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Pac-12 Power Rankings: OK fine, let’s talk (briefly) about College GameDay

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NCAA Football: Michigan at Ohio State Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

Power rankings are often all the same, so we’re mixing things up. Each week you’ll get a rundown of 12 or fewer highlights, storylines and anything in between from the Conference of Champions.


Welcome to the bye week edition of the Pac-12 Power Rankings. Isn’t it nice to have a weekend off, and therefore a weekend sans stress? I can’t wait until Saturday.

This week, we must address the College GameDay issue, the Utah Utes suddenly being back from the dead, some gambling news and probably the unluckiest play of the year.

Here....we....go:

1. Don’t get your hopes up for College GameDay

Let me be clear: I’m one that chooses optimism and believes GameDay will someday come to Pullman, but we need to give them a reason to. That is, there needs to be the perfect storm of WSU and its opponent both being ranked, and ideally both being highly ranked (these aren’t necessarily a requirement, but they’d help), as well as other games across the country being less appealing.

I know there are exceptions, but generally that’s the recipe. And WSU hasn’t had that recipe to date.

I know some of you will point to the WSU vs. Stanford game in 2015 as the perfect opportunity, but I don’t know if everybody fully realizes how big of a national brand Notre Dame is, and their game that same week at Temple had a higher profile almost solely because Notre Dame was involved. It’s hard to deny that. Plus, both Notre Dame and Temple were ranked, and Temple was a nice feel good story. WSU wasn’t ranked that weekend.

For GameDay to come to Pullman on Oct. 20, a lot has to happen this week:

  • Above all else, Oregon has to beat UW. I don’t see a way a 4-2 Oregon visiting a 5-1 WSU is more appealing than Clemson vs. NC State.
  • WSU may need to sneak into the Top 25 somehow. For that to happen, I think one of the two-loss teams ranked in the 20-25 range would also have to lose. Auburn plays Tennessee and Texas A&M plays South Carolina. Mississippi State has a bye. I don’t see a loss in there.

Oh, and this: Clemson and NC State—that week’s other big matchup—are both on byes this week, so neither of them will lose and hurt their GameDay chances. Next week’s Colorado-UW game could be attractive, depending on what happens this weekend.

If Oregon wins and somehow WSU sneaks into the Top 25 (and maybe even if they don’t, who knows), ESPN will have to at least think about coming to Pullman.

Of course, we could all be reading way too much into this and this Redditor has the answer:

2. The Utah Utes are still alive

NCAA Football: Utah at Stanford Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, I said Utah was in deep trouble after starting conference play 0-2 with Stanford on tap. Turns out it’s Stanford who might be in a little trouble. They sure looked beatable.

The Utes made the Cardinal look average, and the Cardinal made Utah’s offense look elite. This just goes to show you that we don’t know anything at all. Football is weird.

3. Colorado….might be good?

NCAA Football: Arizona State at Colorado Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Colorado’s opponents as a whole still won’t impress many pundits. But Arizona State was the best team they’ve played so far and the Sun Devils aren’t a pushover. The Buffaloes play at USC this weekend. That will be the best barometer yet. Then they play at UW. Not an easy two-game stretch.

Not only is Colorado a surprise team, their sophomore wide receiver Laviska Shenault—I warned you about him—is garnering some Heisman Trophy talk. The Buffs are setting up to be a team of destiny. Of course, that could all come crashing down this weekend and next.

4. UW’s playoff resume just took a hit, but there’s still hope

NCAA Football: Washington at UCLA Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Thanks to Stanford’s second loss of the season, the Washington Huskies are the Pac-12’s only playoff hope. Sorry, Colorado fans.

But even after a seven-point win over winless UCLA, UW’s resume took a hit when Florida beat LSU and Mississippi State beat Auburn. LSU beating Auburn earlier this season already made UW’s Auburn loss look worse. BYU losing didn’t help, either. Not that a BYU win would help, though.

That week 1 loss to Auburn will loom large throughout the second half of the season.

However, there is some hope: The Oklahoma Sooners’ loss last weekend was a plus for UW, and FiveThirtyEight gives UW the sixth-best odds to make the College Football Playoff (shoutout to B-Lot Tailgater for reminding me of FiveThirtyEight’s playoff project). The Huskies are still pretty far behind Notre Dame, which has the fourth-best odds.

UW needs some carnage ahead of them if they want to return to the playoff.

5. Oregon has UW right where they want ‘em

Oregon is nearly back to its former self (that is, pre-2015) as it welcomes the Huskies to Eugene. With the game at home and UW looking a little vulnerable, this could be right where Oregon needs to be. Heck, the Huskies only beat winless UCLA by seven points.

This game was so lopsided for so many years and then suddenly UW dropped 70 on Oregon two years ago to put an end to the Ducks’ winning streak. That was inevitable heading into that game, and Oregon’s chances last year weren’t anything to get excited about either.

But Justin Herbert is two years older and there’s a different feeling around this one. I know who we’re all rooting for, regardless of the game’s College GameDay implications.

Come on Ducks. Start a new streak.

6. The schedule doesn’t get any easier for WSU

NCAA Football: Washington State at Oregon State Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

The Cougs are 5-1 and need just one more win to qualify for their fourth bowl game in as many years. Who among us thought that would be the case during at this point in the season? Not me!

I’m comfortable saying the Cougs will head to another bowl game, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes a few weeks to get that sixth win. Their next two games are against Oregon (home) and Stanford (away), with Cal coming to Pullman Nov. 3. I’d pencil in that Cal game as a win, but we all know what happened last year.

Colorado hosts the Cougs the following week, and the Buffaloes suddenly don’t look like the 2017 version anymore. The Cougs then close out the season with both Arizona and the Apple Cup at home.

There are winnable games, but it won’t be as easy as the first six weeks of the season.

7. If good teams win and great teams cover, WSU is great again

NCAA Football: Washington State at Oregon State Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

We already know how big of an economic driver college football is in this country. But WSU has been a big economic driver of gamblers given their 6-0 record against the spread this season, which is the best in the nation.

So six weeks into the season, we can officially crown WSU as the no. 1 team in the country. Print the shirts.

8. Here’s a great example of a social media overreaction

OK, this looks bad. But it was perfectly legal and this video clip doesn’t show the entire sequence.

Colorado’s Drew Lewis comes off the sideline to crush Arizona State’s N’Keal Harry. Sounds illegal and worthy of a suspension, right? It would be, if Lewis was on the sideline the whole time and suddenly acted on the urge to crush a guy.

But that’s now what happened. Lewis was blocked out of bounds. The angle he took to get back on the field brought him around some players on the crowded sideline and as luck would have it, he had a great line to the runner. No harm, no foul.

But in the age of Twitter and the urge for some to be outraged without proper context, we get that tweet, which leads us to the most important lesson of all: Never. Tweet.

9. This tackle is amazing

This is one of those tackles that you love when it’s your team doing the tackling. But if you’re a partisan of the ball carrier? You’re taking Leach up on his idea of contacting Woodie Dixon at the Pac-12 offices.

Both approaches are appropriate. We’re fans, after all.

10. Cal had the worst luck on this play

Oy.