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Pac-12 Football Power Rankings: Preseason edition

All of your favorite CGB writers will be spending the season evaluating the conference teams for our Power Rankings. And a bunch of the guys you didn't like from last year are back, too!

Unfortunately, performance in screaming contests is not a criterion for our Power Rankings.
Unfortunately, performance in screaming contests is not a criterion for our Power Rankings.
Steve Dykes/Getty Images

Power Rankings are back for the 2015 football season! I am your ridiculously dashing host--Leland--and we have a terrifyingly large group of CGB voters this year. Lucky for you, that means the contribution of each individual writer is diluted more than last year, so when you poo poo on me for using the wrong criteria, you can rest easy in that I have less of an impact than I did last year. (Well, less on an impact on the Rankings themselves, but still a vast sphere of influence on lives in general.)

Speaking of criteria, let's detail how exactly we each define Power Rankings and how we plan on ranking teams this year (and this week, since preseason rankings are as crazy and unpredictable as an ex a fox). Personally, I don't have a strict method for Powerly Ranking teams; as with all decisions in life, I tend to just do whatever comes to mind first and with zero thought or planning. That's only mostly failed me so far in my personal and professional lives, so why stray from it? I do weigh the most recent week's results heavily, but I'm not going to completely neglect a team's body of work or my evaluation of their ability if they were on the winning/losing end of a flukey upset or something.

As for my colleagues:

boomtho: I can't say I have a super formal ranking methodology. I definitely try to slightly over-weight recent results, so that my rankings don't just match the Pac-12 standings. That also means teams jump around perhaps a little bit more in my rankings than in other people's. I heavily value road wins, wins over ranked teams, and anyone beating Stanford :)

Nik Jam: A lot of these are based off of last year moreso than new changes. Teams have to prove to me that they're better this year.

Berkelium97: My ranking methodology is purely results-driven and I redo the rankings from scratch each week. This is to prevent preseason biases from influencing the results too heavily. This strategy makes the first few weeks of my polls look a little odd, as a Colorado team that beats an FBS team would be ranked higher than an Oregon team that beats an FCS team. Things get sorted out a few weeks into the season however. Of course, if all teams start from a blank slate, then who's to say which wins are better than others? To gauge the quality of wins, I look to the opponents' performance last season, overall performance over the last three years (i.e. overall quality of the program), and returning starters.

That said, I think preseason rankings are generally nonsense. I really want to troll the preseason rankings by making up my own rubric (ranking which teams are my favorite to least favorite in the conference), but I'll play nicely. This time.

KWBears: My method for these Power Rankings is going to evolve over the season and hopefully get more refined and data-informed as we go along. For this preseason ranking, what data do we really have anyways? All teams are still feeling out their new guys and assessing how their returners are coming back to form after their offseasons. So, I'm going off the eye test right now. As we get real game footage and stats to interpret, I'll tailor my rankings accordingly.

Sam Fielder:I employed a tremendously successful and wildly accepted methodology last season based on the fact that winning is powerful and losing is not, so I'll again use that criteria this year. After all the games are done, I rank the winners and then the losers and there you have a perfect Power Ranking. But since there haven't been any games played yet, therefore I have no data to use, so I'll just rank on how I'm feeling about these teams headed into the season. Or something like that. I might flip a coin or cast lots.

ragnarok: Preseason Power Rankings are based on nothing more substantial than wishes and dreams, and so I didn't put too much effort into mine. When games start, it'll be about momentum, about who is looking good now, with Game 1 not mattering much in Week 10, but for now..."ask a silly question, expect a silly answer".

mpeters10: It's always difficult to put together rankings before the season starts. One or more teams will surprise while one or more will likely disappoint based on preseason expectations. Essentially, for the preseason rankings, I base them a bit on what transpired last season and mostly on gut feeling. So, without further ado, here is my ranking of the Pac-12.

atomsareeenough: My power poll methodology is very context-dependent. It's not simply about standings and win vs. loss on any given week; it's also about the arc of the season and the expectations for your program. So, my thought exercise is to try and put myself in the mind of a fan of every program and consider how I might be feeling about the state of each program. So, if you're an Oregon fan or USC fan expecting to compete for a national championship, a loss hurts more for you than if you're a Colorado fan just hoping for a bowl game. If you beat a bitter rival or a team that's ranked much higher than yours, that helps more than beating some lesser opponent. The further along we get in the season, the less movement there will be from week to week, because we'll know more about who the contenders are and who are pretenders and where each program generally is in the scheme of things, but there will still be some fluctuation based on thrilling wins and gut-wrenching or humiliating defeats. So, I'd say my version of the power poll is designed to tell you who's riding high and who's down in the dumps on any given week.

Solomon Kim: My power-ranking methodology is usually a consideration of cold, hard statistics but I occasionally inject my completely subjective tendency to call BS on professional projections.

Rob Hwang: My method for power ranking is pretty simple. You win? You go up! You lose? You go down! Just like the FBS rankings! I may or may not give favor to Cal. Still up for debate. On to my Preseason Rankings!

Onto our Preseason Power Rankings! Hope you like doing lots of reading!

The number of first-place votes each team earned is listed parenthetically and in the event of a tie, teams are listed alphabetically.

The rankings

1. Oregon Ducks (12)

Pac-12 logos- Oregon

Leland Wong: If the Ducks' quarterback situation weren't so tenuous that they were relying on a graduate transfer, their track record would probably make them an easy pick for #1 without any second thoughts. Luckily for the Ducks, there are enough skill players to help compensate for any quarterback shortcomings, especially in an somewhat simple offense that relies heavily on execution and repetition of a few concepts.

Nick Kranz: For the first time in a few years, there are actual, legitimate question marks. But they've been so good for so long that they still get the benefit of the doubt. It doesn't hurt that they play in the much weaker North, so they are very likely to end up with the best Pac-12 record, even if they aren't truly the best team.

benwemer: They're good but this is the first time in a while that they are not the overwhelming favorite. Still enough talent around the board to be number 1.

boomtho: The king stays the king... but this year, I could finally see Oregon being dethroned. Until it happens, though--they have the track record, talent on both sides of the ball, the (regular seasondominating) system... and lucky for them, they play in the North, which should be down a bit this year.

Nik Jam: The defending champions have looked pretty good according to what I've heard from Pac-12 beat writers, so I'm not expecting them to drop off anymore.

Berkelium97: Top of the Pac until proven otherwise.

Ruey Yen: No Marcus Mariota--not just my crazy homerism--is why the Ducks have some questions to answer entering this year.

KWBears: Is there any reason to dethrone the recent king of the Pac-12? Not until I literally see otherwise, I've got to put Oregon up top. QB Marcus Mariota is gone. All the preseason hype is around QB Vernon Adams's math test. Now that that's all sorted out, I still believe Oregon has been much more than just Mariota these recent years. Helfrich has amassed all sorts of talent. After their initial patsy game against Eastern Washington, we'll see what the Ducks are made of in Week 2 at Michigan State.

Sam Fielder: Until they show me they aren't going to be good and that Adams isn't the answer, they go here.

ragnarok: Until I see otherwise, I'm going to assume that the Oregon train is going to continue rolling on just fine.

mpeters10: The best team in the conference until proven otherwise. I had some doubts about their QB play until Vernon Adams was cleared. Adams is the real deal and seems like a perfect fit for Oregon's style of offense. He lit up the Washington defense for 52 points last season and he's going to light up a lot of defenses this season. Marcus Mariotta left, but the Ducks aren't going away.

atomsareeenough: They just played in the National Championship game. Vernon Adams has thrown 90 TDs. I suspect the denizens of Eugene are feeling rather bullish.

Solomon Kim: Oregon is riding on the momentum of a winning culture and a system that has been raising superb athletes for the past several years. Even without Mariota, Oregon should still be able to take the conference. The Ducks won't go undefeated, but they can count on the conference cannibalizing itself once again.

Rob Hwang: I mean, they made the playoffs last year. They reload every year. They have the same system despite two coaching changes the last 8 years. Did I mention they got to the National Championship game?

2. USC Trojans (1)

Pac-12 logos- USC

Leland Wong: On paper, the Trojans are returning enough talent to be sitting pretty right now. They're moving on from the days of scholarship reductions and are the home of the man who's probably the Pac-12's preseason frontrunner for the Heisman. What's could potentially hold back USC? I'd say good ole Seven-Win Sark and a relatively tough schedule in the Pac-12 South that misses Northern pushovers OSU and WSU and features Notre Dame.

Nick Kranz: On paper, should be great. Like every friggin' year. Something is going to go wrong, isn't it? Maybe Cody Kessler gets injured, maybe Sark blunders a few games away, maybe there's some sort of internal controversy. It's always something since Pete Carroll left.

benwemer: This is the year USC returns. 10 to 11 wins and a Cody Kessler Heisman, possibly. I just like what Sark is doing down south.

boomtho: Given Sark's track record, initially #3 felt too high for me. However, I do think they're a clear half-step up on both Arizona and UCLA, so maybe this is where they really belong? I'm sure I'll be kicking myself when Sark settles in at 8–4... for now; however, they remain phenomenally talented on both sides of the ball with some depth issues.

Nik Jam: USC teams lately have disappointed, but I expect them to be very good this year.

Berkelium97: Everything is in place for a playoff run except for the head coach. I expect them to lose a few head-scratchers in traditional Sark fashion.

Ruey Yen: Steve Sarkisian may be making the national news for the wrong season, but even he shouldn't be able to quite mess up yet another talented Trojans squad. I may have moved them up a few places after seeing the preseason AP poll results.

KWBears: HC Steve Sarkisian can't seem to get out of his own way. Disparaging other Pac-12 schools in public while mixing alcohol and meds? Is that how you lead young men? Please. The negative media attention surrounding the team is not going to help them--I would posit it's going to hurt them this season. Players are going to have to answer questions about their wacked coach rather than focus on their own development.

Sam Fielder: Had I done this pre-Sark meltdown I might have flipped them and UCLA, but with that loose cannon leading the team you have to think they screw up at least 2 games. Hopefully against Cal.

ragnarok: Sark's drunken ramblings aside, I expect that USC will continue to make mediocre coaches look good with superior talent.

mpeters10: USC has been hyped quite a bit over the last few seasons and they seem to fall short of expectations every time. There's no doubting that they have supreme talent. They recruit tons of five stars and four stars every year, but it doesn't seem to matter because they trot out one imbecile head coach after another. Does anyone really believe Sark can coach this team to a division championship, let alone a conference championship, when the division is this strong?

atomsareeenough: USC fans are expecting a conference championship at minimum. The personnel looks to be in place to do it... except maybe in the head coach's chair.

Solomon Kim: The hype around USC is real, but I'm skeptical. They are undoubtedly well-equipped, but the Kessler-clutch-question remains. He's good, but part of me feels that he still won't perform at peak level against the conference leaders.

Rob Hwang: I don't like talking about the Trojans. But they are good. Agholor gone, but Juju is still there. Su'a Cravens is from another universe. They're good but my only worry is whether Kessler can have some of those "IT" moments for the Men of Troy.

Leland Wong: I love the fact that benwemer is the only one who likes Sark's work!

3. Arizona State Sun Devils

Pac-12 logos- ASU

Leland Wong: QB Taylor Kelly going down last year with an injury showed the Sun Devils that shouldn't fret too much about replacing him with Mike Bercovici. Todd Graham's got them on a roll, but they've gotta prove they have receivers to catch Bercovici's passes if they want to rise in my rankings.

Nick Kranz: Should have the best defense in the conference and I fully expect Mike Bercovici to fully replace (if not exceed) the production of Taylor Kelly. Having to play Oregon may end up hurting their chances at the South title.

benwemer: Mike Bercovici is coming off a decent season after playing 3 games replacing the injured Taylor Kelly. He'll be a top arm in the Pac-12. Also, the defense is solid with a great core of linebackers. I see ASU battling USC for the South crown.

boomtho: I think ASU is really intriguing. I never was much a believer in Todd Graham, but what he's done with the defense and recruiting down in Tempe has been remarkable. They always play Oregon tough and I could definitely see them as Pac-12 champions.

Nik Jam: While they are my favorite to win the South, they still have a few question marks coming into the season.

Berkelium97: Todd Graham has been very impressive at ASU.

Ruey Yen: I like ASU's chance vs. Texas A&M. A big out of conference win will allow them to move up my ranking.

KWBears: ASU's Game 1 match-up against Texas A&M is going to tell us a lot. HC Todd Graham always gets his players to fight hard. QB Mike Bercovici has shown he's got grit. ASU is really turning the corner, but they always seem to disappoint compared to their preseason hype. That's why I'm demoting them a bit to #5 right now. But, I do see a lot of room for improvement and we'll have to see how they look once the games start.

Sam Fielder: The desert is going to be a tough place to play this year. I really hope we aren't facing them in the final week of the season needing a win to get bowl-eligible.

ragnarok: Probably pretty good; good chance I'll be annoyed by them this year.

mpeters10: Todd Graham has done a phenomenal job with this program and this year's bunch looks like the best he's had. Mike Bercovici will lead the offense and the Sun Devils have 10 returning starters on defense. This makes the Sun Devils my favorite to win the South division.

atomsareeenough: I feel like ASU and Arizona are right at the top of the Pac-12 South, just behind USC and a little ahead of Utah and UCLA. The Sun Devils slot in just behind the Wildcats though, because U of A is coming off a division championship and a victory in the Territorial Cup.

Solomon Kim: ASU has been relatively under the radar for me personally, but just looking at their starter-retention and their numbers from last year, they should still pull out a good number of wins. Especially against a struggling North.

Rob Hwang: I really think they are this good. They're sound at pretty much every position. They have no questions and they have the most versatile weapon in the Pac-12 named DJ Foster. And their QB is pretty good.

4. UCLA Bruins

Pac-12 logos- UCLA

Leland Wong: Luckily for our baby Bears, their biggest question mark--quarterback--becomes less of a question mark thanks to Mazzone's offensive philosophy of turning quick screens and passes to the flat into big gains and flailing defenders missing tackles. Still, the Bruins have some issues on the O-line and replacing talent in the defense that might make them vulnerable.

Nick Kranz: If they had a sure thing at quarterback they would be national title contenders. So if Josh Rosen can step in and at least be competent, they should absolutely contend for the South.

benwemer: Strong defense, but their quarterback play is a huge question mark. If Rosen or Neuheisel can step in and be productive, this could be a very good Bruin team.

boomtho: I'm knocking them down 90% because of their QB situation. Everywhere else, they're loaded, though probably a half step below ASU... can Jim Mora finally break through?

Nik Jam: I don't want to count them out just yet.

Berkelium97: Don't believe the hype.

Ruey Yen: I actually think UCLA have a good shot to win the Pac-12 South. They could also fall completely flat, breaking in a new QB.

KWBears: QB Brett Hundley is gone, but HC Jim Mora is not. Incoming QB Josh Rosen will be a stud--the question is when will he come into this expected form. There's a lot of talent on both sides of the ball in Westwood. I expect big things from the Bruins this year.

Sam Fielder:Too much talent to not win a bunch of games. Rosen will have some growing pains, but I think they'll be just fine.

ragnarok: The Bruins are loaded everywhere, but the list of teams who have won big with a true freshman quarterback starting is pretty short...

mpeters10: Nine returning starters on offense and 10 returning starters on defense from a team that won 10 games last season. The Bruins defense looks scary good and they have a great running game. That's usually a recipe for success, and it might have to be since the Bruins will have a true freshman starting at quarterback. Josh Rosen has a lot of hype behind him, but hype does not win football games. We'll see how good he really is, though, honestly, he doesn't have to be great. The defense is good enough to win games for the Bruins as long as he manages the offense and limits mistakes.

atomsareeenough: UCLA has a lot of talent, but they're also starting a true freshman QB and have an iffy offensive line. I'm slotting them in the middle of the conference until they demonstrate otherwise.

Solomon Kim: The Bruins have a lot to make up with the loss of Hundley, but I think Josh Rosen has what it takes in both talent and personnel to make a conference-shaking impact. We also cannot forget that Paul Perkins led the Pac-12 in rushing yards last season. Oh, and they have one of the easiest schedules in the conference this year.

Rob Hwang: Its time for the Rosen One. They have a run game in Paul Perkins so Rosen won't be put into a lot of tough spots to throw. and that defense will carry the team as well. Question remains is can Rosen make some necessary to get the team over the hump in certain games?

5. Arizona Wildcats

Pac-12 SBN logos- Arizona

Leland Wong: I'm a believer in RichRod and he should do big things with a returning QB, RB, and receivers, not to mention a certain defensive standout. They have some questions on the O-line, but ranking them lowly here says more about the toughness of the Pac-12 South and their bye-free schedule.

Nick Kranz: I don't trust the defense, but Scooby might be able to paper over some major issues. If he can, the offense should be legit. Still, they're a tier below ASU, USC, and UCLA in my book.

benwemer: Scooby Wright will have to anchor that defense. I like Anu Solomon, but AZ is not at the level of Oregon, USC, or ASU.

boomtho: Went back and forth with them and UCLA here. I ended up going with Arizona by a hair, largely because they're returning their QB, and I'm slightly more confident in Rodriguez than Mora. But it's really close in my view.

Nik Jam: We saw how flukey Arizona's wins could be last year; the luck should run out this year.

Berkelium97: RichRod finally has a returning starter at QB!

Ruey Yen: Another solid Pac-12 squad. I can't ignore the preseason poll that much. I will judge these teams more by their own merit once we have actual game footages.

KWBears: UofA is my sleeper pick to win the Pac-12 Championship game. The Wildcats won't be the highest ranked Pac-12 team or have the most wins, but I think they will win when it matters most (like getting a few upsets) and find themselves in a similar situation as last season. QB Anu Solomon gets a full offseason under his belt. RichRod is no slouch and is reviving his image quite nicely in Tucson.

Sam Fielder:They were frisky last year and they're just straight up good this year. Can RichRod leave already?

ragnarok: Probably pretty good, good chance I'll be annoyed by them this year.

mpeters10: Last season's South division champions return seven starters on both offense and defense, but are not getting much pub as it pertains to their chances at repeating. They're looked at as a bit of fluke, but it's hard to fluke your way to a division championship while playing as many young players as the Wildcats utilized last season. Rich Rodriguez, his tenure at Michigan excluded, is a good coach and knows how to get the most out of his players. Don't sleep on the Wildcats.

atomsareeenough: The Wildcats got pretty lucky last year; this year they won't need the luck.

Solomon Kim: The Wildcats took the division last season, but I don't think they'll do as well this year. A lot of the games they won were done so by the skin of their teeth, one in utterly heart-breaking fashion. My prediction is that they won't make it through as many of those close shaves.

Rob Hwang: Anu is good. Rich Rod will do his thing. Scooby Wright will a stud at LB. But I don't think they get lucky in the close games and end up losing a lot of games that are close.

6. Stanfurd Cardinal
Pac-12 logos- Stanfurd

Leland Wong: The Cardinal are definitely heading for a down year. (WOOOO I'm not even going to pretend to have unbiased editorial integrity!) A veteran game manager and solid recruiting years will help keep them from dropping too far; however, replacing what basically amounts to their entire defense means they'll either need some new guys to step up quickly or find a new identity.

Nick Kranz: The offense should be talented, but hamstrung by conservatism. The question: Has Stanford's defense been so good for so long that we can assume continued elite production regardless of how much talent is gone? They have recruited well enough that this could be the case. I pray mightily that it is not.

benwemer: Kevin Hogan is there and I really like Christian McCaffrey, but surprisingly Stanford's biggest question mark has to be their defense. Losing a lot of talent, someone has to step up.

boomtho: They lost a lot of defensive players, though they should still have a fair amount of talent there. Can the offense hang around (in non-Cal games) enough to deliver on some wins? Hogan certainly looked livelier the last 1/3 of the season.

Nik Jam: As much as I want them to fall off this year, they'll probably be a thorn on the conference's side for sure this year, and ours.

Berkelium97: I will not waste my time talking about them.

Ruey Yen: I really want to rank them lower to open the year, but there is a clear gap between them and the rest of the field.

KWBears: Let me be clear. I do not--and will never--like for the Furd to succeed. But, I am also a clearheaded Cal alum and fan. David Shaw is no chump and his teams have been very consistent. QB Kevin Hogan is back for his last campaign. He's the definition of a game manager, but that's okay. Furd seems to find ways to grind out games and leave with the W. Their first game at Northwestern will help us assess them against good competition.

Sam Fielder: Unfortunately, I think they'll do pretty well this year. Is there no justice in this world?

ragnarok: Probably better than I'm giving them credit for, but why would I give unearned credit to the Furd?

mpeters10: The Cardinal are hard to gauge. Furd usually relies on its defense to win them games, but the defense faces more uncertainty than it has in a long time with only two returning starters. Kevin Hogan had a nice three game hot streak last season, but does that mean he's going to continue that level of play this season? I'm going to say no. We'll more than likely see the same inconsistent Hogan we've seen for the last several years. Will the defense be good enough to paper over the offensive cracks? Or will the tables be turned this season?

atomsareeenough: The defense was great last year but the offense was putrid for much of the year. Hogan looked pretty good the last few games though. But they lost some key players, so I'm honestly not sure if they're going to be better, worse, or the same as last year. I think the defense regresses a bit and the offense is slightly better, which leaves them in roughly the same place. Not elite though.

Solomon Kim: The Furd is going to be decent as they have been with its solid D and the fact that Hogan is back. However, they will lose in the Big Game. Period.

Rob Hwang: This is the year where Stanford football starts to decline back into obscurity again.

7. Utah Utes

Pac-12 logos- Utah

Leland Wong: I have a feeling that at the end of the year, I'm going to be shamed for underrating the Utes so severely. (Who wants to follow me around with a shame bell? You'll get a great view of my great booty.) But still, at this stage of the game, I can't reward them for being so underwhelming at quarterback despite having a stellar running back inDevontae Booker. Will their famed defense take a step back for having to learn a new system? Or will new DC John Pease and his NFL experience make the transition a smooth one?

Nick Kranz: Love the defense, love the running game, don't love the skill position talent or their quarterback. I doubt they have a replacement for the playmaking ability of Kaelin ClayTravis Wilson is what he is at this point: Decent, but not good enough to win a division in the Pac-12.

benwemer: Devontae Booker is one of the Pac-12's best backs. However, after the offensive and defensive coordinators left this offseason, the Utes could be in some trouble. Their quarterback play is rocky, especially with a new coordinator coming in.

boomtho: Man, the Pac-12 is DEEP if Utah is at 7! I really like Kyle Wittingham and the defense should be loaded. Key question: who takes over for Kaelin Clay, both in the 'that's an AMAZING play' category and 'what are you thinking, Kaelin' category?

Nik Jam: Probably a popular dark horse candidate this season, so I'm not sure it counts to call them a dark horse, but they should be a factor in the Pac-12 South race.

Berkelium97: I'd have them higher if they weren't replacing both coordinators.

Ruey Yen: My 5th Pac-12 south team in a row. I also would not be shocked if the Utes win the South.

KWBears: The Utes are the trendy Pac-12 South pick right now to surprise us all. I don't buy it. They may have the best front seven on D in the conference, but they don't have a legitimate QB and the rest of their offense has been streaky. Their first game vs. Michigan is going to be a real test. If the Utes can show me something promising, I'll certainly be inclined to place them higher on these rankings.

Sam Fielder: This is likely way too low to start, but the South is brutal this year and I think they take a step back from last year.

ragnarok: Program seems to be on an upswing, which is all the flimsy justification I need for preseason Power Rankings. Also, I like the Utes better than either Arizona school.

mpeters10: The Utes are an interesting team. They have perhaps the best special teams in the conference and one of the best offensive players in the league with Devontae Booker toting the rock. What holds the Utes back is the less than stellar quarterback play they're projected to have this season. With that being said, Salt Lake City is a tough place to get a win, and the Utes could play a big role in who wins the South this season if they can claim a scalp or two.

atomsareeenough: They've been solid every year so far, but I think they're going to take a step forward this year. They don't have a ton of playmakers, but their defense is great, they have a wonderful home field advantage, and Booker and Wilson coming back makes a difference.

Solomon Kim: The Utes were pretty terrifying last year and retain a good portion of what made them that way*. With the return of Booker and Wilson, they should be able to pull through in more games.
BIG* minus Nate Orchard

Rob Hwang: Arguably the best power back in the Pac-12. A dynamic running QB. A brick wall of a LB. Utah will make some noise, starting with Harbaugh's Wolverines this thursday.

8. California Golden Bears (1 lolwut?)

Pac-12 logos- Cal

Leland Wong: The unapologetic fanboy in me thinks the ranking is just too low, but I know I have to wait to see if the Bears can answer some critical questions on the defensive side of the ball before I shamelessly have them shoot up my rankings. We've got stalwarts at linebacker, unproven--but promising--talent on the defensive line, but huge holes in an already weak secondary.

Nick Kranz: Probably the most upside in the conference, but either the offense needs to be the best in the conference OR the defense needs to make a big step forward with mostly the same personnel to realize that upside.

benwemer: How far will the defense take them? Jared Goff and the offense can only take the Bears so far. It's time for the defense to step up and make some plays. Maybe, just maybe hold opposing offenses to less than 25–30 points a game and Cal will easily be more than a bowl-bound team.

boomtho: If the defense is as impressive as camp reports suggests, Cal could settle in the 4–6 range by the end of the season. That's a very big 'if' though!

Nik Jam: Very promising reports from Training Camp, but gotta prove they're a bowl team this year by being a bowl team.

Berkelium97: Surely the defense will not suffer catastrophic injuries for a fourth year in a row. A mediocre defense will propel Cal to the top half of the conference.

Ruey Yen: This is the preseason poll and I'm now psyched about our year, before any games have been played. I would feel terrible if Cal managed to go undefeated and win the national championship and I don't have them first all year long. P.S. I would consider moving Cal down if our early wins are ugly.

KWBears: Like I said, I am a clearheaded Cal fan. We'll be better this year than last. But, a lot better? That's TBD. Our offense will singlehandedly win us a game here and there. QB Jared Goff deserves his Heisman hype. Our WRs are amazing and have all sorts of depth. Our defense? Well, that's the major X factor. If Dykes and Kaufman can get our guys to build on their experience from last year and have them really improve, we may have a chance to be in the top half of the Pac-12. But, it really does all hinge on our defense.

Sam Fielder: Improved defense and another gear on offense means big things in Berkeley this year. Mark it down.

ragnarok: My optimism for this upcoming season clearly knows some bounds.

mpeters10: There's a lot to like about our Bears going into this season. The offense is loaded. The defense has more depth than it has had in a long time. I could see Cal finishing second in the North if the defense takes a step forward into mediocrity as opposed to being downright awful.

atomsareeenough: The offense is great and will be even better than last year. I think the defense will be much improved. Will it be good enough?

Solomon Kim: I have neither the time nor space to get into why I want to believe the Bears will do better than 7th in the conference. However, with so much stacked against them, it's going to be one hell of a fight to pull through their tough schedule. That said, a veteran squad of Golden Bears will be able to handle adversity better than the young guns they were last year.

Rob Hwang: Yep. I said it. Yep. Yeah. Jared. Kenny. Trevor. Bryce. Stephen. Daniel. Vic. Darius. Maurice. Hardy. Jalen. Darius X 2. Damariay. Stef. Moose. Kyle. DeVante. James. Its go time guys.

9. Washington Huskies
Pac-12 logos- Washington

Leland Wong: Sure, other teams have unknowns at quarterback, but the situation just seems so much more dire at Wash. Maybe because everything just sucks and goes to hell up there. Replacing their quarterback and so much talent on the defense is going to be tough, but I think they recruited pretty well.

Nick Kranz: No team lost more defensive talent to graduation and the offense was already the worst in the division. If this team makes a bowl game it will be one of the better coaching performances of Chris Petersen's career

benwemer: Losing so many stars from a great defense has to hurt. The defense should be at best mediocre while the offense is one of the worst in the Pac. No quarterback to run the offense and really just no stars on the team, Chris Peterson is in for a long year.

boomtho: Lost a bunch of talent on the defensive side of the ball as well. I'm still drinking the Chris Petersen kool-aid, which is probably why I have them above Wazzu.

Nik Jam: Gonna be a rough year for the Huskies, but they have a good coaching staff and could surprise people.

Berkelium97: This could get ugly.

Ruey Yen: I still like Chris Petersen as a head coach and think that he will have plenty of success at U-Dub, unfortunately for the rest of the Pac.

KWBears: The Huskies will be just average again. HC Chris Petersen is trying to building the program his way, and that takes time. Two-way star Shaq Thompson (the one who should've went to Cal, if not for Tedford & Barbour being too cheap to pay Tosh Lupoi) has moved on, so expect S Budda Baker to be the new playmaker in their defense. There's just a lot of rebuilding on both sides of the ball up in Seattle.

Sam Fielder: Peterson doesn't have nearly the talent from last year, so we'll see how things go with more of his own recruits.

ragnarok: Chris Petersen is too good a coach for UW to be down too long.

mpeters10: Chris Petersen's vaunted coaching abilities will be put to the test this season. The Huskies had a great defense and terrible offense last season. They lost a TON of elite talent on defense. They also lost their starting quarterback and starting right guard to career-ending injuries this offseason.

atomsareeenough: Last year ended up going decently well for the Huskies, and I trust Petersen to have the program in good shape in the long term, but this year could be ugly. Last I saw, they still had no starting QB or RB named, I think? So much talent gone from last season. This is going to be a rebuilding year in Seattle.

Solomon Kim: The Huskies have lost a good number of weapons, notably Shaq Thompson. With the overwhelming strength of the conference this year, it is going to be a struggle to win.

Rob Hwang: Coach Petersen has more questions than answers at this point. Replacing more than half the stellar defense, and QB. Thats not a recipe for success.

10. Washington State Cougars

Pac-12 logos- WSU

Leland Wong: I predict the Cougars are going to take a step forward in 2015 and could be a bowl-caliber team, but the rigors of the Pac-12 might actually hinder them and their win-loss record superficially. Luke Falk's collegiate experience will be helpful, as will adding a run game to the Air Raid. The biggest question is if a new DC with experience coaching the secondary can prep their defense to stop their opponents.

Nick Kranz: I just kinda assume Wazzu/Leach will be the same team each year at this point--perpetually explosive but flawed on offense, perpetually awful on defense, perpetually 48 or 57.

benwemer: Similar to Cal but a tier below. They have an explosive offense but the defense is flat out awful. The Cougs could upset a team or two but should be about 23 wins short of a bowl game.

boomtho: Replacing Connor Halliday may be tough, but Leach has proven he can churn through QB's while still maintaining production. Can they stop anyone?

Nik Jam: See above.

Berkelium97: *shrugs shoulders*

Ruey Yen: I also like Mike Leach, but maybe not as much for his football acumen as for his entertainment value. Having to break in a new QB has them low on my list, but the Cougs are capable of pulling off an upset.

KWBears: The Cougs are not going to be very good this year. HC Mike Leach may be a genius, but he doesn't have the talent necessary to replicate his Air Raid strategies. WSU's second game at Rutgers is going to be a real good gauge of how their season can turn out. They have the capability to pull off a few stunners, though.

Sam Fielder: Mike Leach is definitely my (and everyone else's) favorite non-Cal coach, but I'm afraid the pirate ship runs aground this year.

ragnarok: Meh.

mpeters10: This is a make-or-break season for Mike Leach, whether it should be looked at as so or not. He has seven returning starters on offense and eight on defense. The Cougars always rack up yards offensively, but it doesn't seem to make a difference year to year. That's because their defense has been horrendous. Last season they forced something like eight turnovers. Eight. It cost their defensive coordinator his job, and the new guy was the safeties coach at Missouri last season. We'll see if he can get this defense turned around.

atomsareeenough: The offense should be fun. Will they get back to a bowl game? Maybe.

Solomon Kim: With the loss of WSU record-setting QB Connor Halliday and a tough schedule, the Cougs have their work cut out for them. I don't know enough about their progress through Fall camp to speak to the likelihood that they'll defy expectations, but these are the expectations for a reason.

Rob Hwang: Falk did his best Halliday impersonation the latter half of last season, but his body of work is still too small of a sample size for me to think he can lead this high powered air raid offense.

11. Oregon State Beavers

Pac-12 logos- OSU

Leland Wong: Yikes. New coaching regime. Replacing players all over the field. New systems. Mediocre recent recruiting. Things are gonna be rough for awhile in Corvallis.

Nick Kranz: Essentially the entire defense graduated, and they lose a quarterback who turned a bad offense into a mediocre offense, AND they're breaking in a new coaching staff. This feels like a 'Cal, one year after Tedford' type of season.

benwemer: Losing Sean Mannion hurts a lot as the Beavers don't really have the talent to succeed in the conference. This will be a rebuilding year for new head coach Gary Anderson.

boomtho: Life after Mannion is gonna be roooooooooough.

Nik Jam: Really could do this for all of the last four. They weren't good last year and lost their QB, but you have to think Gary Andersen could build a winner fast in Corvallis.

Berkelium97: Praise be to Oski that Dave Aranda stayed at Wisconsin.

Ruey Yen: Year 1 of the Gary Andersen era will likely see them struggle a bit.

KWBears: HC Gary Andersen has major shoes to fill after HC Mike Riley bolted for Nebraska after last season. OSU just doesn't have much talent or experience at key positions. They are in search of star players on both sides of the ball. The Beavers' second game at Michigan will be a fun one for about a quarter before Harbaugh piles it on.

Sam Fielder: I think they actually upgraded in terms of coach, but how much talent is there right now? Not much I'm afraid.

ragnarok: Double meh.

mpeters10: The Beavers are in for a rough season. They struggled last season and now they don't have Sean Mannion. There's not a lot of love going around for their batch of quarterbacks this season. They have an entirely new coaching staff and only two returning defensive starters. Yikes. Gary Andersen has a big project on his hands.

atomsareeenough: Gary Andersen left Wisconsin for this?? I think it's going to be a tough year in Corvallis. He's a good coach though, so they'll be fine long term.

Solomon Kim: Rebuilding year. From the mouth of Coach Anderson himself. Definitely not expecting much from the Beavers this year, and it is sure to be a rough one.

Rob Hwang: Storm Barrs-Woods will be amazing this year. Statistically will lead the Pac-12, in my opinion. But the question at QB and coaching change, will result in a rebuilding year for the Beavers.

12. Colorado Buffaloes

Pac-12 logos- Colorado

Leland Wong: I think the Buffs might finally make it out of the basement! But personally, this had more to do with glaring deficiencies on other teams than Mike MacIntyre's ability to turn around teams, despite his success at San Jose State...

Nick Kranz: I actually think that Colorado might have more talent than OSU, but they play in the South AND have to face Oregon and Stanford. God hates the Buffs for at least one more year.

benwemer: The Buffs. They are slowly getting better but with a brutal schedule I don't see them getting around it. However, I wouldn't be surprised if this team climbed a little in the Power Rankings.

boomtho: Poor Mac.

Nik Jam: Gotta prove they're not a last-place team.

Berkelium97: At least they're not Oregon State or Washington.

Ruey Yen: They may be at the bottom of my preseason ranking, but I don't think the Buffs are a clear cellar dweller of the Pac.

KWBears: Trust me, I want the Buffs to be better than #12. I really do. You can't help but feel sympathy for these perennial bottom dwellers. They finagled a 13th game into their schedule by including a game at Hawaii (first week), so that was a smart move to get more game experiences for their players. HC Mike MacIntyre is still trying to build something in Boulder, but it looks to be pretty slow going so far. 2015 may not be very kind to Colorado, but an upset win or two and this season may not be too bad for them.

Sam Fielder: They can't be as bad as recent years right? (Wait, everyone is saying that about our defense? Hmmm.)

ragnarok: Just like Oregon, until I see otherwise, I'll assume that recent trends will continue. In the Buffs' case, that means being talent-starved and mostly terrible.

mpeters10: The Buffs bring back six offensive starters and nine defensive starters. The two most important returning players are quarterback Sefo Liufau and wide receiver Nelson Spruce. These two are going to put up huge numbers, but it's likely not going to result in a tangible improvement as far as wins and losses. Mike MacIntyre has this team going in the right direction. It's just tough to make up ground in the South.

atomsareeenough: Coach MacIntyre has one of the hardest rebuilding jobs in the country. I think he's making progress, but it's probably not going to show very much in the win column just yet.

Solomon Kim: The Buffaloes are definitely better than they were last year, but if the highest praise we can give them is their phenomenal punting game (Bryan Anger anyone?), I don't think we can expect too many W's.

Rob Hwang: They'll get better. They still have Sefo and Nelson. They will get better....right?

The data

Let's get started with showing everyone's votes. Get ready to scroll!

Rk atoms benwemer Berkelium97 boomtho KWBears Leland mpeters10 Nick Nik Jam ragnarok Rob Ruey Sam Solomon
1 Oregon Oregon Oregon Oregon Oregon USC Oregon Oregon Oregon Oregon Oregon Cal Oregon Oregon
4 ASU Arizona ASU Arizona Arizona ASU Arizona UCLA Utah Utah Cal UCLA Arizona Utah
5 Utah UCLA Stanfurd UCLA ASU Arizona USC Arizona Arizona ASU Utah ASU Stanfurd Arizona
6 UCLA Stanfurd UCLA Stanfurd Cal Stanfurd Stanfurd Stanfurd Stanfurd Arizona UCLA Arizona ASU ASU
7 Cal Cal Utah Utah Wash Cal Cal Utah UCLA Stanfurd Arizona Utah Cal Cal
8 Stanfurd Utah Cal Cal USC Utah Utah Cal Cal Wash Stanfurd Stanfurd Utah Stanfurd
9 WSU WSU WSU Wash Utah WSU Wash WSU Wash Cal WSU Wash Wash WSU
10 Wash Wash Colorado WSU WSU Wash WSU Wash WSU WSU OSU WSU OSU Wash
11 Colorado OSU OSU OSU OSU Colorado Colorado OSU OSU OSU Wash OSU Colorado OSU
12 OSU Colorado Wash Colorado Colorado OSU OSU Colorado Colorado Colorado Colorado Colorado WSU Colorado

Table 1. The votes!

The votes get summed up and averaged out to show how we feel about the teams, more precisely than just saying 1st, 2nd, 12th, etc. The error bars are 1 standard deviation; a large standard deviation means we were very varied about that team and a small standard deviation means we reached a great consensus.

Week 00- Fig 1

Figure 1. The averaged-out votes for each team.

The beauty (well, beauty in my opinion because I'm going to die alone) is that Figure 1 shows us precision in our rankings. When teams are placed in discrete integer rankings, we see Oregon is 1st, then USC at #2, etc.. However, when you take a look at the precise rankings, we see a massive chasm between Oregon at #1 and four South teams that are pretty close to one another. That's either an indication of how strong the Pac-12 is overall or how every single team has some pretty big question marks.

I originally wasn't planning on showing Figure 2, but there was a pretty interesting observation (along the same lines of how we precisely feel about each team).

Week 00- Fig 2

Figure 2. Ranking teams over time is super interesting when there's only data for one timepoint!

Yeah, yeah, this graph is pretty dull with only one timepoint. I guarantee (well, I think) it'll be much more interesting when we can follow the teams as a function of time, which is why I wanted to wait until next week to show it. (Plus, that would have meant less work for me!)

However, I thought Figure 2 was a great way of showing the point I made earlier about Oregon being a head and shoulders above a four-team cluster consisting of USC, ASU, UCLA, and Arizona. This cluster illustrates how competitive the Pac-12 South will be as we found four teams who we believe will be the top of that division. You can see this in Figure 1, but I think Figure 2 is a great way to show how clustered our teams are. After those probably Southern Kings, we see a clustered triad of Stanfurd, Utah, and Cal, who are fighting to play the dark horse underdog and be in the top tier in 2015. Next, we've got a grouping of the two teams from the worst state in the country who will both be working on building their programs, despite having some highly regarded head coaches. Finally, we've got our basement cluster--OSU and Colorado. Colorado has a history of bottom-dwelling, but OSU is basically rebuilding in every aspect (on the field and among the coaching staff). Is their rebuilding gonna hold them back enough to push Colorado from their comfortable home in the basement?

Come back next week for some meaningful rankings that are actually based on something, anything!