Wednesday, 9 October 2013

The Pac-12 Power Rankings Week Six

1. Oregon (Overall: 5-0, Conference: 2-0, Last Week: 1)
It was another easy win for Oregon although they did show some fleeting flaws in terms of their run defense and ability to stop deep passes against game breaking wide receivers. The Ducks lost their two most recognizable non-quarterbacks on offense in De'Anthony Thomas and Colt Lyerla (who is gone for good) and still rolled up 57 points and over 700 yards on the road. No word yet if Thomas will be able to return this Saturday but Oregon would sure love to have him as their strength of schedule finally ratchets up against Washington.

2. Stanford (5-0, 3-0, LW: 3)
The good development for Stanford is that their front seven on defense is as dominant as ever and Ty Montgomery has finally evolved into the game breaker they have been waiting for over the past three years. The bad news is that Stanford's killer instinct is missing on offense. The Cardinal allegedly have the most physical offensive line in college football and an elite power running game that should be able to string together first downs and chew clock at the end of games. However, the Cardinal went three and out on four of its final five possessions and gave Washington numerous chances to steal the game.

3. UCLA (4-0, 1-0, LW: 2)
Stanford wasn't the only top contender that looked poor in victory. Despite reeling in six interceptions the Bruins had to fight all the way to the end with Utah and nearly blew a 10 point lead with under three minutes to go. The encouraging part of this game for Bruins fans is that UCLA has proven time and again that they can make perfect halftime adjustments defensively and their secondary that was thought to be a weakness was at least for one night, their greatest strength. There are two things about the Bruins' performance in this game and frankly from all season that would scar the heck out of me if I were a Bruin supporter. First is that UCLA's offensive line is a sieve and looked dazed and confused against every blitz package that Utah sent at them and they are going to get even worse as right tackle Torian White suffered a season ending injury on Thursday night. The second is that despite how great I would feel about the Bruins second half defense, they have been dreadful in first halves and if they don't begin to start better they will eventually dig an early hole that is too deep to emerge from.

4. Washington (4-1, 1-1, LW: 4)
Washington outplayed Stanford on both offense and defense and may well be the better team in the long run. Unfortunately, that is a hypothetical for now and these rankings only deal with what has happened and the bottom line is that although Washington really didn't deserve to lose, they did. As good as the Huskies were on Saturday their problems with dumb penalties continues to kill them as they had three drives derailed by blocking infractions in the first half alone. The Huskies also had their kick coverage units exposed as they gave up a 99 yard kickoff return touchdown as well as an ill advised pop up kick at the end of the first half that set up a quick touchdown and another return of 68 yards that set up Stanford's winning touchdown. Having your kick coverage exposed a week before playing De'Anthony Thomas, Bralon Addison, and Oregon's lights out return units is less than ideal.

5. Oregon State (4-1, 2-0, LW: 6)
Oregon State had a well timed bye week that hopefully allowed them to get at least a little healthier. Outside of Cal, the Beavers have suffered the most attrition in the conference particularly on defense and the offensive line. Even if the Beavers don't start getting guys healthy they should come out of the bye week with more depth. During game weeks your third stringers and young guys are stuck on the scout team and spend all their time portraying an opponent's playbook rather than getting in quality reps in your system. The Beavers have had five straight weeks of games but last week they finally had a week without any game prep where they were able to give their third and fourth stringers consistent practice reps working with the Oregon State playbook. Look for Oregon State to be able to start playing with a full deck starting this Saturday.

6. Arizona State (3-2, 1-1, LW: 5)
The Sun Devils' defense looked better against Notre Dame but their offense made far too many mistakes for it to matter. The unfortunate thing for Arizona State is that they are clearly very talented and you can see them make a number of tremendous plays in every game but they are still so mistake prone it just crushes them. We have a big enough sample size at this point to suggest that when the Sun Devils face good teams on national television and the pressure rises, they wilt in the face of it. Make no mistake, the Sun Devils are still a very good team but I have seen nothing this year to suggest that they can hang with the premier teams in this conference.

7. Utah (3-2, 0-2, LW: 7)
Some had reservations about the how good Utah's defense really was based on the fact that all their best performances had been against either over matched opponents like Weber State or one dimensional teams like BYU. Against UCLA, the Utes proved their defense really is that good as they totally shut down a balanced and talent rich offense. Unfortunately the Utes' defensive effort was wasted by six turnovers including one at the end of the game when Utah was driving to tie and force overtime. Utah needs to avoid allowing frustration to set in as they had every opportunity to beat both Oregon State and UCLA but let both slip through their hands.

8. Washington State (4-2, 2-1, LW: 9)
October 27, 2007. That was the last time prior to this weekend that Washington State beat a conference opponent by 20 or more points. Yes Cal is a terrible team but given how this Cougar program was left for dead last year, the fact that they are blowing out anyone is noteworthy. QB Connor Halliday played valiantly through pain and was dare I say, efficient with the football. After getting consistently blown off the ball by Stanford, Washington State's defensive line returned in a big way against the Bears. If Halliday can remain mistake free and if the Cougars can be effective up front then they will get those two wins they need to qualify for a bowl game.

9. Arizona (3-1, 0-1, LW: 8)
Arizona had a bye week and hopefully spent the extra time surgically replacing B.J. Denker's arm with a different one that can actually throw.

10. USC (3-2, 0-2, LW: 10)
USC has been shrouded in mystery since last week after Lane Kiffin was fired but on Thursday night we'll finally see how the Trojans players will respond to the removal of their coach. The big question is whether the USC player's lack of confidence and poor body language was solely tied to Kiffin or if they have totally checked out on this season regardless of their coach. Also, Kiffin has been USC's play caller on offense since 2010 so how will USC's offense operate under new leadership? Finally, will any fans show up to the Coliseum on Thursday night? Does an equation of fair weather fan base + midweek game + boring opponent + wasted season = an empty stadium?

11. Colorado (2-2, 0-2, LW: 11)
You have to admire Colorado's effort and throwing everything they had at Oregon from an onside kick to a WR pass for a touchdown but the discrepancy in talent between Colorado and the rest of the conference was never more evident than it was on Saturday. One thing Buff fans should find encouraging is that the CU players never hung their heads. They didn't give an indication that they were ready to quit and refused to display hopeless body language on the field and the sideline. Those little things were big problems for the Buffs last year and it led to respectable deficits snow balling into laughers. Colorado doesn't have the roster to compete with good teams but their attitude in the face of adversity has gotten so much better and that is a very encouraging sign going forward.

12. California (1-4, 0-2, LW: 12)
Cal's roster has plunged into abject sadness. The roster attrition that the Bears have suffered has reached an absurd territory and it has led to a beaten down team with no depth, no confidence, and no hope. It's hard to find a game Cal can win anywhere on their schedule given the current state of their roster.

The Award Tracker:

Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year:
1. QB Marcus Mariota, So., Oregon (LW: 1)
Mariota was the best player on the field once again as he accounted for 398 yards and seven touchdowns in the Ducks blowout win. Mariota's pass efficiency is starting to come around as well as he looked very sharp and threw several perfectly placed passes deep down field. Mariota still has not accounted for a turnover this season.

2. WR Brandin Cooks, Jr., Oregon State (LW: 2)
Even after going on a bye week and giving the rest of the pack a chance to catch up Cooks is still peerless nationally in receptions, yards, and touchdowns.

3. RB Bishop Sankey, Jr., Washington (LW: NR)
Sankey has scored a touchdown in every game this year and is fourth nationally in rushing yards at 732. The real reason he is on the list now is because of how much Washington struggled offensively when he wasn't gaining yards on early downs. Sankey had a productive game against the stout Stanford defense with 125 yards but there were extended breaks in the game when Stanford was able to load the box and stop him. When Washington did not have Sankey's reliable production to rest on they were unable to move the ball consistently.

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

WR Paul Richardson, Jr., Colorado

QB Brett Hundley, So., UCLA

QB Keith Price, Sr., Washington

RB Ka'Deem Carey, Arizona

Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year:
1. LB Anthony Barr, Sr., UCLA (LW: 1)

Barr had another monster game against Utah recording three tackles for loss and two sacks. UCLA had both of its bye weeks early and has thus played one fewer game than everyone else yet Barr leads the conference in tackles for loss and forced fumbles.

2. DE Scott Crichton, Jr., Oregon State (LW: 2)
Barr actually co-leads the Pac-12 in TFLs as Crichton also has eight tackles for loss. Crichton started slow but he has been on a major hot streak recently. Hopefully a bye week will not slow down his production.

3. LB Addison Gillam, Fr., Colorado (LW: NR)
Gillam's productivity is impossible to ignore and he can no longer be confined to the freshman section. Gillam had a career day against the great Ducks offense recording 15 tackles (all listed as solo) with two tackles for loss and a sack. Gillam leads the Pac-12 in tackles per game at 12.25. For references sake, UCLA's Eric Kendricks is second at 9.75. Defensive linemen and pass rushers will always be the leaders in tackles for loss but Gillam, a middle linebacker, is only two off the pace with six tackles for loss in only four games played.

Honorable Mentions:
S Tra'Mayne Bondurant, Jr., Arizona

DT Leonard Williams, So., USC

LB Shayne Skov, Sr., Stanford

DE Josh Shirley, Jr., Washington

DE Trevor Reilly, Sr., Utah

Pac-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year:
1. QB Jared Goff, California (LW: 1)
Goff's job security was sketchy after being pulled against Oregon but he bounced back against Washington State and was able to play the entire game. Goff's numbers definitely inflate his value as he is third national passing yards but probably is not one of the six best quarterbacks in the Pac-12. That being said, you can search for flaws in his game and find plenty but you will not find another offensive freshman playing a bigger role or making a larger impact this season.
2. RB Justin Davis, USC (LW: 2)
We'll have to see how Davis fits into the game plan and how many carries he will get with a new brain trust running the USC offense but he has earned a chance to be a main feature in the USC attack.

3. RB Michael Adkins, Colorado (LW: 3)
Colorado's game plan against Oregon was to run with power behind Christian Powell and eventually they fell so far behind they had to adandon the run game which left Adkins with no chance to make an impact. Still, he has a lot of ability and he should get many touches against a weak Arizona State run defense this Saturday.
Honorable Mentions:
RB Paul Perkins, UCLA

RB Thomas Tyner, Oregon

RB Khalfani Muhammad, California

WR Kenny Lawlor, California

Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year:
1. LB Addison Gilliam, Colorado (LW: 1)
See defensive player of the year section.

2. LB Myles Jack, UCLA (LW: 3)
Jack had his best game yet against Utah and really demonstrated his abilities in pass coverage. Jack was credited with two pass breakups (although his air tight coverage prevented plenty more) and he caught his first career interception, the one that sealed the game late for the Bruins.

3. LB Scooby Wright, Arizona (LW: 2)
We didn't get a chance to see him this week but we'll have a much more concrete opinion of him this time next week after we see him take on the challenge of USC's talented running backs.

Honorable Mentions:
DB Daquawn Brown, Washington State

DL Eddie Vanderdoes, UCLA

LB Hardy Nickerson, California

S Su'a Cravens, USC

Pac-12 Coach of the Year:
1. Jim Mora, UCLA (LW: 1)
He proved once again that his halftime defensive adjustments are second to none and you can tell that his players feed off his intense and hyper focused demeanor.

2. Steve Sarkisian, Washington (LW: 2)
Sarkisian has done a wonderful job with his team this year but he really needs to tone it down a little bit. Sarkisian has always been a whiner and excuse maker but he hit a new low this week. Sarkisian claimed despite obvious evidence to the contrary that the final play against Stanford should have been a completion and bitched about the replay officials saying he "doesn't get to sit in a booth and play video game football to decide games." I have no problem with Sarkisian debating the result of the review but the way he did it made him look so petty and childish.

Sarkisian also claimed that Stanford was faking injuries to slow down Washington which was particularly funny coming from a guy with Tosh Lupoi on his staff (Lupoi if you don't know was caught telling his players to fake injuries while at Cal against Oregon in 2010). Stanford coach David Shaw absolutely firebombed Sarkisian for his comments this week and Sarkisian's refusal to respond or stand behind his remarks made him look very weak.

3. Mark Helfrich, Oregon (LW: 3)
Helfrich handled the Colt Lyerla fiasco about as well as he could have and avoided a major distraction that could have affected his team. I love the way Helfrich has carried himself on the sideline this year. It's hard to explain but sometimes you can look at a young new coach and decide he does or doesn't belong just by looking at how he acts while in command. Guys like Lane Kiffin and Mike Stoops always had the look of being either overwhelmed or out of place but Helfrich is one of those guys who just looks like he has command over the game and knows what he is doing.

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