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Pac-12 Power Rankings: The Guarantee Edition

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NCAA Football: Stanford at Washington State James Snook-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.

After a week off due to a busy schedule, we’re back with plenty to address. A beloved WSU Cougar made a bold guarantee, the Stanford Cardinal won’t play past November, and Oregon and Utah are still sniffing a College Football Playoff berth.

Oh yeah: We also address Pac-12 officiating. Sorry in advance.

Let’s go!


1. Don’t overreact to Max Borghi’s guarantee

After WSU’s win over the Stanford Cardinal on Saturday, running back and fan favorite Max Borghi said this:

Love it? Hate it?

I love it. I love the confidence and swagger. I know some will fret over the pressure he put on his team, and the attention the comment will get this week both locally and down in Corvallis. But I’m betting this is the same thing he and others say privately in practice. What’s wrong with that? If WSU loses, it’ll be a headline, but come on, the world will still spin.

Plus, I’m a sucker for bold predictions. Hey, speaking of such....

2. The Stanford Cardinal will stay home during bowl season

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

The Cardinal need to win both of their remaining games: this Saturday against the California Golden Bears and in two weeks against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The good news for Stanford is both games are at home. The bad news? This isn’t the Cardinal of old.

We’ve touched on Stanford’s bowl hopes before, and not in a positive way. Then they went out and beat the Washington Huskies with their backup quarterback and a JV offensive line, basically. The Cardinal were among the many weird and wacky happenings in the conference this season, but our Cougs broke them last Saturday.

Stanford might beat Cal, but it’s not beating Notre Dame. Have a nice off-season, and go cure cancer.

3. Arizona State went for the two-point conversion against Oregon State because, as their head coach would say, YOU PLAY TO WIN THE GAME.

Going for the win rather than the tie late is one of life’s greatest debates. But the merits of this play call is not:

Here’s Herm’s explanation:

“We’re a young football team and they’ve got to learn how to win. You can’t sit there and go, ‘Oh, ok. I’ll kick it.’ It’ll be a tie game and then all of a sudden you kick it off to them and they have to drive the ball down and they kick a field goal and you’ll be sitting there thinking you didn’t give yourself a chance. I wanted to put pressure on them to say, ‘OK we’ve got to score it and if we score it then you’re going for two.’ That gives you energy as a defense. I don’t second-guess myself on that. You’ve got to play to win, man. I’m not coaching here to lose games.”

I was really hoping he went back to his classic line, but alas.

4. Arizona State is in free fall mode

USC v Arizona State Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Arizona State Sun Devils woke up on Oct. 13 feeling pretty good after beating Washington State with a last-minute touchdown. They were 5-1 and ranked in the Top 25. Only a curious loss to Colorado prevented them from being undefeated.

Since then, the Sun Devils are 0-4 and suddenly they need a win to be bowl eligible. They play Oregon at home this weekend and host Arizona the following weekend. They should be safe, but not until the Territorial Cup is over.

5. Oregon and Utah are on a collision course

NCAA Football: Arizona at Oregon Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

The Oregon Ducks and Utah Utes are right where they were a week ago: sixth and seventh, respectively, in the latest College Football Playoff rankings. The Alabama Crimson Tide are one spot ahead of the Ducks.

FiveThirtyEight pegs Oregon’s chances at 37% and Utah’s at 25%. What’s notable is FiveThirtyEight has Alabama below both of them at 13%. The Oklahoma Sooners sit between the two Pac-12 schools at 30%.

A lot can happen, but Oregon and Utah can make things easy by winning out. Only one can, of course, as both will play in the Pac-12 Championship Game. But whoever finishes 12-1 with the Pac-12 title has a decent case, especially if LSU wins out (that would include a win over Georgia, eliminating the Bulldogs). Oregon and Utah will have to monitor what Oklahoma does, and Oregon is suddenly big Auburn fans.

Also: USC is suddenly ranked no. 23, giving Oregon a Top 25 win and Utah a “good” loss.

A lot can happen in three weeks, but both the Ducks and Utes are in a good spot, all things considered.

6. Washington State and Oregon State meet in a playoff game this Saturday with some interesting storylines

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

Both teams need a win to be bowl eligible, and while they both also have another try the following weekend, do you really think they’ll win their rivalry games?

As for those storylines: There’s the Max Borghi guarantee, the return of Jake Luton to Pullman (his last visit was quite scary, as picturd above), former WSU commit Isaiah Hodgins tearing it up for Oregon State, and of course OSU’s quest for its first bowl game since 2013.

Thank goodness this game is in Pullman.

7. Utah’s Tyler Huntley is quietly having himself a stellar season

Utah v Washington Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Huntley appeared on a couple Heisman lists this week. He’s completing 74.1% of his passes and has just one interception in 209 attempts. He won’t win the trophy, but his recognition is noteworthy.

8. OK let’s talk about Pac-12 officiating

Last week was bad, this week was better, but could it be any worse? Of course, there was still a flub in the Arizona-Oregon game:

This is the kind of thing that will be under the microscope for the foreseeable future. Thanks to the Pac-12’s miscues in officiating, every minor, temporary mistake will be criticized.

When Easop Winston Jr. scored the first touchdown of the game Saturday, he was initially ruled out at the one. Replay showed he was not even close to being out of bounds, and the play was overturned. But in those two minutes between showing the replay and the call being reversed, the Martin Stadium fans were rightfully livid, and probably more so than they normally would have been given what happened at Cal.

Of course, not everything is a little thing, like this missed targeting call against Stanford. Sigh.

The officials have no rope the rest of the way. It’s sad it’s come to this, but that’s reality.

9. Larry Scott is here to tell you, “Hey, it’s not my job.”

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

I’m a week late on this, but John Canzano, a go-to for Pac-12 critiques, had a column after the officiating blunder in the WSU-Cal game. It’s about what you’d expect: another beatdown of Pac-12 leadership. But one section caught my eye:

The temptation today is going to be to pin this one on (David) Coleman, too. After all, he’s in charge of officiating. But I’ve felt for weeks that Pac-12 leadership was setting the head of officiating up for a fall at the end of this season. Two weeks ago, in Los Angeles, I asked Scott why the conference hadn’t publicly acknowledged any mistakes in any of the 34 head-to-head conference games played to that point.

Anyone watching the games knows the officiating hasn’t appeared any better than in prior seasons. The promise of “transparency” and accountability felt hollow. Were we really being led to believe the officiating had been stellar to that point?

The commissioner said: “I can tell you there are a significant number of mistakes every week.”

Scott then pointed at Coleman as the person with sole responsibility for determining whether a public statement on an officiating mistake should be triggered.

(Bold emphasis is mine.)

Translated: ”Hey, it’s not my job to determine when we release a statement. I’m just the commissioner!”

I was kind of surprised that line didn’t get any more attention last week, but I guess we’re all beating a dead horse with this stuff.

10. I wonder what Clay Helton has planned for Thanksgiving

11. Dance like nobody’s watching (except they always are)

Seems like a bad time to dance your heart out.

12. Cal should wear these unis all the time

NCAA Football: Southern California at California Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

Just look at these beauties.


Pac-12 Game of the Week

Oregon at Arizona State

Four teams—Washington State, Oregon State, Cal and Arizona State—can clinch bowl eligibility this weekend. The Sun Devils need to save what was an outstanding season, and the Ducks need to impress the playoff committee with a dominant performance.

Honorable mention goes to the rivalry games—UCLA at USC and Cal at Stanford.