By Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on Twitter)
Post-Week 9 Pac-12 Power Rankings
Check out all of our college football rankings.
1. Stanford (8-0, 6-0) – It took nine weeks and three overtimes, but Stanford has finally taken over the top slot in Athlon Sports' Pac-12 Power Rankings. The 56-48 triple-overtime win over USC in the Coliseum extended the Cardinal's winning streak to 16 games, as quarterback Andrew Luck put his Heisman resume on display. He directed four late scoring drives — the most important coming directly after a pick-six with three minutes left in the fourth that had appeared to give the Trojans the win. Luck led a 10-play, 76-yard touchdown drive to tie the game at 34 with 38 seconds left in regulation. Stanford scored touchdowns in all three overtime periods. The Cardinal travel to Corvallis to play Oregon State this weekend before the November 12 showdown in Palo Alto against the Ducks.
2. Oregon (7-1, 5-0) – Darron Thomas and LaMichael James were back on the field for the game against Washington State this weekend. However, neither played a big role in the 43-28 win over the Cougars. Thomas (8/13, 156 yards, TD, 2 INT) and the Ducks struggled to a 15-10 halftime score before Chip Kelly inserted Bryan Bennett at quarterback. Oregon proceeded to outscore the Cougs 28-18 in the second half for its 21st straight home victory. James led the team in carries (13 att., 53 yards), but Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas did the most damage. The pair of backups accounted for 269 all-purpose yards and scored three touchdowns in three different ways (rushing, receiving, kickoff return). Darron Thomas is still the starter and did not appear to have any limitations mobility-wise. Oregon has a tricky game at Washington this weekend before heading to Stanford in two weeks.
3. Arizona State (6-2, 4-1) – After a loss to Oregon and a bye week, Arizona State showed why it will be the Pac-12 South's representative in the conference's first title game. Showing excellent offensive balance, the Sun Devils kept Colorado winless in the Pac-12 by thumping the Buffs 48-14. Arizona State rushed for 207 yards and four scores on the ground while throwing for 315 yards and two scores through the air. ASU leads the league in turnover margin at +1.5 per game and gets four winnable opponents to finish 2011: at UCLA, at Washington State, Arizona and Cal.
4. USC (6-2, 3-2) – Lane Kiffin and the Trojans can carry their heads high after a valiant 56-48 triple-overtime loss to Stanford. A timely penalty against T.J. McDonald and four fumbles — the only one USC lost ended the game — cost the Men of the Troy the win. The offensive line and the ground game were excellent (23 att., 148 yards, 2 TD) while Matt Barkley exhibited leadership and poise (284 yards, 3 TD). This team is clearly very talented and has showed marked improvement over the course of the season, so Washington (Nov. 12) and Oregon (Nov. 19) need to be careful or the Trojans will have something to say about the Pac-12 title after all. Next up, however, is a trip to Boulder to play the Buffaloes on Friday night.
5. Washington (6-2, 4-1) – After a demoralizing loss to Stanford, the Huskies got back into the win column with a 42-31 home win over Arizona. Junior tailback Chris Polk was on full display and has further cemented his long-term legacy as one of the Huskies' best. He became the first player in Washington history with 100 yards rushing and receiving and scored five touchdowns (4 rush, 1 rec.). After falling behind 10-0 at the end of the first quarter, Washington outscored the Wildcats 42-21 behind 38 touches for Polk. Keith Price struggled a bit with three interceptions and completed only 53.3% of his passes, but his defense forced four timely turnovers to keep Arizona at bay in the second half. The Huskies get a second chance to prove themselves this weekend as the Oregon Ducks come to Seattle.
6. Utah (4-4, 1-4) – After a slow first 20 minutes of action, one of the Pac-12's newest members finally got a conference win. The Utes thoroughly controlled the line of scrimmage in a 27-8 win over Oregon State. Utah averaged over five yards per carry on 44 attempts (225 yards) while holding the Beavers to only 32 yards rushing on 26 attempts. John White IV was the star of the offense, carrying the ball 35 times for a career-high 205 yards. His 114.4 yards per game are good for third in the Pac-12. The Ute defense forced four turnovers and sacked Sean Mannion six times. Kyle Whittingham will look to keep momentum going as Utah travels to Arizona this weekend.
7. UCLA (4-4, 3-2) – Head coach Rick Neuheisel might have saved his job in the Coaching Hot Seat Bowl with Cal's Jeff Tedford. UCLA caused five turnovers and rushed for 294 yards to hand the not-so-Golden Bears a surprisingly one-sided 31-14 loss. Quarterback Kevin Prince rushed for 163 yards while Johnathan Franklin (13 att., 45 yards, TD) and Derrick Coleman (16 att., 80 yards, 3 TD) did all the scoring. Freshman safety Tevin McDonald was the star of the defense as he intercepted his first three passes of his career. The Bruins are back on track to make a bowl game with winnable games against Utah and Colorado looming after this weekend's home test against Arizona State. Neuheisel needs to be playing in the postseason if he expects to return to Westwood in 2012.
8. California (4-4, 1-4) – Cal lost for the fourth time in five games as it was overrun in the second quarter by UCLA. The Bruins scored 17 points in the second frame en route to their 31-14 win over the Bears. Quarterback Zach Maynard, who has been wildly inefficient this season, threw four interceptions and completed only 46.7% of his passes while star wideout Keenan Allen had his worst statistical game of the year (7 rec., 83 yards). Cal committed five turnovers, allowed three sacks and converted only 2-of-12 third-down opportunities. With home games against Washington State and Oregon State next up on the slate, Jeff Tedford's tenure as the headman in Berkeley could be hanging in the balance over the next 14 days.
9. Arizona (2-6, 1-5) – The story has been writtern before for Arizona. Nick Foles threw for over 375 yards for the sixth time this season but lost the game for the fifth time. Foles threw for 388 yards and two touchdowns (and three interceptions) in the 42-31 road loss to Washington. After allowing 489 yards to the Huskies (244 to Chris Polk), Arizona ranks last in the Pac-12 in total defense (467.3 ypg) and 11th in scoring defense (34.8 ppg). Utah visits the desert this weekend.
10. Oregon State (2-6, 2-3) – The Beavers were completely dominated in the trenches in the 27-8 loss to Utah. Oregon State was held to 32 yards rushing and failed to score a point until the 14:55 mark of the fourth quarter. Utah exploded for 21 points over a seven minute span and OSU never recovered. Things might only get worse for Mike Riley as the Beavers finish with a brutal stretch against Stanford, at Cal, Washington and at Oregon.
11. Washington State (3-5, 1-4) – After an exciting 3-1 start to the season for Paul Wulff, the Cougars have now lost four straight games after a 43-28 loss at Oregon. Washington State turned to backup quarterback Marshall Lobbestael once again as Jeff Tuel missed another game due to injury (this time a calf issue). The Cougars played valiant football in the first half, trailing 15-10 at halftime, but got out-talented in the second 28-18. Wazzu will attempt to snap its losing streak this weekend against Cal in Berkeley.
12. Colorado (1-8, 0-5) – Jon Embree's bunch is still searching for its first Pac-12 victory after a 48-14 beatdown at the hands of Arizona State. The Buffs have allowed at least 45 points in four straight games, and things won't get any easier this weekend against USC on Friday night. The final month of the season could offer some solace, however, as Colorado gets Arizona, UCLA and Utah — who are a combined 5-11 in conference — to finish 2011.