Posted on November 30, 2021
But the Conference’s Championship Game is on Saturday, kicking off for the first time in Las Vegas at Allegiant Stadium.
And Bowl Season is upon us.
There weren’t any shocking upsets in the final weekend, but there was some sticker-shock due to the margin of victory in a handful of matchups.
Coaching hires have been announced since the games ended, and players around the country are beginning to enter the transfer portal.
The results of the week sent our writers back together to produce a Power Ranking for the end of the regular season. The list below is a composite of each writer’s rankings, and the individual picks appear in the table at the bottom.
1. Utah (9-3, 8-1) ◄►
The Utes finished the regular season with a 9-3 record and Kyle Whittingham’s third Pac-12 South championship over the past four years.
Rumors abound that Whittingham could retire after Utah’s bowl game, but no announcement has been made regarding the coach in his 17th year in Salt Lake City.
The Utah defense held Colorado to just nine first downs and 148 total yards of offense, with the Buffs’ lone touchdown coming from a kickoff returned to the house at the start of the second half.
UU’s issues on special teams are one of its few flaws heading into the Pac-12 Championship Game, where an invitation to the Rose Bowl is on the line.
2. Oregon (10-2, 7-2) ◄►
Despite a fourth quarter push from the Beavers, Oregon took care of OSU to end the regular season with 10 wins.
The double-digit win total was achieved for the second time over the last three years and the ninth time since 2008.
Reports are indicating that Joe Moorhead could be leaving the program to coach Akron next season, opening the offensive coordinator position once again.
Mario Cristobal would have his pick of options to fill the role, and would likely cater his choices to best suit his young quarterback room.
But an invitation to the Rose Bowl is up for grabs against Utah in the Pac-12 Championship Game on Saturday.
A win would garner the Ducks’ fourth appearance in the Granddaddy of Them All since the Conference expanded in 2011.
3. Washington State (7-5, 6-3) ▲2
Jake Dickert’s 40-13 victory in the Apple Cup was all WSU Athletic Director Pat Chun needed to see, as the interim head coach designation was removed from Dickert’s title after the trouncing of the Huskies.
Set to lead Washington State for the foreseeable future, the first-time head coach has the pieces in place to make WSU contenders in the North.
On Saturday, Max Borghi scored two touchdowns and put up 129 yards rushing in what could be his final game in a Cougar uniform, if he opts out of Washington State’s bowl game.
Jayden de Laura didn’t throw a TD against UW, but he arguably played his best game of the year, completing 27 of his 32 attempts and adding 31 yards on the ground.
4. UCLA (8-4, 6-3) ◄►
Ending the year with momentum that’s arguably unmatched in the Conference, the Bruins head into bowl season with an 8-4 record and three-game winning streak.
The six wins in Pac-12 play was UCLA’s most since 2014. And the 42-14 blowout of California was a statement to end the year.
But scratching beneath the surface reveals some eye-opening statistics. Chip Kelly’s team is winless against opponents above .500, and seven of its eight wins have come against teams with losing records.
That doesn’t take away from the accomplishments UCLA has attained in 2021, or cheapen its highest win total since 2015. But it does put additional emphasis on winning the bowl game, where a loss could be fodder for the L.A. media.
5. Oregon State (7-5, 5-4) ▼3
The Beavers fell short against the Ducks, but Jonathan Smith secured a contract extension and Oregon State is bowl eligible for the first time since 2013.
The future appears bright in Corvallis, and a strong performance in the bowl game should put an exclamation point on this year’s success.
B.J. Baylor averaged 4.5 yards per carry against the Oregon defense, but Smith was forced to alter his play-calling after falling behind in the first half.
Playing catch up, Chance Nolan attempted a season-high 39 passes as the Beavs fought their way back into the game. It wasn’t enough in the end, even as Nolan posted a season-high 308 yards passing.
6. Arizona State (8-4, 6-3) ◄►
The Sun Devils finished the year with a record of 8-4 and second-place finish in the South. The win total was the highest regular season mark of the Edwards Era, and the program is headed to its ninth bowl game since 2011.
But the year was somewhat disappointing considering the expectations over the offseason.
The allegations of recruiting violations figure to loom over the program during the upcoming signing periods, and an unexpected transfer has already hit the wires with Chip Trayanum’s announcement.
Still, Arizona State secured its fifth-straight win over Arizona after its defense forced four sacks, two turnovers leading to 14 points, and held UA to a single touchdown in the red zone.
7. USC (5-6, 4-5) ▲2
The hiring of Lincoln Riley has changed the narrative surrounding USC football heading into next season. Recruiting appears primed to take off under the former Oklahoma coach, making this year’s on-field struggles a thing of the past.
The Trojans played BYU closer than expected last weekend, after Jaxson Dart engineered a second half comeback that led to USC taking a 31-28 lead in the fourth quarter.
But the SC defense allowed the Cougars to score the game-winning touchdown with just under five minutes remaining.
There’s one last game to play in the 2021 season, but the job of rebuilding the once storied Trojan program begins now.
8. California (4-7, 3-5) ▼1
The 2021 season figures to go down as another disappointing year in the California record books, after the Bears’ goal of bowl eligibility was extinguished with a 42-14 defeat to UCLA.
For the seventh time since the Pac-12 expanded in 2011, the Bears will have a losing season.
Thought to have a roster capable of reaching a bowl game, the single-possession defeats to Nevada, TCU, Washington, Oregon, and Arizona are head-shaking failures.
The City of Berkeley’s COVID protocols may be to blame for the loss in Tucson, but the stumbles against the Wolf Pack and Horned Frogs to start the year rest solely on the players and staff.
9. Colorado (4-8, 3-6) ▼1
Brendon Lewis improved game-by-game in the 2021 season, creating a sliver of optimism in Boulder heading into next year.
It will probably take another full year for the quarterback to develop into the player many expect him to be, but the Buffs should be in better contention for bowl eligibility during his sophomore season.
Karl Dorrell showed offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini the door after the Utah game, opening up a key position on the Colorado staff.
The 28-13 result in Salt Lake City was better than expected, but morale victories can’t become acceptable moving forward.
Realistically, Lewis has the tools to be one of the top quarterbacks in the Conference, if Dorrell makes the right hire.
10. Washington (4-8, 3-6) ◄►
The Huskies’ 4-8 finish to the 2021 season is probably the most shocking result of the Pac-12 season.
The three conference wins was the fewest in a regular non-COVID year since the winless 2008 campaign, and the Dawgs will miss a bowl game for the first time since 2009.
But Kalen DeBoer has been announced as the new head coach on Montlake. The hiring puts the Jimmy Lake saga to bed, after it was capped by a 40-13 blowout to Washington State in the Apple Cup.
The damage from Lake’s management could take a few seasons to rectify, yet DeBoer’s offensive philosophies could jumpstart the rebuild by a year or two.
11. Stanford (3-9, 2-7) ◄►
David Shaw could be on the hot seat after losing to Norte Dame 45-14 and leading the Cardinal to their fewest wins since 2006.
The 3-9 campaign was historically poor: For just the fifth time since 1990, Stanford failed to eclipse three wins. And making matters worse, Shaw is 11-19 over the past three seasons.
The Cardinal only managed to moved the chains 11 times against the Irish, while its run game posted just 55 yards rushing.
Drastic schematic changes may need to be made on offense over the offseason, or a troop of true freshmen must shine in 2021. Either way, the heat is on Shaw to deliver in his 12th season on the Farm.
12. Arizona (1-11, 1-8) ◄►
The first season under Jedd Fisch was a failure. Despite the cover being run by the Tucson media, the defeat to Northern Arizona and 34-0 blowout to Colorado can’t be ignored.
Fisch’s overuse of gadget and trick plays were often untimely, and his play-calling was consistently atrocious.
Arizona had one of the worst offenses in the country under his scheme, constantly struggling in the red zone and inept at scoring points.
The offense was a far cry from the Rich Rodriguez and Mike Stoops Eras, where firepower was a given and defenses were the problem.
The 1-11 season ended with more of the same against Arizona State, as the Cats scored fewer than 20 points for the 10th game of the year.
How our Senior Football Writers Voted
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