The Pac-12 football season has become the "Oregon Ducks Invitational" after fifth-ranked Stanford lost 27-21 at Utah last Saturday.
The Cardinal's showdown with Oregon at Palo Alto, Calif., on Nov. 7 is still the most anticipated Pac-12 football game of the season because of Stanford's victory in Eugene, Ore., last season. Stanford is the only Pac-12 team to beat Oregon in the Ducks' last 13 conference games dating to 2011.
With the way Stanford looked vulnerable against the Utes, who already lost at home to Oregon State and UCLA, the Cardinal has fallen a few strides behind Oregon in the race for the best team in the Pac-12. Stanford has fallen eight spots to No. 13 in the AP Top 25 poll while Oregon (6-0) remains at No. 2.
Stanford hosts No. 9 UCLA and travels to Oregon State, which has won five consecutive games, in the next two weeks. Those are games that the 13th-ranked Cardinal can certainly lose.
The Cardinal must face two of the best quarterbacks in the nation, UCLA's Brett Hundley and Oregon State's Sean Mannion, in the next two weeks after struggling against Utah's Travis Wilson. The sophomore quarterback completed 23 of 34 passes for 234 yards and two touchdowns against the Cardinal.
Oregon is the class of the conference as the best team in the Pac-12 North, which dwarfs the Pac-12 South. Pac-12 North rivals Oregon and Oregon State remain unbeaten with 3-0 records while UCLA is atop the South with a 2-0 record.
The North is 12-8 in Pac-12 games while the South is 6-10. Washington, the fifth-place team in the North, is ranked 20th despite a 1-2 record in the Pac-12. Those two losses were against Pac-12 North rivals Stanford and Oregon.
The Huskies may place fifth in the standings in the North, but they are No. 5 overall in the conference according to this week's power ratings:
1. Oregon (6-0 overall, 3-0 Pac-12): Heisman front-runner Marcus Mariota has played in the fourth quarter only once this season because of Oregon's dominance (via NBCSports.com). That will continue Saturday when the Ducks host Washington State.
2. Oregon State (5-1, 3-0): If the Beavers win as expected at Cal on Saturday, it will be the Beavers' sixth straight victory with four of them achieved on the road.
3. UCLA (5-0, 2-0): The Bruins travel to Stanford without the services of running back Jordon James (ankle), which places more pressure on quarterback Brett Hundley. If he handles it well, Hundley's Heisman hopes are greatly enhanced.
4. Stanford (5-1, 3-1): The Cardinal has not lost consecutive games since 2009, but that is a distinct possibility as Stanford faces a UCLA team ranked higher than them for the first time this season.
5. Washington (4-2, 1-2): The Huskies' balance on offense with the nation's leading rusher (via NCAA.com) Bishop Sankey and versatile quarterback Keith Price makes them dangerous against everybody but Oregon.
6. Arizona State (4-2, 2-1): Put up or shut up time for the Sun Devils, who have no gimmes the rest of the way (Washington at home, Washington State and Utah on the road, Oregon State at home, UCLA on the road and arch-rival Arizona at home).
7. Utah (4-2, 1-2): Wilson travels to Tucson this week confident after the way USC's Cody Kessler passed against Arizona in the Trojans' 38-31 victory last week. Wilson ranks in the top 25 nationally in seven individual categories, including 17th in the nation in total offense per game (320.5), averaging 273.3 yards passing and 47.2 yards rushing.
8. USC (4-2, 1-2): The Trojans are improving on offense, although they are without injured Marqise Lee, who will likely miss his second consecutive game when USC plays at Notre Dame this week. Kessler was effective against ASU and Arizona in the last two games and USC had five players rush for 30 or more yards against the Wildcats, led by Silas Redd's 80 yards in his season debut after nursing a knee injury.
9. Arizona (3-2, 0-2): Although the Wildcats have lost consecutive games (on the road as underdogs to Washington and USC), they are encouraged by the way quarterback B.J. Denker played at USC. He completed just one pass of 20-plus yards to a receiver in the first four games. He had five at USC, including touchdown passes of 57, 45 and 28 yards.
10. Washington State (4-3, 2-2): Did the bottom fall out of the Cougars' season when they were outscored 28-0 in the fourth quarter last week against visiting Oregon State in their 52-24 loss? Five Washington State possessions in the fourth quarter resulted in five turnovers, including three interceptions thrown by starting quarterback Connor Halliday.
11. California (1-5, 0-3): The Bears, who have yet to beat an FBS team this season, rank 122nd of 123 FBS teams in passing yards allowed per game.
12. Colorado (2-3, 0-3): Sefo Liufau, replacing the ineffective Connor Wood at quarterback, became the ninth true freshman to play this season for Colorado when the Buffaloes lost 54-13 at Arizona State.
Please check out Javier Morales' blogs at TucsonCitizen.com.
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