Pac-10 football is heading down the final stretch of being named the Pac-10. With the conference race taking a more definitive form, it’s time to rank the teams once again. Head-to-head results are given heavy consideration, but they aren’t the deciding factor in the rankings. In many cases, the head-to-head results present a problem. For example, Oregon State beat Cal, and Cal trounced UCLA, but UCLA just beat Oregon State.
The conference may struggle to fill its bowl commitments. Only five teams look like they will achieve bowl eligibility, but the Pac-10 has six slots to fill, including a BCS bid.
1. Oregon Ducks (9-0, 6-0)Last Week: 1
Oregon is unbelievable in the second half. They looked human early against Washington, and only led by four a few minutes into the second half. They turned on the big play jets and scored 35 in the second half to complete a 53-16 rout. Having seen Oregon in person, their defense is even more impressive than their offense. In the second half, they become impossible to move the ball against and shut down any hope of an upset. The Ducks are the best team in the country and will win the national title with their superior conditioning.
2. Stanford Cardinal (8-1, 5-1)Last Week: 2
Despite a lackluster crowd, the Cardinal rolled the touted Arizona Wildcats to establish themselves as the clear-cut number two team in the conference. Stanford’s only loss is on the road at Oregon, where they held an 18-point lead at one point. Andrew Luck is the best quarterback in the conference (maybe the country?) and has led the offense. On top of that, Jim Harbaugh–who has an ego the size of the Goodyear blimp–always has his teams prepared to play. Not very long ago, the Cardinal were laughable. Now, Harbaugh has them comfortably inside the top-10 and seeking their first Rose Bowl appearance since 2000.
3. Arizona Wildcats (7-2, 4-2)Last Week: 3
Although Arizona is ranked third in the Pac-10, they are clearly a tier below Oregon and Stanford. For the first time this past weekend, Arizona faced a talented offense and their celebrated defense didn’t rise to the challenge. Stanford dropped 42 on the Wildcats and exposed weaknesses in the unit. Nick Foles didn’t turn in a memorable performance, throwing for 248 yards (28 for 48), a touchdown, and an interception. Back from injury, Foles wasn’t sharp, but he should get back in a groove this coming week. With the loss, the Wildcats fall out of contention for the Rose Bowl race. How will the Wildcats respond knowing they have fallen short of their goal of being the first Arizona team to go to a Rose Bowl?
4. USC Trojans (6-3, 3-3)
5. Oregon State Beavers (4-4, 3-2)
The Beavers dropped a surprising game at UCLA 17-14 this past weekend. Without James Rodgers in the lineup, the offense struggled and Ryan Katz played a limited role in throwing just 26 times for 164 yards and one touchdown. Since Katz doesn’t have a major target, Oregon State is forced to run the ball and teams know that. Jacquizz Rodgers was limited to 64 yards on 14 carries and the Beavers held the ball for a mere 24:24. Because OSU played TCU and Boise State, they may struggle to be bowl eligible. It looks like they will either have to beat USC at home, Stanford in Palo Alto, or Oregon in Corvallis.
6. California Golden Bears (5-4, 3-3)
Cal picked up a win this weekend in Pullman, but they looked very shaky. They barely squeaked by the worst team in the Pac-10 and recorded their first road win of the season. As awful as Kevin Riley had played, his injury sets the Bears back even further. Brock Mansion is young and will struggle as he learns the ropes of becoming a quarterback in the Pac-10. As mentioned before,the heat has been turned up on Jeff Tedford because Cal fans have come to expect more from the Bears than they did during the Holmoe era. Luckily for the Bears, they finish the season with three games at home, where they are undefeated. Unfortunately, their next two opponents are No. 1 Oregon and No. 6 Stanford.
7. Arizona State Sun Devils (4-5, 2-4)
8. UCLA Bruins (4-5, 2-4)Last Week: 9
Rick Neuheisel took one step closer to bringing his team to bowl eligibility. The Bruins showed guts in bouncing back after losing three in a row. Brehaut threw for only 127 yards, but the defense clamped down and didn’t put too much pressure on the offense to score. Johnathan Franklin turned in 100 yards and Brehaut also ran for 68. Perhaps the surprise win over Oregon State can give the Sons of Westwood hope and take some pressure off of Slick Rick. Of their remaining three games, UCLA must win two. They must travel to Washington, who might not have Jake Locker, and then to Tempe. If the Bruins split, their bowl hopes will rest on the rivalry game with USC, who won’t be going bowling this season due to sanctions.
9. Washington Huskies (2-4, 3-6)
10. Washington State Cougars (1-9, 0-7)
Poor Washington State. They caught a fragile Cal on the road without an experience quarterback running the offense. The Cougars took a 10-7 lead into the half, but they failed to close out their first Pac-10 win since November 2008 and fell 20-13. Credit Paul Wulff for making this team much more competitive than the doormat they were last year. However, they have two conference games left, and only one of them presents even a chance to win. They better hope the bad version of inconsistent Washington shows up on the Palouse for the Apple Cup.