Rankings are starting to get awfully important now. As we head into the final week of the regular season, there is plenty of jockeying going on. And how the rest of the country sees things will likely play a role in how the College Football Playoff selection committee sees things.
The Pac-12 had a setback in the rankings last weekend with lackluster performances from Utah and USC. Both of their non-competitive losses bounced them from the rankings, leaving the league with just four teams left in the top 25. Kyle Bonagura has the conference perspective here. The good news is that all four teams are ranked in the top 15 -- so the best the league has to offer is getting its due. Here are where the four teams stand in the AP and coaches polls (AP listed first).
- Oregon 2-3
- UCLA 9-10
- Arizona 12-12
- ASU 13-13
As always, here are how some folks who cover the conference voted in the AP poll.
- Adam Jude of the Seattle Times
- Kyle Ringo of the Boulder Daily Camera
- Michael Lev of the Orange County Register
- Mike Sorensen of the Deseret News
- Scott Wolf of the Los Angeles Daily News
In this week's look at Pat Forde's "Fab 4," Oregon is seated nicely at the No. 2 spot, where he projects the Ducks to face Mississippi State in the Rose Bowl.
His take on the Ducks:
The Ducks continue rolling at a high rate of speed, winning their sixth straight Saturday -- all of them by double digits, all while scoring at least 42 points. They jumped on hapless Colorado 30-3 in the first half, upped the lead to 44-10 in the third quarter and then used the fourth as mop-up duty. In combination with Oregon's pileup of strong wins, its lone loss (31-24 to Arizona on Oct. 2) has only gotten better as the season has gone along. The Wildcats now are 9-2 and remain in contention to win the Pac-12 South and have a potential league championship rematch with Oregon.
Worth noting that he also has UCLA as a team still worth consideration. If the Bruins beat Stanford on Friday, they will lock up the South and force a rematch with the Ducks in the Pac-12 championship game. If the Cardinal beat the Bruins, then it's winner take all in the Territorial Cup.
- Some more on Arizona moving up in the polls.
- As noted above, there is plenty at stake in the Territorial Cup.
- Stanford owns the axe. And Cal.
- The MacIntyres are getting to spend a lot of time together.
- The Ducks enter Civil War week with momentum.
- Some notes from Mike Riley's Sunday call with the media.
- Another opinion piece on the Big Game ... though not a differing one from the Cal link.
- UCLA's receivers stepped up big against USC.
- Five observations from USC's loss to UCLA.
- Utah wasn't able to handle the big play against Arizona.
- Washington showed resiliency with its win over Oregon State.
- Some final thoughts from WSU's loss to Arizona State.
After poor showings on Saturday, USC and Utah both dropped from the rankings, but the remaining four -- Oregon, UCLA, Arizona and Arizona State -- are all at No. 13 or higher, which gives the Pac-12 the most teams ranked 13th or better.
Oregon has settled in at No. 3 behind top-ranked Florida State and Alabama, while Mississippi State and Baylor round out the top five. The Ducks received two first-place votes. UCLA moved up two spots to No. 9 after its 38-20 win against USC, while Arizona jumped three places to No. 12, a spot ahead of rival Arizona State.
UCLA, Arizona and Arizona State all remain in contention to win the Pac-12 South, which will be decided on Friday. If the Bruins beat Stanford at the Rose Bowl, they will be the division champions and play Oregon in the Pac-12 title game Dec. 5 at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California. However, if the Bruins lose, the winner of the Territorial Cup between Arizona and ASU will take the division.
Both games are set to kick off at 3:30 p.m. ET.
The gap between the Seminoles and the Crimson Tide narrowed after another close call by Florida State, which beat Boston College 20-17 on a field goal in the waning seconds.
Florida State received 37 first-place votes and 1,458 points, down six first-place votes and 18 points from last week. Alabama has 21 first-place votes 1,445 points. No. 3 Oregon received two first-place votes, one more than last week.
UCLA's big night
It all started with a bang for the Bruins, as ESPN 300 defensive end Keisean Lucier-South committed to UCLA well before the start of the game against USC.
Utah commit George Wilson was at the game and provided a quick snapshot.
Rose bowl so live ??— Will Lockett!!!! (@willdoesit__) November 22, 2014
But the lasting effects from this game might be more felt in the 2016 class, which was loaded in terms of visitors at the Rose Bowl. Outside linebacker Caleb Kelly, the nation's No. 38 prospect in his class, made the drive down.
?????? v. ?? ???? pic.twitter.com/md0wLM6qwV— George Siaosi Wilson (@24isreal) November 23, 2014
2016 wide receiver Theo Howard, who holds early offers from both programs, was at the Rose Bowl.
Bruwins x3.— Lokeni Toailoa (@LokeniTheGreat) November 23, 2014
Running back Damian Alloway, a new addition to the 2016 ESPN 300, at No. 206 overall, holds an offer from UCLA and wasn't shy about which direction he was leaning Saturday night.
Ucla vs usc tonight!!— theo howard (@theohoward2) November 22, 2014
UCLA also hosted 2016 prospects Traveon Beck and Frank Martin -- the No. 132 overall prospect in his class.
I mess with SC and UCLA tough but I'm only a UCLA fan today. #8clap ??— Damian A1?1?oway (@dalloway11) November 22, 2014
The Ducks have taken advantage of in season official visitors more frequently than any other Pac-12 program, relying heavily on Autzen Stadium's tremendous atmosphere to make an impression on visitors. This weekend, a few notable uncommitted prospects took official visits in Marquise Doherty and Octavius Spencer, but the visit to watch could be Arizona State junior college linebacker commit Davon Durant. All three prospects likely heard plenty from Oregon's committed prospects in town on official visits -- offensive linemen Shane Lemieux and Jake Hanson.
Trip to Tempe
Great times in Eugene with the fam pic.twitter.com/56FafUFBm9— Jake Hanson (@Jake_Hanson72) November 23, 2014
Arizona State had several interesting official visitors on campus, as ESPN 300 prospects John Houston, Stanley Norman and Joseph Wicker all made their way to Tempe. The Sun Devils also hosted committed junior college tight end Raymond Epps on an official visit.
Cal had a number of commits in town for the Big Game against Stanford. The Golden Bears also received an unofficial visit from 2016 ESPN 300 cornerback Treyjohn Butler, the No. 86 overall prospects who holds early Pac-12 offers from Arizona State, Cal, Washington and Washington State.
With only two weeks remaining until the playoff committee's final rankings, contenders are running out of chances to win their way into the four-team field.
Although it's not a prediction of the committee's top 25, the Playoff Forecast will use the ESPN Football Power Index and human logic (i.e., the eye test) to determine which teams are best positioned when the committee announces the playoff teams on Dec. 7. These rankings take into account perceived team strength (including injuries), remaining schedule difficulty (including prospective conference championship games) and the current selection committee rankings.
1. Oregon Ducks
FPI's chance of winning out: 59.9 percent
FPI's chance of winning the conference: 66.6 percent
Although Oregon has no more home games, I feel slightly better about its chance to win out than the other two teams that seem to control their playoff destinies (Florida State and Alabama). The Ducks are at Oregon State this week, and their likely Pac-12 title game opponent is UCLA, whom they dominated at the Rose Bowl on Oct. 11. But the Bruins have played much better of late and could pose a threat to Oregon if they can first clinch the South with a win over Stanford on Friday. FPI gives the Ducks a 64 percent chance to win if they play UCLA again.
Each Sunday during the season, ESPN.com will highlight four storylines that had an impact on the College Football Playoff race.
Jameis Winston moved an official and, eventually, the Eagles out of the way, driving the Seminoles 66 yards to put Roberto Aguayo in position for a 26-yard game-winning field goal with three seconds remaining.
Baylor, Ohio State, UCLA look to impress
Three teams sitting just outside the top four vamped for the selection committee: No. 7 Baylor eased past Oklahoma State 49-28, No. 6 Ohio State clinched the Big Ten's East Division title with a 42-27 win over Indiana and No. 9 UCLA defeated No. 19 USC 38-20.
Three of top four cruise
Taylor Kelly, QB, Arizona State: Kelly and the Sun Devils got off to a horrible start against Washington State, but that's but a distant memory after the senior finished strong in a 52-31 victory. He completed 12 of his final 14 passes for 188 yards and four touchdowns.
Nick Wilson, RB, Arizona: The freshman ran for a career-high 218 yards on 20 carries with three touchdowns, including a 75-yarder, in Arizona's 42-10 victory over Utah. As Wilson goes, so do the Wildcats. Arizona is 8-0 when Wilson rushes for 19 or more yards.
Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon: In his final game at Autzen Stadium (probably), Mariota turned in a typical performance: 24 for 32, 323 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and ran for 73 yards and another score on eight carries in a 44-10 victory over Colorado. His 42 touchdowns this year (passing and rushing), breaks Matt Barkley's single-season Pac-12 record from 2011.
Blake Martinez, LB, Stanford: Martinez recorded two interceptions and forced a fumble to help Stanford force five turnovers in a 38-17 victory against California -- the most it has forced in a game since Nov. 27, 2010 against Oregon State. He's the first player with two interceptions in the Big Game since Cal's Nnamdi Asomugha in 2001.
Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA: Hundley threw for 326 yards, accounted for four touchdowns and broke Cade McNown's school record for total offense (now at 11,353) in the Bruins' 38-20 victory over USC. He's also the first UCLA quarterback since McNown to win three consecutive games against the Trojans.
Cyler Miles, QB, Washington: Miles turned in his best performance of the season, completing 18 of 23 passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns without an interception to help the Huskies become bowl eligible with a 37-13 victory over Oregon State.
Vince Mayle, WR, Washington State: Mayle showed why he's a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award with 15 catches for 252 yards -- his sixth 100-yard receiving game of the season. He cracked the 100-catch mark in the game (101) and set WSU's new single-season receiving record (1,404 yards).
South Division picture clearer: With UCLA's 38-20 whipping of USC and Arizona's 42-10 bludgeoning of Utah, the Trojans and Utes are out of the South Division race. So it comes down to UCLA, Arizona and Arizona State on the final weekend of the regular season to see who plays North Division champion Oregon on Dec. 5 for the Pac-12 title. UCLA controls its fate: It wins the South if it beats Stanford on Friday. If UCLA loses to Stanford, the winner of the Territorial Cup on Friday is the Pac-12 champion. Funny thing: Both games are 12:30 PT kicks, so they will be contested simultaneously, which means the Sun Devils and Wildcats likely will be doing some scoreboard watching during their rivalry game.
This is the biggest Territorial Cup in a long time: Arizona and Arizona State, both 9-2 overall and 6-2 in the Pac-12, will meet in the Territorial Cup as ranked teams for the first time since 1986. The most recent time both teams had at least nine wins was 1975 (ASU 10-0, Arizona 9-1). The South Division is still undecided. Next Friday, with everyone stuffed with turkey, this will be great fun in Tucson. Big question, though: Will Arizona QB Anu Solomon, who left the Wildcats' win over Utah with a lower-leg injury, be available?
Newly bowl eligible: Stanford's 38-17 win over Cal and Washington's 37-13 win over Oregon State made each team bowl-eligible and gave the Pac-12 eight eligible teams. Cal and Oregon State still can become bowl-eligible on the final weekend. Cal needs to beat BYU at home on Saturday, while the Beavers need to end their six-game losing streak in the Civl War against state Oregon.
Cal is much better, but Stanford still rules the Big Game: Cal and Stanford entered the Big Game with matching 5-5 records, but the Cardinal made a dominant statement and won their fifth in a row in the series. That means no Stanford senior will experience life without The Axe. Entering the game, it was a matchup of a good offense (Cal) versus a good defense (Stanford) and a bad offense (Stanford) versus a bad defense (Cal). We learned Stanford's good defense is better than Cal's good offense, and its bad offense is better than Cal's bad defense.
Washington State's freshman QB Luke Falk has lots of potential, but he hasn't yet arrived: Falk was impressive coming off the bench to replace an injured Connor Halliday against USC and had a brilliant starting debut at Oregon State and a strong start at Arizona State, when the Cougs jumped ahead 21-7 against the Sun Devils. But things went haywire thereafter, and Falk started looking like a freshman. He committed five turnovers (four picks and a fumble) in a game the Cougars lost 52-31. He threw for 601 yards and three TDs, and he has shown plenty of good things that point to a strong future running Mike Leach's offense. But the performance in Sun Devil Stadium showed he's still got ways to go, which really shouldn't be surprising.
EUGENE, Ore. -- Marcus Mariota threw for 323 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 73 yards and another score in perhaps his last game at Autzen Stadium and No. 2 Oregon beat Colorado 44-10 on Saturday.
Freshman Royce Freeman ran for 105 yards and two scores for the Ducks (10-1, 7-1 Pac-12, AP No. 3). Oregon has already clinched the North Division's berth in the conference championship game on Dec. 5.
It was the seventh straight loss for Colorado (2-9, 0-8).
Mariota, a Heisman Trophy front-runner who has thrown a touchdown pass in every game of his career at Oregon, has not yet said whether he will forgo his final year of eligibility next season and declare for the NFL draft, although most expect him to. Should he go to the NFL, he is projected by many as a top-five pick.
Oregon No. 2 In CFB Power Rankings
Final Washington State 31 13 Arizona State 52 Final 15 Arizona 42 17 Utah 10 Final Stanford 38 California 17 Final Colorado 10 2 Oregon 44 Final 19 USC 20 9 UCLA 38 Final Oregon State 13 Washington 37