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2020 Pac-12 Football Power Rankings: Week 5

Our three senior Pac-12 football writers rank the teams based on recent performances

Posted on December 1, 2020

  By Dane Miller, SuperWest Sports

As of this writing, Week 5 of the Pac-12 football season is set to begin without a cancellation. That could change at any time, of course, and we’ll update this story accordingly, if and when it does.

Until then, we once again offer Power Rankings for the entire Pac-12, based on our senior football writers’ composite rankings, which appear in the table at the bottom of this page.

Rankings have changed rapidly in this shortened season, so if you don’t like where your team stands, a win this week could dramatically alter things.

1. Washington (3-0)

Down 21-0 at halftime, the Dawgs rallied in the final two quarters to snatch the victory away from the Utes. In a game-changing play early in the second half, Elijah Molden intercepted a pass from Jake Bentley and the ensuing drive led to a Peyton Henry field goal.

That turnover appeared to spark UW, as the defense pitched a shutout in the second half and the offense scored 24 unanswered points, 17 of which came after the interception. Cade Otton caught eight passes for 108 yards including the go-ahead score with just over a minute remaining in the game.

The victory kept Washington atop the North Division standings and could catapult the Huskies into the Top 25 of the College Football Playoff rankings. At the least, the Dawgs control their own destiny to return to the Pac-12 Championship Game for the third time in the last five seasons.

2. Oregon (3-1)

Unable to contain Jermar Jefferson, Oregon lost to rival Oregon State for the first time since 2016. The defeat was just the second Duck loss to the Beavers over the last fourteen contests. And the 41 points surrendered by the UO defense was more than OSU had scored in the last three matchups combined.

The issues with the Oregon defense have been building since Game One, and it finally cost the Ducks a win. The unit has given up more points than the week prior in every game this season, a continual slip that may end up costing it the North Division title.

Though the fog may have had something to do with it, Tyler Shough threw two interceptions and was unable to move Oregon into field goal range on the final drive. The defeat all but eliminated the Pac-12 from any Playoff hopes it still had, but UO still controls its own destiny in the North.

3. USC (3-0)

usc logoThe Trojans’ showdown with Colorado was cancelled due to COVID issues. The problems cast further doubt on this week’s matchup with Washington State, and further extinguished the Conference’s Playoff hopes.

Perhaps the week off was a blessing in disguise for USC. Kedon Slovis hasn’t looked right over the past few weeks and the bye week could help address any lingering injury he may be suffering through. Still, losing a game due to the coronavirus is devastating in a shortened season, especially with the attenuating contact tracing and quarantine protocols.

4. Colorado (3-0)

After a quickly arranged game against San Diego State, the Buffs notched the Pac-12’s first victory over a nonconference opponent. Karl Dorrell’s defense smothered the Aztec offense, limiting the run-first attack to just 155 total yards.

Apart from a pick-six thrown by Sam Noyer, SDSU managed to put together just one successful scoring possession. Late in the second quarter, the Aztecs marched 42 yards down the field and hit a 48-yard field goal with ten seconds left in the half.

But other than that, the CU defense held San Diego State in check. Jarek Broussard rushed 32 times for 124 yards while Noyer passed for 138 and a touchdown to go along with a touchdown scamper on the ground.

Evan Price knocked in two field goals and the Buffs emerged with an ugly win. Such a performance was to be expected considering the lack of preparation, and credit both universities for scheduling the game.

5. Oregon State (2-2)

Entering Friday night’s battle with the Ducks, the Beavers had lost 11 of the last 12 games to their in-state rival. But that didn’t matter to Tristan Gebbia.

The first-year starter put together his most complete game of the year, throwing for 263 yards and a touchdown without turning the ball over. The redshirt junior also scored one on the ground early in the fourth quarter, as Jonathan Smith’s aggressive game plan paid off.

The Beavers went 4-for-6 on fourth down and 1-for-2 on two-point conversions, all while generating three turnovers and staying poised throughout the night. The instant-classic foggy night contest was capped by a game-winning quarterback sneak from Chance Nolan with just over thirty seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.

But the MVP of the night, by far, was Jermar Jefferson. The junior running back set the record in the rivalry formerly known as the “Civil War” for most rushing yards by a single player with 226 on just 29 attempts. His 7.8 average yards per carry was boosted by an 82-yard touchdown run that opened up OSU’s scoring in the first quarter.

6. UCLA (2-2)

Chip Kelly and the Bruins re-attained their .500 mark on the season with 27-10 victory over Arizona. Kelly’s aggressive decision to go for it on his own 25 yard line early in the first quarter led to the Wildcats only touchdown of the night, but the game never seemed in doubt after Grant Gunnell was injured on the first play.

However, the questionable decision on the opening drive arguably led to a conservative second half that almost came back to bite Kelly. UCLA could have extinguished any UA hopes of a comeback, but instead punted the ball on several fourth-and-short opportunities in the third and fourth quarters.

The tentative play calling eventually led to an Arizona field goal attempt to make it a seven-point game, but the hold was botched and the Bruins tagged on a late touchdown.

With Dorian Thompson-Robinson set to return, and difficult matchups with ASU and USC remaining, the jury is still out on Kelly’s third season.

7. Washington State (1-1)

Out for the second-straight week, the Cougars have played just two games this season. Rust is a legitimate concern heading into the matchup with USC this week, and it’s unclear if Jayden de Laura will continue his electric start to the season. However, COVID concerns are lingering with the Trojans. The game has been switched from Friday to Sunday to help mitigate that, and alternative plans for a nonconference opponent are likely being made.

But any last-second schedule changes could only further hinder WSU’s performance whenever it finally does get the opportunity to return to the field.

8. Arizona State (0-1)

The opening game against USC feels like a lifetime ago. After four weeks of Pac-12 play, the Sun Devils have played in just a single contest. That figures to finally change this weekend, as ASU returns to a healthy enough level to face the Bruins.

The return to the field projects to come with plenty of rust and a lack of conditioning that could be the difference against UCLA. But for the players and fans, just playing this weekend would be welcomed.

9. Utah (0-2)

The Utes bounced back nicely from their underwhelming opener, at least until the second half against Washington. Kyle Whittingham’s offense was shut out in the final two quarters and his defense gave up 24 points as the Huskies rallied to a 24-21 victory.

Utah has turned the ball over an astounding nine times though two games. The self-inflicted wounds have arguably prevented a 2-0 start. Jake Bentley threw two interceptions on Saturday and was sacked three times, despite scoring twice in the first half to extend Utah’s lead to three touchdowns.

The slow-burning collapse was capped by a last-minute UW touchdown drive to put the Dawgs in front. Though the defeat was frustrating, there were plenty of first-half positives to build on as the season winds down.

Realistically, the Utes should put together a complete game by the end of the year.

10. Stanford (1-2)

On the back of two blocked kicks, the 123rd Big Game was won in the least-expected way by the Cardinal. Running back Austin Jones scored twice on the ground and Davis Mills connected with Michael Wilson for an 11-yard touchdown in the Tree’s 24-23 victory.

The play of the game, though, came in the final minute of the fourth quarter, when the Stanford line blocked what would have been the game-tying extra point, sealing the one-point Cardinal win.

Even though the Tree managed just 16 first downs and 300 total yards, David Shaw’s squad didn’t turn the ball over and forced two Cal fumbles. The special teams got it done in the end, but all three phases of the team combined for Stanford’s first win of the season.

It wasn’t pretty, but the axe has returned to Palo Alto.

11. California (0-3)

In what has quickly become a year to forget, California’s season went from bad to worse. With a chance to tie the game and force overtime, Dario Longhetto’s extra point attempt was blocked and the Bears suffered another defeat to the Cardinal.

The blocked kick was the second of the game, adding even more fuel to Cal’s frustration. Special teams coach Charlie Ragle is under fire for the performance, but games aren’t lost or won on a single play.

Chase Garbers put up just 151 yards passing, though he added an additional 51 on the ground. And Christopher Brown Jr. returned to score what should have been the game-tying touchdown, but the once-projected starter only managed to get four carries.

One of the few bright spots was the performance of freshman Damien Moore. The running back posted 121 yards on just 10 attempts in his first Big Game.

But at 0-3, individual moral victories are mostly meaningless.

12. Arizona (0-3)

With an offensive line that has struggled all season, Grant Gunnell was knocked out of the game on the first play against UCLA. His status is questionable moving forward, making the likelihood of Arizona ending its 10-game losing streak appear even bleaker.

True freshman Will Plummer did his best against the Bruin defense, but his lack of familiarity with the UA wide receivers was clear. On several occasions, Plummer and his wideout weren’t on the same page, and the freshman ended up throwing two interceptions.

But in a somewhat heartening performance, the Arizona defense forced several three-and-outs in the third and fourth quarters. The stops allowed the Cats to stay in the game, at least until a botched field goal attempt destroyed the momentum and sealed the loss.

If Gunnell is unable to go against Colorado this week, Plummer should be more prepared to run the offense after getting thrown to the wolves in Pasadena.

How Our Senior Football Writers Voted

RankDane MillerJack FollmanNick Bartlett

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