that the Beavers are still unranked nationally is a crime. If Oregon State could have made one stop defensively against EWU, the Beavers would be 6-0 and ranked in the top 15. The Beavers still can't run the ball but they have become very opportunistic on defense with 15 takeaways in six games to support their dynamic passing offense.

4. Stanford (5-1, 3-1, LW: 2)
Stanford surprisingly lost its first game of the year on the road against Utah but it was probably a loss we should have seen coming. Stanford looked physically and emotionally drained following the Washington game and mid term exam week at Stanford certainly created a further lack of energy and focus. Stanford has had a very serious problem exposed over the last two weeks and it is one you would have never expected. Stanford's offensive line is highly overrated. For the second week in a row the Cardinal were unable to run the ball consistently and once again had to put the game on the shoulders of QB Kevin Hogan. The Cardinal did get 6.8 yards per carry from Tyler Gaffney and 4.9 yards per carry as a team but that was buoyed by a 43 yard Gaffney run. Without that 43 yard burst, Stanford ran for only 3.57 yards per carry while Gaffney's per carry average dropped from 6.8 to 4.3. It's pretty telling that on Stanford's final drive inside the red zone, the Cardinal elected to have Hogan pass on 3rd and two and 4th and two instead of relying on their bread and butter run game. Hogan is a fine QB, but he has proven throughout this season but particularly in the last two games that he does not belong with the Pac-12's elite

5. Utah (4-2, 1-2, LW: 7)
Utah was devastated to be 0-2 in Pac-12 play following near misses against Oregon State and UCLA but, the Utes finally got their first signature Pac-12 win by upsetting Stanford. Utah is far from a perfect team but their performance against Stanford can be replicated. If the Utes' defensive line can consistently win at the point of attack and if the Utah offense can run the ball effectively and generate a few big passing plays with the Travis Wilson - Dres Anderson connection, then Utah can beat just about anyone.
6. Washington (4-2, 1-2, LW: 4)
It's tempting to jump off the Husky bandwagon after Washington's dispiriting losses to Stanford and Oregon but that would be ill advised. Washington still has an elite defense that simply had no hope of slowing down the best offense in college football. The challenges for the Huskies will get easier from here on out and you will begin to see Washington's defense slowly rise back into the conversation of the nation's best. It's hard to be encouraged after being out gained 631-376 at home but the Huskies should be very happy with Bishop Sankey who ran for 167 yards and two touchdowns against one of college football's stingiest run defenses. If Keith Price can get his thumb healthy and get back on track as a passer, Washington will again be very dangerous.
7. Arizona State (4-2, 2-1, LW: 6)
The Sun Devils followed their formula to a tee last week as Arizona State played away from national television against a bad team and were able to look like world beaters. It's probably not right to belittle a 41 point victory in a conference game but we will see if Arizona State has really learned anything on Saturday against Washington.

8. Washington State (4-3, 2-2, LW: 8)
Poor Washington State. Just when it looks like the Cougars have turned the corner and are ready to pull off a big win over a very good Oregon State team, they absolutely fall apart in the fourth quarter. It is great that Washington State has a big physical secondary that is very good at supporting the run game and playing aggressively but this is now three consecutive weeks that the Cougars have been exposed in pass coverage. The biggest problem for Washington State and the reason they fell apart against the Beavers is simply because of turnovers. Washington State is tied for the conference lead with 16 takeaways on defense yet the Cougars actually have a negative turnover margin. This comes thanks to 20 turnovers on offense this season, six of which came in the second half against the Beavers.

9. USC (4-2, 1-2, LW: 10)
How much did the USC players despise Lane Kiffin? The Trojans had demonstrated no energy or enthusiasm and carried horrible body language all year long but in game one of the Ed Orgeron era, USC's players acted and played with the swagger of a Pete Carroll team. USC's defense is still struggling, particularly in the secondary but against Arizona last Thursday, the Trojans did play arguably their best game offensively since last year's Arizona game. USC has finally gotten with the times and started playing with increased tempo and it led to a spectacular night for much maligned QB Cody Kessler. It was particularly good to see USC stretching the field deep with the passing game, something Kiffin never trusted Kessler to do. With Marqise Lee on the mend, USC should get even more explosive on offense as the Trojans begin to resurrect their season.

10. Arizona (3-2, 1-1, LW: 9)
Arizona should be happy that they finally got a good passing performance out of B.J. Denker. Denker had been the worst QB in the conference heading into last week but went 28/44 for 363 yards and four touchdowns. It's worth noting that Denker's mechanics still looked very poor and a number of his best completions came on awkward jump passes while running for his life. Truthfully, Arizona's best offense came on horrendous blown assignments by the USC secondary so Denker's performance probably is not sustainable but, at least for one night Denker finally performed like a legitimate Pac-12 QB. On the downside for Arizona, it lost because its once dominant defense was gashed over and over again. Arizona was routinely beat up on defense particularly by USC's run game.

11. Colorado (2-3, 0-3, LW: 11)
Colorado has a few talented players like Paul Richardson, Addison Gillam, and Chidera Uzo-Diribe however, the majority of the Buffs roster is mostly akin to an FCS team and it has shown through three weeks of conference play,

12. California (1-5, 0-3, LW: 12)
At least the Bears finally have a second team with a losing record to join them in the cellar. The Cal at Colorado pillow fight on November 16th will be a sight to behold and will likely feature two teams with win-less conference records.

The Award Tracker:

Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year:
1. QB Marcus Mariota, So., Oregon (LW: 1)
By the raw numbers, Mariota did not have his most productive game against Washington but he did have his best performance of his young career. Mariota completed 24/31 passes (three of his incompletions were drops, one of which would have gone for a 41 yard touchdown). Mariota's efficiency and explosiveness accounted for 454 yards and four touchdowns against Washington's very good defense. He has now accounted for 25 total touchdowns (an average of just over four per game) and no turnovers this season.

2. RB Bishop Sankey, Jr., Washington (LW: 3)It
It is rare for Oregon to take the field and not have the best running back in the game but that was the case last Saturday. Sankey reeled off touchdown runs of 60 and 25 yards against Oregon's vaunted run defense and was one of the few Huskies who looked like they belonged on the field with the Ducks. Sankey increased his national lead to 149.83 rushing yards per game.

3. WR Brandin Cooks, Jr., Oregon State (LW: 2)
In case there was any doubt left, Cooks went out and further proved himself to be the nation's best wide receiver after he torched Washington State's secondary. Cooks finished with 11 catches for 137 yards and two touchdowns and also scored his first rushing touchdown of the season. Cooks' 63 receptions, 944 yards, and 11 touchdowns are all tops in college football. Almost half of Cooks' receptions (36 out of 63) have gone for at least 15 yards, making him by far the most productive deep threat in the country.

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

WR Paul Richardson, Jr., Colorado

QB Brett Hundley, So., UCLA

RB Ka'Deem Carey, Jr., Arizona

QB Travis Wilson, So., Utah

Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year:
1. LB Anthony Barr, Sr., UCLA (LW: 1)
While most successful teams in the Pac-12 and the nation at large win with offense, the Bruins are winning big on the defensive side of the ball. UCLA's dynamic offense smothering machine is led by Barr, the nation's best defensive player. Barr recorded another sack and two tackles for loss against the Bears and is now the sole leader in the Pac-12 with 10 TFLs.

2. DE Scott Crichton, Jr., Oregon State (LW: 2)
Crichton had to fight through double and triple teams all night against Washington State and only recorded two assisted tackles as a result. His lack of stats against the Cougars are far more indicative of how great he is and the respect other teams have to show him as opposed to declining effectiveness.

3. LB Trent Murphy, Sr., Stanford (LW: NR)
Stanford struggled as a whole against Utah but you can't say that about Murphy who matched Barr with two TFLs and a sack. Murphy has more sacks on the season than Barr and is just off the TFL pace with eight. In addition to stopping plays in the backfield, Murphy has done a tremendous job this season of setting the edge of Stanford's defense and funneling plays toward the middle of the field for his teammates to clean up.

Honorable Mentions:
DT Leonard Williams, So., USC

LB Shayne Skov, Sr., Stanford

LB Addison Gillam, Fr., Colorado

DE Trevor Reilly, Sr., Utah

CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Jr., Oregon

Pac-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year:
1. QB Jared Goff, California (LW: 1)
It wasn't pretty for Goff last week as UCLA held him to 5 yards per completion and no touchdowns. As always though, being second in the conference in passing yards means he is leaving a greater impact on this season than any other offensive freshman can hope to.
2. RB Justin Davis, USC (LW: 2)
Davis had a quiet week with only nine carries but he did score a touchdown and is now 10th in the Pac-12 in rushing yards per game.

3. RB Michael Adkins, Colorado (LW: 3)
Adkins was entrusted with 16 carries against the Sun Devils but only managed 62 yards and no touchdowns. Regardless, an increased workload is an encouraging sign of greater production in the future.
Honorable Mentions:
RB Paul Perkins, UCLA

RB Thomas Tyner, Oregon

Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year:
1. LB Addison Gilliam, Colorado (LW: 1)
Gillam is still the Pac-12 leader in tackles per game but he had his worst game as a college athlete against ASU recording only four tackles. Gillam still has the most impressive body of work among all Pac-12 defensive freshman but there is another defender in the Pac-12 South who is closing faster with each passing week.

2. LB Myles Jack, UCLA (LW: 2)
While Gillam struggled, Jack had his best game yet as he tallied his first double-digit tackle game with 12. The stats won't prove it but Jack was great in pass coverage too as California was unable to use the middle of the field and throw around jack to its tight ends, running backs, and slot receivers.

3. LB Scooby Wright, Arizona (LW: 3)
Arizona really struggled against USC particularly against the run and Wright was no exception. That being said, Wright did have another decent game on the score sheet with six tackles and a pass break up.

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)

2. Mark Helfrich, Oregon (LW: 3)

3. Steve Sarkisian, Washington (LW: 2)

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