Oregon atop power rankings after beating Stanford
With just two weeks to go in the regular season, neither the North nor the South has been decided. The Pac-12 conference has three teams ranked in the AP Top-25 and is likely to get two teams into BCS bowl games for the second straight year.
It appears the Ducks will win the North, but the South is up for grabs and with just a couple weeks to go, here is how the conference stacks up.
1. Oregon (9-1, 7-0 Pac-12)
A week ago, there was debate about the top team in the conference, but then the Ducks traveled to Palo Alto, Calif., and defeated the Stanford Cardinal 53-30.
Led by junior running back LaMichael James and junior quarterback Darron Thomas, Oregon has vaulted back into the National Championship discussion.
The Ducks have won two straight conference championships and appear destined for a third as they will host the conference championship game at Autzen Stadium, where they have not lost since 2008.
Oregon closes out the season with home games against USC and Oregon State.
2. Stanford (9-1, 7-1)
Oregon essentially ended Stanford’s National Championship desires, but back-to-back BCS Bowl births are not a bad consolation prize. If the Cardinal is able to win their final two games against Cal and Notre Dame, it is likely they will receive an at-large birth.
3. USC (8-2, 5-2)
The Trojans are not eligible to compete in the Pac-12 Championship game due to NCAA sanctions, but they are the best team in the South.
Led by junior quarterback Matt Barkley, the Trojans are coming off of an impressive 40-17 home victory over Washington. USC’s talent was also on display earlier this season when they took Stanford to three overtimes before falling short.
However, both those games were in Los Angeles and the Trojans will face their stiffest test of the season when they travel to Oregon this week to face a team Barkley does not believe is as good as it has been in years past.
4. Washington (6-4, 4-3)
The Huskies has lost three of their last four games, but all three of them were to the top three teams on this list.
Washington will likely be favored in their remaining two games against Oregon State and Washington State, but they may be without sophomore quarterback Keith Price, who has thrown for 25 touchdowns and 2258 yards this season.
If Price, who was injured in the loss to USC, is unable to play Nick Montana, Joe Montana’s son, will get the start.
5. Utah (6-4, 3-4)
Despite playing the majority of the season without junior quarterback Jordan Wynn, the Utes have managed to stay afloat in their first year in the Pac-12.
Although they are a game under .500 in conference play, Utah still has a chance, albeit slim, to represent the South in the title game and compete for a spot in the Rose Bowl.
After a brief two game losing streak in the beginning of the season, Utah has won four of their last five games and should be favored in their final two games where they travel to Washington State and host Colorado.
6. Cal (6-4, 3-4)
The Golden Bears have won two games in a row and seem to have found success running the football.
Junior running back Isi Sofele has rushed for 328 yards and two touchdowns in the past two games. While running the ball seems to be successful, the Golden Bears will likely need a more balanced game plan when they travel to Stanford this weekend before they come to Tempe, to finish the season against ASU.
7. UCLA (5-5, 4-3)
Four of UCLA’s five losses this season have come by double digits. However, the Bruins control their own destiny thanks to their victory over then-No. 19 ASU.
Not much went right for UCLA in last week’s 31-6 loss to Utah, but the Bruins have won two of their last three games.
If the Bruins want to guarantee themselves a spot in the conference title game, they will need to win their last two games, but they have only won back-to-back games once this season.
8. Arizona State (6-4, 4-3)
Two weeks ago the Sun Devils were 6-2 and were the frontrunners to win the south.
Then disaster struck.
ASU lost a one-point heartbreaker to UCLA and followed that up with a horrendous defensive performance in a 10 point loss to WSU.
Although the Sun Devil’s once promising season seems to be slipping away, they still have a chance to attain their preseason goals, win the division and play in the Rose Bowl. However, they need some help.
On the bright side, ASU’s final two games are at home where they are already 5-0 this season.
9. Oregon State (2-8, 2-5)
Not a lot has gone right for the Beavers in 2011. A young, inexperienced team has looked exactly like a young, inexperienced team. When the Beavers began the season with an overtime loss to Sacramento State, it was clear this year would be rough. Oregon has had two losing streaks of three games or more this season.
If there is a bright spot for Oregon State it is the fact that they are young and have used this season to get a lot of freshman valuable game experience.
10. Washington State (4-6, 2-5)
The Cougars are coming off a 10-point win against ASU in which freshman quarterback Connor Halliday threw for 494 yards and four touchdowns.
Not only did this win snap WSU’s five game losing streak, but it also kept their bowl hopes alive as they will gain eligibility if they are able to close out the season with wins against Utah and Washington.
11. Colorado (2-9, 1-6)
It nearly took a full season, but the Buffaloes recorded their first Pac-12 victory with a 48-29 win over Arizona. Colorado had lost seven straight games, but was able to control the game against UA.
Surely this season is not what coach Jon Embree had in mind, but it has to be a relief to know he won’t go winless in his first year of conference play.
12. Arizona (2-8, 1-7)
Not a lot has gone right for the Wildcats in 2011.
UA lost five of their first six games before firing coach Mike Stoops. Although the team responded to the coaching change with a 48-12 victory over UCLA, they followed that up with three consecutive losses.
Senior quarterback Nick Foles has been one of a few bright spots for the Wildcats as he has thrown for 23 touchdowns and 3612 yards this season. UA currently ranks fourth in the country with 368 passing yards per game.
With two games remaining and seemingly nothing to play for, Saturday’s matchup with rival ASU will likely be the biggest game of the Wildcats’ season as it has the opportunity to leave one memorable moment in an otherwise forgettable season.
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