Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week 12

Rashad Sisemore/Staff
C.J. Anderson and Cal are gunning for a win against Arizona State, while Stanford is grasping for a BCS bowl bid.

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

Voters must not watch Pac-12 games. That’s the only explanation for the Ducks falling behind Stanford in the latest AP and BCS rankings.

Oregon has two losses to the Cardinal’s one, but the first came against LSU, the best team in the country, and the second against a vastly improved USC squad. The Ducks annihilated Stanford, their 53-30 win effectively killing the Card’s national title hopes. A week later, they fought off a 17-point, third-quarter deficit before a missed field goal sealed a Trojan victory.

Starting tailback LaMichael James doesn’t have Heisman hype this season, but he does have Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas backing him up. Each of the three gains more yards per carry than every other back in the conference. With that sort of attack, Oregon should still roll over Oregon State for a spot in the Pac-12 Championship and eventually the Rose Bowl.

— Jack Wang

No. 2: Stanford (10-1, 8-1)

It wasn’t pretty but Stanford retained the Axe and after some crazy losses a chance at the BCS. The Cardinal were able to rocket back up the BCS standings after a bad weekend for teams that started with the letter “O”. Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Oregon all lost close games and now the Fiesta Bowl looks like a far more realistic destination for a team that should probably play in a BCS game.

The Cardinal get a tough Notre Dame squad, not a guaranteed win by any stretch especially with Stanford’s recently limited offense.

— Gabriel Baumgaertner

No. 3: USC (9-2, 6-2)

Oh, what a spoiler this group turned out to be. While the Trojans almost blew a 24-point second half lead against Oregon on Saturday, they held on and proved that they are in fact back at the top of the Pac-12 food chain. Matt Barkley has flourished into a tremendous pocket passer and it looks like Curtis McNeal is emerging as a very reliable every-down back. We have mentioned the prowess of Robert Woods and Marqise Lee several times over, but the two young receivers are quickly becoming perhaps the ultimate receiving duo in the conference.

USC is back and everybody in the conference should be frightened.

— Gabriel Baumgaertner

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

An immense gap separates the Pac-12’s top three from the bottom nine. The rest of the league’s ineptitude has helped Cal move up as much as the team’s own play on the field.

Nevertheless, the play has been on an upward trajectory over the past month. After losing at UCLA, the Bears easily dispatched Washington State and Oregon State back in AT&T Park, rushing for over 290 yards in both games. In their narrow Big Game loss, quarterback Zach Maynard seized the offense, throwing for 280 yards and two touchdowns. He also cracked nine yards per attempt for the first time this season; his season average is 7.4.

Jeff Tedford has a tough a Friday road game at Arizona State; a win there could get the Bears into the Holiday Bowl.

— Jack Wang

No. 5: Washington (6-5, 4-4)

Going into its Oct. 22 matchup with Stanford, Washington was 5-1, undefeated in conference play and ranked No. 22 in the country. A lot has changed in one month.

The Huskies have now lost four out of their last five games, beginning with a loss to the Cardinal. Sure, three of the losses were to ranked teams, but Washington’s most recent defeat — a 38-21 loss at Oregon State this past Saturday — is inexcusable. In his first career start, quarterback Nick Montana was ineffective, passing for just 79 yards and throwing an interception, though he did have two touchdowns. Chris Polk was a bring spot, rushing for 109 yards, but the Huskies’ defense could not stop the Beavers’ aerial attack.

— Jonathan Kuperberg

No. 6: UCLA (6-5, 5-3)

The Bruins get some credit for winning when they need to win. While Arizona State tries tirelessly to give away its spot in the Pac-12 Championship, UCLA has taken three of its past four games.

With a one-game conference lead over both Utah and the Sun Devils, Rick Neuheisel controls his own postseason fate. A win against crosstown rival USC this weekend would ensure his team an outside shot at the Rose Bowl.

— Jack Wang

No. 7: Utah (7-4, 4-4)

On Oct. 22, Cal and Utah faced off at AT&T Park, each looking for its first conference win. Now, a month later, the Utes have won four in a row and could snag one of the Pac-12 higher-tier bowls.

Utah’s latest victim was Washington State. John White was a workhorse, powering the offense with 42 carries and 186 yards on the ground. Though it was Coleman Petersen’s 39-yard field goal, following a Cougar interception, that gave the Utes the 30-27 overtime win.

Utah gained 41 fewer yards than Washington State but also had three fewer turnovers. The Utes will be looking for their eighth win when they host their new rival Colorado on Friday.

— Jonathan Kuperberg

No. 8: Arizona State (6-5, 4-4)

Arizona State no longer controls its own postseason fate. By blowing three straight games, the Sun Devils now need UCLA to lose its season finale to USC if they hope for a spot in the Pac-12 Championship. To pour salt to the wound, the three losses came against bottom-five conference defenses.

Injuries account for some of the late-season swoon, but so does lack of effort. If the Sun Devils care at all about coach Dennis Erickson’s job, they’ll regain some semblance of their first-half selves.

— Jack Wang

No. 9: Washington State (4-7, 2-6)

The Cougars’ game of musical chairs at quarterback has yet to end. First it was Jeff Tuel, then Marshall Lobbestael. Then it was Tuel again, then Lobbestael. Then it was Connor Halliday, who threw for 494 yards and two touchdowns in Washington State’s upset of Arizona State on Nov. 12. Halliday came back to Earth on Saturday, throwing four interceptions in a valiant performance considering he suffered a lacerated liver during the overtime loss. So now it’s back to Lobbestael. He’ll take on a Washington squad on Saturday that has had its own quarterback issues of late, though Keith Price will go back to his role as starter in the Apple Cup.

— Jonathan Kuperberg

No. 10: Oregon State (3-8, 3-5)

It’s unfortunate to think that Saturday may be a completely merciless end to an otherwise dreadful season to the Beavers. Oregon tends to annihilate whoever it plays after a loss, and one would think that the Ducks are livid after blowing it against USC on Saturday. If Sean Mannion can somehow open up Oregon’s secondary the way Matt Barkley did (note: Sean Mannion is not Matt Barkley) then perhaps the Beavers can put a scare into the Ducks. Otherwise, it’s looking like Oregon State will just have to end a massively disappointing 2011 campaign with a blowout loss.

— Gabriel Baumgaertner

No. 11: Arizona (3-8, 2-7)

What a week for the otherwise hopeless Wildcats. First they knock off rival Arizona State on the road and then make a home-run hire completely out of left field. Arizona announced the hiring of Rich Rodriguez on Monday, the wildly successful former West Virginia coach who endured a nightmare in Michigan and had seemingly fallen off the college football radar. With the vast amounts of speed and athleticism on the West Coast, it appears that Arizona will be more than able to recruit the players necessary for Rodriguez’s high-flying offensive gameplan. A great hire by the Wildcats which should make Arizona football a force.

—Gabriel Baumgaertner

No. 12: Colorado (2-10, 1-7)

At least the second quarter went well for the Buffaloes on Saturday. Quarterback found Toney Clemons for a 20-yard touchdown to give Colorado six points. And in the third quarter, the squad held UCLA to a field goal. Then there were the first and fourth quarters, during which the Bruins outscored the Buffaloes, 42-0, at the Rose Bowl.

Colorado turned the ball over three times and gave up more than 550 yards of offense – not exactly a recipe for success. The Buffaloes still have not won a game away from home. They will have one last chance when they take on Utah on Friday in Salt Lake City.

— Jonathan Kuperberg