Pac-12 power rankings: the state of Oregon takes control of the North

Oregon (6-1, 3-1) and Oregon State (5-2, 3-1) both beat the teams they faced on Saturday and now sit tied for first place in the Pac-12 North. The Beavers had the most comfortable margin with their eight-point win over Utah in Corvallis, Ore. while the Ducks had to hold off a fourth quarter UCLA comeback to win by three in the Rose Bowl.

In the match-up between Oregon and its former head coach, the Ducks finally developed a consistent down field passing attack that allowed their offense to fire on all cylinders. Senior quarterback Anthony Brown seemed to hit his stride, despite the two interceptions he tossed, as he completed 74.4% of his passes for nearly 296 yards (an average of 10.1 yards per completion) in the victory. And the passing offense putting it together was desperately needed as the Ducks rushing attack only found success when Brown ran the ball — he carried it six times for 85 yards; Travis Dye’s 14 carries only amassed 35 yards on the ground. Because the ground attack was so ineffective on Saturday, the passing attacks ability to hit chunk plays consistently was the difference in the 34-31 win against UCLA.

Meanwhile in Corvallis, the Beavers offense put on a clinic as it dissected the Utes defense to the tune of 468 total yards while they also averaged 6.3 yards per carry and 14.9 yards per completed pass. This game really came down to efficiency on third down, as the Beavers converted on seven of their 11 third down attempts, while Utah converted seven of its 15. As a result OSU was able to extend its drives while the Utes offense stuttered at times. The win was a big bounce back moment for Jonathan Smith’s squad after the bye, which had been preceded by the program’s eighth straight loss to Washington State.

Because the Pac-12 counts interdivision games towards division standings, both of the Oregon schools took a 1/2 game lead over Washington State in the race for the North crown. Which means that the end of season match-up between the two Oregon schools, plus the Ducks home game against WSU, will be crucial in deciding who represents the division in the Pac-12 Championship game.

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1) Oregon Ducks

For the first time this season, the Ducks passing attack carried the offense as it marched down the field. Brown showed off why offensive coordinator Joe Morehead decided to run with him as the starting quarterback. It will be interesting to see if the senior can consistently produce at a high level throughout the games that are left on Oregon’s schedule.

2) Utah Utes

The inability of Utah’s defense to slow down the Beavers’ offensive attack wasn’t a particular surprise as no one has been able to do that throughout the season (Washington and Purdue came the closest) so it was really up to the offense. And the offense performed admirably as it rolled up 455 yards and averaged 12.1 yards per completed pass with 4.6 yards on the ground; unfortunately for Kyle Whittingham’s squad their struggles on third and fourth down were the difference in this game.

3) Arizona State Sun Devils

Arizona State’s bye week came at the perfect time after that bruising loss to Stanford last week. Thanks to Utah’s loss on Saturday, Sparky is tied for first in the South at 3-1 in conference play.

4) Oregon State Beavers

An impressive win for Smith and his program, they now have a legit shot at winning the North title. Which is something that Washington State, Cal, and Oregon State have yet to do since the conference expanded for the 2012 season. I can also say, with a high degree of confidence, that this is the highest Oregon State has ranked in the history of our power rankings.

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5) UCLA Bruins

Despite the loss to the Ducks, Chip Kelly’s squad is only a 1/2 game back in the South and has yet to face Arizona State or Utah. The Bruins are still very much in the hunt for their first division title and their first shot at a Pac-12 title game appearance.

6) Washington State Cougars

The battle for the #GoCougs hashtag (which started in Provo, Utah in 2012) ended with BYU’s two-point victory on Saturday. In Jake Dickert’s first game as WSU’s interim head coach — and it looks like he’s the first interim head coach in program history — the offensive play calling regressed at times while the baffling instances of coach brain continued to be a theme.

7) Stanford Cardinal

A by week for Stanford came after its fifth straight loss to the Cougs on the Palouse.

8) Washington Huskies

Washington moved up purely by default, not because of anything that happened in its come from behind win in Tuscon, Ariz. The Wildcats had dominated the Friday night game from the outset, but faded let as the Huskies scored 14-unanswered points in the fourth quarter to pick up a win that should have been a by a far more comfortable margin.

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9) California Golden Bears

Cal beat the absolute tar out of an overmatched Colorado team for its first conference win of the season. The Golden Bears held Colorado to 69 passing yards and 35 rushing yards on a combined 46 play; while their offense rolled up 225 yards through the air and 213 yards on the ground. Quarterback Chase Garbers had one of those games where he showed off the potential that’s kept him firmly entrenched in the starting spot despite his inconsistent play from game to game.

10) USC Trojans

USC was demolished in South Bend, Ind. as the program dropped its fourth game of the season with the 15-point loss. Kedon Slovis had, arguably, his best performance of the season (even with the interception) but it still wasn’t enough for the Trojans offense to find the end zone against the Fighting Irish –13 of their 16 points came in the fourth quarter after the game was out of reach.

11) Colorado Buffaloes

The offense’s inability to score continues to hold back Colorado as it leaves the defense out to dry. With the fifth loss of the season, it’s hard to see the Buffs finding their way to bowl eligibility.

12) Arizona Wildcats

With that loss to Washington, the Wildcats recorded their 19th straight loss and were eliminated from bowl eligibility. The program is on a very clear trajectory to become the first 0-12 Pac-12 team since 2008 Washington.

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Photo Credit: Oregon Live/Getty Images