After poor showings on Saturday, USC and Utah both dropped from the rankings, but the remaining four -- Oregon, UCLA, Arizona and Arizona State -- are all at No. 13 or higher, which gives the Pac-12 the most teams ranked 13th or better.
Oregon has settled in at No. 3 behind top-ranked Florida State and Alabama, while Mississippi State and Baylor round out the top five. The Ducks received two first-place votes. UCLA moved up two spots to No. 9 after its 38-20 win against USC, while Arizona jumped three places to No. 12, a spot ahead of rival Arizona State.
UCLA, Arizona and Arizona State all remain in contention to win the Pac-12 South, which will be decided on Friday. If the Bruins beat Stanford at the Rose Bowl, they will be the division champions and play Oregon in the Pac-12 title game Dec. 5 at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California. However, if the Bruins lose, the winner of the Territorial Cup between Arizona and ASU will take the division.
Both games are set to kick off at 3:30 p.m. ET.
UCLA's big night
It all started with a bang for the Bruins, as ESPN 300 defensive end Keisean Lucier-South committed to UCLA well before the start of the game against USC.
Utah commit George Wilson was at the game and provided a quick snapshot.
Rose bowl so live ??— Will Lockett!!!! (@willdoesit__) November 22, 2014
But the lasting effects from this game might be more felt in the 2016 class, which was loaded in terms of visitors at the Rose Bowl. Outside linebacker Caleb Kelly, the nation's No. 38 prospect in his class, made the drive down.
?????? v. ?? ???? pic.twitter.com/md0wLM6qwV— George Siaosi Wilson (@24isreal) November 23, 2014
2016 wide receiver Theo Howard, who holds early offers from both programs, was at the Rose Bowl.
Bruwins x3.— Lokeni Toailoa (@LokeniTheGreat) November 23, 2014
Running back Damian Alloway, a new addition to the 2016 ESPN 300, at No. 206 overall, holds an offer from UCLA and wasn't shy about which direction he was leaning Saturday night.
Ucla vs usc tonight!!— theo howard (@theohoward2) November 22, 2014
UCLA also hosted 2016 prospects Traveon Beck and Frank Martin -- the No. 132 overall prospect in his class.
I mess with SC and UCLA tough but I'm only a UCLA fan today. #8clap ??— Damian A1?1?oway (@dalloway11) November 22, 2014
The Ducks have taken advantage of in season official visitors more frequently than any other Pac-12 program, relying heavily on Autzen Stadium's tremendous atmosphere to make an impression on visitors. This weekend, a few notable uncommitted prospects took official visits in Marquise Doherty and Octavius Spencer, but the visit to watch could be Arizona State junior college linebacker commit Davon Durant. All three prospects likely heard plenty from Oregon's committed prospects in town on official visits -- offensive linemen Shane Lemieux and Jake Hanson.
Trip to Tempe
Great times in Eugene with the fam pic.twitter.com/56FafUFBm9— Jake Hanson (@Jake_Hanson72) November 23, 2014
Arizona State had several interesting official visitors on campus, as ESPN 300 prospects John Houston, Stanley Norman and Joseph Wicker all made their way to Tempe. The Sun Devils also hosted committed junior college tight end Raymond Epps on an official visit.
Cal had a number of commits in town for the Big Game against Stanford. The Golden Bears also received an unofficial visit from 2016 ESPN 300 cornerback Treyjohn Butler, the No. 86 overall prospects who holds early Pac-12 offers from Arizona State, Cal, Washington and Washington State.
It’s that coveted fourth spot that remains the greatest debate.
“It's also fair to say the differences between teams four through seven -- Mississippi State, TCU, Ohio State and Baylor -- are narrow, very narrow,” committee chair Jeff Long said Tuesday. “There are more games to play and these teams are knocking on the door, and they're not the only ones.”
Here’s a closer look at those teams still “knocking on the door” and how Week 13 affected their playoff chances:
Pros: Although many other top teams struggled against lesser competition, the Bulldogs took care of business in a 51-0 dismantling of Vanderbilt. Mississippi State needed to win with style, and the game was never in doubt. “If you don't think we controlled that game,” quarterback Dak Prescott told The Associated Press, “then I don't know what you're looking for."
Cons: Ole Miss self-destructed in a 30-0 loss to Arkansas, the second straight opponent the Razorbacks have shut out. That doesn't bode well for Mississippi State, which is teetering on the edge of the bracket and has just one win over teams currently ranked in the selection committee’s top 25 (Auburn). The Bulldogs finish the season on the road against Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl and their résumé could have used another boost, but the Rebels should drop out of the top 10 after suffering a third loss.
Pros: The Horned Frogs were off to prepare for Thursday night’s Thanksgiving game at Texas, but they were still helped by K-State’s Thursday night win in Morgantown and Minnesota’s 28-24 win over Nebraska. For the fourth straight week, TCU was ranked ahead of Baylor, and Long said it was because “strength of schedule is an important factor that came into play, and [Baylor's] body of work is not quite comparable in the view of the committee.” That Minnesota win has a lot to do with it, and it keeps looking better. Until Baylor adds a convincing K-State win to its résumé, there’s no reason to think the committee will reward Baylor's head-to-head win over TCU.
Cons: Ohio State won again. The Buckeyes were pushed by an unheralded Indiana team, but they clinched the Big Ten’s East Division and earned a spot in the conference title game. Ohio State is one team both Baylor and TCU need to be worried about, as the Buckeyes jumped Baylor in the committee’s rankings last week.
Pros: The Bears beat Oklahoma State and have now won three straight since their Oct. 18 loss at West Virginia, which is one result the committee has held against Baylor in its comparison to TCU. Baylor also benefited from K-State’s Thursday night win in Morgantown. The Bears need to punctuate their playoff résumé with a season-ending win against a highly ranked K-State team at home Dec. 6. If Baylor and TCU both win out, the Bears should wind up on top.
Cons: Ohio State, which jumped Baylor in the rankings last week, won again and clinched the Big Ten’s East Division in the process. Baylor also didn’t beat Oklahoma State as convincingly as TCU did, but that's splitting hairs: Baylor won 49-28, while TCU beat the Cowboys 42-9. The committee will compare results against common opponents. Baylor's biggest problems are its nonconference schedule and the loss at West Virginia.
Pros: The Buckeyes beat Indiana to clinch the Big Ten’s East Division, and Wisconsin also won at Iowa, putting the Badgers one victory from clinching the West Division. Ohio State should be able to avoid an upset against a middling Michigan team this coming week. There’s certainly no margin for error after the Week 2 home loss to Virginia Tech, but if Ohio State can pull off an impressive win against a ranked Wisconsin team to win the Big Ten title, that loss to the Hokies just might be forgiven.
Cons: It was an underwhelming first three quarters against the Hoosiers for the Buckeyes, who had three turnovers and continue to struggle with ball security. Every other bubble team the Buckeyes are up against found a way to win, too.
Pros: After an impressive 38-20 win against USC, the No. 9-ranked Bruins are now in the driver’s seat to win the Pac-12 South Division. UCLA can clinch the division with a win against Stanford on Friday. If the Bruins lose to Stanford, Friday’s Arizona/Arizona State winner would win the division. UCLA remains the Pac-12’s best hope at getting a two-loss conference champ in the playoff. If the Bruins can beat Oregon in the conference title game, they should have at least three wins over teams still ranked in the committee’s top 25.
Cons: Those two losses. The Oct. 4 home loss to Utah took another hit this weekend when Arizona trounced the Utes 42-10, dropping Utah to four losses and out of the division race. Utah will also likely drop out of the committee’s top 25.
Group of 5
Pros: Marshall, Memphis, Northern Illinois, Colorado State and Boise State all continued to win. Undefeated Marshall didn’t win any style points against UAB, but the Thundering Herd remain the only undefeated Group of 5 team.
Cons: The selection committee hasn’t ranked a Group of 5 team for three weeks, citing strength of schedule as the main reason. There’s nothing left on Marshall’s -- or any other Group of 5 front-runner’s -- schedule likely to change that reasoning.
“Again, Marshall's body of work, their strength of schedule, what they've done to this point in time, the committee does not feel that they warrant being ranked in the top 25,” Long said last week. “Again, they're very close. We've talked a lot about Marshall, we've talked about Boise State, Colorado State, Memphis, Northern Illinois -- all Group of 5 teams that are good teams and that we've certainly discussed.”
Taylor Kelly, QB, Arizona State: Kelly and the Sun Devils got off to a horrible start against Washington State, but that's but a distant memory after the senior finished strong in a 52-31 victory. He completed 12 of his final 14 passes for 188 yards and four touchdowns.
Nick Wilson, RB, Arizona: The freshman ran for a career-high 218 yards on 20 carries with three touchdowns, including a 75-yarder, in Arizona's 42-10 victory over Utah. As Wilson goes, so do the Wildcats. Arizona is 8-0 when Wilson rushes for 19 or more yards.
Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon: In his final game at Autzen Stadium (probably), Mariota turned in a typical performance: 24 for 32, 323 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and ran for 73 yards and another score on eight carries in a 44-10 victory over Colorado. His 42 touchdowns this year (passing and rushing), breaks Matt Barkley's single-season Pac-12 record from 2011.
Blake Martinez, LB, Stanford: Martinez recorded two interceptions and forced a fumble to help Stanford force five turnovers in a 38-17 victory against California -- the most it has forced in a game since Nov. 27, 2010 against Oregon State. He's the first player with two interceptions in the Big Game since Cal's Nnamdi Asomugha in 2001.
Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA: Hundley threw for 326 yards, accounted for four touchdowns and broke Cade McNown's school record for total offense (now at 11,353) in the Bruins' 38-20 victory over USC. He's also the first UCLA quarterback since McNown to win three consecutive games against the Trojans.
Cyler Miles, QB, Washington: Miles turned in his best performance of the season, completing 18 of 23 passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns without an interception to help the Huskies become bowl eligible with a 37-13 victory over Oregon State.
Vince Mayle, WR, Washington State: Mayle showed why he's a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award with 15 catches for 252 yards -- his sixth 100-yard receiving game of the season. He cracked the 100-catch mark in the game (101) and set WSU's new single-season receiving record (1,404 yards).
South Division picture clearer: With UCLA's 38-20 whipping of USC and Arizona's 42-10 bludgeoning of Utah, the Trojans and Utes are out of the South Division race. So it comes down to UCLA, Arizona and Arizona State on the final weekend of the regular season to see who plays North Division champion Oregon on Dec. 5 for the Pac-12 title. UCLA controls its fate: It wins the South if it beats Stanford on Friday. If UCLA loses to Stanford, the winner of the Territorial Cup on Friday is the Pac-12 champion. Funny thing: Both games are 12:30 PT kicks, so they will be contested simultaneously, which means the Sun Devils and Wildcats likely will be doing some scoreboard watching during their rivalry game.
This is the biggest Territorial Cup in a long time: Arizona and Arizona State, both 9-2 overall and 6-2 in the Pac-12, will meet in the Territorial Cup as ranked teams for the first time since 1986. The most recent time both teams had at least nine wins was 1975 (ASU 10-0, Arizona 9-1). The South Division is still undecided. Next Friday, with everyone stuffed with turkey, this will be great fun in Tucson. Big question, though: Will Arizona QB Anu Solomon, who left the Wildcats' win over Utah with a lower-leg injury, be available?
Newly bowl eligible: Stanford's 38-17 win over Cal and Washington's 37-13 win over Oregon State made each team bowl-eligible and gave the Pac-12 eight eligible teams. Cal and Oregon State still can become bowl-eligible on the final weekend. Cal needs to beat BYU at home on Saturday, while the Beavers need to end their six-game losing streak in the Civl War against state Oregon.
Cal is much better, but Stanford still rules the Big Game: Cal and Stanford entered the Big Game with matching 5-5 records, but the Cardinal made a dominant statement and won their fifth in a row in the series. That means no Stanford senior will experience life without The Axe. Entering the game, it was a matchup of a good offense (Cal) versus a good defense (Stanford) and a bad offense (Stanford) versus a bad defense (Cal). We learned Stanford's good defense is better than Cal's good offense, and its bad offense is better than Cal's bad defense.
Washington State's freshman QB Luke Falk has lots of potential, but he hasn't yet arrived: Falk was impressive coming off the bench to replace an injured Connor Halliday against USC and had a brilliant starting debut at Oregon State and a strong start at Arizona State, when the Cougs jumped ahead 21-7 against the Sun Devils. But things went haywire thereafter, and Falk started looking like a freshman. He committed five turnovers (four picks and a fumble) in a game the Cougars lost 52-31. He threw for 601 yards and three TDs, and he has shown plenty of good things that point to a strong future running Mike Leach's offense. But the performance in Sun Devil Stadium showed he's still got ways to go, which really shouldn't be surprising.
PASADENA, Calif. -- Naturally, UCLA coach Jim Mora would have preferred his Bruins be a pristine 11-0, having already locked up the Pac-12 South ahead of next week’s season finale against Stanford.
But let’s be honest. When you hoist your sails in Pac-12 waters, you’re going to hit a couple of rocks.
UCLA took on water midway through the season with back-to-back losses to Utah and Oregon, and the national media just assumed the S.S. Bruin was unsalvageable.
But the Bruins bailed the water out. And five wins later -- including their most recent 38-20 pasting of USC Saturday night -- No. 9 UCLA once again finds itself hanging around for a spot in the College Football Playoff. And while swallowing a pair of home losses never sits well, perhaps the silver lining of the mid-season defeats is that the national media turned its oppressive stare away from Westwood, giving the Bruins the space they needed to grow into the team that throttled its rivals at the Rose Bowl Saturday night.
Saturday night, UCLA looked every bit the dominant team many thought it would be when the Bruins were tapped as the No. 7 team in the country in the preseason. The defense was vicious -- sacking USC quarterback Cody Kessler six times and picking up eight tackles behind the line of scrimmage. The Trojans, who averaged 35.2 points per game coming into the game, were held to just 20 points.
Offensively, quarterback Brett Hundley shook off an early pick-six and ended up 22-of-31 for 326 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for a 15-yard score.
And let’s not overlook the fact that the Bruins are now 3-0 against USC in the Mora era. To boot, all three wins have come by 10 points or more. The last time that happened was 1953-55, a time period that saw the Bruins win the UPI national championship in 1954.
Mora took all of two sentences to relish the significance of the win.
“We don’t bask in moments,” he said. “We’ll just move on to the next moment.”
The next moment involves a Stanford squad that is 3-0 against Mora. With a victory Friday the Bruins will clinch the Pac-12 South and face the Oregon Ducks in the Pac-12 championship game. If they lose, then Saturday’s Territorial Cup between Arizona State and Arizona will determine the division champion.
Schematically, the Bruins didn’t make any drastic overhauls when they hit their two-game skid. They took the leash off Hundley and gave him more freedom to run. And they put more of an emphasis on their base offense. But for the most part, the UCLA team Saturday -- from an X's and O's standpoint -- was the same that won Aug. 30 at Virginia.
“Those two losses feel like 100 years ago,” offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said. “That doesn’t mean I’m not [upset] that we lost both. I think we’ve seen the offensive line really improve over the last month. And the glass half full is that maybe we’re a better football team because of those losses. The kids refocused, and we went back to our base, and we figured we’d just get good at what we do.”
It sounds simple enough. The result has been a spike in the national rankings and UCLA’s second win over a top-20 team in its last five games. And the Bruins are sure to climb again when the new rankings are released Tuesday, given their win over the No. 19 Trojans and Ole Miss’ loss to Arkansas.
Of course, just like when his team was ranked No. 7 in the preseason, Mora was in no mood to talk about the playoff.
“I talk about the Pac-12 championship,” he said. “We have to win Friday. If we can win Friday, we will have another shot to win the Pac-12 championship. I don’t talk about that other stuff.”
And yet the “other stuff” can’t be ignored. Because if the Bruins were to win the conference, it would include a win over (likely) No. 2 Oregon and give them a compelling case for being the best two-loss team in the country. And if a conference championship counts for something -- as the selection committee claims -- the Bruins would have a very strong argument for inclusion.
Oregon's Marcus Mariota accounted for four touchdowns against Colorado on Saturday, maintaining the inside track on the Heisman Trophy and a playoff spot for the Ducks.
And while Mariota tops NFL draft boards from coast to coast -- including our own Mel Kiper's -- the redshirt junior hasn't officially announced where he will play next season.
So after the game, one industrious 12-year-old student reporter from O'Hara Catholic School in Eugene took it upon himself to get to the bottom of it. Head coach Mark Helfrich fielded the hard-ball question from sixth grader Charlie Papé.
It didn't take long for Papé's comment to catch on across Twitter.
UCLA eliminated USC from the Pac-12 South race with a lopsided 38-20 win at the Rose Bowl. It marks the first three-game winning streak in the series for the Bruins since 1996-98.
How the game was won: After USC (7-4, 6-3 Pac-12) took a 7-0 lead, UCLA (9-2, 6-2) basically did whatever it wanted. The Bruins led 24-14 at halftime and extended the lead to 38-14 in the third quarter before coasting to the win.
Game ball goes to: UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley finished 22-of-31 for 326 yards three touchdowns passes to move to 3-0 in his career against the Trojans -- the first Bruins quarterback since Cade McNown with such a record. Hundley also rushed for a touchdown and passed McNown to become UCLA's career leader in total offense.
What it means: UCLA can lock up the Pac-12 South with a win against Stanford next week at home. It would be the Bruins' third appearance in the title game since it was introduced in 2011 -- the most of any Pac-12 team. USC could have clinched the division on Saturday with a win and an Arizona State loss to Washington State, but instead are no longer in contention.
Playoff implication: UCLA is a serious threat for a playoff berth. If the Bruins win out, they would be 11-2 (including a potential revenge win against Oregon). Would that be enough to convince the committee they deserve a shot? Who knows, but they would have to be seriously considered. Their résumé would include five wins against teams that are currently ranked by the committee and both losses are also to ranked teams. That compares favorably to, say, Ohio State, which has one bad loss (Virginia Tech) and counts Minnesota as one of its best two wins.
Best play: UCLA's Thomas Duarte caught a 57-yard pass from Hundley in the first quarter, which set the tone for the type of night it would be.
What's next: UCLA hosts newly bowl-eligible Stanford (6-5, 4-4) next week and USC will host reeling Notre Dame (7-4).
They specialize in surrendering. They're trotted out as a physical embodiment of a failed drive with only one job: concede the ball as gracefully as possible. No fan wants to punt.
So when any component of a punter's job goes awry -- as it did when UCLA's Matt Mengel muffed a long snap against USC on Saturday -- it draws heaps of negative attention.
But when the cameras sought out Mengel on the sidelines for a reaction shot, the punter drew much more attention for something else entirely: his eyeblack. And Mengel wasn't the only one. Defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes eschewed subtlety completely. It looks like the tube ran out halfway across his face.
Will someone please take the eyeblack away from UCLA?! pic.twitter.com/5IHONCa9rg— Nate Williams (@NateWilliamsFS) November 23, 2014
The bizarre William Wallace look is part of an off-and-on Bruins tradition that Jim Mora began during his first year as the team's head coach in 2012. Before a pivotal matchup with No. 24 Arizona, Mora ostensibly asked his assistants to apply the eyeblack as war paint. The Bruins then dismantled the Wildcats 66-10.
After the game, Mora was asked about the new look and was playfully evasive.
"You know, the lights," he told reporters. "The guys just wear eye black. I don't know."
We don't either.
How the game was won: Scoring. Lots and lots of scoring. The Ducks put up 44 points and left quite a few other opportunities on the field. With the exception of the first play of the game (an onside kickoff that Colorado recovered), Oregon dominated and controlled the game in all aspects. Quarterback Marcus Mariota -- who was working behind another revamped offensive line -- was nearly flawless. From his first completion (a 7-yard completion to Devon Allen) to his last (a 14-yard TD to Charles Nelson), the game came easy to him.
The defense performed well too, holding Colorado to just 10 points (a season low) on 226 yards of offense. Colorado wide receiver Nelson Spruce, who came into the game averaging an FBS-high 9.9 catches per game, accounted for only two receptions. His 16 receiving yards was also nearly 100 yards less than his season average (109.1 yards per game).
Gameball goes to: Mariota, who most likely made his final appearance as a player in Autzen Stadium. He didn’t take part in the senior day festivities, but all signs indicate that this was the redshirt junior’s final home game. And if he returns, it would be a shock. But the reception he got from the fans as he left the field after his final play, which came early in the fourth quarter, and the ensuing “Mariota, Mariota, Mariota” chants, seemed to be a good way to say goodbye to this stadium and its fans.
Also, let’s give some quick shout outs to two true freshman standouts: Royce Freeman and Nelson. Freeman eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the season -- the first true freshman in Oregon history to do so -- and ended the day with two touchdowns and 105 rushing yards on 17 carries. Nelson finished with two touchdowns as well. His three receptions is a career high. Not bad for a guy that we’ve literally watched play his way into the lineup over the past month.
Playoff implication: Oregon is securely in the top four. And with every single one of these blowout wins, it continues to make big statements to the committee. Alabama might have started slow against Western Carolina, but don’t expect the Crimson Tide to drop out of the top spot. However, it’s really not a point of worry for the Ducks because even if they aren’t the top dog, they’re securely in that top four group. As long as that’s the case, Oregon is still in the running for a national title.
Best play: There were plenty of big plays in this 34-point win. So, we’re going to go with the play that had the most style points. That was courtesy of redshirt freshman receiver Darren Carrington, who tipped the ball to himself and then caught it with his backside on the ground. It was a 29-yard reception that gave Oregon a first down. The drive ended with a field goal, but this was memorable.
What's next: Oregon prepares for the Civil War. Oregon State’s last game in Reser Stadium was an upset of then-No. 6 Arizona State so the Ducks will need to be sharp from beginning to end. The Pac-12 championship against [insert any South team here] follows no matter what, but Oregon must beat the Beavers in order to stay in the playoff race.
Then this UCLA fan came along, and luckily ESPN reporter Holly Rowe was there to snap a pic.
So what do you say, fans: Who wore it better?
How the game was won: Stanford sealed this victory with 12:31 left to play when its sturdy defense forced Cal to turn the ball over on downs. The Bears had begun to generate some mojo following an onside kick recovery, but this game was about the Cardinal clamping down and forcing five turnovers after their offense supplied a multipossession lead. Stanford rushed for 204 yards and passed for 214.
Game ball goes to: We have to give out two game balls today because this was such a balanced Stanford effort. Remound Wright delivered four rushing touchdowns (last done by Toby Gerhart in the 2009 Big Game), while linebacker Blake Martinez intercepted two passes and forced a fumble during the defense's aggressive showing.
What it means: Although the program lost luster this season, Stanford will head to a bowl game for the sixth consecutive year. The 6-5 Cardinal have notched their sixth consecutive six-win season, tying their longest streak since the Great Depression. The 5-6 Bears must win their finale against BYU to earn bowl eligibility.
What's next: Stanford moves on to its regular-season finale at UCLA, which will be an especially intriguing game if the Bruins get by USC on Saturday night. Cal still has a shot to reach the postseason for the first time since 2011. The Bears must beat BYU next week.
Taylor Kelly threw for four touchdowns and D.J. Foster rushed for three scores as Arizona State beat Washington State, 52-31, on Saturday.
Final Washington State 31 13 Arizona State 52 Final 15 Arizona 42 17 Utah 10 Final Stanford 38 California 17 Final Colorado 10 2 Oregon 44 Final 19 USC 20 9 UCLA 38 Final Oregon State 13 Washington 37