With only a few games left in the Pac-12 conference, the power poll format is changing to take a holistic view at the whole conference. Oh, and I also forgot to get everybody's vote for the poll, so it's a poll of me, myself and I Can't Believe It's Not Butter. UCLA's big move up the CFP rankings shows that the committee has high regard for this conference. You need only look at Utah, which is still ranked in their top 25 despite 3 losses. This is probably the deepest the conference has ever been, top to bottom. While things are settled in the North, the South is still up for grabs, but Arizona State is in the driver's seat. Technically, five teams are still in the running, though for some of them the chances are quite slim.
Player of the Week: Brett Hundley, UCLA - Hundley threw for 302 yards and 2 TDs, and rushed for another 2 TDs in UCLA's win at Washington. OK so this is a bit of a homer call because Marcus Mariota had a monster game against Utah as well. Ironically, they both accounted for nearly the same number of yards and the same number of TDs...
Stat of the Week: 70 - Brett Hundley became the all-time TD pass leader for UCLA, in only 3 years.
Game of the Week: Arizona State at Oregon State, 7:45pm PST, ESPN; really the only game of significance for UCLA fans, other than Cal taking on Southern Cal.
1. Oregon (9-1, 6-1): The Ducks looked like they were staggering a bit, getting punched in the mouth a couple of times by Utah early in the game. But somehow, Utah whiffed on a potential knockout punch when a bonehead showboater dropped the ball before crossing the line for a TD. That likely turned the game around, although of course Oregon would have come back in all likelihood. Still, a 7-7 tie is far from being down 14-0, and the Ducks controlled the game from there on, with Mariota being brilliant. Winning against a tough D on the road, the Ducks showed that they are the dominant team in the conference. They'll have a bye this week before their last two games.
2. Arizona State (8-1, 5-1): the Sun Devils seem to be back in top form with Taylor Kelly. While the defense started the game quite shaky, they have really stepped up and Todd Graham has done quite a good job, first with dealing with Kelly's injury, second with the attrition on the defense. ASU took on an overrated Notre Dame squad and started spanking them thoroughly, before somehow falling asleep and allowing them to tie the game in the 4th quarter. And then the spanking began again. While in the driver's seat for the division, the Sun Devils do still have 3 conference games left to play, including their rivalry game against Arizona. But first, they have to travel to Corvallis to take on a disappointing Oregon State squad still looking for a significant win this season.
3. UCLA (8-2, 5-2): the Bruins travelled to Seattle and played the way we have all been expecting them to play all season. Very few legitimate penalties, solid defense and a balanced offense, while utilizing Brett Hundley at his fullest. Washington may not be one of the top teams in the conference, but a win like this is crucial to show the players the level at which they can compete. That confidence will be key in the next two games, and UCLA has to run the table before it can hope for anything else. A bye week will allow them to rest and continue to give more reps to players who are young but have been coming on strong lately.
4. Southern Cal (6-3, 5-2): The bye week was just what the doctor ordered for Southern Cal, though their lack of depth has not really been an issue. They still lurk with an outside chance at winning the division. They take on Cal tonight and may get challenged by the Bears' tempo, but should be able to score at will.
5. Arizona (7-2, 4-2): After a tight first half, the Wildcats easily dispatched Colorado in the second half and kept their division title hopes alive. Anu Solomon threw for 4 TDs and ran for 105 yards against the weak Buffs defense. He will be a menace in the coming years considering that he is only a freshman. This week, Arizona hosts Washington and will look to keep pace with the rest of the division before its showdown with ASU.
6. Utah (6-3, 3-3): we all make mistakes, life is a series of learning experiences. But it will take a long time for Kaelin Clay to forget his blunder, seemingly more concerned about celebrating than scoring. Utah was likely outmatched overall against Oregon, but really hurt its chances at an upset with that early mistake which proved somewhat deflating. If only UCLA had gotten the benefit of a similar blunder. It's a bit of back to reality for the Utes, with two more tough games remaining. They are likely out of the running for the division but are still a well-coached team. Next week they take on Stanford, in what should be a low-scoring defensive battle.
7. Stanford (5-4, 3-3): Stanford had a bye week, which it needed rather badly to hopefully get its season back on track. This is far from the BCS bowl program of the last few years, though the defense is still quite good. Kevin Hogan has not played well and he does not have the benefit of a solid running game anymore. Things won't be any easier against Utah either this week, and Stanford could be facing its first losing conference record in a long long time.
8. Washington (6-4, 2-4): the Huskies defense took a big hit with injuries and suspensions, while their offense is somewhat one-dimensional, which is unusual for Chris Petersen. While they never gave up they were never really a threat in their game against UCLA. There are definitely pieces for Petersen to work with and build on, but I don't know if Cyler Miles is the QB who is going to get it done for him. This week they travel to play Arizona and while already bowl eligible, they must win this game if they want to finish the season without a losing record in the conference.
9. Cal (5-4, 3-4): Cal had a bye week, before its game against the Trogans tonight, where they can hopefully reach bowl eligibility, not a bad improvement after last year.
10. Washington State (3-7, 2-5): With a backup QB who was stepping in for the most prolific QB in the country, the Cougars somehow rallied in Corvallis to beat the Beavers. Luke Falk threw for 471 yards and 5 TDs to lead his team and give them a taste of victory again, something that hadn't happened since September 27...against Utah. The defense made stops when it counted and Wazzu came out on top despite allowing a lot of yards. There were no turnovers in this game but neither team bothered to run the ball much. Wazzu now has a bye before it plays ASU. With bowl eligibility long gone, the focus is on getting Luke Falk acclimated and ready for next year, and it looks like he is quite comfortable.
11. Oregon State (4-5, 1-5): it has been a terrible season for the Beavers who have only managed one conference win this year. Losing to Wazzu at home has to be incredibly disappointing for the Beavers. Mike Riley is never one who needs the limelight to run his program, but it is a program that needs to be in some kind of discussion to have any hope of success. Is the sheen off of Riley or is it just a down year? The Beavers have been unable to run the ball and their defense is questionable. Unclear how things can be turned around this year or next. But it would be great for them and a few other teams if they somehow put together a great game at home and stick it to Arizona State this week.
12. Colorado (2-8, 0-7): competing in the deepest conference in the country, in the second best division in the country, is not exactly an environment conducive to turnarounds. Colorado was close again, against Arizona, until the fourth quarter. This team is spirited and fights hard for its coach, but this is still not the year in which they take that next step. For them to do so, the defense needs to improve because the offense can definitely put up points. Unfortunately for Colorado fans, the season ends against Oregon and Utah after this bye week, and they are unlikely to take it easy on the Buffs.
Two more huge games for UCLA. Hopefully that is all the players think about, instead of rankings, what-ifs, and hopes of others' demise. At least this week, we can just enjoy watching games without the knot in our stomach, before taking on the Trogans for Hundley's trifecta.