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Pac-12 Power Rankings: The conference’s best shot at the College Football Playoff is....Washington State?

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Hell yes it is.

Oregon v Washington State Photo by William Mancebo/Getty Images

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.


Whew! What a weekend on the Palouse. It started early and ended late and everything about it was perfect. Now, we must move on to other things, including WSU’s College Football Playoff chances—really! We also touch on everybody’s favorite commissioner, Larry Scott, USC’s quarterback troubles, and more.

But first, my final word on College GameDay:

1. WSU won College GameDay

What else can be said about WSU’s College GameDay showing? I was lucky to be among the throng of fans filing the Ferdinand’s Lane and Stadium Way and it was an amazing experience. ESPN does everything so well with that show.

I DVR’d the show so I could watch it when I got home Sunday. That opener was ESPN at its finest—focusing solely on ‘Ol Crimson and then moving out and up to see the huge crowd. I’ve watched it too many times to count and it gives me chills every time:

Nearly two million people tuned in. Thumbs up, everybody.

2. Let’s talk about WSU’s College Football Playoff chances

NCAA Football: Oregon at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

OK, so it’s October 24 and we get to talk about WSU’s chances at making the College Football Playoff. Cool!

For WSU to make the playoff, it’ll have to win out, no questions asked. And even then, the non-conference schedule won’t do the Cougs any favors, plus USC’s performance from here on out will come into play. Some carnage also needs to happen with teams near the top of the polls.

Ohio State and Michigan each have one loss and at least one of them will have another by the end of the season after the teams meet up on Nov. 24. Georgia could very well lose again before the season is over. Ditto LSU, Florida and Texas. Having two losses puts you on thin ice.

WSU fans should root for Notre Dame to drop at least one game and both Oklahoma and Texas to each have two losses. Alabama and Clemson ain’t losing, in my opinion. There was once a time where I declared in this space that the Pac-12’s playoff chances were all but dead. I still might be right for once!

There’s so much that could still happen, but it’s fun to talk about WSU’s chances, which FiveThirtyEight pegs at seven percent. The odds are long, but it’s fun to dream!

3. How big of a hole can Larry Scott dig?

NCAA Football: Pac-12 Media Day Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It just keeps getting worse.

The targeting issue during the WSU-USC game isn’t dying down. The night before GameDay came a Yahoo report showing text messages Mike Leach sent to Larry Scott and David Coleman of the Pac-12. Leach didn’t mince words in calling Woodie Dixon a “coward.”

Scott took questions from the media during the WSU-Oregon game and said he didn’t want to address text messages that were meant to be private. Was that the smart move? You be the judge.

He also did himself no favors when he said, regarding a conference replay manual, ”I had a chance to look into it ... there’s an NCAA rule in writing, but there is no manual. I’m not aware of any manual that exists in our conference or nationally.”

Guess what?!?! There is a manual! From The Oregonian:

Turns out, Scott is wrong. The Oregonian/OregonLive obtained a printed copy of the 2018 version of that instant-replay manual, titled: “The Pac-12 Conference Instant Replay Manual.”

How many days until Scott’s next gaffe?

4. Welcome back, Utah

NCAA Football: Southern California at Utah Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

It was just after WSU beat Utah 28-24 on Sept. 29 when the Utes were all but left for dead. They were 2-2 and had Stanford on tap, not to mention the USC Trojans a couple weeks later. A preseason favorite in the South, the Utes were in deep trouble.

Fast forward to today and Utah has won three in a row and has looked downright lethal in doing so. They put up 40 points on Stanford, 42 on Arizona and 41 on USC this past weekend. They swept the Pac-12 Player of the Week awards and should be 7-2 overall heading into their Nov. 10 meeting with Oregon.

This is all after averaging just 16 points per game against FBS opponents through Sept. 29. Credit the Cougs for knocking some sense into the Utes, I guess.

5. Welcome back to earth, Colorado

Colorado v Washington Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

The Colorado Buffaloes were everybody’s darling two weeks ago. Now? They’ve dropped two games in a row and are unranked. They were without Laviska Shenault against UW and it showed—the Buffs managed just 13 points.

The good news is Colorado gets two weeks to breathe because it plays the Oregon State Beavers and the Arizona Wildcats before welcoming WSU to Boulder.

6. Count the Ducks who should have tackled James Williams but did not

This was amazing. Oh, and speaking of…..

7. The originator of Big Gulps Left is Senator Michael Baumgartner’s brother Patrick

The Spokesman-Review’s Theo Lawson removed the cover on the guy who came up with the Big Gulps Left formation. We first saw it against Wyoming and it finally produced a touchdown against Oregon.

Patrick is a Microsoft engineer and was with Mike Leach and Sen. Baumgartner in Cambodia this past spring. Who knew a night at a Cambodian bar would produce something so essential to WSU’s win over Oregon?

8. The USC Trojans might be down to their third-string quarterback

NCAA Football: Southern California at Utah Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

J.T. Daniels might have a concussion and backup Matt Fink has some broken ribs. That means third-stringer Jack Sears might get the nod. That would likely send most fan bases into a tizzy but Sears was a four-start recruit so it’s not like Marshall Lobbestael is being thrust into action.

The Trojans welcome Arizona State this Saturday and then play, in order, Oregon State, Cal and UCLA before welcoming Notre Dame in the season finale. The Trojans should be 8-3 overall and 7-2 in conference play, which might be enough to wrap up the South.

Of course, the road is tougher when a third-string quarterback who hasn’t had a ton of practice reps until now is behind center. We’ll see how long Daniels remains out.

9. The Pac-12 South is so nuts, the UCLA Bruins are just a half game out of first place

NCAA Football: Arizona at UCLA Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t that long ago that we wondered in this space if UCLA would finish the season without a win. Once again, we were wrong!

The Bruins impressed enough in a loss to the Washington Huskies that pundits began to give them a little more love. They’ve ripped off two straight wins and, sure, they were against Cal and Arizona, but those wins, coupled with some serious South ineptitude, helped the Bruins to a 2-2 conference record. That’s tied with Colorado.

The only problem is UCLA faces Utah and Oregon in the next two weeks so they’ll be out of the South race in no time.

It was good while it lasted, though.

10. Gardner Minshew is getting Heisman Trophy pub

NCAA Football: Oregon at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Much like WSU’s playoff chances, Gardner Minshew II’s Heisman chances are slim, but it’s still fun to see him in the mix. He’s more than deserving of the praise, and he’s been quite the revelation this season.

Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa is the frontrunner and not by a little. Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins should also be in New York.

Minshew’s next touchdown pass will be his 24th, which would equal his total amount in his two seasons at East Carolina. It sure helps when the offensive line is only giving up .71 sacks a game (that would be five sacks in seven games), good for sixth nationally.

Plus, the Cougs’ sack numbers are more impressive than you might think:

11. Coug fans are everywhere, exhibit one million

Wouldn’t surprise me if that guy was also at GameDay.