Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week 11

Michael Gethers/File
Marvin Jones and the Bears are ranked fifth in this week's Pac-12 Power Rankings after an eventful weekend for the conference.

No. 1: Oregon (9-1, 7-0)

Chip Kelly is the best coach in college football and a loss to open the season will likely derail a team that should compete for the national championship. Donning black helmets and black socks in the fashion of Darth Vader, the Ducks showed off their speed, discipline and creativity in the finest ways on Saturday, outplaying Stanford for the entire 60 minutes.

Quarterback Darron Thomas turned in perhaps his most effective performance of the season, executing screen passes to perfection and keeping a physical Stanford defense off kilter the entire game. The Ducks are a deserving national title candidate, but some ambitious early scheduling may very well keep them out of New Orleans.

— Gabriel Baumgaertner

No. 2: Stanford (9-1, 7-1)

After nine games where they could seemingly do no wrong, the Cardinal showed a rather vulnerable side in an unimpressive, turnover-laden home performance against the surging Oregon Ducks. Highlighted by the absence of big-play threat Chris Owusu, Stanford looked every bit as ailing as it did undisciplined, surrendering a head-spinning five turnovers and making the types of mistakes that it has avoided all season.

Wunderkind Andrew Luck was finally rendered mortal after being pressured almost the entire game by a tenacious Oregon defensive line, and his options were clearly limited without Owusu. Stanford was outplayed the entire game on its home turf and will likely be hellbent on revenge. It will be up to its top rival to contain them.

— Gabriel Baumgaertner

No. 3: USC (8-2, 5-2)

Remember that other big conference matchup on Saturday? Stanford-Oregon received all the publicity, but the battle for third place in the Pac-12 was up for grabs in Los Angeles between Washington and USC. Maybe it was a good thing the game got little attention. The Trojans wiped out the Huskies, 40-17, in a game that was over before halftime. Matt Barkley was 18-for-28 passing, while running back Curtis McNeal rushed for 148 yards.

USC has emerged has the clear best team in the south division, though sanctions keep the squad out of the conference championship game and postseason. Season ending wins over No. 4 Oregon and rival UCLA would ease the pain, though.

— Jonathan Kuperberg

No. 4: Washington (6-4, 4-3)

The Huskies have yet to hold an opponent to single-digit scoring this season. Against bad or middling teams, their offense was still explosive enough to secure wins. But their losing scores to Nebraska, Stanford, Oregon and USC — the only ranked teams Washington has faced — read like a lottery ticket: 51-38, 65-21, 34-17, 40-17.

Dynamic quarterback Keith Price is banged up, which makes upcoming games against bottom-dwelling Oregon State and Washington State a touch more dangerous. He left the loss to USC with a knee injury, and might not be ready to start against the Beavers this Saturday.

— Jack Wang

No. 5: Cal (6-4, 3-4)

Through six games, the Bears were .500, three wins shy of becoming bowl eligible. With its last two games on the road at then-division leaders Stanford and Arizona State, Cal needed to win three of its next four against more middle-of-the-road squads. And that’s just what the team did. The Bears fell at UCLA but won the three home games in that span to return to the postseason after a one-year drought.

Cal has been leaning on the run as of late. Running back Isi Sofele gained 190 yards on Saturday in the squad’s 23-6 victory over Oregon State. Since Cardinal and Sun Devils are not as invincible as they were at the midpoint of the season, perhaps the Bears — with their speed and athleticism — a shot at pulling off an upset.

— Jonathan Kuperberg

No. 6: Utah (6-4, 3-4)

Since their Oct. 22 loss to Cal, the Utes have quietly won three in a row. Sure those games were against Oregon State, Arizona and UCLA, but Utah won all three by at least 13 points and is now bowl eligible. In fact, despite the squad’s 0-4 start to conference season, it could end up with one of the more prestigious Pac-12 bowls, since it ends the regular season with Washington State and Colorado.

Against UCLA on Saturday, quarterback Jon Hays was an anemic 5-for-13 passing for 67 yards, but running back John White IV carried the load with 167 rushing yards and two touchdowns. The Utes picked off Bruins quarterback Kevin Prince twice en route to the 31-6 victory.

— Jonathan Kuperberg

No. 7: UCLA (5-5, 4-3)

The Bruins put in a maximum effort in their bid to not make the Pac-12 Championship Game by losing by 25 points to Utah in snowy Salt Lake City. The loss is inconsequential since Rick Neuheisel will have a job anyway. Heck, he might even coach in the inaugural conference championship game. Barf.

— Gabriel Baumgaertner

No. 8: Arizona State (6-4, 4-3)

Last Saturday’s loss to Washington State was less “who woulda thunk?” and more “you cannot be serious.” In naturally undisciplined and inconsistent fashion, the Sun Devils found a way to lose to the Cougars and a freshman quarterback named Connor Halliday. And in the span of a quick couple of weeks, coach Dennis Erickson’s squad has gone from the conference’s most exciting team to its biggest flop.

The Pac-12 South has about as much of a chance in the Pac-12 Championship Game as the Confederates in the Battle of Antietam.

— Gabriel Baumgaertner

No. 9: Washington State (4-6, 2-5)

Washington State knocked off Arizona State, but one 37-27 upset victory does not make up for the six straight consecutive losses preceding it. That said, freshman Connor Halliday deserves an ovation for tossing 494 yards — the Pac-12’s highest mark this season — and four touchdowns on a snowy Saturday night. His debut in relief of senior Marshall Lobbestael — who coaches had planned on reinserting into the game — secured the Cougars their fourth win of the season.

Four wins, remarkably, already doubles the highest total in any of coach Paul Wulff’s previous three seasons; one more would match his cumulative win count in Pullman.

— Jack Wang

No. 10: Oregon State (2-8, 2-5)

Even if Oregon State wins out, it will finish with its worst season since 1997. But the rest of schedule consists of Washington and Oregon, which almost certainly damns the Beavers to two wins.

Mike Riley’s worst-ever season in Corvallis opened with an ignominious loss to Sacramento State, a mediocre FCS squad, and has not improved significantly since. A dominant win over Washington State is distant in the rearview after three straight double-digit losses.

— Jack Wang

No. 11: Colorado (2-9, 1-6)

The Buffaloes got their signature second win of the season on Saturday, defeating Arizona 48-29. Colorado running back Rodney Stewart rushed for 181 yards and three touchdowns, and the squad avoided a winless season at Folsom Field.

— Jonathan Kuperberg

No. 12: Arizona (2-8, 1-7)

Colorado was the worst team in the conference. Then it beat the Wildcats.

The Buffaloes picked off Nick Foles three times, sacked him twice, and hit him for a lost fumble. Against a banged up defensive line, tailback Rodney Stewart ran for 181 yards and punched in three touchdowns, upping his season total to four. He also threw a 14-yard touchdown pass.

Dating to last November, Arizona has beaten one FBS team in 14 tries — a 48-12 win over UCLA that came immediately after the firing of former coach Mike Stoops.

— Jack Wang