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Tuesday, December 18, 2018  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports

Pac-12 power rankings: One way or another, the conference title will return to California

In this file photo, USC coach Clay Helton, left, shakes hands with Stanford coach David Shaw after a game at Stanford. While the Pac-12 North was being decided in Seattle last Saturday, Pac-12 South champion Southern California was enjoying an overdue day off. USC will be the first team from a Power 5 conference to play in a conference championship game after a bye week since Oklahoma and Auburn in 2004, and the second team in the last 11 seasons to do so. (Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP)
In this file photo, USC coach Clay Helton, left, shakes hands with Stanford coach David Shaw after a game at Stanford. While the Pac-12 North was being decided in Seattle last Saturday, Pac-12 South champion Southern California was enjoying an overdue day off. USC will be the first team from a Power 5 conference to play in a conference championship game after a bye week since Oklahoma and Auburn in 2004, and the second team in the last 11 seasons to do so. (Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP)

Coaching moves and rumors of coaching moves have swirled through just about every corner of the Pac-12 Conference this week. So much so, that it’s almost easy to forget that the league still has to crown a champion on Friday. For those reasons – and because the Pac-12 almost certainly won’t be sending any of its members to college football’s Final Four – this title game doesn’t feel quite as lustrous as some of those in the past.

Still, any game with Sam Darnold and Bryce Love is one worth watching. The Trojans and Cardinal will battle for Pac-12 supremacy, but here’s how the rest of the conference shakes out as we present this week’s power rankings.

1. USC (10-2, 8-1; last week: No. 2) – Since the inception of the Pac-12 championship game six years ago, the hardware has only ever resided in Palo Alto, Eugene and Seattle. If USC ends that drought on Friday, and Chip Kelly can get back to his old ways, one can see the trophy taking up long-term residency in Los Angeles.

2. Stanford (9-3, 8-2; last week: No. 3) – The last time the Cardinal went into a Pac-12 title game against USC with a Hesiman-caliber running back, Christian McCaffrey accumulated 312 all-purpose yards and scored twice.

3. Washington (10-2, 7-2; last week: No. 4) – The Huskies fell short of their ultimate goal, but 11 wins (potentially) and an Apple Cup trophy would make for a decent consolation prize.

4. Washington State (9-3, 6-3; last week: No. 1) – The Cougars finish the year with wins over both teams in the Pac-12 championship game, but for the second year in a row, they were no-shows to the Apple Cup and once again, it cost them dearly.

5. Arizona State (7-5, 6-3; last week: No. 5) – Todd Graham won a rivalry game and secured the seventh win of the season on the same day. At most schools, that gets you an extension or a pat on the back at the very least. And Graham? Well he got fired.

6. Oregon (7-5, 4-5; last week: No. 6) – The Ducks went 6-1 and scored 52 points per game when Justin Herbert was starting. With the quarterback sidelined, they were 1-4 while averaging 15 points per game.

7. Arizona (7-5, 5-4; last week: No. 7) – Seven wins and a Territorial Cup loss strangely feels like a disappointing year for a team that initially was not expected to make it through the season with Rich Rodriguez.

8. Utah (6-6, 3-6; last week: No. 8) – The Utes clinched their sixth win against Colorado and will almost certainly be picking up No. 7 next month. Kyle Whittingham’s teams have won 10 bowl games compared to only one loss.

9. UCLA (6-6, 4-5; last week: no. 11) – Chip Kelly’s back: the three words that ruined the holiday season for every other coach in the Pac-12.

10. Cal (5-7, 2-7; last week: No. 9) – Year No. 1 under Justin Wilcox probably went better than planned, but the Golden Bears lost three games by three points or less and those will surely haunt them as they watch bowl season from their couches.

11. Colorado (5-7, 2-7; last week: No. 10) – Nobody in the Pac-12 fell further than the Buffaloes, who now have to replace a running back that gave them 2,726 yards over the last two seasons.

12. Oregon State (1-11, 0-9; previously No. 12) – After a 69-10 loss in the Civil War, it absolutely cannot get any worse for the football program in Corvallis.


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