There are two weeks remaining in the regular season but three weeks until Pac-12 coaches cast their votes for post-season awards.
As has been the case in recent years, they will wait for the outcome of the conference title game.
We see a wide-open race for Coach of the Year that reflects the state of play atop the conference: USC’s Lincoln Riley, UCLA’s Chip Kelly, Oregon’s Dan Lanning, Washington’s Kalen DeBoer and Utah’s Kyle Whittingham all have a path to the honor.
(The same could be said of Oregon State’s Jonathan Smith and Arizona’s Jedd Fisch, depending on results from the final fortnight.)
The list of contenders for Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year is lengthy, as well, with one tailback, UCLA’s Zach Charbonnet, joining the four quarterbacks in contention: Oregon’s Bo Nix, Washington’s Michael Penix, Jr., USC’s Caleb Williams and UCLA’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson.
(Utah’s Cam Rising needs a stellar performance Saturday and a victory over Oregon in order to join the top group.)
More clarity exists in the race for Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, with USC lineman Tuli Tuipulotu as the obvious frontrunner.
Tulipulotu leads the Power Five in both sacks and tackles-for-loss and, in our opinion, has been the best player in the conference on either side of scrimmage.
Lesser cases could be made for Utah cornerback Clark Phillips III, ASU linebacker Kyle Soelle, Oregon cornerback Christian Gonzalez and WSU linebacker Daiyan Henley.
As we approach the voting and subsequent announcement, be mindful that Pac-12 coaches have been known to get a tad political with their selections.
To the power ratings …
1. Utah (6-2/6-1)
Result: beat Stanford 42-7
Next up: at Oregon (7:30 p.m. on ESPN)
Comment: It comes as no surprise that the Utes are playing better in November than they did in September. In fact, they are now the team to beat, in our estimation.
2. Oregon (8-2/6-1)
Last week: 1
Result: lost to Washington 37-34
Next up: vs. Utah (7:30 p.m. on ESPN)
Comment: The Pac-12 should be on alert for players faking injuries after a suspicious situation during the final seconds in Eugene. And to be clear: We’re not just referring to Oregon. If there’s a loophole, teams will exploit it.
3. USC (9-1/7-1)
Last week: 4
Result: beat Colorado 55-17
Next up: at UCLA (5 p.m. on Fox)
Comment: Once again, we ask the two essential questions ahead of the showdown in the Rose Bowl: Which team will be the first to score 60, and how much will it lose by? Our answers: UCLA; six points.
4. UCLA (8-2/5-2)
Last week: 2
Result: lost to Arizona 28-18
Next up: vs. USC (5 p.m. on Fox)
Comment: In a notable but wholly unexpected development: Arizona provided USC with a blueprint for slowing the UCLA offensive machine.
5. Washington (8-2/5-2)
Last week: 5
Result: won at Oregon 37-34
Next up: vs. Colorado (6 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks)
Comment: Despite the 34 points and 592 yards allowed, UW’s defense played its best game of the season given the opponent and circumstances.
6. Oregon State (7-3/4-3)
Last week: 6
Result: beat Cal 38-10
Next up: at Arizona State (11:15 a.m. on ESPN2)
Comment: With his seventh win, Jonathan Smith had one year added to his contract, according to USA Today, and is now signed through the 2028 season. Why not just give him a lifetime deal?
7. Washington State (6-4/3-4)
Last week: 7
Result: beat Arizona State 28-18
Next up: at Arizona (11 a.m. on Pac-12 Networks)
Comment: Where’s the advantage in Tucson as WSU faces its former quarterback, Jayden de Laura? Answer: It depends on the play of Arizona’s offensive line.
8. Arizona (4-6/2-5)
Last week: 9
Result: won at UCLA 34-28
Next up: vs. Washington State (11 a.m. on Pac-12 Networks)
Comment: After five consecutive games against ranked opponents, the Wildcats now face the best defense in the conference on a yards-per-play and points-per-game basis.
9. Arizona State (3-7/2-5)
Last week: 8
Result: lost at Washington State 28-18
Next up: vs. Oregon State (11:15 a.m. on ESPN2)
Comment: The early signing period begins Dec. 21, leaving the Sun Devils with much to resolve over the next five weeks.
10. Cal (3-7/1-6)
Last week: 10
Result: lost at Oregon State 38-10
Next up: vs. Stanford (2:30 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks)
Comment: For any head coach whose expertise is on the defensive side of scrimmage, the offensive coordinator hire is essential. Justin Wilcox can’t get it wrong again.
11. Stanford (3-7/1-7)
Last week: 11
Result: lost at Utah 42-7
Next up: at Cal (2:30 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks)
Comment: The early bye has clearly caught up to the Cardinal, along with the lack of talent, injuries and lack of talent.
12. Colorado (1-9/1-6)
Last week: 12
Result: lost at USC 55-17
Next up: at Washington (6 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks)
Comment: On the bright side, the Buffaloes won’t be 0-12.
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