Posted on September 27, 2021
Although the Ducks struggled until the fourth quarter, the box score result was what the East Coast media and Committee members wanted to see.
And on the road, Dorian Thompson-Robinson gutted out a respectable win over Stanford to advance to 3-1.
The two Top 25 programs appear destined to meet in the Pac-12 Championship Game, but two-thirds of the season remains to be played.
In the rest of the Conference, Oregon State won at the Coliseum for the first time since 1960, Washington held steady at home in overtime, and Arizona State rolled Colorado in Tempe.
The results put our football writers back to work. The cumulative results of their Power Rankings are below, with each individual writer’s list appearing at the bottom.
1. Oregon (4-0, 1-0) ◄►
Kicking off at 10:30 p.m. Eastern Time, the box score of Oregon’s victory over Arizona is how most of the country analyzes the Ducks’ performance. And on paper, the 41-19 final score with five turnovers forced meets expectations.
But in reality, Oregon wasn’t able to put the winless Wildcats away until the fourth quarter and entered the final period in a single-possession game.
CJ Verdell and Travis Dye were perplexingly under-utilized against a UA defense that has struggled to contain the run, while the UO defense allowed Arizona to convert 7-of-15 third downs and 4-of-4 fourth downs.
The Ducks were out-gained on the ground and in the air, posting just 17 first downs while giving up 31. The five interceptions forced weren’t a luxury indicative of a blowout; they were necessary to win the game.
Still, Oregon enters Week Five as the No. 3 team in the nation and on the inside of the Playoff bubble.
2. UCLA (3-1, 1-0) ▲2
Dorian Thompson-Robinson fought through an injury, and the Bruins responded to a second-half Stanford run to win 35-24 on the Farm.
Jerry Azzinaro’s defense shut down the Cardinal rushing attack, limiting the Tree to 67 yards on the ground with zero touchdowns.
Forced to become one-dimensional, David Shaw’s offense put up just 11 first downs for the second-straight time against UCLA at Stanford Stadium.
The Bruins’ offensive performance was similar to the 34-16 victory in 2019 as well, with Chip Kelly’s unit putting up 455 total yards in both games.
Sitting at 3-1 and No. 20 in the AP Poll, the Bruins return to the Rose Bowl this week to face Herm Edwards and the Sun Devils.
With turmoil at USC and inconsistency in Salt Lake City, the matchup with Arizona State could go far in determining the champion of the South.
3. ASU (3-1, 1-0) ▲2
Apart from the last Colorado drive of the first half and the initial CU drive of the third quarter, Arizona State held the Buffs’ offense in check.
The 250 total yards allowed was the fewest ASU has held a conference opponent to since the 2019 season, and is the second-fewest allowed against a Pac-12 opponent during the Herm Edwards Era.
And the 67 yards given up through the air was the lowest amount allowed to a Conference opponent since 2014.
The dominance on defense wasn’t matched by the offense, though, with the game within four points as late as the middle of the third quarter.
But the Arizona State ground game punched in two scores in the final quarter and a half, and a trick play produced a 30-yard touchdown throw for wide receiver Ricky Pearsall.
The win sets up what might be the deciding-game in the race for the the South Division crown this Saturday in Pasadena.
4. Oregon State (3-1, 1-0) ▲2`
For the first time since 1960 the Beavers took down USC at the Coliseum. The historic win sends a statement to the rest of the Pac-12 that Oregon State is a legitimate contender in the conference race.
Chance Nolan played an efficient 15-for-19 game with four touchdowns and 57 yards on the ground, while B.J. Baylor had a monster night with 167 total yards and 6.9 yards per carry.
The 319 yards rushing was OSU’s highest total since 2018, and its most against a Pac-12 opponent since the 2016 season.
But more importantly, the victory shows the development of the program under Jonathan Smith and arguably punched it through to the proverbial “next level.”
Had the game been played while the East Coast AP voters were awake, the Beavs would likely be ranked heading into their matchup with Washington on Saturday.
5. Stanford (2-2, 1-1) ▼3
Down its second, third, and fourth-string running backs, Stanford was forced to make due with what it had.
Despite the lack of personnel, Tanner McKee threw three touchdowns and hit Bryce Farrell for a 53-yard strike to tie the game at the start of the fourth quarter.
But the Cardinal defense gave up a 75-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Philips on the very next play, killing the comeback attempt McKee engineered in the second half.
A questionable decision to kick a field goal down seven on fourth and short with 10 minutes to go arguably cost the Tree a chance to tie it up.
And the conservative call was followed by a seven-minute UCLA drive capped off by a Dorian Thompson-Robinson touchdown with just over two minutes to go.
The defeat puts the Cardinal at 2-2 heading into their matchup with No. 3 Oregon on Saturday, a series that’s split evenly during the Pac-12 Era.
6. Utah (2-2, 1-0) ▲1
In an ugly game that included six total turnovers and a combined seven third down conversions, the Utah defense stepped up to secure a 24-13 win over Washington State.
Clark Phillips III snagged a Pick-Six as the Cougars were driving late in the fourth quarter down just four points, putting an exclamation point on the Utes’ defensive performance.
Forcing eight sacks and limiting WSU to just 318 total yards, Utah’s offensive struggles were covered up.
But T.J. Pledger made his case to be the starting running back moving forward, posting 117 yards on the ground and a 20-yard touchdown run in the third quarter to give Utah the lead.
And freshman quarterback Ja’Quinden Jackson saw the first snaps of his career, scoring Utah’s lone touchdown of the first half on a two-yard touchdown run.
Still, the offense isn’t right in Salt Lake City and a go-to threat at wide receiver remains to be found.
7. Washington (2-2, 1-0) ▲1
Scoring just three points in the second half before punching in the go-ahead touchdown in overtime, Washington stumbled its way to a victory in Seattle.
The Dawg defense forced a fumble on the goal line to seal the game, stuffing Cal’s comeback attempt that had been generating since the middle of the third quarter.
The win came despite UW’s offense putting up its fewest number of first downs since 2019 and the Husky defense giving up its most yards passing since the 2018 season.
The gritty result boosts the momentum in Seattle heading into the matchup with Oregon State on Saturday. A victory in Corvallis would be Washington’s most impressive win of the year, setting the program back on track to have a shot in the North.
8. USC (2-2, 1-2) ▼5
Donte Williams refused to put backup quarterback Miller Moss into the game, despite Kedon Slovis continuing to struggle in the third year of Graham Harrell’s offense.
The lack of a decisive decision resulted in more of the same for the Trojan offense, as Slovis threw three interceptions and USC was down 42-17 in the fourth quarter.
But that arguably wasn’t the worst performance of the night: Todd Orlando’s defense was unable to contain B.J. Baylor and allowed Chance Nolan to carve up SC for 532 total yards and 32 first downs.
The defeat all but eliminates Williams from any consideration he had to win the head coaching job, and focuses Mike Bohn’s attention primarily on Penn State’s James Franklin.
The search for the next head coach figures to dominate the headlines this week, but USC must be ready for a Colorado team that is capable of pulling off the upset in Boulder.
9. Cal (1-3, 0-1) ◄►
Three turnovers doomed the Bears in Seattle.
Chase Garbers’ 390 total yards and three touchdowns wasn’t enough to overcome the hole Cal dug itself in the first half, as Damien Moore fumbled what would have been the game-tying touchdown in overtime.
The lack of a trusted second option at running back is arguably the Achilles heel of the California offense, with Christopher Brooks seemingly dropped from the regular rotation.
The defeat stings, moving the program to 1-3, with each loss a play or two away from being a “W.” But Washington State comes to Berkeley this week, a must-win game for the Bears’ fading bowl-eligibility hopes.
Following the matchup with the Cougars, winnable games remain against Colorado, Arizona, USC, and Stanford. The path is narrow, but not completely out of reach.
Still, turnovers, if not curtailed, will continue to cost the Bears wins in close games.
10. Washington State (1-3, 0-1) ▲1
Without Jayden de Laura to execute the Run-and-Shoot, Washington State’s offense lacks firepower. Jarret Guarantano isn’t a threat to run and is late on his reads, hampering the heart and soul of the system.
And after Max Borghi was forced to leave the game with a lower-arm injury, the weapons on the WSU offense are wearing thin.
One of the few bright spots in the loss to Utah was freshman De’Zhaun Stribling, who put up 93 yards and a touchdown at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Similarly, Jake Dickert’s defense showed what it can do when matched against a favorable scheme. The 4-2-5 system held steady against Utah’s rushing offense, other than a 59-yard burst from T.J. Pleader and a handful of quarterback runs from Cameron Rising.
The strength defending the Utes’ run game correspondingly slowed down its passing attack, playing directly into Dickert’s scheme and putting the game in the hands of WSU’s offense.
But three turnovers and 70 yards rushing on the road isn’t going to get the job done.
11. Colorado (1-3, 0-1) ▼1
The Colorado offense played confident in the final series of the second quarter and the first series of second half, flashing its potential moving forward.
The 13 points scored against the Sun Devils was more than the previous two games combined, but the 35 points given up was the highest on the season.
Brendon Lewis passed for just 67 yards, his second-fewest of the year, yet the 18 first downs were second-best through four games. And the Buffs didn’t turn the ball over.
Karl Dorrell is tasked with sifting through the 35-13 defeat to extract the positives and prepare Colorado for its matchup with USC. Dimitri Stanley remains perplexingly under-utilized through four games, and Lewis has yet to develop a go-to receiver.
Finding ways to link the two players together could change the dynamic of the CU passing attack, allowing its run game to be at its most effective.
12. Arizona (0-4, 0-1) ◄►
Jordan McCloud’s ability to scramble and gain yards on the ground dramatically increases the efficiency of Jedd Fisch’s offense.
The running-quarterback threat is most felt by the offensive line, as opposing defenses are unable to attack as aggressively as they otherwise would.
Opposing linebackers and linemen are forced to account for his ability to move the chains with his legs, leading to more holes for the Arizona running backs to exploit.
The snowball effect is felt throughout the offense, but is particularly evidenced by a stronger rushing attack and increased third down conversions. But five interceptions is unacceptable, and McCloud’s decision-making is in large part to blame.
Although Arizona’s losing streak is now at 16 games, the respectable showing in Eugene should reinvigorate the program with McCloud under center in coming games.
How our Senior Football Writers Voted
—More from Dane Miller—
- Dane Miller’s Pac-12 Men’s Hoops Previews for Dec 9-10
- Dane Miller’s Week 4 Pac-12 Hoops Players of Week Votes
- Dane Miller’s 2023 Pac-12 Men’s Hoops Previews for Dec 2
- Dane Miller’s 2023 Pac-12 Championship Game Preview
- Dane Miller’s 2023 Week 14 Pac-12 Football Power Rankings
- Dane Miller’s Week 3 Pac-12 Hoops Players of Week Votes
- Dane Miller’s 2023 Week 13 Pac-12 Football Previews
- Dane Miller’s 2023 Week 13 Oregon-OSU Football Preview
- Dane Miller’s Arizona-Michigan State Men’s Hoops Preview
- Dane’s Miller’s UCLA-Gonzaga Maui Invitational Preview
- Dane Miller’s 2023 Week 13 Pac-12 Football Power Rankings
- Dane’s Miller’s UCLA-Marquette Maui Invitational Preview
- Dane Miller’s Week 2 Pac-12 Hoops Players of Week Votes
- Dane Miller’s 2023 Week 12 Pac-12 Football Previews
- Dane Miller’s Week 12 Colorado-Washington State Preview
Dane Miller’s Pac-12 Men’s Hoops Previews for Dec 9-10The top-ranked Wildcats face No. 23 Wisconsin while UCLA, UW, and CU face brand-name foes - December 8, 2023
Dane Miller’s Week 4 Pac-12 Hoops Players of Week VotesOur senior men's basketball writer gives us his weekly men's hoops selections with explanations - December 4, 2023
Dane Miller’s 2023 Pac-12 Men’s Hoops Previews for Dec 2Half of the Pac-12’s teams are in action and two of them face ranked opponents at neutral sites - December 2, 2023