College Football Power 5 Sleeper Teams From Each Conference

Sleeper Teams from each Power 5 conference

Perhaps more than any other sport, parity seems to be – for lack of a better word – a rarity in college football. Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, Auburn, etc. seem to always be near the top of the standings, while teams at the bottom of the barrel tend to remain there for years, even decades. But every so often a team climbs from the ashes and shocks the world. They surprise their respective college football Power 5 Conference and come close to – if not actually – winning their conference. The ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, and SEC all have sleeper teams in the mix for 2019.

Washington State was one of the best examples of that last season. Led by transfer quarterback Gardner Minshew, the Cougars nearly won the PAC-12 crown and finished well within the top-25 despite projections having them near the bottom of the conference in the preseason.

Which team could make the WSU leap in 2019? Here is one option for a college football Power 5 surprise team in each conference. Consider them the proverbial dark horses.

College Football Sleeper Teams 2019

ACC: Virginia Cavaliers

Virginia was projected to finish sixth in the ACC by USA TODAY, but that feels like it could end up being a mistake if quarterback Bryce Perkins can build off his ridiculously excellent 2018 season.

Perkins proved to be one of the more dynamic players in college football last season, throwing for 2,680 yards with 25 touchdowns and nine interceptions, and running for 923 yards and nine scores. 

The team will need to replace running back Jordan Ellis and receiver Olamide Zaccheaus, no easy task, but they do return nine starters to a defense that allowed the 20th fewest points last season.

A top-3 finish in the ACC seems very plausible for Bronco Mendenhall’s squad.

Minnesota RB

BIG-10: Minnesota Golden Gophers

Minnesota has a lot of things going for them in the BIG Ten, and could be a scary team if things go their way. For starters, they have one of the easiest schedules in college football, and could easily find themselves 5-0 in October.

Second, they return nine starters on offense and seven on defense, which includes receiver Tyler Johnson and a pair of former 1,000-yard rushers in Mohamed Ibrahim and Rodney Smith.

The Gophers finished 2018 winning three out of four, and could realistically challenge for a BIG-10 championship this season if things go right for P.J. Fleck and company.

Baylor QB Charlie Brewer College Football

BIG-12: Baylor Bears

Baylor went from one win in 2017 to seven wins in 2018, the second year under coach Matt Rhule. USA TODAY has them 22nd overall, so it’s hard to call them a dark horse necessarily, but Rhule’s squad is only picked to finish fourth in the BIG-12, and I think they can challenge for the top spot.

The Bears have one of the deepest groups of wide receivers in the country, and quarterback Charlie Brewer is coming off a season where he threw for over 3,000 yards with 19 touchdowns.

With an offense poised to do some damage through the air, and a team that has continued to improve in the last few seasons, Baylor has a chance to make some noise in 2019.

Chip Kelly Dorian Thompson-Robinson UCLA Pac-12 Teams

PAC-12: UCLA Bruins

Chip Kelly has proven he can win at the college level. His offensive style is no longer as unique and unknown as it was when he was leading Oregon to prominence a half-decade ago, but there’s reason to believe that the Bruins will begin to hit their stride in the second year under Kelly.

After all, the Bruins did show improvement in the second half last season, and they are returning a good chunk of starters on both sides of the ball.

While they have one of the toughest schedules in the entire college football landscape this year, they could certainly surprise some people heading into conference play.

USA TODAY has them ranked ninth in the PAC-12, and a top-five finish wouldn’t surprise me at all.

Tennessee QB Jarrett Guarantano Power 5 Sleeper

SEC: Tennessee Volunteers

The Vol’s may have lost defensive lineman Emmitt Gooden, but they still have a packed house upfront – especially if they can get Michigan transfer Aubrey Solomon cleared before the opener.

The defense should be solid, but this team’s ability to succeed next season will depend on how quarterback Jarrett Guarantano develops under new offensive coordinator Jim Chaney.

Guarantano had some electric performances last season, particularly against Kentucky, which helped make him the 21st ranked quarterback in college football according to Pro Football Focus.

However, poor offensive line play limited his playmaking ability, and that is something that Tennessee will need to improve if they want to rock the boat in the stacked SEC conference.

These college football Power 5 sleeper teams may not win their conference but they will win games that decide who does.

Colson Yankoff vs Washington, Pac-12 Stadiums Ranked, Recruits Leaving Pac-12 Country

Colson Yankoff vs Washington, best Pac-12 stadiums Ranked, Recruits Leaving Pac-12 Country, Pac-12 Podcast
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In Episode 3 of the Pac-12 Apostles Podcast, they deal with George Wrighster’s tweet about Colson Yankoff that sent Washington Huskies fans into a tailspin. They rank the best Pac-12 stadiums and tell everyone what is going on with recruits leaving Pac-12 states for other conferences.

Colson Yankoff is a former QB for Washington who transferred to UCLA.  Huskies coach Chris Petersen refused to grant a waiver allowing Yankoff to appeal to the NCAA for immediate eligibility at UCLA. Both Ralph and George hate the hypocrisy in the NCAA system. The NCAA claims the players are student-athletes who need to be protected but regularly treats them like employees. It is ridiculous that coaches can move as they please from school to school, but the players have restrictions. (0:00-11:59)

Recruiting matters in college football. The teams with the most talent have the best chance to win the CFB Playoff and National Championship. There are 64 recruits in the 2020 class with either 4-5 stars who live in Pac-12 states or neighboring states. With the exception of the Oregon Ducks and Washington Huskies, the conference is falling behind in the recruiting rankings for the class of 2020. The early signing period is not until December, but the USC Trojans are ranked between 60th and 68th depending on which recruiting site you like. (12:00- 23:41)

The greatest Pac-12 podcat in all the land also ranks the best Pac-12 stadiums from #12 to #1. Will the historic sites get the top spots, or will the stadiums with the biggest home-field advantage prevail? (23:42-End)

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Ten Pac-12 Players Who May Be NFL Draft 2020 First-Round Picks

Ten Pac-12 Players NFL Draft 2020 First-Round Picks

The PAC-12 may not be viewed as the powerhouse that the SEC is, but make no mistake, each year plenty of high-quality talent is selected in the NFL draft out of PAC-12 schools.

It’s too early to tell, but players like Andre Dillard (WSU), Byron Murphy (UW) Marquise Blair (Utah) and Kaleb McGary (UW) all have a chance to make an immediate impact in the NFL after getting drafted last season.

The 2019 college football season is nearly upon us, and once again the PAC-12 has numerous candidates who might hear their name called early on draft day next season.

10 players out of the PAC-12 who have a realistic chance of getting selected in the first round of the 2020 NFL draft.

Justin Herbert Oregon Ducks

Justin Herbert, Quarterback, Oregon

Herbert is not only a near-lock to go in the first round next season – barring an injury – he has a great chance to go No. 1 overall. It was definitely a surprise when the star quarterback elected to return to college for his senior season, coming off a junior year where he threw for 3,151 yards with an excellent 29-to-8 touchdown-to-interception ratio, leading the Ducks to a 9-4 record.

Herbert said he felt he had unfinished business with the Ducks, and he’ll return as an immediate candidate for the Heisman trophy, alongside Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

Herbert has been praised for his ball placement, knowledge of the game and his sneaky mobility, although durability concerns and a tendency to stare down receivers could hurt him at the professional level.

Expect Herbert to be the first PAC-12 player selected next year, and possibly the first player overall.

Laviska Shenault Colorado Buffaloes Pac-12

Laviska Shenault, Receiver, Colorado

Laviska Shenault is not only one of the best names in the PAC-12 (more on that later) but he has a real chance to be a top-10 pick in the 2020 NFL draft, particularly if he can build off an incredible junior season.

At Colorado, Shenault hauled in 86 receptions for 1,011 yards and six touchdowns, while also carrying the ball 17 times for 115 yards and five more touchdowns.

Shenault is listed at six-foot-two and 215 pounds, and most scouts think he’ll time out around a 4.40, which gives him an extraordinary blend of size and speed.

He’s still a bit raw as a receiver, but his versatility, size, speed, and instincts make it easy to see him as a future star – and one that should get drafted early in 2020.

Walker Little Stanford OL NFL Draft

Walker Little, Tackle, Stanford

Stanford tackle Walker Little is anything but – standing at six-foot-seven and weighing 317 pounds. He was co-freshman offensive player of the year in the PAC-12 two years ago and was an absolute beast at clearing rushing lanes for Bryce Love of the Cardinal.

Little is already projected as a mid-first round pick, and if he can stay healthy (he’s battled injuries in the past) there’s little reason to assume he won’t find himself as an NFL starter as soon as 2020.

Calvin Throckmorton Pac-12 NFL Draft

Calvin Throckmorton, Tackle, Oregon

On nearly any other list, Laviska Shenault would be the best name. However, it’s pretty darn hard to beat Oregon tackle Calvin Throckmorton, a name that sounds like it belongs in the Harry Potter universe.

Throckmorton is listed as a tackle, although he has experience as a guard as well – and many analysts believe that is where he will end up in the NFL.

His explosiveness is nearly unparalleled, and his ability to pull and locate blockers makes him an attractive piece to run-heavy NFL squads. He does struggle out in open space however and might be a liability as a pass-blocker.

Throckmorton will have to mitigate some of those concerns if he wants to end up in the first round, but his size, explosiveness, and high football IQ make him a tantalizing prospect entering his fifth season at UO.

Trey Adams Washington Huskies Football offensive lineman

Trey Adams, Tackle, Washington

Trey Adams is an absolute unit, standing at six-foot-seven and weighing over 300 pounds. Despite that he has shown good body control as a pass-protector, making him a potential left tackle in the NFL and capable protector of the blindside.

Durability is a big concern here, as the UW star has missed big chunks in each of the last two seasons. He’ll need to be healthy and productive next season if he wants to find himself getting selected in the first round, but he does have the talent to go that high.

Jaylon Johnson Utah Utes cornerback

Jaylon Johnson, Cornerback, Utah

Jaylon Johnson enters his third season at Utah coming off a sophomore campaign that saw him snag four interceptions, along with 31 solo tackles and two sacks.

Johnson has the near-perfect size for an NFL corner, standing six-foot and weighing 190 pounds. He’s physical and aggressive at the point of contact, making him a great asset against bigger, more physical NFL receivers.

He’s raw, and has some issues in quick throws. But Johnson has the tools and build to be a high-quality defensive back in the NFL. He could find himself getting picked in the first-round of the NFL Draft if he has a strong junior campaign.

Jacob Eason QB Washington transfer from Georgia bulldogs

Jacob Eason, Quarterback, Washington

The range of outcomes that are possible for new Huskies quarterback Jacob Eason is nearly infinite.

The transfer from Georgia sat out last year but is expected to start for Chris Peterson and company next season. Eason wasn’t bad the one season he started at Georgia, completing 55.1% of his passes for 2,430 yards with a nice 16-to-8 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

But after losing his job to Jake Fromm, Eason will have to prove himself in the Pacific Northwest. If he can harness his absolute cannon of an arm, he could easily find himself getting selected by a QB needy team in the first round.

Troy Dye 2020 NFL Draft Oregon linebacker

Troy Dye, Linebacker, Oregon

Dye has started for the Ducks over the past three seasons, posting remarkably consistent numbers throughout his career. His 182 solo tackles are already 22nd all-time in the PAC-12, and his 125 assisted tackles rank 16th.

Dye possesses excellent range and instincts as a linebacker, and his size and style of play should mesh well with the current NFL style.

He does have some issues in run protection, often relying on seeing the ball-carrier and chasing them rather than anticipating, but those are things he can learn at the pro level. It would take a step forward from Dye for him to jump into the first round, but as it stands he has a great chance to be a high-quality NFL starter for a long time.

KJ Costello Pac-12 conference quarterback Stanford

K.J. Costello, Quarterback, Stanford

Scouts, coaches and general managers love their tall quarterbacks. It’s why Paxton Lynch was an NFL Draft first-rounder and Russell Wilson fell into the third – even though Lynch is now fighting for a job backing up Wilson in Seattle.

K.J. Costello stands six-foot-five and weighs a lean 215 pounds, and his size and absolute rocket arm make him an appealing potential first-round target next season.

He led the Cardinal to a 9-4 record by throwing for 3,540 yards with a nice 29-to-11 touchdown-to-interception ratio and a solid 65.1% completion percentage.

Costello’s IQ in the pocket is excellent, and he has complete trust in his receivers – often making challenging throws and seeing openings before anyone else can.

He’s a bit limited mobility wise – as most six-foot-five quarterbacks are – but another strong season could vault Costello into the first-round conversation, particularly if multiple quarterback-needy teams emerge. He may end up being a Pac-12 NFL Draft first-rounder.

Christian Rector USC defensive end

Christian Rector, EDGE, USC

EDGE defenders were all the rage in the NFL Draft first-round last year, and while the PAC-12 doesn’t have a huge laundry list of elite, draft-eligible pass-rushers in 2019, one who could sneak his way into first-round consideration with a strong campaign is USC’s Christan Rector.

Entering his fifth year with the Trojans, Rector will need to show consistency if he wants to get attention at the top of the NFL Draft. An imposing six-foot-four and 270 pounds, Rector can absolutely wreak havoc off the edge – but too often he disappears for entire games.

His hand placement and use of length have been strengths of his in the past, but he often gets too upright and struggles to fill gaps in the run-game – both traits that he’ll need to improve on in his final season down in Southern California.

Pac-12 Apostles: State of the Conference, Predictions, Preview Podcast

Pac-12 Apostles Podcast Ep 2

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George Wrighster and Ralph Amsden return for the second installment of UnafraidShow.com’s Pac-12 Apostles Podcast. In this episode, the guys discuss the critical nature of the 2019 season for the Pac-12 conference, as well as the responsibility of the fans to help keep the conference from becoming irrelevant before the tv deal is up in 2024. The conference is falling financially behind the other power 5 conferences. So, winning a national championship or two before 2024 is paramount to the future of the Pac-12.

One of the biggest potential changes for the upcoming season in the Pac-12 is the proposed 9 am kickoff times for a small selection of games meant to air on Fox. George and Ralph discuss the pros and cons of early kickoffs and debate whether or not there will ultimately benefit from the change (14:00-31:38).

Pac-12 Apostles Podcast North and South Predictions

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George and Ralph revealed their preseason predictions for where the Pac-12 North teams will finish. Oregon, Washington, and Stanford have been the class of the Pac-12 for the last decade. But, both of the apostles believe Cal is a well-coached team on the rise. (31:39-1:01:11).,

The media picked Utah to win the conference at Pac-12 Media Day. However, neither George or Ralph picked them to win the south division. The apostles’ predictions for the Pac-12 South teams caused a big disagreement. They could not be further apart on the predictions for the UCLA Bruins, USC Trojans, and Arizona QB Khalil Tate. (1:01:12-End).

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Pac-12 Football: Cal Golden Bears Looking Good After Spring Game

On a beautiful spring day in Berkley, California, the California Golden Bears open up the gates and welcome everyone to the Spring Game and showcase its talent.

The Cal Golden Bears football team finished last season with a wining record of 7-6, giving them just their third winning season in nine years. Looking forward, the PAC-12 conference appears to be wide open and the Bears are poised to bring back 13 players from last seasons stingy 10th ranked defensive units.

The defense features Sr. ILB Evan Weaver a 2nd team All-American, and redshirt Jr. CB Camryn Bynum, leader of the #Takers, the defense, is working towards being even better.

The #Takers, Cal’s defensive back unit was live on the scene when sophomore Safety Daniel Scott made a beautiful play. Dropping back into zone coverage Scott read the eyes of quarterback Robby Rowell and elevated snagging an interception.

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Kuony Deng the 6-foot-6 Jr. ILB dropped back into coverage and somehow managed to avoid detection from sophomore City College of San Francisco transfer Jack Newman, and get setup with for a pick-6.

Transfer student Deon White, OLB, laid down the Hitstick “Crush of the Game” when he stuffed a Gun zone run and completely blew up the ball carrier. The Bears have a long way to go and will find it difficult to fill the shoes of Jordan Kunaszyk, but they appear ready to #EarnIt and be up to the challenge.

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Offense

Cal has 4 quarterbacks on the roster Chase Garbers, UCLA transfer student Devon Modster, freshman Robby Rowell, and Jack Newsome. Collectively in the spring game the quarterbacks went 23-32 177 yards 1TD 2INTS. Modster recorded the only passing touchdown of the day and would finish 6-7 27 yards and 1TD. Garbers completed 7-10 for 60 yards with a rushing touchdown. Rowell looked sharp early with the ball coming out on time and with zip. He had the offense in a nice rhythm up until feeding Scott the interception. Rowell’s stat line was 7-10 for 68 yards and 1INT.

Offensive coordinator Beau Baldwin has his work cut out for him as the Bears offense seeks ways to put more points on the board. Returning quarterback Chase Garbers appears to be the likley starter, and his confidence in his ability in the passing game is growing. Last years Bears scored 280 total points and averaged 21.5 points per game.

Baldwin must also find ways to replace Patrick Laird’s production. Laird’s 223 carries accounted for 47% of the run game and his 9 scoring plays (5 rushes, 4 receptions) were 29% of the Bears 29 scores in 2018.

Luckily for Bear enthusiasts everywhere, the 2019 have a healthy sized stable of young workhorses ready to carry the load. Alex Letherda had a team longest run of 29 yards, and would finish the afternoon with 12 carries for 76 yards. Deshawn Collins rushed nine times for 39 yards including a 2yd TD run. The Bears offense appears to be featuring two special players.

Dancing Dancy and J-Hawk

Marcel Dancy turned in one of the top performances of the day, Dancy is a playmaker with vision, speed, power, hands, some shimmy/wiggle, and an ice cold spin move. Dancy would finish the day with 8 carries for 33 yards and a TD, he would also catch 3 passes for 29 yards including this 16 yard catch and run ending in pay dirt.


Jeremiah Hawkins introduced himself to the Golden Bear family with impressive displays of speed, moves, and a punishing stiff arm. Hawkins brings a very much needed shot in the arm to the speed department. What shouldn’t be understated is Hawkins knowledge of how to use his speed. Knowing that the best application of it is actual changing speeds and mixing it up so as to throw off the timing of defenders.

These two dynamic young players look to factor in heavily into Cal’s offensive attack and rightfully so. Dancy runs with power can churn through tackles and freeze defenders in their tracks when he puts them through spinning off of defenders.

Hawkins is 5-foot-8 185 pounds of pure dynamite, and if he’s not blowing past you, he’s embarrassing you with a smooth peel-back block or a merciless stiff-arm to the ground. Hawkins is one tough cookie, and we should hope that he has remedied his ball security issues.

Two Ways to Improve College Football Playoffs and the Pac-12

Pac-12 College Football Playoff

Recently, Larry Scott said it was “painful” that the Pac-12 once again missed College Football Playoffs. It’s a regular lament because it seems like the Pac-12 is always left out. Every college football fan, athlete or staffer knows that the Pac-12 is the odd one out. Washington and Oregon are the only teams from the Pac-12 to make it. Just 2 out of 24. Not good for the Pac-12.

So, the idea of expanding the college playoffs or bringing more parity to the selection process sounds perfect. First off, College Football Playoffs are a huge success. It was a long time coming and fans of all programs and divisions love it. With a four-team playoff, rather than selecting just two teams, college football moved to greater competition. From that, it was easier to conclude with the rightful champion.

Now, in its sixth year of success playoffs, the FBS needs to evolve further. For the sake of fans, collegiate programs and football itself.

Expand College Football Playoffs to Eight Teams

First off, the easiest way to increase the likelihood of crowning the just champion is to increase the sample size. Honestly, the NFL has 32 teams and still lets 12 into the playoffs. On the other hand, the FBS has 130 football programs (64 from Power-Five conferences) and only selects four. From such an abundant source of talent and diversity, the current four-team playoffs is restrictive.

Considering how slow and/or unwilling college football is to change, it’s best to keep an expansion small. Adjusting College Football Playoffs from four teams to six or eight is ideal. With six teams, the first and second-ranked teams are afforded a bye. Essentially, With eight teams, playoffs would be similar to the NCAA basketball tournament seeding. But, drastically smaller.

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With each set up, there would be three rounds of College Football Playoffs. This would work best for multiple reasons. First, as said above, expanding to more teams gives college football a clearer, less controversial champion. Additionally, it would add to revenue. As everyone knows, the NCAA loves money (even though it only pays college athletes more than a 550 dollar gift for bowl participation). So, instead of just three playoff games, there would be five to seven. Fundamentally doubling the amount of big-time matches and viewers.

Does Larry Scott support expansion?

Yes. But also no.

“I completely get that it would really release the pressure of being the one that’s been on the outside looking in the most in the first six years to say that automatically we’ve got our champion [in],” Scott said Thursday. “But we also have agreements through 2026 [the championship game] that I think will be very challenging for us to all agree how we’re going to amend and change.”

Larry Scott

Even though expanding playoffs to six or eight teams increases the odds the Pac-12 makes it in, Larry Scott needs a guarantee. He supports an eight team expansion only if each Power-Five conference champion gets a spot in the tournament. This makes sense for Scott because he wants to end the Pac-12’s embarrassing record of playoff participation.

However, he’s wrong in his idea. For two major reasons. First and foremost, expanding the playoffs automatically helps the Pac-12. It lowers the risk of a Pac-12 snub. Because the Pac-12 has little leverage in the situation, he can’t ask for more. Additionally, he’s misguided because mandating that each Power-Five conference champion gets in lowers college football parity. What if the overall competition of the ACC or Big Ten was significantly lower than Pac-12, SEC or Big 12? That hurts the playoff picture.

Granted, an eight-team playoff model like Ross Dellenger depicted would be extremely exciting. Five auto-bids, two at-large and one group of five sounds excellent. Nonetheless, greater freedom in selection creates a chance for greater competition.

Larry Scott refuses to give up the Rose Bowl

Also, of note, Larry Scott and the Pac-12 would be protective of the Rose Bowl. Yes, history is on his side. The Rose Bowl and the Pac-12 have over a century of history together. Nonetheless, Scott needs to be willing to change, to adapt and to give in order to gain. Yes, the Rose Bowl means a great deal for Pac-12 fans. It’s a monumental bowl game. With that being said, the audience would grow substantially if the Rose Bowl had greater competition. If the FBS combined the Rose Bowl, college football’s oldest bowl game, with playoffs each year, ratings and excitement would follow.

Yes, Scott and the Pac-12 have every right to be protective of the Rose Bowl. It’s ours. However, in order to increase the chance of a Pac-12 champion, the Pac-12 must be willing to sacrifice it’s most historic safety blanket. Keep in mind, there could also be a happy medium. If a Pac-12 team gets into the playoffs, they could get automatic entry into the Rose Bowl game. And if they missed the six or eight team playoff selection, they would sacrifice the Rose Bowl. It’s a risk, but one the Pac-12 needs to take.

Play at Least 10 Power-Five Opponents

In addition to Scott, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby also added his own idea. Bowlsby suggested a new requirement for College Football Playoff selection.

  • Each Power-Five team has to play at least ten Power-Five opponents

Excluding conference championship games, only Clemson and Oklahoma played nine, regular season, Power-Five opponents. Ohio State chose to play Florida Atlantic, Cincinnati, and the Miami Redhawks. Likewise, LSU scheduled Georgia Southern, Northwestern State, and Utah State. If they played one more Power-Five team, it’s completely possible they would have an additional loss.

In order to make College Football Playoffs, each team selected needs to have at least ten (excluding conference championships) games against Power-Five opponents. If 2018 Notre Dame can do it, any program should be able to.

Pac-12 Power Rankings Week 9: New King of the Castle…For Now

Pac-12 Power Rankings Week 9

The Pac-12 Power Rankings Week 9 is based on three things: quality wins, schedule played, and dominance. The “eye test” and preseason rankings are not factored into the Unafraid Show’s rankings. I know some of you are used to the biased rankings, but you won’t find those here.

You can see last weeks rankings here.

Pac-12 Bowl Projections are after the rankings.

Send all your questions, comments, and grievances to: Immad@unafraidshow.com

12. Oregon State (1-6)

(L) Cal 7-49

The Beavers blew their last shot at a Pac-12 win in 2018. They got hammered by Cal. Oregon State is the best team in the Pac-12 rushing the football, but could not do so against Cal. The Beavers are still last in the Pac-12 in total defense, rush defense, pass defense, and nearly every other important defensive statistic. Head coach Jonathan Smith has his work cut out for him in recruiting.

11. Arizona (3-5)

(L) 30-31 UCLA

Rhett Rodriguez got his first start of the season at quarterback, and the Arizona offense looked good. He personally did not have a fantastic game as he finished 15/34 with 231 yards passing and a pair of touchdowns and interceptions. However, if not for a fumble on a sure touchdown, and multiple penalties on big plays the Wildcats could have beat UCLA.

The Ducks head down to Tucson this week. Will Khalil Tate be back in the lineup or will he be sidelined for another week?

10. Cal (4-3)

When you look at the 10th ranked Pac-12 team, you might assume they are terrible. That is far from the case for Cal. They are much improved from the cellar dwellers under Sonny Dykes as head coach. They play in the Pac-12 north, which is the toughest division in college football. So, it is going to be extremely difficult to win games.

Cal’s pass defense is 4th best in the Pac-12 in total defense and 2nd against the pass. There is a lot to be excited about for the future of the program. If the Golden Bears can find two wins against Washington, Washington State, USC, Stanford, and Colorado, Justin Wilcox will make his first bowl game as Cal’s head coach.

9. Arizona State (3-4)

(L) 13-20 Stanford

All four of the Sun Devils losses have come by exactly seven points. They are within striking distance in every game. Arizona State is just not making enough plays to consistently win football games. It is not one particular side of the ball to blame. Both the offense and defense have shared responsibility for the losses. Manny Wilkens will need some 300-yard passing games if ASU is going to win three of their next five games (USC, Utah, UCLA, Oregon, Arizona) to get bowl eligible.

8. UCLA (2-5) 

(W) 31-30 Arizona

It is a winning streak. The Bruins have won two games in a row, and their offense is running and throwing the ball well. Chip Kelly has his team headed in the right direction. It is not all good news for UCLA. True freshman starting quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson left the game and never returned. And the Bruins defense allowed big play after big play by Arizona. You could drive a tractor through some of the running lanes.

UCLA has Utah coming in town this week. What if they mess around and…

7. Colorado (5-2) 

(L) 13-27 Washington

Colorado performed admirably on the road against Washington. They were without multiple starters including mid-season All-American wide receiver Lavishka Shenault and were still within four points deep into the 4th quarter. Steven Montez deserves a lot of praise for the Buffaloes 5-2 start. This season he has a 3:1 touchdown to interception ratio, and has eliminated a lot of the silly mistakes he made last season.

Colorado should be bowl eligible after they play Oregon State this weekend. Mike MacIntyre will have at least one more season in Boulder.

6. USC (4-3)

(L) 28-41 Utah

The USC fan base is in full panic mode. They are questioning Clay Helton and his ability to lead the Trojans back to the promised land. It is extremely puzzling how USC has the most talented team in the Pac-12 but isn’t getting result commensurate with that on the field. They have had trouble running the football in the majority of their games.

To make matters even worse, lost JT Daniels and Matt Fink to injury against Utah. USC will likely have to start their 3rd string quarterback Jack Sears Saturday against Arizona State.

It is going to be a long rest of the season for USC.

5. Stanford (5-2)

(W) 20-13 Arizona State

The Cardinal have played seven games, and Bryce Love is leading the team in rushing with a lowly 348 yards. 2018 Stanford cannot run the football effectively. It is time to give up hope that will change this season. Trying to run the ball so much has continuously kept Stanford in 3rd and long situations, which they are last in Pac-12 conversion %.

It is time to for Davis Shaw to fully invest in letting KJ Costello pass the ball on early downs. They need to feed JJ Arcega-Whiteside until the defense loosens up on the run game.

4. Utah (5-2)

(W) 41-28 USC

I cannot fully buy into the Utes offense, even after three straight 40 point outings. However, I am fully buying into them winning the Pac-12 south. They scored a bunch all those points against three defenses that no one would consider top tier. Stanford is uncharacteristically 11th in total defense, Arizona can’t stop a nosebleed, and USC had some of their best defenders out. But, when you play bad defenses, you should treat them like bad defenses, and Utah deserves credit for that.

I am absolutely gushing over their defense. They are only allowing 282 yards per game which is 7th in the nation. And the Utes are only allowing 17.7 points per game.

3. Washington (5-2)

(W) 27-13 Colorado

There was never a doubt in my mind the Huskies would beat Colorado. However, the game was much closer than most people anticipated. It was 17-13 until 3:50 to go in the 4th quarter. Washington then piled on some late style points for those who didn’t see the game. A lot of credit goes to Washington’s second-best Pac-12 defense. Their middle linebacker Ben Bur-Kirven is leading the nation in tackles.

Watching the Huskies is a lot like watching the Michigan Wolverines play this year. You recognize the talent, and the defense is one of the best in the nation. However, their lack of explosiveness offensively hinders both from being national championship threats.

If the Huskies win out, they will be headed to the Pac-12 title game.

2. Oregon (5-2)

(L) 20-34 Washington State

Oregon got a huge wakeup call in the first half of the Washington State game. They were completely shut down offensively. At the half, the Ducks had only gained 50 yards on five possessions. And their defense allowed points on every drive in the first half after the first series interception. There were miscues and missed opportunities all over the place.

After the first half ended 27-0, the Ducks came out and looked like the team ranked #8 in the Unafraid Show top 10 and #12 in the AP poll. They dominated the Cougars in the 2nd half but had dug a hole far too deep.

Now the Ducks need a lot of things to fall their way to get a New Years Day Six Bowl birth.

1. Washington State (6-1)

(W) 34-20 Oregon

There is one stat that shows why Washington State has been so successful this year. Through 7 games Washington State is only allowing Gardner Minshew to be sacked once every 76 snaps. Mike Leach does a masterful job making the opposing defense guard the entire field. He designs plays that get the ball out quickly and have an outlet for when pressure comes. The Cougars are throwing for over 400 yards per game while being the best pass defense in the conference.

I have said it since Week 1; the Cougars appear to be turning a tragedy into a special season. They now have the inside track to the Rose Bowl or College Football Playoffs, and have earned the top stop in the Pac-12 Power Rankings Week 9.

BOWL PROJECTIONS

via-USA TODAY

Rose Bowl– Michigan vs Washington

Holiday– Iowa vs Stanford

San Francisco– Northwestern vs Oregon

Sun– Boston Col vs Utah

Alamo– West Virginia vs Washington St

Texas– TCU vs Arizona St

Cheez-It– Iowa State vs USC

Las Vegas– San Diego State vs Colorado