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Predicting the 2015 Pac-12 Conference Schedule: Results

We've picked the winners of all 54 Pac-12 Conference games and today we look over the results. Oregon triumphs with an undefeated season, including a win over USC in the Pac-12 title game, while Cal climbs to second in the North with 5 conference wins.

Oregon will continue to haunt the nightmares of fellow Pac-12 teams
Oregon will continue to haunt the nightmares of fellow Pac-12 teams
Brian Bahr/Getty Images

Two weeks ago I asked you all to pick the winners of all 54 Pac-12 conference games this season.  You clearly were enthusiastic about these picks, as several hundred of you participated.  This week we'll pore over those results.  Next week I'll round up the results for our Cal season predictions, which you can still participate in by going here.

We'll run through these predictions week by week, starting with the worst possible way of beginning the Pac-12 season, a matchup between the two most detestable teams.

Week 3

Stanford (0-0) at USC (0-0): USC (90.5%) def. Stanford (9.5%)

Sadly, someone has to win this game.  In a battle of evil and evil-er, evil wins.

Week 4

Stanford (0-1) at Oregon State (0-0): Stanford (90.9%) def. Oregon State (9.1%)

UCLA (0-0) at Arizona (0-0): Arizona (59.7%) def. UCLA (40.3%)

USC (1-0) at Arizona State (0-0): Arizona State (53.7%) def. USC (46.3%)

Utah (0-0) at Oregon (0-0): Oregon (91.8%) def. Utah (8.2%)

California (0-0) at Washington (0-0): California (90.0%) def. Washington (10.0%)

By Week 4 most non-conference action has ended as eight teams kick off their conference openers.  The state of Arizona will hold two crucial games that determine the early pecking order in the vicious Pac-12 South.  The home teams are narrow favorites over the visiting LA-area teams.  Whichever teams win the Arizona games will have much better odds of finishing in the top half of the division.

Elsewhere in the conference we have three games in the Pacific Northwest with overwhelming favorites.  The Lobsterbacks should easily dispatch the Beavers in Corvallis, and Cal beats Washington for the first time since 2008.  Although Utah should be competitive in the Pac-12 South, the Utes are heavy underdogs to the reigning Pac-12 Champion Oregon Ducks.

Week 5

Arizona (1-0) at Stanford (1-1): Stanford (54.5%) def. Arizona (45.5%)

Arizona State (1-0) at UCLA (0-1): UCLA (68.0%) def. Arizona State (32.0%)

Oregon (1-0) at Colorado (0-0): Oregon (96.5%) def. Colorado (3.5%)

Washington State (0-0) at California (1-0): California (90.0%) def. Washington State (10.0%)

Two more critical games face the Arizona schools (although it feels like every Pac-12 South game not against Colorado, OSU, UW or WSU is a critical game).  Upsets by the Arizonas could secure their position at the top of the division.  Again, Oregon and Cal are heavy favorites for their games and both should end the weekend tied at the top of the conference.

Week 6

Washington (0-1) at USC (1-1): USC (96.1%) def. Washington (3.9%)

Oregon State (0-1) at Arizona (1-1): Arizona (94.4%) def. Oregon State (5.6%)

Colorado (0-1) at Arizona State (1-1): Arizona State (95.7%) def. Colorado (4.3%)

California (2-0) at Utah (0-1): Utah (51.9%) def. California (48.1%)

Washington State (0-1) at Oregon (2-0): Oregon (97.4%) def. Washington State (2.6%)

Cal at Utah is the only competitive game during week 6.  Despite breaking in new offensive and defensive coordinators, Utah is favored to defeat the Bears.  This should be an interesting game as Cal's explosive offense will face a tenacious Utah defense.  Utah has a strong run game, but Cal's run defense should build on last year's tremendous improvement.  This one will likely come down to whether Utah can move the ball through the air against an unproven Cal pass defense.  If Cal at Utah is this week's #Pac12AfterDark matchup, expect a wild finish.

Week 7

UCLA (1-1) at Stanford (2-1): UCLA (51.5%) def. Stanford (48.5%)

Arizona (2-1) at Colorado (0-2): Arizona (85.7%) def. Colorado (14.3%)

Arizona State (2-1) at Utah (1-1): Utah (61.5%) def. Arizona State (38.5%)

Oregon (3-0) at Washington (0-2): Oregon (95.2%) def. Washington (4.8%)

Oregon State (0-2) at Washington State (0-2): Washington State (71.4%) def. Oregon State (28.6%)

PILLOW FIGHT!  The Beavers battle Washington State to determine who is the second-worst team in the division.  Battles between Pac-12 bottom dwellers are usually pretty entertaining; hopefully this one is no different.  Towards the top of the division, UCLA cements the Lobsterbacks at 3rd place in the North while Utah's win over ASU moves them into the top half of the division.

Week 8

California (2-1) at UCLA (2-1): UCLA (54.5%) def. California (45.5%)

Washington State (1-2) at Arizona (3-1): Arizona (94.8%) def. Washington State (5.2%)

Utah (2-1) at USC (2-1): USC (80.1%) def. Utah (19.9%)

Colorado (0-3) at Oregon State (0-3): Oregon State (55.0%) def. Colorado (45.0%)

Washington (0-3) at Stanford (2-2): Stanford (90.4%) def. Washington (9.6%)

PILLOW FIGHT PT 2!  The loser of the Colorado-Oregon State game will likely go winless in the conference this season.  For this reason, those with a morbid curiosity should keep a close eye on that game.  The rest of the Saturday slate is unremarkable, as the rest of the winners are heavy favorites and a toss-up Cal-UCLA game will take place on Thursday evening.  With a lull in interesting games, this could be a great weekend to remind your family that you still love them and that you can do things besides sit on the couch on Saturdays.  Then ride that goodwill into the second half of the season.

Week 9

Oregon (4-0) at Arizona State (2-2): Oregon (68.0%) def. Arizona State (32.0%)

Arizona (4-1) at Washington (0-4): Arizona (81.4%) def. Washington (18.6%)

USC (3-1) at California (2-2): USC (56.3%) def. California (43.7%)

Colorado (0-4) at UCLA (3-1): UCLA 96.5% def. Colorado (3.5%)

Oregon State (1-3) at Utah (2-2): Utah (92.6%) def. Oregon State (7.4%)

Stanford (3-2) at Washington State (1-3): Stanford (76.2%) def. Washington State (23.8%)

For the first time all season we have a full slate of six conference games.  It's too bad most of them are one-sided, though.  That these games take place on Halloween may add an extra bit of madness, however.  Whichever favorite plays the Pac-12 After Dark game will be on upset alert.

Week 10

Arizona (5-1) at USC (4-1): USC (82.7%) def. Arizona (17.3%)

Arizona State (2-3) at Washington State (1-4): Arizona State (87.0%) def. Washington State (13.0%)

UCLA (4-1) at Oregon State (1-4): UCLA (93.1%) def. Oregon State (7.0%)

Stanford (4-2) at Colorado (0-5): Stanford (87.0%) def. Colorado (13.0%)

Utah (3-2) at Washington (0-5): Utah (72.7%) def. Washington (27.8%)

California (2-3) at Oregon (5-0): Oregon (83.1%) def. California (16.9%)

Arizona-USC should be much closer than the picks suggest, but the other games will likely be unremarkable.  Oregon's win over Cal gives Cal a four-game losing streak and will undoubtedly create some hand wringing about the future of the Sonny Dykes era.  Fortunately, the schedule will soon turn in the Bears' favor...

Week 11

USC (5-1) at Colorado (0-6): USC (93.5%) def. Colorado (6.5%)

Utah (4-2) at Arizona (5-2): Arizona (66.7%) def. Utah (33.3%)

Washington (0-6) at Arizona State (3-3): Arizona State (93.5%) def. Washington (6.5%)

Washington State (1-5) at UCLA (5-1): UCLA (96.5%) def. Washington State (3.5%)

Oregon (6-0) at Stanford (5-2): Oregon (84.0%) def. Stanford (16.0%)

Oregon State (1-5) at California (2-4): California (93.9%) def. Oregon State (6.1%)

Cal bounces back with a win!  Utah-Arizona could be interesting if Travis Wilson is still healthy.

Week 12

Arizona (6-2) at Arizona State (4-3): Arizona State (68.8%) def. Arizona (31.2%)

USC (6-1) at Oregon (7-0): Oregon (71.9%) def. USC (28.9%)

UCLA (6-1) at Utah (4-3): Utah (54.1%) def. UCLA (45.9%)

Colorado (0-7) at Washington State (1-6): Washington State (64.1%) def. Colorado (35.9%)

Washington (0-7) at Oregon State (1-6): Washington (54.5%) def. Oregon State (45.5%)

California (3-4) at Stanford (5-3): California (74.0%) def. Stanford (26.0%)

Cal brings home the Axe!  After a four-game losing streak Cal wins two in a row to move to .500 in conference and secure a 6th or possibly 7th win.  This might be the most exciting slate of games in the entire conference schedule.  ASU upsets Arizona in the Territorial Cup to end the Wildcats' Pac-12 South title hopes.  Oregon is heavily favored against USC in a preview of the Pac-12 Championship Game.  UCLA's Pac-12 South dreams suffer a blow with a loss to Utah.  And the bottom dwellers have a battle royale, after which Colorado remains the lone winless team in conference.  I strongly advise that you avoid straying too far from the couch this weekend.

Week 13

Oregon State (1-7) at Oregon (8-0): Oregon (97.4%) def. Oregon State (2.6%)

Washington State (2-6) at Washington (1-7): Washington (58.0%) def. Washington State (42.0%)

Arizona State (5-3) at California (4-4): California (61.0%) def. Arizona State (39.0%)

UCLA (6-2) at USC (6-2): USC (70.1%) def. UCLA (29.9%)

Colorado (0-8) at Utah (5-3): Utah (90.5%) def. Colorado (9.5%)

The final weekend of Pac-12 play should be intriguing.  Cal upsets ASU to secure its first winning conference record since 2009 and moves into a tie for 2nd in the North.  OSU, Colorado, and Wazzu limp into the offseason while UW's Apple Cup win is a moral victory to end a tough, rebuilding year in Seattle.  Oregon cruises to another appearance in the Pac-12 Championship Game.  USC is a heavy favorite over UCLA in a game that decides the winner of the Pac-12 South.  I would be surprised if either team won the South, however.

Final Standings

After all 54 games, the standings are as follows:

Pac-12 North Pac-12 South
1. Oregon (9-0) 1. USC (7-2)
T2. California* (5-4) T2. Arizona** (6-3)
T2. LSJU (5-4) T2. Utah* (6-3)
T4. Washington* (2-7) T2. UCLA (6-3)
T4. Washington State (2-7) 5. Arizona State (5-4)
6. Oregon State (1-8) 6. Colorado (0-9)

*Denotes winner of head-to-head tiebreaker

Oregon and USC win their divisions and the Pac-12 sends a whopping 8 teams to bowl games.  An undefeated Oregon likely heads to the playoffs, but no one else will be considered for a second bid.

Projections vs. Predictions

The projected number of wins in the above standings may not bet the most accurate representation of the number of wins each team will achieve.  For example, I rely on a majority rule to decide the winners, so a team favored by 51% to win each of its games would finish the season 9-0.  Of course, we would not necessarily expect that team to win all nine of those toss-up conference games.  Instead, the total number would be closer to 4.59, the sum of win predictions across all nine games (9*.51).  In the following table I compare the projected number of wins to the predicted number of wins.

Pac-12 North Projected Wins Predicted Wins Difference
Oregon 9 7.85 -1.15
Cal 5 5.68 +.68
LSJU 5 4.99 -.01
UW 2 1.93 -.07
WSU 2 2.30 +.30
OSU 1 1.67 

Teams with a larger negative difference are more likely to suffer an upset over the course of the season while teams with a larger positive difference are more likely to notch an upset over the course of the season.  In the North Oregon's projected record is slightly more than one win too generous.  If you add up all the picks in their games, they'll be closer to 8 wins this season.  They should still easily win the division, however.

Pac-12 South Projected Wins Predicted Wins Difference
USC 7 6.44 -.56
Utah 6 4.85 -1.15
Arizona 6 5.77 -.23
UCLA 6 5.76 -.24
ASU 5 5.40 +.40
Colorado 0 1.35

If we ranked teams by their predicted records, we would see some surprising shifts in the final standings of the Pac-12 South.  Utah drops from tied for 2nd to 5th while ASU moves up into 4th.  Several of Utah's wins come from toss-up games, which leads their projected win total to overrate their expected number of wins.  Do not be surprised if Utah suffers an upset over the course of the season and ends up finishing 5-4, rather than 6-3.

Picks for Pac-12 Division Titles

I asked each of you to pick the winners for each division and the picks do not stray too far from the results in the Pac-12 North (despite all you homers who picked Cal).  In the South, however, Arizona was fourth in picks despite being second in the standings.  Although we may not necessarily expect them to be a top contender for the division, they have a favorable schedule featuring all four of the Pac-12's doormats.  Once we take that into account, their odds of winning the South improve notably.

1. Oregon (76.6%) 1. USC (58.3%)
2. California (17.7%) 2. UCLA (17.9%)
3. LSJU (5.2%) 3. ASU (16.5%)
4. Washington State (0.4%) T4. Arizona (6.4%)
T5. Oregon State (0.0%) T4. Utah (6.4%)
T5. Washington (0.0%) 6. Colorado (0.4%)

Alright, 'fess up.  Which of you picked Colorado to win the South?

Picks for Pac-12 Champion

Finally, I asked you to pick the Pac-12 Championship Game winner.

1. Oregon (50.4%)
2. USC (21.1%)
3. Cal (16.5%)
T4. ASU (5.5%)
T4. UCLA (5.5%)
6. Arizona (2.8%)
7. Utah (2.3%)
8. LSJU (1.4%)
9. UW (0.4%)
T10. WSU (0.0%)
T11. OSU (0.0%)
T12. Colorado (0.0%)

Barely more than half picked Oregon and about one-fifth picked USC.  A large group of homers picked Cal and the rest of the conference received a smattering of votes.

Homer Check

As you may or may not have noticed, we have a few homers here with a somewhat misguided sense of reality.

To address this, I've separated the results for Cal's games into everyone's picks and picks made by those who are not Cal fans.  I've plotted the results below.

Opponent Everyone's Picks: Cal Non Cal Fans' Picks: Cal
@ UW 90.0% 76.0%
vs. WSU 95.2% 86.7%
@ Utah 48,1% 20.0%
@ UCLA 45,4% 13.3%
vs. USC 43,7% 17.3%
@ Oregon 16.9% 1.3%
vs. OSU 93.9% 81.3%
@ LSJU 74.0% 36.0%
vs. ASU 61.0% 29.3%

The percentages are less in Cal's favor among the non-Cal fans, but the outcomes do not change until we reach the final two games of the season.  While Cal fans predict glorious wins over the Lobsterbacks and Arizona State, everyone else picks LSJU as a heavy favorite in the Big Game and ASU as a slight favorite in the final game of the year.  This changes the final Pac-12 standings somewhat.

Pac-12 North Pac-12 South
1. Oregon (9-0) 1. USC (7-2)
2. LSJU (5-4) T2. Arizona (6-3)
3. Cal (3-6) T2. Utah (6-3)
T4. Washington (2-7) T2. UCLA (6-3)
T4. Washington State (2-7) T2. Arizona State (6-3)
6. Oregon State (1-8) 6. Colorado (0-9)

Cal drops from tied for second to third in the North.  Meanwhile in the South, the logjam at second continues to build.

A three-win conference slate would be problematic for Cal, as that requires a sweep of the non-conference slate to earn a bowl berth.  If Cal can't beat Texas to ensure that sweep, a bowl-less season may mean the end of the Sonny Dykes era.

Of course, we cannot end this post on that depressing note.  We need to pump some sunshine.  If we look back to last year's results, we (including us Cal homers) picked the Bears to win one conference game.  Cal tripled that win total en route to a 3-6 finish.  Following this upward trajectory, we should easily be able to triple that 3-win prediction from the non-Cal fans.  That's right, 9-0!  Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to book a flight to Pasadena for January 1st.