Washington Quietly Climbs Pac-12 Ladder

Washington is sitting down at #25 in the first BCS standings that came out on Sunday, well below Pac-12 North rivals Oregon & Stanford, both of whom are in the Top 10. But the Huskies are 5-1 and quietly piecing together a season that marks them as a potential threat to the Ducks and Cardinal.

Steve Sarkisian’s team hasn’t played the tough teams in its league yet—wins over Cal, Utah and Colorado don’t mark you a Rose Bowl threat, but the decisiveness of the wins mean Washington has to at least be on the radar. They’ve dominated the line of scrimmage in the last two games, holding the Utes and Buffaloes to a combined 79 yards rushing, while piling up 480 yards of their own. Chris Polk is one of the most consistent backs in the league and Keith Price has proven more than capable as a replacement for Jake Locker at quarterback.

Washington’s still got work to do, and even as one who picked them to win the conference title at the start of the season, I’m not even completely sold. That narrow escape against Eastern Washington to start the season and a not-as-close as it sounds 51-38 loss at Nebraska, who’s proven to be something less than a national power, suggest that the Huskies might not be ready to step up in class just yet. But as their game with Stanford looms this coming Saturday and November matchups with Oregon and USC await, Sarkisian has his program coming along nicely.

Elsewhere in the power conferences…

ACC: It was a wild weekend in the Coastal Division, where everyone opposite Clemson fights for the right to get to the ACC Championship Game. This division has been Virginia Tech’s to lose in recent years and the Hokies came up with a big win over Wake Forest. Tech continues to get great rushing from David Wilson, they shut down Wake on the ground and most impressively is that young Hokie quarterback Logan Thomas was able to match his solid Deacon counterpart Tanner Price in the passing game. The 38-17 win opened the door for the Hokies to tie Georgia Tech in the loss column, as the Yellow Jackets suffered a stunning 24-21 loss to Virginia. Even more shocking was that the Cavaliers won this game by whipping up on the Jackets in the ground game, with Perry Jones piling up 149 yards. It’s the second straight year young Virginia coach Mike London has pulled off a division-shaking upset. Last year it was Miami, this time around it’s Tech. And Miami kept their own hopes alive in beating North Carolina 30-24 behind a nice day from Jacory Harris, who threw three touchdown passes and zero picks. The twin Techs each have one conference loss, while the ‘Canes and Tar Heels have two.

Big Ten: If there’s a contender who’s been more unimpressive than Penn State I would like to know who they are. The Lions barely escaped Purdue at home, 23-18 and have a similar scare at the hands of Indiana. Yet Penn State does have a consistent running game going with Silas Redd, they are 3-0 in the Big Ten and if they just split with Illinois and Ohio State they are likely to have a shot at the Leaders Division title on Thanksgiving weekend when they go to Wisconsin for the season finale.

SEC: Marcus Lattimore’s season-ending injury has sent shock waves through the SEC race and even though South Carolina is tied for first with Georgia at 4-1 in the Eastern Division and has a head-to-head win over the Bulldogs, they have a tough road ahead of them without Lattimore. South Carolina has road games with Tennessee and Arkansas before concluding the conference schedule on November 12 with Florida. When the season started, Steve Spurrier’s trifecta of Lattimore, quarterback Stephen Garcia and receiver Alshon Jeffrey was perhaps the best in the country. Garcia’s been benched and kicked off the team, Lattimore’s out and Jeffrey is all alone. Georgia has a neutral site date with Florida, followed by home games with Auburn and Kentucky, as favorable a path as you can hope for in this rugged conference.

Big 12: Texas A&M came up big in its 55-28 blasting of Baylor. The Aggies still only have one conference loss and have games with unbeatens Oklahoma and Kansas State ahead of them. The only team they need help to catch is Oklahoma State. In Saturday’s game Ryan Tannehill and Robert Griffin III each threw for over 400 yards, but A&M had a running game with Christine Michael and that made the difference.