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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Pac-12 power ratings: Where Washington State lands after loss at Oregon

By Jon Wilner Bay Area News Group

On the first Saturday of the season, Colorado cornerback/receiver Travis Hunter stunned the college football world with a two-way performance for the ages.

Seven weeks later, Hunter isn’t even the most impactful two-way player in the Pac-12.

Sione Vaki has entered the chat.

The Utah sophomore spent the first 19 games of his career at safety but, because of injuries, has added tailback responsibilities – and is thriving at his adopted position.

Hunter was the No. 1 recruit in the country two years ago, a can’t-miss NFL prospect who turned down scholarship offers from Georgia, Alabama and Florida State in order to play for Deion Sanders at Jackson State. Last winter, he followed Sanders to Colorado.

Vaki was a three-star recruit who played receiver and defensive back for Liberty High School in the Bay Area. His scholarship offers were from Utah State, Washington State, Boston College, Brigham Young and Utah.

Vaki spent two years on a church mission, joined the Utes for the 2022 season and started five games in the secondary. This fall, he’s second on the team in tackles (35) and tackles for loss (6.5) … and third in rushing.

With all the injuries in the offensive backfield, the Utes asked Vaki a few weeks ago if he would consider carrying and catching the ball.

The results have been Hunter-esque.

Vaki rushed for 158 yards and made five tackles against California, then carved up USC on land and by air.

He averaged 7.6 yards on nine carries, caught five passes for 149 yards and two touchdowns and, for good measure, made two tackles.

Put another way: The Utes have averaged 19.2 points per game when Vaki plays defense exclusively and 34 when he lines up on offense, as well.

Nothing screams Utah football better than a three-star recruit who turns into one of the most impactful players in the conference at a time of need.

No program does a better job evaluating talent, developing talent and deploying talent.

Using the 889th-ranked recruit in his class to reinvent themselves on offense midway through an injury-marred season is the latest example – and one of the best.

To the power ratings …

(All times Pacific)

1. Washington (7-0/4-0)

Last week: 1

Result: beat Arizona State 15-7

Next up: at Stanford (4 p.m. on FS1)

Comment: Here comes the second half of a sneaky-tough doubleheader against schools that have given the Huskies fits over the years. They have dropped seven of the past nine at Stanford, including a 30-22 defeat in 2017 when they were ranked ninth. UW’s current ranking: No. 5.

2. Oregon (6-1/3-1)

Last week: 2

Result: beat Washington State 38-24

Next up: at Utah (12:30 p.m. on Fox)

Comment: Teams ranked in the top 25 nationally in average yards-per-play gained (offense) and average yards-per-play allowed (defense): Georgia, Ohio State, Michigan, Notre Dame and Oregon.

3. Oregon State (6-1/3-1)

Last week: 3

Result: did not play

Next up: at Arizona (7:30 p.m. on ESPN)

Comment: It’s strength-on-strength this weekend in Tucson, where one of the nation’s top rushing offenses meets one of the best run defenses. Arizona being the latter was definitely not on our Pac-12 bingo card.

4. Utah (6-1/3-1)

Last week: 4

Result: won at USC 34-32

Next up: vs. Oregon (12:30 p.m. on Fox)

Comment: To the commentary on Vaki above, let’s not forget: Utah’s starting quarterback, Bryson Barnes, is a former walk-on and the starting tailback, Ja’Quiden Jackson, is a former quarterback.

5. UCLA (5-2/2-2)

Last week: 5

Result: won at Stanford 42-7

Next up: vs. Colorado (4:30 p.m. on ABC)

Comment: We just checked, and Dante Moore is not in the transfer portal.

6. USC (6-2/4-1)

Last week: 6

Result: lost to Utah 34-32

Next up: at Cal (1 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks)

Comment: Lincoln Riley has a better chance to beat Kyle Whittingham than he does to win access spats with the L.A. media. And he’s 0 for 3 against Whittingham.

7. Arizona (4-3/2-2)

Last week: 7

Result: did not play

Next up: vs. Oregon State (7:30 p.m. on ESPN)

Comment: Recent downturns by both USC and Washington State lend context to Arizona’s performances against both. Are the Wildcats worthy of a top-half placement in these ratings and the conference standings? We’ll know by the close of business Saturday night.

8. Washington State (4-3/1-3)

Last week: 8

Result: lost at Oregon 38-24

Next up: at Arizona State (5 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks)

Comment: With ASU, Stanford, Cal and Colorado in succession, the Cougars have plenty of chances to secure bowl eligibility before the Apple Cup. Because from what we have seen lately, their chances of winning the Apple Cup (in Seattle) are less than zero.

9. Colorado (4-3/1-3)

Last week: 9

Result: did not play

Next up: at UCLA (4:30 p.m. on ABC)

Comment: Deion Sanders remade his roster in the offseason. To what extent did he remake his defense during the bye?

10. Cal (3-4/1-3)

Last week: 10

Result: did not play

Next up: vs. USC (1 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks)

Comment: Cal could not have asked for more favorable circumstances than two weeks to prepare and USC reeling from back-to-back losses in marquee matchups (to Notre Dame and Utah). But success Saturday afternoon hinges on – and stop us if you’ve heard this before – the Bears generating the requisite level of production on offense.

11. Stanford (2-5/1-4)

Last week: 11

Result: lost to UCLA 42-7

Next up: vs. Washington (4 p.m. on FS1)

Comment: Remove the second half/overtime in Boulder, and Stanford has been outscored 113-13 over the past three games. We have no further comment.

12. Arizona State (1-6/0-4)

Last week: 12

Result: lost at Washington 15-7

Next up: vs. Washington State (5 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks)

Comment: Yes, the Sun Devils got home-cooked in Seattle. Picking up the pass interference flag was a terrible decision by the officials. One of the worst of the season. Inexcusable.