Conference Power Rankings — Week 7

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Ok, so now the season is “officially” officially half over. I think. At any rate, and in case you missed it, the first BCS rankings are out, and we’re getting into the meat of the conference schedule. Who’s giving their conference cred? Who’s bringing it down? Check it out:

Our Conclusion:

1. Big 12 (last wk, No. 2)The Good: Okay, guys. This was actually, like, a super tough decision, y’all. The SEC has been rooted at the No. 1 spot for weeks and it took all my strength to pry that spot away from its kung fu grip. But, in the end, three undefeated teams is just more impressive. Good thing Nick Saban could(n’t) “give a $#!@ about all that“. The Bad: With their 38-26 loss to Oklahoma State, Texas has just one conference win in their last eight attempts. Also, Mack Brown still won’t answer quarterback questions. The Ugly: Before losing 47-17 to Oklahoma, Kansas’ defense was allowing roughly 60 points a game in their three previous losses. After losing to Oklahoma? Fifty-seven points per game. And who says Bob Stoops is ruthless?

2. SEC (last wk, No. 1)The Good: Alabama and LSU are just one game apiece away from an epic Nov. 5 showdown that some believe should be the SEC title game. Alabama gets Tennessee at home; LSU hosts Auburn. On paper, LSU has the tougher task, but the Tide need to take care of business and not look ahead. The Bad: Losing running back Marcus Lattimore for the year due to a knee injury is devastating for South Carolina. The Gamecocks can still win the SEC East, but putting it on Connor Shaw‘s shoulders is asking a lot. The Ugly: The post-game skirmish between Georgia and Vanderbilt was unfortunate. The fact it involved two coaches — Vandy’s James Franklin and Georgia DC Todd Grantham — is downright despicable. I don’t know who said what, and I’m not going to place blame on one over the other, but it’s a coach’s job to display the highest levels of decision-making, win or lose. Hopefully, both sides will learn from the experience.

3. Pac-12 (last wk, No. 4) The Good: One thing that’s always been so impressive about Chip Kelly‘s Oregon team is that they actually plug in the next guy if someone gets hurt without missing a beat. In a 41-27 win over Arizona State, Kenjon Barner and DeAnthony Thomas filled in admirably for LaMichael James, and Bryan Bennett was able to keep the chains moving with quarterback Darron Thomas on the sidelines with a knee injury. Great effort all around. The Bad: After notching their first win of the season over Arizona, Oregon State came back out and lost by 10 points to BYU. It’s been a really tough season for coach Mike Riley. The Ugly: It’s hard to believe, but Colorado has won a national championship more recently than Notre Dame. Granted, it was still over 20 years ago, but this program has fallen a long way over the past several years. The Buffs, 1-6 on the season, have a wonderful program. Here’s hoping they can get it turned around.

4. Big Ten (last wk, No. 3)The Good: Honestly, not much. It’s kind of a wonder that the Big Ten is even ranked this high based on some of the performances this past week, but Wisconsin and Michigan State are keeping this conference afloat. This Saturday’s matchup between the two should be a lot of fun. The Bad: Penn State is 6-1 now with a win over Purude, but it’s hard to see them winning any more than seven games this year with games against Nebraska, Ohio State and Wisconsin looming. The Lions’ offense is completely out of sync. The Ugly: Perhaps I’m beating this into the ground more than I should, but there’s something about Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson that worries me. Perhaps it’s the fact that he can’t throw the ball effectively at all. Robinson has 2010 written all over him as we get into the meat of Big Ten play.

5. ACC (last wk, No. 5)The Good: Okay, maybe Clemson is for real. Maybe. Possibly. For another week, at least. Conditions were perfect for the Tigers to fail against Maryland, but the No. 8 showed a ton of heart coming back from 18 points down to win against the Terps. The Bad: The ACC desperately needs some credibility in the form of a BCS bowl win and an upper-echelon of teams who don’t lose to teams they shouldn’t. For a while, Georgia Tech looked to be in that latter category — until they lost 24-21 to Virginia. The Ugly: Allowing North Carolina to make a late-game rally wasn’t the way Miami coach Al Golden wanted to win, but the ‘Canes (3-3, 1-2 ACC) needed the conference win.

6. Big East (last wk, No. 7)The Good: Rutgers has been one of the nicest surprises of the first half of the season, coming from behind to beat Navy 21-20 to give the Scarlet Knights a 5-1 record. Granted, they haven’t beaten anybody, but last year the Scarlet Knights lost to those teams. The Bad: I don’t know if “bad” quite defines Pitt, but it certainly nails down their offense. Outside of running back Ray Graham, the Panthers can’t do anything to score points other than leave their offense off the field and let special teams do it instead. The Ugly: a 16-10 victory by UConn over South Florida. ‘Nuff said.

7. Conference USA (last wk, No. 6)The Good: The first superconference! The Bad: UCF, Houston and SMU, who could all be leaving for the Big East. The Ugly: Um, I believe THIS qualifies. Where’s the fan support?

8. WAC (last wk, No. 9)The Good, Bad and Ugly: I don’t know what it is about Friday night football on ESPN, but some of the craziest games this season have been broadcast with Joe Tessitore and Rod Gilmore. The 28=27 San Jose State win over Hawaii was no different. The good part was that it was an exciting game that came down to the last minute; the bad part is that it was San Jose State and Hawaii; the ugly part is that there were 12 combined turnovers. Twelve! I don’t even…

9. Mountain West (last wk, No. 10)The Good: Boise State continues to roll along on their way to another BCS appearance with a 63-13 win over Colorado State. The Broncos play nobody of note outside of TCU in their conference slate, but damn if they don’t make college football more fun. The Bad: A 41-27 loss to San Diego State puts Air Force at a disappointing 3-3 through the first half of the year. Honestly, I don’t think I’m alone in feeling there were higher expectations from the Falcons this year. The Ugly: The spiral keeps getting getting more uncontrollable. UNLV and New Mexico are a combined 1-11. Ouch.

10. MAC (last wk, No. 8 )The Good: Ball State had just four wins last season; the Fighting Letterman’s have matched that total already this year. Extra kudos for Toledo and Temple, who continue to rack up wins. The Bad: Dan LeFevour was really something at Central Michigan. At 2-5, the Chips just haven’t been the same since him and Butch Jones departed. The Ugly: Here’s a MAC score for ya: Miami (OH) — 9, Kent State — 3. Yikes.

11. Sun Belt (last wk, No. 11) The Good: Louisiana Lafayette sits at 6-1. Far and away the best team in the Sun Belt. The Bad: The conference, on the other hand, needs Troy to be good again. The Trojans are currently 2-4 and just got blown out at home by Louisiana-Monroe. Rock bottom much? The Ugly: Florida Atlantic opened their brand new stadium with a 20-0 shutout to Western Kentucky. Uh…..

Josh Rosen gets the stats, Sam Darnold the win as No. 11 USC tops crosstown rival UCLA

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UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen grabbed all the gaudy stats, but USC signal-caller Sam Darnold managed the win.

The primetime battle of potential No. 1 overall picks in next year’s NFL Draft didn’t quite live up to the hype for fans or scouts alike, but the No. 11 Trojans completed their regular season on Saturday night with a hard-fought 28-23 win over their crosstown rivals at the L.A. Coliseum in a contest that was far from the shootout that was expected coming in.

Darnold had his moments behind center and flashed several reasons why NFL front office types are so enamored with him, hitting some nice touch passes over the middle and scrambling for numerous big plays outside of the pocket. The numbers weren’t quite up to his season standards with 264 yards through the air and no touchdowns but the redshirt sophomore did find the end zone on a scramble.

That he scored on the ground probably wasn’t too surprising given that UCLA is the worst rushing defense in the country but every yard had to be earned in the chippy rivalry game between the two schools 15 miles from each other. Running back Ronald Jones didn’t see as many carries as you would expect down the stretch but managed 122 yards and two scores to keep the chains moving on a pretty consistent basis.

The best play for the cardinal and gold might have actually come on special teams, as Michael Pittman used a little misdirection on a punt return to scoot 72 yards nearly untouched for a touchdown and the game’s first points.

As good as USC was at times on the night, they didn’t runaway with the win like many expected for a team on the fringes of playoff contention. A lot of that had to do with Rosen, who again kept his side in things with a 421 yard outing with three touchdowns and a pick — numbers that could have been even better if not for a few plays here or there. That aerial attack helped open things up for a normally dormant ground game, with Soso Jamabo rushing for 62 yards and Bolo Olorunfunmi adding another 56.

It wasn’t enough to bring the Victory Bell back to Westwood however, as the annual trophy will remain just south of downtown for the eighth time in the past decade. The Bruins still have a shot at going to a bowl game if they can beat fellow in-state rival Cal next weekend but their margin for error to reach the postseason is still incredibly slim given how improved the Bears are this year.

The Trojans meanwhile, finally get some well deserved rest after capping off an 8-1 campaign in conference play and a perfect record in the division. After a week of rest — the first of the year since they had no bye week — they’ll head to the Pac-12 championship game at Levi’s Stadium for a rematch with either Stanford or Washington State. The team remains way outside looking in with regards to the College Football Playoff chase at the moment but after a third straight win over their crosstown rival, that probably is the furthest thing on their minds as another picture perfect night in Los Angeles comes to a close.

Bryce Love (mostly) quiet as No. 22 Stanford retains control of the Axe

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Baker Mayfield‘s antics in Lawrence provided Stanford’s Bryce Love a sliver of an opportunity to climb back inside the minds of Heisman voters.

Unfortunately for him, Love’s injured ankle didn’t allow him to take advantage of that opportunity.

Love struggled for much of the night, posting a quiet (by his standards) night of 14 carries for 101 yards and a touchdown, as No. 22 Stanford topped California 17-14 in Palo Alto. His final carry of the night came with 14:16 left in the fourth quarter.

That’s not to say Love was totally quiet, though. Love broke free for a 57-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, giving Stanford a 17-6 lead at the time.

With Love hobbled, Stanford handed the keys of the offense over to quarterback K.J. Costello and backup running back Cameron Scarlett. Costello hit 17-of-26 passes for 185 yards with a touchdown and an interception. His touchdown, a 17-yarder to Kaden Smith, broke a 3-3 tie with 8:17 left in the first half and put Stanford up for good.

Scarlett carried 14 times for 61 yards, which doesn’t seem like much until you realize he toted the ball on 11 consecutive plays, which allowed the Cardinal to expire all of Cal’s timeouts and kill the final 7:25 remaining in a 3-point game.

Cal had chances to win the game, though. Matt Anderson had a 47-yard field goal doink off the upright in the second quarter, and Ross Bowers drove Cal into Stanford territory at the midway point of the fourth quarter before he was intercepted by Stanford’s Ben Edwards. Bowers finished the night hitting 20-of-29 passes for 182 yards, and Patrick Laird led all runners with 20 carries for 153 yards and a touchdown.

The win gives Stanford eight straight wins in The Big Game, the longest winning streak by either side in a rivalry that dates back to 1892.

The win means Stanford (8-3, 7-2 Pac-12) can clinch the Pac-12 North if No. 14 Washington State beats No. 18 Washington in the Apple Cup on Saturday on Saturday. (Stanford completed Pac-12 play early in order to host No. 8 Notre Dame.) Cal (5-6, 2-6 Pac-12) must win at UCLA on Friday to reach a bowl game in head coach Justin Wilcox‘s first season.

WVU QB Will Grier reportedly out several weeks with broken finger

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If you saw it live, or even on replay, you could sense this was coming.

In the first quarter of Saturday’s loss to Texas, Will Grier dove toward the left pylon in an attempt to get West Virginia on the scoreboard.  What was initially thought to be a touchdown was instead determined to be a fumble out of the end zone resulting in a touchback, giving the ball back to UT.  That was the least-distressing development on the play as, somehow, Grier got up from a dive with a finger on his right (throwing) hand pointing in a direction God never intended.

Asa result of that gruesome injury, Grier has been ruled out for several weeks, ESPN.com reported.  The same website is also reporting that Grier flew to Charlotte after the game and is expected to have surgery in that city Sunday.

A WVU official told CFT that a determination on Grier’s availability for a bowl game will likely be determined by when the game is played, meaning an official decision isn’t expected until next weekend at the earliest.

Grier, who has one more season of eligibility remaining, came into Week 12 second in the country in touchdown passes with 34.  With the Florida transfer sidelined for the foreseeable future, sophomore Chris Chugunov will get the start against fourth-ranked Oklahoma in the regular-season finale next Saturday.

After replacing Grier, Chugunov completed 14-of-26 passes for 189 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions in the 28-14 loss.

QB Justin Herbert returns to lineup for Oregon as Ducks bottle up Khalil Tate and Arizona

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Oregon has been listless offensively the past few weeks without starting quarterback Justin Herbert but his return to the lineup injected plenty of life into Willie Taggart’s team in a 48-28 win over Arizona that also made the Ducks bowl eligible at the same time.

Herbert’s numbers were not flashy or spectacular given the offense he plays in but they were a huge boost given how poorly backups played in his absence after breaking his collarbone early in the year. He finished the night with just 235 yards through the air (along with an interception) and a touchdown pass while also making an impact with his wheels, surprising nearly everybody in Autzen Stadium with a 40 yard scramble for a touchdown in the first quarter.

As nice as it was to have the signal-caller back, his teammate Royce Freeman did most of the heavy lifting as he no longer faced a loaded box full of defenders. The senior made his first trip to the end zone since September (coinciding with Herbert’s injury) to move past LaMichael James as Oregon’s all-time leader in total touchdowns. He also passed TCU legend LaDainian Tomlinson for 10th on the FBS career rushing yards list early in the game and managed to end the night with 134 on the ground and a total of four scores. Backup Tony Brooks-James added another 124 yards as the Ducks’ rushing attack was humming like days of old.

Perhaps the more eye-opening aspect of the victory was the UO defense though. The bottled up dynamic Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate better than just about any Pac-12 defense has this year and held him to only 32 yards rushing. Forcing the dual-threat star to become a passer was the game plan and the Ducks executed it at a high level, limiting him to 159 yards passing with a score and a pair of interceptions.

Running back Nick Wilson rushed for 73 yards and two touchdowns but it wasn’t enough for the Wildcats, whose most notable play was probably a pick-six by Dane Cruikshank that was negated by a taunting penalty in the first half as he finger-waged his way to the end zone. The offense later punched it in but it was emblematic of a frustrating night for Rich Rodriguez and his coaching staff.

Both teams have gone through their up’s and down’s this season and while it looked as though Arizona was on the upswing entering Saturday night, perhaps it’s Oregon who can claim the same thanks to their starting quarterback looking healthy and as back in business.