Well, it's my first power poll write up after a loss. And hopefully the last. Because losing really sucks. It is a wretched, foul-smelling, gag-inducing feeling that should stay deep in the recesses of the darkest souls. And I'm not even a UCLA football player. But I hope that is how they feel. I hope they get that focused, laser-guided, merciless anger that makes them play to their potential and beyond, and leaves the Ducks bloodied and dizzy. I hope they feel like assassins. As we know all too well, hope is not a strategy. It won't be tricks and surprises that will get it done for our Bruins, but execution, will and determination. All we need is for our coaches to put them in a position to win with a solid game plan and the hate, not fear, of losing. Because I can't think of a more beautiful sound than a dead silent Autzen stadium, with the UCLA fight song playing dimly but proudly on a foggy night to serenate worthy victors...
Player of the Week: Defense, Arizona State - you would think, from the score of the game, that someone on offense should have been nominated for this. But the ASU defense held Washington to -5 yards rushing. You read that right. Of course, in college, yards lost to sacks count against the total...so okay, let's add them back, to give UW a whopping...35 yards.
Stat of the Week: 89 - total number of pass attempts by Washington State QB Connor Halliday, a stat that gets the nod even more because it made Nick Aliotti cry (and you'd better cry Saturday night, Allowalotti, you freaking owe us).
Game of the Week: UCLA @ Oregon, 4:30pm PST, ESPN - prime time, prime opportunity for the Bruins.
1. Oregon (7-0, 4-0): Mariota threw for 327 yards and 2 TDs, and Marshall ran for 192 yards and 3 TDs in a beatdown of the Cougars. But it wasn't all easy for the Ducks, who led by 10 at the half before pulling away. Mistakes caused the first half to be closer than many believed, as the Ducks likely played down to their competition and weren't too focused (it is hard to stay focused when you have hardly been challenged all year). As it often does, though, Oregon seems to score whenever it needs to, to the tune of 28 points in 15 minutes. They always find that one stretch where they just pull away from teams. But with much at stake, they will likely be going full throttle from the get-go against UCLA.
2. Stanford (6-1, 4-1): back in its customary spot, Stanford used a Football for Dummies game plan to impose their will on UCLA, without anything fancy other than a ridiculous TD catch. It has been the mantra of the Cardinal since Harbaugh came: don't screw up and execute. With the right athletes, that simple plan has been working for 5 years. On Saturday, it meant rattling UCLA's QB with just 5 rushers without even worrying about defending against the run. That should be insulting to any offensive coordinator. I'm not sure whether that strategy will work against Oregon State, with Sean Mannion playing out of his mind. The Cardinal better be ready for the Beaver air assault if they want to keep pace with Oregon.
3. UCLA (5-1, 2-1): Just like in the national rankings, UCLA did not drop much in the power poll. Their spot here is somewhat debatable given the performance against Stanford. It wasn't the loss itself that was disturbing, what with the away game against a solid program. It was the bad play, the eye test that was an eye sore, and a scary trend that points to significant regression. It hurts even more when your opponent is mostly trying not to lose and isn't playing particularly well either. Now the Bruins leave with more questions than answers, more worries than confident thoughts. I hope that is just for us fans, because the players better not be sitting there sucking on their thumbs (we luv u Randy Cross). They must find a way to play a complete game and beat the Ducks to earn their recognition.
4. Arizona State (5-2, 3-1): Back in the warm arid air of their beloved desert, the Sun Devils totally stifled the Huskies for a dominant performance to get back to their winning ways. After Washington scored to open the game, ASU scored 29 unanswered points and did not have an ounce of worry the rest of the game. This was helped by their stingy defense that only allowed 212 total yards and completely stifled running back Bishop Sankey. With this performance ASU brought itself back as a contender in the South Division and will take the bye week before its Thursday night matchup at Wazzu.
5. Oregon State (6-1, 4-0): behind another ridiculous Sean Mannion performance, Oregon State was the latest team to demolish the tarnished Bears and keep pace with Oregon as the only other undefeated team in the conference. Mike Riley gets criticized here and there, but he does one thing really well, and that is to take advantage of the talent he has. When Jacquizz Rodgers was playing, the Beavers ran the ball a lot. With Mannion, they throw the ball with reckless abandon. He may be the best in the conference at adjusting to his team's capabilities. That may be why he often loses early on but finishes strong. And they have a legitimate shot at upsetting Stanford at home to change the landscape in the North Division.
6. Washington (4-3, 1-3): it seems the Stanford-Oregon gauntlet took its toll on the Huskies, though it is unclear whether it is a mental or a physical toll. Likely both, and something to watch out for as UCLA is in the midst of it. Traveling to the desert is always difficult, but the Huskies were completely manhandled on both sides of the ball by Arizona State. Whether they were exhausted or had completely lost their will, it was a huge regression for Sarkisian's crew and somewhat surprising given Sankey was the nation's leading rusher. That 3-game stretch could well be the toughest stretch for any team in the Pac-12, but there was an ever so slight scent of a team that had given up. It's hard to say, but at least Cal comes to Seattle to give the Huskies a cheer-me-up on Saturday.
7. Utah (4-3, 1-3): the Utes were either exhausted after playing Stanford and UCLA successively, or took Arizona too lightly. Whatever the cause, after two great defensive performances, they somehow allowed Kadeem Carey to rush for 236 yards. This is surprising because Arizona is pretty bad in the passing game, but somehow Utah was not able to stop Carey. It did not help that Utah QB Travis Wilson did not return in the second half after injuring the thumb on his throwing hand. Quite a disappointing turn of events for Utah after having finally climbed up with a big win. It is unclear whether Wilson will be available for the game at Southern Cal on Saturday, but their chances of winning definitely improve if he is.
8. Arizona (4-2, 1-2): back at home, the Wildcats took on Utah to remind everyone that they have one of the best running backs in the conference in Ka'Deem Carey. Carey carved up the Utes for 236 yards and took the pressure off BJ Denker and Arizona's weak passing game. Trailing by a point into the 4th quarter, Arizona put the game away with 2 TDs after a good defensive stand to prevent Utah from taking the lead late in the game. The win was big because Arizona plays Colorado and then Cal the next two weeks and could become bowl eligible after those two games if it plays this way. The rest of the schedule is not as forgiving as the Wildcats could finish on a 4-game losing streak.
9. Southern Cal (4-3, 1-2): funny how we don't hear so much about Notre Dame being Southern Cal's "true" rival. The Ogre and his band of overpaid visor-haters traveled to South Bend and played a close but boring game against tomato-face Kelly's Irish team. They needed just one score in the second half to win, but could not muster it, wiping away a good performance by the defense and running back Silas Redd. Southern Cal is still not getting much production from its QB, though Kessler has been playing better of late. They return home to host Utah, in a must-win game for both teams if they want to keep any hope of competing for the South Division title.
10. Washington State (4-4, 2-3): the pirate swung his sword even in a loss, getting in one last shot to infuriate the opponent. And I applaud him for it. Never give up! Down by 38 points in the 4th quarter, Leach had his QB continue to throw the ball, over and over again. And why not? Might as well get some practice in, and you never know what might happen, anyway. The result was 89 pass attempts for Connor Halliday, who likely needed some ice on his shoulder after this game. Perhaps Leach should have gotten in some practice for his rushing attack though...they gained a total of 21 yards in this game, which when reduced by the yards lost to sacks, gave them a total of 2. Ah well, a pirate's life for him. Wazzu has a bye until its Thursday night game against ASU.
11. Colorado (3-3, 0-3): the Buffs beat an undefeated team! Ok so it's an FCS team but so what! Charleston Southern was playing well. And has McCarthy found his QB of the future? Freshman Sefo Liufau won his first start and played well, just by throwing the ball to Paul Richardson. If Colorado can get some production and consistency out of him, they can start climbing out of the conference cellar. They've now tripled their win total from last year. Perhaps this will boost their confidence when they host Arizona next week. All they have to do is stop Ka'Deem Carey...
12. Cal (1-6, 0-4): the descent into the abyss continues for the tarnished Bears, who must really wonder at this point whether it was worth it to get rid of Tedford, the best coach they had had in decades. To make matters worse, Sonny Dykes keeps playing QB musical chair, and Bruin fans know all too well that it doesn't work. There was no silver lining in this loss as Cal got dominated at home and gave up 100 yards in penalties alone, along with 4 turnovers. It doesn't get any easier when they travel to Seattle to take on Washington, but with the Huskies reeling they have an opportunity to gain some of their pride back.