Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 11/26/12
1. Stanford (10-2) – Cardinals keep rolling along, easily handling UCLA 35-17.They quietly sit at 10-2, that loss to Washington is still hard to figure out, and they could’ve beaten Notre Dame, but the refs decided against that.Regardless, if they beat UCLA for the PAC-12 title this weekend, it’s hard to argue they don’t belong in a BCS game. There are great potential match-ups; Texas A&M, Florida, Kansas State.With the success they have, you’d think they’d have a better recruiting class, but they sit at 50th in the nation. They are loaded at the quarterback position going into next season but lose some depth across both lines. As Stanford continues to exceed expectations and with plenty of programs needing coaches, can Stanford keep their stellar coordinators?  2. Oregon (11-1) - Ducks did all they could to stay in the hunt for a title, but with their win over Oregon State, the only title the Ducks will own this season is state bragging rights. Stanford’s win over UCLA knocked them from PAC-12 title picture. What a difference a week makes; from National Championship contenders to fighting for position in a major bowl game.What’s next for Oregon? Certainly a BCS bowl is in the picture, but after a season of hype, anything less than a national title feels like a consolation prize in Eugene. It gets worse for Oregon as speculation is running rampant that Chip Kelly could be getting lured to the NFL.Cleveland has been mentioned as a possible destination. If I am an NFL exec, I’d look past the lustre of Kelly’s success and consider one thing; Kelly did not resurrect Oregon, he was handed the keys to a program that was already very well-position, on the rise, and loaded with Nike money.That will not be the case in the NFL where the option/read offense will not cut it. Kelly has no success in a pro-set offense and that could be the Achilles that sinks him at the next level. If someone takes a chance on him, and there’s always a sucker who falls for the latest trendy coach, who takes the helm? He was an assistant that was promoted; do they stay with that trend? You have to keep it internal.3. UCLA (9-3) – Losing to Stanford means nothing – they already wrapped up the South by beating USC last week. Up next: Stanford (again) in the PAC-12 title game. Win or lose, this season is nothing but a success for Jim Mora and the Bruins; they’re in the PAC-12 title game, nationally ranked, beat the hated Trojans, are on the cusp of 10 wins and will be going to a major bowl game…in Mora’s first season.They’ll have a lot of returning starters next season and with a strong recruiting class already, the Bruins will be a preseason top-20 pick.4. Oregon State (8-3) - Can’t quite hang with Oregon in the Civil War. Beavers played well, except for special teams turnover that resulted in 28 points for the Ducks and that was the difference. With Nicholls State coming up in a game that was rescheduled from earlier this season, Beavers are looking at 9-3 and should be in the hunt for a high level bowl game.A very solid win for Riley and Co. in Corvallis. You have to wonder when his name is going to start being tossed around for openings at higher profile schools. He makes the most of the hand he’s been dealt. Maybe Auburn should make a run at him. That’d add a little spice to the Auburn/Alabama rivalry with Nussmeier being 'Bama’s O.C…unless someone snags him, too.5. Arizona State (7-5) – Beat Arizona for state bragging rights. 7 wins in Graham’s first season has to be considered a success, but after starting out 5-1, they fell back to reality pretty quickly when they ran through the heart of conference play.Up next; a bowl game, something like the Las Vegas Bowl or the Sun Bowl would make sense. Several starters returning next season, but not a top-flight recruiting class so far (currently 36th according to Scout.com) which means a competitive team, but not top tier just yet. Sun Devils have a tradition of mediocrity in the PAC-12 with an occasional taste of the top 25, but Graham will need more here to get them to the next level.6. Arizona (7-5) - One of the more exciting teams in the PAC-12 this year, Rich Rod brought his spread attack and a lot of points to Tucson. The Wildcats' high-octane offense caught a lot of teams by surprise this year, but they’ll need a stronger defensive effort if they want to get to the upper echelon of the conference.Stanford showed how to slow that read-option in beating Oregon and teams will follow suit to slow down the Cats' offense which is similar in style. The Cats should find themselves in a bowl game this year. They have certainly made football exciting again in the desert.7. USC (7-5) – Inspired effort falls short against the Irish, that’s the bad news. Lost four of their last five after being a preseason No. 1 in some polls. Ouch. The good news? Freshman Max Wittek looked impressive filling in for the injured and outgoing Matt Barkley. USC has a ton of talent and a top five recruiting class coming in. 7-5 seasons will not get it done, and Kiffin is already on the hot seat regardless of any votes of confidence he’s getting publicly from his bosses.Anything less than 8-9 wins next year and he will be gone. The Trojans woefully under achieved and at times looked unmotivated. This conference is getting better and USC has to adapt. They’ll go bowling this year, but how will they respond to a mediocre bowl game?Will they fight or sleepwalk? Right now they are the second best team in LA, and that’s not good enough at a program that has national championship expectations every year.8. Washington (7-5) – Huskies end the season with a resounding thud in a stunning 31-28 Apple Cup loss to Wazzu. The game highlights the weaknesses that plagued Washington all season; inconsistency, poor execution, Keith Price’s costly turnovers, and penalties – a staggering 18 in this game alone. Wow. Not to mention they were out-gained by 100 yards in an uninspired effort for the ages.As anyone in Washington will tell you, if you can’t get it up for the Apple Cup, you can’t get it up, period. Dawgs will go bowling, but to end the season like this, it’s hard to imagine their head will be in the game. The seat under Sarkisian is warming up.Does he have what it takes to get Washington into the PAC-12 elite? At times they look like it, as evidenced in wins over Stanford and Oregon State, but then they come crashing back to earth with games like this. These losses will haunt Sark. And 8-4 in his fourth year feels successful, 7-5 with a stunning loss like this just leaves a bad taste in the mouths of Husky Nation.With the new stadium next year and a top 15 recruiting class coming in along with a lot of returning starters, if he can’t get UW to 9 wins and a top 20 ranking, the ‘failure to achieve’ discussion starts. Their quarterback situation needs to be addressed immediately; Keith Price, who has a nice arm, has simply cost this team games9. Utah (5-7) – Turned one of the least exciting match ups of the weekend and made it exciting; a kick-off return for the go-ahead score, after giving one up, then holding off CU’s furious rally. Not a great season for the Utes as they acclimate to the PAC-12’s talent level, which is far ahead of the WAC’s.Utah and Whittingham have a lot of work to do to become more than a .500 program in their new conference. It’s going to be tough for the Utes to break into the upper echelon. The PAC-12’s acquisition of Utah and Colorado looks like an awful decision sports-wise, but hey, they get more viewers for the PAC-12 network and that’s what this was really all about.10. Washington State (3-9) - This year’s stunning Apple Cup win is one of the most significant and satisfying wins for Wazzu in the past five years. Not just taking down the hated Huskies in one of the countries most underrated rivalries, but coming from 18 behind, at home in Martin stadium, after a miserable season, and with the stink of the Marquess Wilson episode lingering, the Cougars didn’t make it pretty but they made it happen.Every underclassman on the roster, and there are a lot, will savour this until spring ball. Don’t underestimate the significance of this win – winning traditions are built on gutsy wins like this and this could be the catalyst to turn the program around.To end the season on a high like this is exactly what this program needs. Leach is going to do it his way, for better or worse, and next season will be a very telling one – one that will be a true gage of the programs improvement.The passing offense finished the season ranked 10th, and that has to bode well for the future of the program going into the off season. It also bodes well for recruiting.11. Cal (3-9) – As expected, Tedford is fired as the Bears struggle. They open the season with a loss to Nevada – not good. Then they go to Ohio State and fight to the finish. Which team are they?Key injuries hurt the team, bus so did inconsistent play. With the PAC-12 enjoying a resurgence and four programs having new coaches this year - all but one having instant success - Cal needs to make a statement hire. Tedford will land on his feet; he’s a quality coach, despite this season, one of his few in Berkeley.12. Colorado (1-11) - Managed to lose to Utah in spectacular fashion; after returning a kick for a touchdown, Colorado allows the ensuing kick-off to be returned for a score. Brutal. Add Colorado to the list of schools needing a new coaching staff.With Auburn, NC State, Cal and B.C. among the desirable destinations, Colorado better move quickly to get a jump on available candidates. All the previously mentioned programs have more cache than CU and that’ll be an issue in recruiting a new coach, so the clock is ticking. Embree’s all-CU-alum staff cannot cut it in the PAC-12.Losing close is acceptable when building a program; getting blown out every week is not.
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