SportsPac12: 2018 Pac-12 Football - Week 8 Power Ratings
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2018 Pac-12 Football - Week 8 Power Ratings

October 15, 2018

Pac-12 Football: Week Eight Power Rankings

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The best and closest Oregon-Washington game in recent memory—if not in the history of the series—pushed its winner to the top of this list, at least for now. While the Ducks and Huskies proved to be nearly evenly matched, USC emerged from its victory over Colorado as the more dominant team, setting up a showdown with Utah on Saturday. That game could ultimately decide the South.

1. Oregon (5-1) — Previous Ranking: 3 
So much for the spread-option blur. The Ducks won with a physicality not often seen in recent Oregon teams, matching Washington's power on the line of scrimmage. The close overtime victory not only helped compensate for the game the Ducks gave away to Stanford three weeks ago, it also confirmed their size and strength upgrades. John Elway left Autzen impressed by Justin Herbert, but it didn't take an NFL executive to see that Mario Cristobal's Ducks intend to rely as much on their smash-mouth defense and down-hill rushing as their star quarterback.

2. Washington (5-2) — Previous Ranking:
Statistically, Washington outplayed the Ducks in several categories, and had the game in hand with :03 seconds left to play. But Oregon beat the Huskies as much as they beat themselves. While the loss all but ended Washington's playoff hopes, there's still plenty to play for, including the Pac-12 Championship and a Rose Bowl berth. The Dawgs will need some help along the way, and you can bet they'll be pulling for WSU on Saturday. If not for a couple plays, this Washington team could be sitting in the Top 5 at 7-0. But the time for wishful thinking has passed.

3. Utah (4-2) — Previous Ranking: 4 
The Utes may have been snubbed in the national polls, but they'll continue to get their due here until they're proven unworthy. Utah suffered two close, respectable losses to Washington and WSU, and have a quality win over Stanford on the road. Last week's impressive beat-down of Arizona—their second-straight 40-point, 400+ yard performance—confirmed their improvement on offense. USC provides a big challenge, even with the loss of its top pass rusher in Porter Gustin, but it may take an upset of Oregon in three weeks to land Utah in the Top 25.

5. Washington State (5-1) — Previous Ranking: 6 
What more could the Cougars ask for from a bye week? Not only did Washington's loss to Oregon set the stage for ESPN's College Gameday's first-ever trip to Pullman, but a string of upsets also catapulted WSU into the Top 25 themselves. After Colorado's loss, the Cougs move up this list by default as well. They can prove they're deserving of all the good that has come their way by upending Oregon on a national stage. Doing so would give Washington State the inside track in the North; a loss could knock Wazzu out of the race.

5. USC (4-2) — Previous Ranking: 7 
Talent hides a multitude of sins for the Trojans. Despite a bye week dedicated to cleaning up their mistakes, USC's win over Colorado revealed as many warts as bright spots. When the Trojans weren't committing 13 penalties or playing with the intensity of a 7-on-7 scrimmage, their speed was demoralizing the Buffs. USC's receivers ran away from Colorado's defensive backs seemingly at will, and had JT Daniels been more accurate, the score could have been much worse. USC remains both a great and a mediocre team in turns, but one that seems likely to win the South.

6. Stanford (4-2) — Previous Ranking: 6 

The Cardinal probably could have used two bye weeks to get past back-to-back losses and a flurry of injuries, but as it stands, they won't even get the usual allotment of days off before Thursday's must-win game at ASU. A loss in Tempe would send Stanford's season spinning out of control. With or without Bryce Love, the Cardinal needs to find some production at running back, re-establish the receiver play Utah minimized, and take better care of the ball. That said, the Tree still controls its own destiny in the North.

7. Colorado (5-1) — Previous Ranking: 2 
No doubt, the Buffs have a very special talent in Laviska Shenault, but he can't be expected to take down the Trojans on his own. USC has comparable talent all over the field, and might have blown the game open, if not for CU's superior discipline and intensity. While the Buffs' undefeated run is over, the wide-open South race is far from decided. Utah can help Colorado's cause by taking down USC. But even if the Trojans win and the Buffs lose to Washington, two losses should keep Colorado hanging around into Week 9.

8. Arizona State (3-3) — Previous Ranking: 9 
The Devils still haven't found a way to win on the road, but it might not matter, if they continue holding serve at home. Many would gladly have taken 6-6 when the Herm Edwards Era began. But with Stanford and Utah coming to town over the next three weeks, even that won't be easy. The wounded Cardinal might present ASU with its best opportunity to crack .500, if Stanford remains unable to run the ball effectively. Regardless, the Ducks will be cheering for Arizona State to hand them full control of the North.

9. UCLA (1-5) —Previous Ranking: 11 
After coming close against Washington two weeks ago, the Bruins finally played a complete enough game to put a mark in the win column. Simultaneously, the Bears seemed to digress, making it more difficult to assess the extent of UCLA's improvement. Nonetheless, it seems increasingly likely that late-season opponents could find the Bruins more difficult to dispatch than expected. Indeed, UCLA is looking more like a Chip Kelly-coached college team, on both sides of the ball. And that's not all: A win over Arizona on Saturday would put the Bruins in the thick of the South race.

10. Arizona (3-4) — Previous Ranking: 8 
In their struggles at Salt Lake City, the Wildcats may have found a viable alternative at quarterback in Rhett Rodriguez. Until Khalil Tate can go full speed, Arizona might be better served going with the ex-coach's son, who showed he can manage the offense. UCLA could challenge Arizona's defense more than Utah's did last week, stretching and stressing the Cats beyond their ability to contain DTR's budding athleticism. A loss would make a winning season less reachable, and knock Arizona out of the battle for the Division.

11. California (3-3) — Previous Ranking: 10 
On paper the Bears look like a capable team in all but one category: They've turned the ball over 19 times in six games, second-worst in the FBS. Five of those turnovers—two interceptions and three fumbles—came last week against UCLA, with one leading directly to a score. Cal needs to find a fix quick, lest it become OSU's first Conference victim. Don't be surprised if Bears coach Justin Wilcox moves away from Brandon McIlwain after watching him toss seven interceptions in three straight losses. 

12. Oregon State (1-5) — Previous Ranking: 12 
If the Beavers are going to win a Pac-12 game, next Saturday's matchup with the Bears might be their best and last shot. After Cal comes a Death March of high-caliber opponents in Colorado, USC, Stanford, Washington, and Oregon. The way Cal has played the past three games, simply avoiding turnovers of their own might be enough for the Beavs to pull it off. This much seems certain: Cal isn't likely to slow Oregon State's explosive running attack.

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