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Pac-12 Power Rankings: The backwards Bay Area

Plus, USC’s roller coaster is back on track....for now.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 18 Cal at Stanford Photo by Douglas Stringer/Icon Sportswire via 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.

The Stanford Cardinal have beaten the California Golden Bears every year since 2010. The Cardinal have been one of the Pac-12’s top teams in that time, while the Bears....have not. But the roles have reversed this season, with the Bears being the league’s lone unbeaten team and the Cardinal have just one lousy win through four games.

We take a look at that, as well as a number of items from USC’s upset win over Utah and some leftovers in this week’s Pac-12 Power Rankings.

1. Can Cal win the Pac-12? The Bears face a tough schedule the rest of the way.

California v Mississippi Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

The California Golden Bears are no. 15 after dismantling Ole Miss of the SEC. The Bears have a win over UW already, but don’t exactly have an easy schedule going forward. They still have games at Oregon, at Utah, at home against Washington State and at home against USC.

The Bears are the only undefeated team in the conference, which is unbelievable, but this is the Pac-12, remember. That defense is stout, but the offense has a way to go before we crown them. The jury is still out on the Bears, but wild things have happened.

2. Will Stanford miss out on a bowl game?

Oregon v Stanford Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The Stanford Cardinal scored just six points in a loss to the Oregon Ducks over the weekend, continuing a downward trend. They are just four-point favorites at Oregon State this weekend before hosting Washington. Then, this is their schedule:

  • vs. UCLA
  • vs. Arizona
  • at Colorado
  • at Washington State
  • vs. Cal
  • vs. Notre Dame

Assuming they win at Oregon State and lose to Washington, do you see four more wins on that schedule?

3. The roller coaster continues: USC beat Utah with its third-strong quarterback

Once Kedon Slovis went down on the game’s second play, it seemed like at any minute a team of movers might descend on Clay Helton’s office and start packing his things. Slovis was already the USC Trojans’ second quarterback, and now the team had to turn to third stringer Matt Fink. Fink, you’ll recall, flirted with transferring this offseason before having second thoughts. Good thing, too, because he was thrust into action against the highest-ranked Pac-12 team and went right to work lighting up the Utah Utes’ secondary and doing things like this:

The win gives USC a nice boost, especially after the loss at BYU the previous week. We’ll see if the momentum continues as the Trojans head to Seattle to face Washington in a game suddenly featuring two ranked teams.

4. Pac-12 officials dumped a lot of laundry at the Coliseum

NCAA Football: Boise State at San Diego State Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Utah and USC combined for 27 penalties and 237 yards Friday night. A number of those calls (most of them?) were extremely soft, and the officials called the game tight all night long. That doesn’t help the viewing experience at all.

Just curious: What’s worse - the number of penalties, or the fact that the refs have to deliberate with each other for what seems like 10 minutes before announcing the call? I know they have to figure out the number of the player, as well as where the ball should be placed on a lot of these calls. It might just be me, but the lag time in hearing the announcement bugs me way too much.

5. What does Utah’s loss mean for the Utes, and what does it mean for the Pac-12?

NCAA Football: Utah at Southern California Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

For Utah, the path to winning the South isn’t closed by any means, but the Utes will need some help along the way. Washington could provide that help this weekend, and USC still has to play Oregon and Cal (Utah only plays Cal—they miss Oregon). So while the South might have been muddied a little, it’s by no means over for Utah.

As for the Pac-12? Well, one of its marquee programs pulled off a big win in front of what I presume was a sizable Friday night audience, but Utah’s shot at the College Football Playoff took a hit. A one-loss Pac-12 team could still make the playoff, but that relies a lot on what happens in other conferences. So while the Utah loss wasn’t a death knell to the conference, it didn’t help, either.

6. The Pac-12’s officiating explanation from the Cal-Ole Miss game is backwards

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

In case you missed it, Ole Miss had a chance to tie its game against Cal as the fourth quarter wound down Saturday. An Ole Miss receiver caught a pass with his feet in the end zone but the ball was ruled to have not crossed the goal line. With no timeouts, Ole Miss hurried to the line and attempted a QB sneak that was stuffed. The previous play should have been reviewed via instant replay.

The Pac-12, for the second week in a row, issued a statement about its officiating. The statement led the fact that the call on the field was correct. That’s great and all, but that wasn’t the issue—the issue was the call should have been reviewed. The Pac-12’s statement indicates it should have, and that’s what it should have led with.

Am I picking nits?

7. Good news for WSU: Utah might be missing its two most important players this weekend

NCAA Football: Utah at Southern California Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

We need a some positive news around these parts so here goes: Utah’s Zack Moss and Tyler Huntley were both banged up in the Utes’ loss at USC last Friday. Kyle Whittingham is mum on injuries like many coaches, so who the heck knows what we’ll see on Saturday. Zack Moss had his arm in a sling and ice around his shoulder, which leads me to believe he’ll be out. I’m betting Huntley plays.

We saw what a team could do to the Cougar defense last weekend, and if Utah’s best runner is out, that’s a plus for WSU.

8. A Kevin Sumlin tweet brought out the Twitter Tough Guys

Sumlin tweeted the eyeball emoji after Texas A&M’s loss on Saturday:

Predictably, out came the A&M fans who have many miles and either a computer or smart phone screen to hide behind. I’d like a sociology professor to explain this: Why do some people feel the need to tweet at someone high-profile like that? Is there some sort of high feeling that goes along with it? It’s not exclusive to A&M fans, of course, but I’d like to see the inner workings of the brain when someone decides to SEND TWEET to a public figure.

Even an A&M staffer got in on the action, with a comment that might make waves down the line. Get your popcorn ready!

9. Reggie Bush brings the in-depth analysis

I’ve enjoyed the Fox college football pregame broadcasts, but this bit was weird.

10. Here’s this season’s first weird injury

Pac-12 Game of the Week

This spot was supposed to be reserved for WSU at Utah, but we all know how that went. So instead we plug our noses and go with USC at Washington. UW is a 10-point favorite but the Trojan offense should test the UW defense, at least.

Honorable mention goes to Arizona State at Cal on Friday night. That final score might end up being 3-0.