Welcome to the heart of the Pac-12 conference season, where we'll know once and for all (for a week, at least) who's for real and who's not.
The Oregon Ducks prevailed in Eugene over Washington last week on national television, while Colorado fell on its face in the late night window in the City of Angels.
Those tidbits and more are delved into in great detail below, so get cracking on my weekly power rankings in the Conference of Champions.
1. Oregon Ducks (5-1, 2-1)
Last Week: Beat Washington, 30-27
This Week: At Washington State, 4:30 p.m. (Fox)
The Ducks pulled off a hell of a win on Saturday afternoon over their longtime rivals from Seattle, with junior QB Justin Herbert showing why he's a legit Heisman frontrunner. Herbert finished the day with 202 passing yards and two scores, setting Mario Cristobal's team up for their biggest win in a long, long while. The Ducks face a sneaky-tough matchup at Martin Stadium in Pullman this Saturday, with the Cougars winning each of their last three games against Oregon, including last year's 51-33 dismantling in Eugene. This year's contest should be one for the ages, with Herbert and Cougar QB Gardner Minshew IV matching each other score-for-score on the Palouse.
2. Washington Huskies (5-2, 3-1)
Last Week: Lost to Oregon, 30-27
This Week: Vs. Colorado, 12:30 p.m. (Fox)
The Huskies found themselves on the wrong end of Saturday's clash in the Willamette Valley, effectively eliminating them from playoff position. That said, Chris Petersen's squad is still alive and well in the Pac-12 North Division race, especially if Washington State beats Oregon this week. The Huskies will have a shot at taking out their frustrations on a hobbled Colorado squad that lost its top-three receivers against USC a week ago, giving the Huskies' defense a chance to maul the Buffs with great vigor on the banks of the mighty Lake Washington.
3. Washington State (5-1, 2-1)
Last Week: Bye Week
This Week: Vs. Oregon, 4:30 p.m. (Fox)
I'm probably much higher on Mike Leach's squad than most, given their relatively weak non-conference schedule and batshit crazy loss to USC a few weeks ago. That said, I'm high on Mike Leach's bunch because of their always explosive offense, with grad transfer Minshew (see above) tossing 19 touchdowns in six games, with four interceptions to his name. Minshew leads the conference in passing yards per game (403.7) and passing touchdowns—pacing the Cougars to unexpected highs this fall. The Cougars season will rest on their ability to pull off an upset over the Ducks at home this week, with road games against Stanford and Colorado on the horizon.
4. Utah Utes (4-2, 2-2)
Last Week: Beat Arizona, 42-10
This Week: Vs. USC, 5 p.m. (Pac-12 Network)
The Utes have seen their season prognosis improve significantly in the last two weeks, thanks to resounding wins over Stanford (in Palo Alto) and Arizona (at home). The Utes arguably have the Pac-12's best defense, under former Oregon State coach Gary Andersen, sitting atop the conference with Washington in points allowed (16.0), while giving up the fewest yards per game (300.0) of any team in the Pac-12. The Utes' offense isn't sexy, but QB Tyler Huntley has done his job well, with 1,221 passing yards and 7 passing touchdowns, to a mere three interceptions. Running back Zack Moss has emerged as a big-play threat out of the backfield for the squad of-late as well, leading the Utes in rushing yards (617) and rushing TDs (7). The Utes face a huge test in the SLC this weekend, when the Trojans come calling. A win and they'll be in the driver's seat to make the Pac-12 championship game for the first time. A loss, and it's Holiday Bowl or bust for Whittingham's bunch.
5. USC Trojans (4-2, 3-1)
Last Week: Beat Colorado, 31-20
This Week: At Utah, 5 p.m. (Pac-12 Network)
The Trojans are, without a doubt, the most frustratingly inconsistent team in the conference. Clay Helton's bunch has all the talent in the world, with freshman QB JT Daniels showing flashes of brilliance this season, while also making mind-numbingly stupid passes, like the one he tried in the first play from scrimmage against Colorado last Saturday. Another problem for USC has been its inability to avoid committing penalties, with a conference-worst 59 of them in six games, 7 more than the next-worst squad, which happens to be the Arizona Wildcats. The Trojans will be put to the test on Saturday, against a Utes squad that doesn't commit such stupid penalties. It'll be interesting to see if Daniels, 1,540 passing yards and 7 touchdowns (with 5 interceptions) this season, can crack the Utes' vaunted pass defense at altitude this week.
6. Colorado Buffaloes (5-1, 2-1)
Last Week: Lost to USC, 31-20
This Week: At Washington, 12:30 p.m. (Fox)
The Buffaloes' woes were on full display Saturday night, losing a road game in LA in the most excruciating, drawn-out fashion. The Buffaloes looked awful on national television, with junior quarterback Steven Montez turning into a pumpkin, with 170 yards on 26-of-47 passes, finishing with an abysmal quarterback ranking of 26.7 in the 11-point loss. The Buffs' woes won't get any easier, with a pissed-off Washington squad on their schedule this week for an offense that looked hopelessly lost without receiver Laviska Shenault Jr., who suffered a leg injury in the loss to the Trojans. It looks like reality is crashing down on the fine folks of Boulder after a dream-like opening five games. Things are only going to get uglier before they get better, with Shenault and fellow receiver Jay MacIntyre missing practice this week.
7. Stanford Cardinal (4-2, 2-1)
Last Week: Bye Week
This Week: Thursday, At ASU, 6 p.m. (ESPN)
The Cardinal got a well-deserved week off on Saturday, after getting their asses kicked by Notre Dame and Utah, to the tune of 78-38. David Shaw's squad desperately needs senior back Bryce Love, who was a Heisman finalist a year ago with 2,118 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns, to get healthy. Love has been hampered by a bad ankle all year, with 327 rushing yards and three scores this year, resulting in the Cardinal offense sputtering to a halt. Love is questionable to play in the team's Thursday night clash with ASU in Tempe, which is a huge deal as QB KJ Costello has looked worse and worse each week, tossing three picks to a mere two touchdowns in the team's losses. The Cardinal are in desperate need of a W to save their season this week, with Washington State and Washington next up on their schedule.
8. Arizona State Sun Devils (3-3, 1-2)
Last Week: Bye Week
This Week: Thursday, vs. Stanford, 6 p.m. (ESPN)
God bless the Fighting Herm Edwards' for their valiant effort all season, gutting out single-digit defeats to San Diego State, Washington and Colorado (who all beat the Devils by 7 points). The Devils will only go as far as senior QB Manny Wilkins can take them, with the veteran gunslinger tossing 11 touchdowns to one interception this season, showing that he's one of the best quarterbacks in the league. The Devils have a fighting chance against the Cardinal this week, with a win setting off what's likely to be a bowl season along the mistake of a lake in Tempe, which is something that few, if any, of the so-called "experts" predicted in the offseason.
9. UCLA Bruins (1-5, 1-2)
Last Week: Beat Cal, 37-7
This Week: Vs. Arizona, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
Chip Kelly and his team got a massive win in Berkeley on Saturday night, taking out five weeks worth of frustration on a suddenly listless Bears squad. Running back Joshua Kelley looked untouchable in the win, with 157 yards and three scores on 30 carries, while freshman QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson did a good job managing the game, completing 13-of-15 passes for for 141 yards. Thompson-Robinson didn't have any touchdowns in the win, but more importantly never turned the ball over for the Bruins, while establishing a solid connection with wideout Caleb Wilson, who had five catches for 92 yards in the win. The Bruins' aren't going to go bowling this season in all likelihood, but they've got a good shot at beating Arizona this weekend and possibly playing the spoiler against Oregon, USC and Stanford down the stretch.
10. Arizona Wildcats (3-4, 2-2)
Last Week: Lost to Utah, 41-10
This Week: At UCLA, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
Raise your hand if you have any idea what the Wildcats will do on a week-by-week basis? If you raised your hand, you're a damn liar, as this team has zero consistency, thanks mainly to Khalil Tate's bad ankle and Noel Mazzone's bad play-calling. The Wildcats looked putrid in their loss to Utah last week, with Tate going down early to an injury and freshman Jamarye Joiner of Cienega High School in Vail looking like—well, a freshman
. it's going to be a long rest of the season in Tucson. Luckily for everyone, basketball season is back and beer is now available inside the confines of Arizona Stadium to dull the pain of losing.
11. Cal Bears (3-3, 0-3)
Last Week: Lost to UCLA, 37-7
This Week: At Oregon State, 1 p.m. (Pac-12 Network)
Cal has fallen and can't get up. Justin Wilcox's team has lost to Arizona and UCLA in consecutive weeks, and there's no guarantee they won't do the same against Oregon State in Corvallis this Saturday. Brandon McIlwain might be the real deal (eventually) for the Golden Bears, but right now, the getting is awful in the beautiful Strawberry Hills of Berkeley.
12. Oregon State Beavers (1-5, 0-3)
Last Week: Bye Week
This Week: Vs. Cal, 1 p.m. (Pac-12 Network)
Pour one out for your friends in Corvallis, it's going to be be a long, long, long season up there. They will likely go 1-11 this year, though there's a chance they might beat Cal this week. Nonetheless, just remember friends, basketball season is around the corner, and Wayne Tinkle might actually win a few games for the Beavers this season.