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Pac-12 Rating: USC Takes Over as Oregon State and Washington Carry On ~ Washington

Ignored and overlooked off the field, Oregon State and Washington State stand together as an intriguing subplot to the Pac-12’s captivating season.

What do we mean by ignored and overlooked? Let’s rewind five months.

The backdrop for the 2022 season was set on June 30, when USC and UCLA announced their impressive departures for the Big Ten, provoking an immediate existential crisis for the conference.

The plot quickly shifted to whether the Big Ten would add schools in Washington, Oregon and the Bay Area to form a western division – and whether the Four Corners Universities (Utah, Colorado, Arizona and ASU) would be tempted to get in enter the Big 12.

Washington State and Oregon State were relegated to the role of spectators in hopes the Pac-12 would stick together so they could avoid a possible future in the Mountain West.

Then came the start of the competition and the emergence of four competitors, USC, UCLA, Utah and Oregon, eventually joined by Washington.

But quietly, as is their wont, the Cougars and Beavers pressed on, decisively beating weaker opponents and marginalizing the heavyweights.

With one weekend left, both teams are Bowl eligible. Oregon State has eight wins, a top-25 finish, and a prime opportunity to spoil Oregon’s quest for the conference title. Washington State has seven wins and is peaking at just the right time with Washington visiting Saturday night.

In a season marked by elite quarterback play and strong offense across the conference, the Cougars and Beavers won on defense.

They rank first (OSU) and second (WSU) in yards-per-play and are the only Pac-12 teams to rank in the top 75 nationally on that important metric.

The Beavers hold conference opponents at 18.3 points per game; the Cougars are not far behind at 22.5.

The defense has often been good enough to make up for the shaky quarterback play that has bothered both teams.

The Beavers weathered two errant games from Chance Nolan and the move to a new starter, Ben Gulbranson.

The Cougars navigated erratic performances from Cam Ward but have found their rhythm with the return (from injury) of all-rounder Nakia Watson.

Oregon State’s head-to-head victory explains the one-game difference in their records and their conference standings.

They have been tied together off the field since June 30 and followed similar paths thereafter.

Now, with bowl spots in hand and a strong defense lighting the way, one final task awaits.

Regarding this week’s ratings…

1.USC (10-1/8-1)

Last week: 3

Result: won at UCLA 48-45

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

Comment: We’ve already pointed out the incredible sales margin of Trojans, but it’s worth repeating. They had one giveaway and eight takeaways in three-point wins at Oregon State and UCLA.

2.Oregon (9-2/7-1)

Last week: 2

Result: beat Utah 20-17

Next up: at Oregon State (12:30 p.m. on ABC)

Comment: The Ducks rank No. 62 in yards-per-rush nationally but No. 93 in defensive pass efficiency. They are vulnerable on the back line. Can OSU benefit from this?

3 Utah (8-3/6-2)

Last week: 1

Result: lost at Oregon 20-17

Next up: in Colorado (1 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks)

Comment: If you had told us before kick-off that the Utes would hold Oregon to 20 points, we would have expected a double-digit win.

4. Washington (9-2/6-2)

Last week: 5

Result: Beat Colorado 54-7

Next up: in Washington State (7:30 p.m. on ESPN)

Comment: Relevant stats this week: The Huskies have conceded seven sacks, the second-lowest total in FBS; The Cougars have 29 sacks, the third-highest in the Pac-12.

5. Oregon State (8-3/5-3)

Last week: 6

Result: won at Arizona State 31-7

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

Comment: If win total is an obvious sign of progress, here’s a subtle one: the beavers are perfect as betting favorites. They haven’t lost a game they should have won.

6.UCLA (8-3/5-3)

Last week: 4

Result: lost to USC 48-45

Next up: at Cal (Friday, 1:30 p.m. on Fox)

Comment: UCLA is allowing fewer yards per game this season (5.63) than USC (6.05). The Difference: The Trojans forced 24 turnovers; The Browns, 15.

7. Washington State (7-4/4-4)

Last week: 7

Result: won at Arizona 31-20

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

Comment: When kick-off comes, it will be 10 years and three days since WSU last won the Apple Cup on their home turf. The winning quarterback on November 23, 2012: Jeff Tuel.

8Arizona (4-7/2-6)

Last week: 8th

Result: lost to Washington State 31-20

Next up: vs. Arizona State (Friday, 12 p.m. on FS1)

Comment: Unless the Wildcats embarrass themselves this week, the Hotline will consider their season a success based on overall wins and the breakthrough win at UCLA. If they also claim the Territorial Cup, it will be a resounding success.

9th Cal (4-7/2-6)

Last week: 10

Result: Beat Stanford 27-17

Next up: vs. UCLA (Friday, 1:30 p.m. on Fox)

Comment: The big game rally overshadowed a terrible decision by quarterback Jack Plummer and some terrible game calls from the offensive staff. The Bears need a complete and total overhaul on this side of the ball.

10. Arizona State (3-8/2-6)

Last week: 9

Result: lost to Oregon State 31-7

Next up: in Arizona (Friday, 12 p.m. on FS1)

Comment: The hotline wasn’t wrong in three or four minutes, but the relevant comparison for ASU this week might be last year’s USC: In their season finale under an interim coach, the Trojans were embarrassed by UCLA.

11 Stanford (3-8/1-8)

Last week: 11

Result: lost at Cal 27-17

Next up: vs. Brigham Young (8 p.m. on FS1)

Comment: We’re putting the over/under for the number of butts in the seats on Saturday night (versus the announced crowd) at 6,817. Even if that might be a bit high.

12 Colorado (1-10/1-7)

Last week: 12

Result: lost at Washington 54-7

Next up: vs. Utah (1pm on Pac-12 Networks)

Comment: Don’t be surprised if the Buffaloes announce a new head coach within 72 hours of the No. 11 loss.