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Pac-12 Power Rankings: Playoff hopes are slipping away

Thanks a lot, Auburn.

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

PROGRAMMING NOTE: The Pac-12 Power Rankings will take next week off due to my travel schedule. See you in two weeks!

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.

The regular season is nearing its halfway point, and already the Pac-12 is all but out of the College Football Playoff race. Wash, rinse and repeat. Sigh. One of these days it’ll all be different.

Plus, UW lost (hahahahaha) and the Pac-12 made a bad move, again. Another former WSU commit made the news, and even with a bye week, USC is still a hot mess.

On to the rankings!

1. The Pac-12’s slim College Football Playoff hopes rest with Oregon and Utah

NCAA Football: Oregon at Utah Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Thanks to the Stanford Cardinal’s win over the Washington Huskies—and seriously, thank you, Stanford—the Pac-12’s only hope at securing a spot in the College Football Playoff depends on whether Oregon or Utah can run the table. Only one of them can, since they’d meet in the Pac-12 Championship Game in this scenario.

Even if a one-loss Pac-12 champion is left at the end of the season, that’s no guarantee. A lot needs to happen in other conferences. The SEC currently has four teams in the AP top-10, which means there’s a chance the SEC gets two teams in again. No guarantee, but it’s possible.

It’s Oct. 9 and the Pac-12’s playoff hopes are already hanging by a string.

2. If a one-loss Oregon misses the playoff, you can (partially) blame the Auburn Tigers, and not because the Tigers beat Oregon

NCAA Football: Auburn at Florida Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

The Tigers lost at Florida last weekend. The Auburn loss was Oregon’s only loss, and while it’s still a “good” loss for Oregon, it’s not as good as it was this time last week. You don’t want to put your playoff chances in the hands of other teams, especially other teams starting a true freshman at quarterback in the best conference in the nation.

3. Stanford beat UW with a JV offensive line and a backup quarterback

I knew Stanford had some injuries on offense, but I didn’t realize it was this bad:

This tweet was sent before another offensive lineman went down, giving Stanford just six total big bodies up front. Kind of reminded me of the 2012 Cougar offensive line. Bad luck on the farm.

4. The Pac-12 diminishes its product’s reach

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

Jon Wilner pointed out this week that the Pac-12 Network, with the second game selection among TV networks for next weekend’s games, chose the ASU-Utah game, a matchup that could feature two ranked teams (unless WSU has anything to say). It could have passed an allowed ESPN to snag a potential matchup of two top-25 teams.

I get why the Pac-12 Network took the game—it wants a marquee matchup on its network. Who wouldn’t? But, as we all know, the Pac-12 Networks are in just 17 million homes in America, while ESPN—the next selection—is in 80 million. Wouldn’t you want to showcase your conference to as many people as possible? Yes, you would.

Mark Shuken, the Pac-12 Networks president, told Wilner, “It wasn’t only a clear-cut choice, but I view it as us having an obligation to our owners.”

As Wilner noted, the owners are the schools, and a marquee game on the conference-owned network would, theoretically, garner higher than normal ratings, and thus better ad sales opportunities, which helps the conference when the Pac-12 Networks divvy out checks to each school.

But, my goodness, this is just another example of the conference making decisions that are so obviously misguided.

5. Oregon State beat UCLA. How does that make us feel, Coug fans?

NCAA Football: Oregon State at UCLA Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Not great! Oregon State showed at times last year what its offense was capable of, but it was the defense that brought the team down. The offense is better this season (but that defense on the other hand...). Jake Luton and Isaiah Hodgins are great, and Jonathan Smith is making UW wish he was still the offensive coordinator in Seattle.

Speaking of offensive coordinators, Oregon State’s is Walla Walla native and former Idaho quarterback Brian Lindgren. Small world.

It looks like UCLA’s win in Pullman was a one-off that will be written off at the end of the season as a “What the heck was that?” game. Let’s hope it’s the same for WSU!

6. Time for some schadenfreude, Coug fans

UW lost to an inferior team, a team that I wondered if it would even make a bowl game. The game gave us these glorious images:

Yeah yeah yeah, Apple Cup, blah blah blah.

7. USC had a bye, but the news cycle didn’t

Utah v USC Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

With the week off, the USC Trojans didn’t have any real opportunity to screw things up like they have so often this season (with a few high points, of course). About the only real newsworthy item is the school announced an internal review of its athletics programs.

This isn’t usually breaking news, but since it’s USC, and especially USC with a new regime coming in and a struggling football program—not to mention the admissions scandal—it’s bigger news than it normally would be.

Things are a-changing in Los Angeles.

8. The Stanford band smokes the competition

This is the same program that has been suspended multiple times. Also, don’t vape.

9. Cyrus Habibi-Likio with the play of the week

Another former WSU commit makes the highlight reel this week.

Pac-12 Game of the Week

It’s another weekend of lousy games. The only big one is a non-conference game, so let’s go with that. The USC Trojans travel to South Bend to take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. It’s an opportunity for USC to represent the Pac-12 on a big stage, and with Kedon Slovis supposedly returning, they have a shot! Notre Dame is good, and quarterback Ian Book (hey, another former WSU commit!), is in a prove-it year. It’s also Book’s last year, so I guess there’s no other way to put it.

USC’s receivers will give Notre Dame fits, but the Irish are too good, and playing at home is a huge advantage.