Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week 7

Randy Adam Romero/Staff
Cal managed 329 total offensive yards against USC, 16 more yards than the Trojans logged.

NORTH DIVISION

No. 1: Stanford (6-0, 4-0)

It’s always a nice compliment for a team to be known as a “second half team.” Stanford is something more than that. The Cardinal are second-half slayers. They eradicate, exterminate and extinguish any semblance of hope that the opposition has of putting on a second half comeback. Andrew Luck and friends have outscored their opponents an astonishing 161-26 in their first six second halves of the year this season and have turned relatively close games against Arizona, UCLA and Washington State into laughers. Stanford gets its first top-25 test of the season this year as Washington comes to town for its homecoming weekend.

— Gabriel Baumgaertner

No. 2: Oregon (5-1, 3-0)

Oh, this team is fast. The Ducks’ backups (quarterback Bryan Bennett and running back Kenjon Barner) are almost as entertaining as Chip Kelly’s addressing of the Ducks’ rowdy students (YouTube search terms: “Chip Kelly Shut Up”). Oregon has clearly hit its offensive stride. If the Ducks’ rapid-fire play keeps up then expect them to steamroll the competition — starting in Colorado this Saturday — until they take on Stanford on Nov. 12.

— Gabriel Baumgaertner

No. 3: Washington (5-1, 3-0)

Keith Price leads the Pac-12 with 21 passing touchdowns. This is particularly impressive since the Pac-12 also houses Andrew Luck, Matt Barkley and Nick Foles, all of whom are in their third seasons as starters. More stunning is the sheer diversity of his targets. No Huskies’ receiver has enough yards to rank in the Pac-12’s top 15. Senior Devin Aguilar, who has yet to have a double-digit reception game in his career, has more yards than any other Washington wideout — he is averaging 55 per game. Senior Jermaine Kearse, the conference’s fourth-best receiver in 2010, has six touchdowns and 23 receptions; junior James Johnson has 22 catches, and Aguilar follows with 21.

The remaining schedule includes Stanford, Oregon and USC, two of which are on the road. Still, Price has his team in line for about eight wins in his first year starting, which would be the Huskies’ best regular-season mark in a decade. Washington made bowls in every season of Rick Neuheisel’s 1999-2002 tenure, winning the Rose Bowl in 2000.

— Jack Wang

No. 4: Washington State (3-3, 1-2)

Jeff Tuel is back for the Cougars, not that it mattered much against the Cardinal. Stanford routed Washington State, 44-14, on Saturday in Pullman. Tuel, who was playing in his first action since fracturing his left clavicle in the season opener, was a bit rusty, completing 17 of 30 passes for 145 yards. Then again, he didn’t throw a pick. Marshall Lobbestael, who had been starting in Tuel’s place, was under center for the squad’s final drive of the game. He attempted nine passes, completing seven for 64 yards. No matter the quarterback, the Cougars should get a win on Saturday when Oregon State comes to town.

— Jonathan Kuperberg

No. 5: Cal (3-3, 0-3)

The Bears are clearly a very mediocre team, capable of beating up on bad ones and being beaten up by good ones. Against a relatively average USC squad last Thursday, the defense made one of its strongest showings of the season. It allowed 30 points, but that number was more the fault of a bumbling Cal offense that too often turned the ball over in its own territory. Starting with Utah this Saturday, the Bears could very easily go on a four-game tear; the season then ends with tilts at Stanford and ASU, which should cap the season win total at seven. One ominous sign for Cal: linebacker Mychal Kendricks, tied with two others for the Pac-12 lead in tackles (50), had his arm in a sling and sat out Sunday’s practice. After practice on Tuesday, head coach Jeff Tedford did not disclose Kendrick’s status or even say whether or not he practiced.

— Jack Wang

No. 6: Oregon State (1-5, 1-2)

The Beavers’ one-game winning streak was snapped on Saturday when BYU traveled to Corvallis and defeated Oregon State, 38-28. Again, it was a case of too many turnovers. Sean Mannion threw two picks and now has nine on the season. (For comparison purposes, Zach Maynard only has six.) The Beavers also fumbled twice, adding to their Pac-12 leading turnover total, which is now at 16. Oregon State’s defense also couldn’t stop the Cougars’ ground attack, as they rushed for 282 yards. And that was the easy half of the Beavers’ schedule. Three of their remaining six games are against ranked teams.

— Jonathan Kuperberg

SOUTH DIVISION

No. 1: Arizona State (5-2, 3-1)

The Sun Devils learned the hard way that even Oregon’s backups are fast. Despite not having to deal with LaMichael James at all and Darron Thomas for some of the game, the Sun Devils were still unable to contain the high-flying Ducks’ offense. It would have helped if Vontaze Burfict and company didn’t rack up so many personal foul penalties (Arizona State finished with 95 penalty yards as a unit including a costly roughing the passer call on third down), but maybe all the costly injuries that the defense has endured is beginning to take a toll. Quarterback Brock Osweiler looks good, but he still forced a few too many throws and had two costly interceptions. The Sun Devils still should be able to hold on to the South Division barring any major upset, though.

— Gabriel Baumgaertner

No. 2: USC (5-1, 3-1)

Just like it did last year, USC shook off some poor play by playing Cal, a team that seems to give it confidence and solve its problems. After breaking a two game losing streak by putting up 42 first half points last year, the Trojans used Zach Maynard’s wildly telegraphed passes and ineffective ground game to bolster their confidence. A massively struggling defense entering last Thursday’s tilt against the Bears, USC racked up five turnovers after only creating five takeaways all season prior to Thursday’s game. Now, the Trojans need to ride that momentum into South Bend for its annual, fiery tilt against Notre Dame. Except quarterback Tommy Rees probably won’t make things quite as easy as Maynard did for the USC defense.

— Gabriel Baumgaertner

No. 3: Utah (3-3, 0-3)

The Utes are not as strong as they have been in recent years, and 2011 is a relative rebuilding year for the BCS buster. The loss of starting quarterback Jordan Wynn is a major blow, but Butte College transfer Jon Hays started his second game and got his first win at Pittsburgh. John White IV rushed for 171 yards, and the insipid offense — 12th in the conference — must lean on him moving forward. The Utah defense, ranked second in the Pac-12, stuffed Panthers tailback Ray Graham to a season-low 46 yards. It was only Graham’s third single-digit effort this season. All six games left on the schedule are winnable on paper, so head coach Kyle Wittingham should earn his seventh bowl in Salt Lake City.

— Jack Wang

No. 4: UCLA (3-3, 2-1)

The Bruins haven’t lost since Oct. 1. That’s also because they have only played one game since then, their 28-25 home victory over Washington State on Oct. 8. It was a big win for UCLA, giving it a decent shot at a bowl berth and a theoretical chance at the Pac-12 South title. After their bye week, the Bruins will travel to Tucson to face Arizona on Thursday night in a game ESPN is wishing it didn’t schedule. The Wildcats are actually a more underachieving squad than UCLA. The Bruins should win, though the fact that it’s a week night on national TV might make the score closer than one would expect.

— Jonathan Kuperberg

No. 5: Colorado (1-6, 0-3)

The Buffaloes have lost four in a row, and it doesn’t look like the streak will end any time soon. They were slaughtered in back-to-back games against Stanford and Washington, the latter a 52-24 decision. Colorado faces Oregon on Saturday, followed by Arizona State and USC — all sure-fire losses. The Buffaloes, however, will be the favorites at home against Arizona, but that’s not until Nov. 12. Colorado had a lot of trouble slowing down the Huskies’ offense, which gained 562 total yards. On the bright side, the Buffs actually played Washington even in the second half and committed zero turnovers.

— Jonathan Kuperberg

No. 6: Arizona (1-5, 0-4)

The Wildcats entered their bye week without a coach after the firing of Mike Stoops. It exits with quarterback Nick Foles — and not much else. Arizona is a team with the nation’s fifth-worst total defense and second-worst rushing offense. It is a team without much hope. The schedule’s relatively soft back end — the season finale is a home tilt against Louisiana-Lafayette — promises two or three more wins, max.

— Jack Wang