PULLMAN – Washington was so close. But USC had to go and upend the established Pac-12 hierarchy in Week 11, creating chaos in both Pac-12 divisions. There are five teams that have every reason to believe they can play in the Rose Bowl, and any of those teams could still wind up in the playoffs by winning the rest of its games.
That’s right. Each team but No. 13 USC has at least two games left against ranked teams if you include the Pac-12 championship. With the extra weight the selection committee gives to conference championship games, any of Colorado, USC, Utah, UW or WSU could find itself in the College Football Playoff.
First, though, they have to rise to the top of this list.
1 USC (7-3, 6-2; last week: No. 2) – The once and future king of the Pac-12 is back on top after beating up the upstarts in Seattle.
2 Washington State (8-2, 7-0; last week: No. 3) – All the Cougars do is win, which is more than enough when you think about it.
3 Washington (9-1, 6-1; last week: No. 1) – The Huskies have been diminished by defensive injuries to the point where maybe it’s not in their interest to make the playoffs, anyway.
4 Utah (8-2, 5-2; last week: No. 4) – Ascending offense. Controls its own destiny. Yep, Utah is the WSU of the South Division.
5 Colorado (8-2, 6-1; last week: No. 5) – Years-long program rebuild finally paying off but will be tested with ranked opponents the final two weeks. Oh, maybe the Buffaloes are the Cougars of the South.
6 Stanford (7-3, 5-3; last week: No. 6) – Rumors of Stanford’s demise are not exactly exaggerated – the Cardinal are not nearly as good this year – but they will still win nine games.
7 Arizona State (5-5, 2-5; last week: No. 9) – The Sun Devils are on a four-game losing streak but somehow gain in Thorpe’s power rankings? Sorry, I just cannot justify dropping them below the others.
8 UCLA (4-6, 2-5; last week: No. 10) – UCLA’s record is not pretty, but cut the Bruins some slack. Their last three losses have all come against ranked teams.
9 Oregon (3-7, 1-6; last week: No. 7) – Rumors of Mark Helfrich being let go at the end of the season seem less silly each week.
10 California (4-6, 2-5; last week: No. 8) – Just imagine how bad Cal would be if it hadn’t lucked out with Davis Webb and Chad Hansen.
11 Oregon State (2-8, 1-6; last week: No. 11) – The Beavers must take some measure of solace in seeing Colorado’s rapid rise this year. That could be OSU soon.
12 Arizona (2-8, 0-7; last week: No. 12) – Arizona also has a good reason to look forward to next season: the injury report.
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