Pac-12 morning links

October, 7, 2014
Oct 7
"Forget it, he's rolling."

Leading off

With might and fury, The Eliminator unleashed her rage on college football last week, leaving few survivors in her wake. Six more teams were sucked up into her void of "better luck next year." And yet, for as chaotic as things were for the Pac-12, none of the teams still in the mix fell out of contention for a spot in the College Football Playoff despite all four ranked teams losing -- including three of them at home.

Arizona, Oregon and UCLA all still remain filed under "Still in Contention." The Wildcats, at No. 10, are now the league's highest-ranked team after topping Oregon. UCLA, despite the loss at home to Utah, still hasn't fallen into the "On the Fence" category. Speaking of which, despite losing at Notre Dame, Stanford remains on the fence. Here's what our Mark Schlabach has to say about the Cardinal:
I'm not ready to write off Stanford yet, even after it lost its second game, 17-14 at Notre Dame on Saturday. ESPN's Football Power Index predicts there's a 47 percent chance the Pac-12 champion will have at least three losses, and there's clearly a lot left to shake out in the conference. It's the first time the Cardinal has lost two games this early in the season since a 1-2 start in 2008.

Also on the fence are Arizona State, Oregon State, USC, Utah and Washington.

Check it out

Athlon Sports came out with its top five games this week in college football. And despite home losses last week, Oregon at UCLA is still on the list. And rightfully so. Here's what they are saying about that matchup:
One of these teams will salvage its season while the other is in a world of trouble. Makeshift offensive lines have become the weak link on teams that had hoped to contend for the national title. Star quarterbacks Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley were sacked 15 times combined last week alone.

Say what you want about the games last week, but the bloom certainly isn't off of this showdown at the Rose Bowl. You have playmakers and A-listers on both sides of the ball for both teams. And this could still be a preview of the Pac-12 championship game. The way things have played out so far, that could still be the case. Or we'll see that California-Utah matchup in the title game that we all saw coming back in July.

News/notes/team reports
Just for fun

If you're an ASU alum living in Colorado and you weren't here, then it looks like you missed the party. Maybe next time around, you can rock your "Jael Mary" t-shirt. Or give this other design to your significant other.

Always cool to see guys we used to cover at the next level.

Two days after Washington State allowed two kickoff returns for touchdowns and missed a 19-yard field goal in the final minute to lose 60-59 to Cal, coach Mike Leach announced he fired special teams coordinator and assistant head coach Eric Russell.

“We made a change at special teams, and well I think a great deal of coach Russell but we wanted to split the special teams up among the assistants and the way he's most effective is with him running the whole thing,” Leach said at his Monday press conference. “He's a great coach. Yeah, I decided to make a change on special teams.”

WSU allowed a punt return for a touchdown against Utah on Sept. 27. A fumble during a punt return in the season opener against Rutgers played a big role in WSU’s 41-38 loss.

Russell previously coached with Leach at Texas Tech, where he was a nominee for the Frank Broyles Award in 2009, given to the nation’s top assistant coach.

With Russell’s dismissal, Leach promoted quality control assistant Eric Mele. Leach said Mele will continue to do a lot of the administrative work he’d already been assigned, but will also be in charge of divvying up the specials teams responsibilities among the team’s staff.

Mele is the lone coach on staff that did not either play for Leach or serve on one of his previous staffs before arriving at WSU in 2012. The story of how Mele landed at WSU is an interesting one, but here is snippet:
When Leach was announced as Washington State’s coach in November 2011, Mele realized this was his chance to get on the staff. Without an invitation, he booked a flight to Pullman for Leach’s introductory news conference and figured he’d pull a, “Hey, I’m in Pullman too, imagine that, want to grab a beer?” Unfortunately, when Mele texted Leach the morning after the news conference, Leach informed him that he had already returned to Key West but that if Mele were going to be in Key West again, he should let Leach know.

Perhaps more than anything this shows how much WSU misses former kicker Andrew Furney, who was in training camp with the New York Jets.

WSU ranks 10th in the Pac-12 allowing 23 yards per kickoff return this year after finishing fifth last year when it allowed 20 yards per return. Furney was 16-for-20 last year on field goals and this year Quentin Breshears and Erik Powell have combined to connect on just 6 of 11 attempts.
Stanford begins this week trying to pick up the pieces following Saturday's disastrous 17-14 loss at Notre Dame, and there's a complicating factor: The several shattered fragments the Cardinal must retrieve come in various incongruent shapes and sizes.

Entering South Bend, deficient red-zone performance was the Stanford killer.

But leaving Indiana, the Cardinal offense faces a more complicated reality. In a tale of frustrating irony, they scored two touchdowns on two trips to fix their red-zone problems, only to discover that everything else was broken.

The team averaged only 3.0 yards per play and 1.5 yards per rush, both lows of the Jim Harbaugh-David Shaw era. Lest rainy weather be an excuse, remember that Stanford's 2012 visit to Notre Dame in similar conditions featured 4.9 yards per play and 3.7 yards per rush. So this past weekend's game featured an offensive performance that -- on a per-play basis -- was significantly less efficient than one of quarterback Josh Nunes' low-water-mark performances in 2012.

Diagnosing the offensive malaise

A sturdy Irish defense exposed Stanford's glaring weaknesses. Behind a retooled offensive line and smaller running backs, the power rushing attack that formed the spine of the Cardinal's attack isn't what it once was. As a result, Kevin Hogan -- a quarterback who thrived when utilizing his own athleticism off play-action in prior seasons -- is being forced to play outside of his comfort zone as a standard passer: He's averaging 27 throws per game this season, compared to 21 in 2013 and only 15 in 2012. Stanford's tight ends (no catches) disappeared completely from the passing game Saturday, and that's also a direct byproduct of the team's inability to establish a credible rushing threat. Of course, a handful of drops from Cardinal receivers aren't helping matters, either.

In short, Stanford's issues on offense are now both abundant and apparent, and they're rooted in the disappearance of a once-mighty running game. Against competition not named UC Davis or Army, the Cardinal are averaging just 14.7 points per game. The attack can't be asked to replicate the soaring exploits of the Andrew Luck era (43.2 points per game). Given abundant talent up front and along the perimeter, though, it should be delivering more than 14.7 points per game, an output that would be good for No. 126 nationally (there are only 128 FBS teams).

Stanford's defense still leads the nation, allowing only 7.2 points per contest. But that effort is going to waste, as the Cardinal have already lost twice despite the sturdiness on that side of the ball. The bottom line: Stanford's weaknesses are currently outweighing Stanford's strengths, so the nation's only program to have reached four consecutive BCS bowl games is now a long shot to make the College Football Playoff.

Righting the ship

The Cardinal hope Washington State's porous defense is the necessary medicine for the Stanford offense. The Cougars have registered a couple decent defensive performances, but they struggled against Stanford last season and are fresh off a game in which they allowed a staggering 60 points to Cal.

The potential fix for Stanford is simple, though the path to reach it may be easier said than done. The Cardinal must re-establish a consistently credible rushing threat so Hogan can again return to his realm of greatest effectiveness. In the past, heavy 220-plus-pound running backs aided Stanford's offensive line to create that needed running backbone. Now, 225-pound receiver Ty Montgomery is the only speedy option with that kind of size, and Shaw may have to commit to more backfield touches for Montgomery to set the tone in a favorable way.

Hogan also has the legs to become part of the ground threat Stanford craves, and the staff will likely search for a method that mixes his talents with some creative perimeter running to replicate ground production of the past. Regardless of any schematic adjustments, though, Stanford's offensive line -- the one showered with so much recruiting hype back in 2012 -- must begin living up to expectations for improvement to come to fruition.

The silver lining here for the Cardinal: It looks as if Notre Dame featured the best defense Stanford will face all season. The conference title is still within reach, and Shaw's team should have some breathing room to find its new identity against a series of Pac-12 units that have been porous at best. With two losses already, though, Stanford's margin for error is gone, and Saturday's offensive performance cannot inspire much confidence.
video Editor's note: Seattle Seahawks All-Pro corner Richard Sherman spent last weekend with his alma mater, Stanford, and mentor, David Shaw, during the Cardinal's visit to Seattle to play Washington.

SEATTLE -- In a red Stanford polo, with his trademark dreadlocks falling from a Stanford beanie, Richard Sherman stood on his alma mater's sideline at Husky Stadium as the target of screaming Washington fans.

They were relentless.

"Richard, we love you!"

"Richard, turn around!"

"Marry me, Richard!"

Each brief turn and wave of acknowledgement was captured by a sea of camera phones and celebrated like a Huskies touchdown. In a city that splits its love for its NFL and college teams perhaps more closely than any other, Sherman's opposing allegiance was insignificant. After he helped deliver the city's first major professional sports championship since the Sonics' 1979 NBA title, the Seahawks' All-Pro corner has reached iconic status and become one of the most polarizing figures in all of sports.

For Stanford coach David Shaw, who first coached Sherman as a receiver at Stanford in 2007, there are times it's almost hard to believe.

"He's still Richard. He's still the same, funny, smart guy," Shaw said. "But he's crossed over into another stratum."

Hanging on the wall in Shaw's office, right next to his desk, is an authentic No. 25 Seahawks jersey with a handwritten note. It reads:

"Thank you Coach Shaw for being a father to me at Stanford and teaching me how to play the game the right way. You have helped me on and off the field more than you will ever know! I will forever be indebted to you! Thank you, Coach Shaw. Love, R. Sherman."

Sherman's relationship with Shaw is more significant than just that of player and coach. Text messages between them are signed with "Love, Richard" or "Love, Coach Shaw," and outside of Sherman's actual family, there might not be a more influential figure in his life.

"I hold him in such high regard, his wife and kids in such high regard," Sherman said. "You never want them to forget you while you're off working."

They haven't.

To read the rest of this story, click here.
The Pac-12 has been blown to smithereens. Forget everything you thought you knew. We're starting from scratch. It'll be tough to match the madness that Week 6 brought to the West Coast, but perhaps Week 7 can deliver an entertaining sequel. It's time to begin the transition.

Game with the biggest College Football Playoff implications: No. 12 Oregon at No. 18 UCLA

Both the Ducks and Bruins lost for the first time this past weekend, so some many think their highly anticipated showdown has lost some of its luster. The pair of setbacks, though, may have added even more intrigue to Saturday's battle at the Rose Bowl. It's now abundantly clear that both Oregon and UCLA must address potentially fatal weaknesses (Utah sacked Brett Hundley 10 times in its 30-28 win while Arizona wore the Ducks' defense into submission in a 31-24 triumph), and neither team has much time to make the necessary improvements and adjustments.

[+] EnlargeKevin Hogan
Matt Cashore/USA TODAY SportsCan Kevin Hogan and the Cardinal rebound from its second loss of the 2014 season?
For that reason, expect Saturday's showdown to be a dogfight between two vulnerable conference powers, both hungry to get back on track and re-assert themselves as favorites in this Pac-12 race. A second loss on either squad's resume could easily cripple College Football Playoff hopes a week after they took a punch to the stomach, so eyes out West will be on the Rose Bowl to see how the two preseason favorites react to adversity.

Team with the most to prove: No. 25 Stanford

Speaking of adversity, the Cardinal's catastrophic downturn on offense has created its fair share of it in the Bay Area. Stanford's 3.0 yards per play and 1.5 yards per rush in Saturday's gut-wrenching 17-14 loss at Notre Dame were both low marks of the Jim Harbaugh-David Shaw era. Statistically, Stanford hadn't been that inefficient on offense since Walt Harris coached the team to a 1-11 record in 2006 (one game during that miserable season featured only 52 yards of total offense).

The Cardinal's new-look offensive line, stocked with formerly touted blue chip recruits, has been a disappointment so far. Quarterback Kevin Hogan is struggling in the absence of the bona fide power rushing threat that used to be a Stanford staple, and -- to make matters worse -- receivers are dropping many of his good passes.

Are the Cardinal balanced enough to win the Pac-12 again this season, or is this team's rugged defense providing unsustainable life support for an erratic offense that has ranged from inconsistent to inept this season? Stanford must prove its attack can carry at least some of the load, and that task begins on Friday against Washington State's struggling defense.

Most desperate team: Washington State

Connor Halliday threw for an FBS-record 734 yards Saturday, yet the Cougars still found an unfathomable way to lose 60-59 at home to Cal. This time, the knockout punch came courtesy of a missed 19-yard field goal as time wound down. Yes, from the Washington State perspective, it would be impossible to write a more nauseating script. There's no way to sugarcoat it: Wazzu snatched defeat from the jaws of what would have been a much-celebrated victory on Saturday.

For Mike Leach, the problem is his team has already blown a handful of opportunities this season. The Cougars are 2-4 now, and if they're intent on making a bowl game, they'll have to find at least four more wins in this slate: at Stanford, vs. Arizona, vs. USC, at Oregon State, at ASU, vs. Washington. If last season's 55-17 whipping is any indication, the Cougars' high-flying attack is not well-equipped to handle Stanford's rugged defense because it can't establish a running game capable of neutralizing ferocious pass rushes. The 2014 window of opportunity is closing for Leach's team, which will have to scratch and claw its way into a shot on the road this Friday.

Diamond in the rough game: Washington at Cal

The Bears, who did not beat a single FBS opponent in last season's miserable 1-11 campaign, are in sole possession of first place in the Pac-12 North. Let that stunning factoid settle in as you ponder the parity that has turned this conference into a weekly roller coaster ride. It all means that Cal will return home to an energized Memorial Stadium crowd this Saturday for an anybody's-guess matchup with fellow 4-1 foe Washington.

Jared Goff has supercharged Cal in his second season. He's thrown 22 touchdowns and only three interceptions. That presents an intriguing test for a young Husky secondary that surrendered 475 passing yards to Eastern Washington in Week 2. Can Chris Petersen's havoc-inducing defensive front seven put a damper on Cal's ebullient vibes? Will the Bears' struggling defense be the cure for Washington's sputtering offense? Will both of the above happen and create a fourth straight heartrending game for Sonny Dykes? Those will be Saturday's money questions.

Oh, and keep an eye on the Bears' Trevor Davis. He returned consecutive kickoffs for touchdowns on Saturday in the Palouse.

This week's top chance at redemption: USC at No. 10 Arizona

It looked as if the Trojans would be undefeated in conference play heading into next Saturday's showdown at fellow unbeaten Arizona, but that will no longer be the case. The Trojans blew a 34-25 lead in the final three minutes Saturday, and that doesn't even begin to illustrate how demoralizing their 38-34 loss to ASU was. Jaelen Strong's Hail Mary reception at the final gun shocked the Coliseum and turned USC victory into defeat. Steve Sarkisian's squad must now rush to right the ship before it drops out of the conference race. In that regard, a test in the house of the Pac-12's only remaining unbeaten team is a golden opportunity. Of course, the undefeated Wildcats see a big-time chance here, too.

Pac-12 Show: Week 7

October, 6, 2014
Oct 6
Join Pac-12 reporters Kyle Bonagura, Kevin Gemmell and Chantel Jennings at 4 p.m. ET as they review an upset-filled Week 6 in the conference and look ahead to the games this week, including Oregon vs. UCLA. Don't forget that you can also ask the experts your Pac-12 questions live on the show.
Let’s take a trip to the preseason. Times were simpler back then. The Pac-12 was on the rise and its eventual champion a virtual lock for the first College Football Playoff.

It wasn’t about if, it was about who and, just maybe, how many?

With Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley both putting the NFL on hold, national championship buzz was justified for Oregon and UCLA. Stanford couldn’t be ignored either, not after four straight trips to BCS bowls. And with 10 starting quarterbacks coming back, Chris Petersen’s much-anticipated arrival and a USC resurgence potentially looming, there was a whole lot else to like.

[+] EnlargeMarcus Mariota
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty ImagesOregon's loss to Arizona hurt Marcus Mariota and the Ducks' chance at a spot in the inaugural College Football Playoff.
Since then, all the Pac-12 has done is establish itself as the most exciting conference in the country. Top to bottom, it’s also the most competitive. Of the 14 conference games, 11 have been decided by one score. With a pair of Hail Mary finishes, the new single-game FBS passing record and a double-overtime game that featured 14 touchdown passes, there’s already been a season’s worth of memorable moments and it’s still the first week of October.

Last week even saw the road team win in all five conference games.

“Yeah, that’s weird,” Cal coach Sonny Dykes said. “This league is usually a league that’s pretty home-team strong.”

Weird describes a lot of what’s transpired and from purely an entertainment standpoint, it’d be hard to ask for more.

However, with all of that comes a glaring drawback. As the Pac-12 begins to eat its own, there is growing concern within the conference that despite its overall strength – six teams were ranked in the most recent AP poll – the eventual champion could be left out of the inaugural four-team playoff.

It’s far too early to accurately project how things will shake out -- that’s a fool’s errand -- but based on what’s progressed through six weeks, it’s hard to imagine any Pac-12 team finishing with less than two losses. If that’s the case, it would pose a problem for the conference’s playoff chances regardless of the other to-be-determined variables.

“And that’s what we don’t know. To me that’s the biggest unknown in this deal and it hall hinges, as we all known, on the committee,” Stanford coach David Shaw said a few weeks ago. “If you’ve got, imagine a two-loss Pac-12 champion that played a hellacious schedule. Do they get bumped for a one-loss or an undefeated team that did not play the same type of schedule?

“That, to me, will determine where this playoff goes and scheduling in the future. If that happens, I can guarantee you there will be 12 coaches going up to [Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott] saying, ‘Hey, we need to change our schedule. We’re going to beat each other up and get left out. We need to do what everybody else is doing schedule wise [playing eight conference games], or at least what some other people are doing schedule wise.’ But, if you play the tough conference [schedule] and – I’m going extreme here -- if you’re a two-loss team in the Pac-12 and you get in the playoff, it justifies what we do.”

The playoff is an obvious step in the right direction, but its structure will also create a strange dynamic for the champions of Power 5 conferences that get left out. Inherently, it turns something that should be celebrated – a conference title – into something that could be viewed as a consolation prize. That doesn’t seem right.

What does seem right is an eight-team playoff with automatic bids granted to the Power 5 champions. Use a committee to seed the teams and assign three at-large berths, but that part is less important.

A defined path to the playoff makes the eight-game vs. nine-game conference-schedule debate less relevant. It eliminates concerns teams might have with scheduling tough nonconference games for fear of losing and instantly makes the playoff more intriguing for a broader range of college football fans.

Where’s the downside?

Instead, we have UCLA and Oregon playing this week in a game that could effectively eliminate the loser from playoff contention. It's too early for that.

Juco recruits to watch: Pac-12 

October, 6, 2014
Oct 6
Pac-12 programs have found plenty of success in the junior college ranks over the past few years. Wide receivers Jaelen Strong and Vince Mayle's impacts for Arizona State and Washington State, respectively, have been substantial. Oregon, Oregon State and USC found defensive stalwarts Joe Walker, Steven Nelson and Claude Pelon, respectively, at the junior college level. Those are only a few of the juco prospects in the Pac-12, and with programs such as Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon State, Utah and Washington State able to recruit so well at the junior college level, the conference is likely to land a number of impact junior college prospects who find themselves in the recently released Juco Watch List.

A dozen members of the Watch List have already committed to Pac-12 programs, but here are three names on the list that Pac-12 fans should know.

UCLA may have suffered a tough defeat against Utah on Saturday, but the Bruins received a pick-me-up on Sunday, securing a commitment from versatile ESPN Jr 300 Breland Brandt. Brandt becomes UCLA’s first ESPN Jr 300 pledge and joins receiver Michael Pittman as Sunday 2016 commitments for the Bruins.

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Pac-12 morning links

October, 6, 2014
Oct 6
In three words, I can sum up everything I've learned about life: It goes on.

Leading off

A little Robert Frost seemed appropriate today. After the thermonuclear detonation that occurred in the Pac-12 and around college football, there are a lot of teams celebrating, a lot licking their wounds, and still a lot who want to know what the heck just happened. (The Pac-12 blog feels the same way).

Let's start with the rankings, where the Arizona Wildcats, on the strength of their win over Oregon last Thursday night, went from unranked to No. 10. As he does every Sunday, our Kyle Bonagura gives as a snapshot of what this means for the league.

Here's a look at how the voters broke down the Wildcats:

It was a chaotic weekend for the nation's top-ranked teams, with 11 of them losing -- including all four from the Pac-12 that were ranked: Oregon, Stanford, USC and UCLA.

The Pac-12 now has six ranked teams. Here is where they stack up. As always, the AP poll is first, followed by the coaches poll.
  • Arizona 10-13
  • Oregon 12-11
  • UCLA 18-17
  • Arizona State 20-20
  • Utah 24/RV
  • Stanford 25-22

You can see the complete rankings here.

Here's how Daniel Berk, who covers the Wildcats, voted.

Misery hates company

A pair of Pac-12 teams made Dan Wolken's weekly Misery Index. Oregon and USC check in at Nos. 3 and 6 of his 10 miserable teams for the week. Here's his take on the Ducks:
Another year, another national title mirage. More concerning for the Ducks than the actual loss (31-24 at home to Arizona) or how it happened (an absurd penalty and crushing turnover) is just how flawed they look. They can't protect Marcus Mariota, and even if they could, the defense doesn't look stout enough to get through a playoff gauntlet.
News/notes/team reports
Just for fun

This is cool.

Creepy and adorable. But let's not forget what happened to the King in the North. (Spoiler alert, it doesn't end well. See The Wedding, Red).

Locker room selfies are all the rage.

This pretty much sums it up:

What a shakeup. If you saw any of this weekend coming, you should probably start playing the lottery.

And, like last weekend, there are quite a few plays that deserve some recognition in the Pac-12 Blog’s Play of the Week vote.

1. Dres flips the script

video Dres Anderson was the league’s top returning receiver with 83.5 yards per game, and coming into Utah’s game with UCLA, his father Flipper’s alma mater, he had put up the same kinds of numbers, 84 yards and one touchdown per game. And though he caught only two passes against the Bruins, one of them is definitely on this list. The Utes already had a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter when quarterback Kendal Thompson connected with Thompson in the end zone on second-and-10. Anderson went between Ishmael Adams and Fabian Moreau -- two of the best defensive backs in the Pac-12 -- and managed to come down with the 42 yard score.

2. Where there’s a Wil(son), there’s a way

Freshman running back Nick Wilson has already made his presence known in this league. But if you thought he was just another talented freshman, then maybe his 34-yard touchdown reception changed your mind. On second-and-9 with a three-point lead in the third quarter, Wilson connected with quarterback Anu Solomon before running the ball the final 26 yards into the end zone. That alone stands as impressive as it gave the Wildcats a 10-point lead over the Ducks, but the fact that he also plowed over senior All-American cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu en route to the end zone makes it that much more impressive.


What was the play of the week?


Discuss (Total votes: 3,637)

3. Air Jordan

With Notre Dame driving to start the second quarter and the Cardinal clinging to a seven-point lead, Jordan Richards managed to pick off Everett Golson in the red zone. Richards dived in front of Notre Dame senior wide receiver Amir Carlisle to snag the ball at the 2-yard line. Yes, Stanford went on to lose the game, but it wasn’t because of the defense and Richards, who finished with seven tackles, including 1.5 for a loss. It was his early interception that kept Stanford’s offense (which sputtered) within striking distance.

4. Jael(en) Mary

Again. A Hail Mary. AGAIN. Why don’t we just leave a spot in the weekly vote for the Pac-12 Hail Mary? Because at this point, it feels like we’re just going to keep having them. But on Saturday, it was Jaelen Strong who hauled in a 46-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass from Mike Bercovici as the clock expired to give the Sun Devils a four-point win over the Trojans. Strong led all receivers with three touchdowns and 202 yards off 10 receptions but it was this catch that could very well end up on Pac-12 Blog’s Play of the Year following this season.

5. Famous Davis

The Cal-Washington State game was a back-and-forth affair that saw major yardage put up from both quarterbacks. And while Connor Halliday broke the FBS passing record with his 734 passing yards and Jared Goff’s 527 yards is nothing to scoff at, it was Cal junior Trevor Davis who came away with the play of the game. After Washington State went on a 14-point spree, Davis pulled the Bears within one score when he returned James Langford’s kickoff 100 yards for a score. But no, that’s not the one that made this list. Because three minutes later the Cougars were bold enough to kick it back in Davis’ direction and he made them pay. Again. He returned it 98 yards for another score. So while the quarterbacks might’ve been the biggest storyline, it was a special-teams player that provided a special spark for the team.

Pac-12 bowl projections: Week 6

October, 5, 2014
Oct 5
Here’s what we know: Diddly squat. Nothing. Nada. A reboot is needed after one of the craziest weekends in league history.

The hope is that the College Football Playoff selection committee understands the depth and talent in the Pac-12, but that might be asking a lot.

Arizona is the lone undefeated team in the Pac-12 and is one win away from bowl eligibility. For the sake of argument, the Pac-12 blog is going to stick the Wildcats in that playoff spot. Because as of today, they have earned it. They have one of the biggest wins in college football, and they did it on the road. Next week it might be different. Maybe it won’t be. Who knows? Ted Miller lost the Pac-12 blog's crystal ball. This is why we can't have nice things.

California, Oregon, Oregon State, Arizona State, Utah and UCLA are all two wins away from bowl eligibility with four victories.

At 3-2, Stanford and USC are halfway there, though it’s not inconceivable to imagine there being three wins out there for those teams. Washington (4-1), which was on bye last week, still needs three because of the Hawaii rule.

Washington State and Colorado still have work to do. While it’s possible these teams might play spoiler to someone else, their shots at postseason berths are dwindling each week.

I think the math is there for the league to have 10 teams become eligible, but that's a real stretch. Teams such as Washington State and Colorado would have to lose out to bolster the wins of other teams, and I don't see that happening. Those teams will disappoint someone. Some of the upcoming head-to-heads are going to start making things very interesting, such as Utah at Oregon State on Oct. 16, Arizona State at Washington on Oct. 25, and Cal at USC next month.

As always, salt heavily.

College Football Playoff: Arizona
Fiesta Bowl: Oregon
Valero Alamo Bowl: UCLA
National University Holiday Bowl: Stanford
San Francisco Bowl: California
Hyundai Sun Bowl: Arizona State
Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl: USC
Cactus Bowl: Washington
Heart of Dallas Bowl*: Utah

*-at large

Arizona's debut at No. 10 in the latest AP poll is a historic one.

Fresh off their 24-17 win at previous No. 2 Oregon last Thursday, the Wildcats became the first team since the poll went to 25 teams in 1989 to move from unranked to the Top 10. Arizona (5-0) is one of 10 undefeated teams left in the country and was ranked as high as No. 2 in the nation on one ballot (by ESPN's Brett McMurphy).

Arizona has not been in the Top 10 in consecutive weeks since 1998, when it moved up a spot in each of the final seven weeks to finish No. 4.

The Wildcats are the highest ranked of six Pac-12 teams in the Top 25, followed by No. 12 Oregon, No. 18 UCLA, No. 20 Arizona State, No. 24 Utah and No. 25 Stanford. USC and Cal also received votes.

Following its win at previous No. 8 UCLA, Utah is ranked for the first time since joining the Pac-12 in 2011. The Utes were ranked for most of the 2010 season, their last in the Mountain West, but dropped out after losing to Boise State in their bowl game.

Oregon and Stanford are in unfamiliar spots after losing in the same week of the regular season for the first time since October 2008.

The Ducks have been ranked lower than No. 12 just once since the beginning of the 2010 season -- and that came in Week 2 of the 2011 seasons, when they were ranked No. 13. Stanford at No. 25 matches its lowest ranking since debuting in the poll's final spot in Week 2 of the 2010 season.

Best of the visits: Pac-12

October, 5, 2014
Oct 5
Recruits were treated to a wild and entertaining weekend in the Pac-12, as five conference home games were decided by a total of 19 points, with 371 points scored. A Hail Mary connected, an NCAA passing record was set and all three ranked home teams suffered defeat. With so much action on the field, there was plenty of chatter from recruits on social media.

Ducks host midweek visitors

The Pac-12's recruiting weekend began last Wednesday, as Oregon hosted committed quarterback Travis Waller and three-star defensive end Gus Cumberland, as well as the Arizona Wildcats on Thursday night. While the game didn't go exactly as planned, the visits did, as Waller and Cumberland both very much enjoyed their time in Eugene. Cumberland, in fact, saw enough to announce his commitment to Oregon shortly after the trip.


Recruits flock to Los Angeles

With UCLA and USC both playing home games, plenty of recruits made their way to the Rose Bowl and Coliseum on Saturday. While both programs suffered last-second defeats, they provided plenty of entertainment value for those in attendance.

The Trojans hosted the No. 9-ranked player in the country, cornerback Kendall Sheffield -- who undoubtedly found plenty to fault on USC's Hail Mary defense but managed a meeting with Alex Rodriguez during the visit.

USC commit and ESPN 300 defensive tackle Jacob Daniel made the quick trip down to USC for the game.

ESPN Junior 300 wide receiver Javon McKinley, whose first offer came from Arizona State and also received a recent offer from UCLA, was at the Coliseum as well.

But fellow 2016 ESPN Junior 300 prospect Mique Juarez, who has offers from both UCLA and USC, might have summed up the game between the Sun Devils and Trojans better than anyone.

There was plenty of star power across town at UCLA's game as well. ESPN 300 defenders Keisean Lucier-South and Osa Masina were in attendance -- Masina was in town on an official visit.

Lucier-South recently announced that he moved USC back into the list of schools he is considering, but with Michigan and UCLA grabbing early leads -- and then Michigan's poor season so far -- the Bruins continue to look tough to beat in that race.

Utah's win in the Rose Bowl is likely to continue its strong recruiting momentum, and apparently almost netted the Utes a verbal from 2016 ESPN Junior 300 prospect Micah Croom.


Cougars host a huge visitor

The defensive backs in the Cal-Washington State game are likely to have nightmares this week, as the quarterbacks threw the ball all over the field on their way to 1,261 passing yards and 11 touchdowns. On the surface, it might not appear to be the best game for the Cougars to host ESPN 300 safety Marcus Lewis on an official visit, but the No. 152 overall prospect said he had a great time in Pullman.


Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week 6

October, 5, 2014
Oct 5