With two weeks remaining and a slew of impact matchups on the schedule, there are dozens of scenarios in play for berths in the Pac-12 championship game, including a four-team tie.
(A five-way deadlock also is possible, but we can’t contemplate that outcome without heads exploding.)
Let’s keep things as simple as possible until Saturday night and offer three points:
— Washington and Oregon are the only teams that control their own destiny.
The Huskies would clinch a berth in Las Vegas this week with a victory at Oregon State or with a loss to the Beavers and losses by both Arizona and Oregon.
— Oregon clinches a spot in the title game with a victory at Arizona State and an Arizona loss to Utah.
— And keep in mind that two matchups not on the schedule, USC-Oregon State and Arizona-Oregon, could complicate matters because of the Pac-12 tiebreaker process, which uses head-to-head outcomes only if all the tied teams have played each other.
To the power ratings …
1. Oregon (9-1/6-1)
Last week: 1
Result: beat USC 36-27
Next up: at Arizona State (1 p.m. on Fox)
Comment: Four years ago, the one-loss, sixth-ranked Ducks and their superb quarterback (Justin Herbert) headed to ASU for a late-November duel. The Sun Devils, who had lost four in a row, produced a 31-28 upset. Will history repeat? The Ducks were 14-point favorites then. They are 22.5-point favorites now.
2. Washington (10-0/7-0)
Last week: 2
Result: beat Utah 35-28
Next up: at Oregon State (4:30 p.m. on ABC)
Comment: The number that jumps out this week is 4.6: yards-per-carry allowed by Washington’s defense in conference games. If the Huskies don’t fare any better against OSU’s master-class running game, they will depart Corvallis with their first loss.
3. Oregon State (8-2/5-2)
Last week: 3
Result: beat Stanford 62-17
Next up: vs. Washington (4:30 p.m. on ABC)
Comment: So an undefeated, fifth-ranked opponent is coming to town with a Heisman Trophy favorite and 17-game winning streak — and the Beavers opened as one-point favorites. Does anything better illustrate the work done by Jonathan Smith? We think not.
4. Arizona (7-3/5-2)
Last week: 4
Result: won at Colorado 34-31
Next up: vs. Utah (11:30 a.m. on Pac-12 Networks)
Comment: Plenty of folks were disappointed that this critical game ended up on the Pac-12 Networks while Fox picked Oregon-Arizona State. In all candor, that’s an easy call for Fox. Arizona doesn’t move the ratings needle an iota; Utah is coming off a loss (on Fox); and Oregon, in addition to being squarely in the playoff race, stands as the closest thing to a ratings machine as exists on the West Coast.
5. Utah (7-3/4-3)
Last week: 5
Result: lost at Washington 35-28
Next up: at Arizona (11:30 a.m. on Pac-12 Networks)
Comment: Admittedly, the Hotline did not see the Utes’ consecutive trips to Seattle and Tucson as being the toughest road back-to-back any team will face this season. But here we are. And here they are.
6. USC (7-4/5-3)
Last week: 7
Result: lost at Oregon 36-27
Next up: vs. UCLA (12:30 p.m. on ABC)
Comment: Two seasons with a generational talent at quarterback and zero conference titles? The closest parallel to USC’s plight is Stanford in 2010-11 with Andrew Luck, but the details differ. The Cardinal ran into an Oregon juggernaut and simply lacked the defensive talent to compete with the Ducks. USC’s issues are entirely about poor coaching on the defensive side.
7. UCLA (6-4/3-4)
Last week: 6
Result: lost to Arizona State 17-7
Next up: at USC (12:30 p.m. on ABC)
Comment: So many comparisons between the implosion against ASU over the weekend and the inexplicable loss to Arizona last season: Both games were at home; both were the week before the USC game; both were to opponents with 1-5 conference records; both came with the Bruins as heavy favorites; and both left frustrated UCLA fans pining for a coaching change.
8. Cal (4-6/2-5)
Last week: 9
Result: beat WSU 42-39
Next up: at Stanford (3:30 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks)
Comment: With a four-game losing streak in the rearview mirror, the Bears have a real shot to qualify for the postseason. Handle the Cardinal, which just lost by 45 points, and the Bruins, who are floundering, and they’re headed somewhere for the holidays for the first time since 2019.
9. Arizona State (3-7/2-5)
Last week: 11
Result: won at UCLA 17-7
Next up: vs. Oregon (1 p.m. on Fox)
Comment: Not on our bingo card for the 2023 season: ASU in the No. 9 hole of the Hotline’s power ratings. Flip the outcome of a few plays (against Washington, Cal or Colorado) and the Sun Devils would be on the brink of qualifying for a spot in the postseason that they would be bound to reject.
10. Colorado (4-6/1-6)
Last week: 8
Result: lost to Arizona 34-31
Next up: at Washington State (Friday, 7:30 p.m. on FS1)
Comment: Take note that TCU is 2-5 in a mediocre Big 12, Nebraska is 3-4 in the offensively challenged Big Ten West and Colorado State is 2-4 in the Mountain West. Granted, those are merely conference records. But we can also offer the following statement of fact: The Buffaloes haven’t beaten a team with a winning overall record.
11. Stanford (3-7/2-5)
Last week: 10
Result: lost at Oregon State 62-17
Next up: vs. Cal (3:30 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks)
Comment: Final tally for the final season: Oregon schools 104, Stanford 23. Ouch.
12. Washington State (4-6/1-6)
Last week: 12
Result: lost at Cal 42-39
Next up: vs. Colorado (Friday, 7:30 p.m. on FS1)
Comment: The Hotline will have full clarity on the bottom rung of our power ratings come Friday night. Somebody has to lose, even if it takes until Saturday morning.
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