Leland Wong: With the last of the Pac-12 teams finishing their bowls, we head into the long, lonely offseason. Still, we have one last week to rank these teams because I love getting judge-y. We'll grade them based on their overall seasons with an emphasis on the postseason performances that went 6–4 with two teams that didn't get invites to the bowling alley. But some of us use this as more an overall ranking, so this place is basically just the wild west what with how reckless we're being.
The parenthetical number next to the names of some teams list how many first-place votes they received. (Stanfurd. They all went to freakin' Stanfurd, dammit.) The parenthetical number next to each CGBear's name shows where he ranked that corresponding team.
atomsreareenough: My rankings are a mix of what was accomplished this year balanced with the bowl game performance and overall sentiment about where the program is heading into next season.
1. Stanfurd Cardinal (12)
Last week: 1
Leland Wong: (1) A 31-point win over the then–fifth ranked team and being the Pac-12 Champions are enough to secure the top spot. Christian McCaffrey is a beast, will be a beast next year, and the Earth is a cold dead place (contrary to Explosions in the Sky's declaration).
Sam Fielder: (1) I can't come up with any new derogatory things to say about the Furdies, so let's just all agree that they are bad and should feel bad and move on.
boomtho: (1) Another... sigh... great season down at the Farm. Hopefully either Shaw leaves or next year is the year the wheels fall off without a veteran QB and with a somewhat new line.
Ruey Yen: (1) I still don't think Shaw's a great coach, but why hasn't some NFL team lured him away from The Farm yet? Clearly and sadly, the Furdies are the leader of the Pac.
Nick Kranz: (1) Spent the year alternating between dominant (vs. UCLA, USC, Iowa) and vulnerable (Northwestern, Wazzu, Cal), but still easily the class of a conference without high-end teams.
atomsreareenough: (1) Stanfurd clearly had the best season and look to be in good shape with a returning Heisman contender and decent depth.
Nik Jam: (1) There wasn't much doubt Iowa wasn't going to win, but to see the nation (rightfully so) praise Furd was pure torture. And yes, I saw some acquaintances who were neutral start to develop a liking of Stanfurd (to the point where they're even talking crap to Cal fans), as I've seen happen in 2012 and 2013... Ugh... I don't see this team falling off the map even with a new quarterback. Cal needs to get its program to Stanfurd's level—not hope Stanfurd falls. Due to college sport's relative lack of popularity, we'll never be in a situation like my Oakland A's being completely in the shadow of the San Francisco Giants, but there may be an urgency to prevent this from happening nonetheless. At least this Rose Bowl wasn't accompanied by a lack of any Cal bowl.
Berkelium97: (1) I hope Shaw finally bolts to the NFL this offseason. I've had quite enough of the Lobsterbacks' recent success.
Rob Hwang: (1) Dislike them.... but man do they have a good football team.
2T. Oregon Ducks
Last week: 3
Leland Wong: (2) Grading the Ducks is complicated due to injuries for them and the Horned Frogs and how drastically different they play with or without QB Vernon Adams Jr.; I also wanted to penalize them for throwing away a 31–0 lead. But at the end of the day, they took #11 TCU to triple overtime, which is more impressive than anything a non-Stanfurd team this postseason.
Sam Fielder: (2) Second-half bowl meltdown notwithstanding, they were the second-best team in the Pac-12 this year. But man, blowing a 31-point halftime lead is sooooo bad.
boomtho: (2) Blowing a 31-point lead is actually pretty impressive, but Adams got hurt and there's enough evidence showing they're just not a great team without him.
Ruey Yen: (2) What if Vernon Adams were healthy all season long? Good thing he's gone next year.
Nick Kranz: (2) The second-best team in this conference with Vernon Adams; probably the sixth-best team without him.
atomsreareenough: (5) The Ducks with and without Adams are like night and day. So far, they've had no problems replacing QBs in their system, but this time feels like the biggest question mark yet. Finishing with "only" nine wins is surely a disappointment for fans used to competing for a championship.
Nik Jam: (5) We all know Oregon would have won with Vernon if he were healthy, but couldn't the defense make ONE stop? Pac-12 North should salivate the idea of Oregon "rebuilding" next season.
Berkelium97: (4) The difference between this team with and without Vernon Adams is incredible. If I were an Oregon fan, I'd be very concerned about that quarterback position going into next season (unless their new FCS graduate transfer—Dakota Prukop—is another excellent player).
Rob Hwang: (7) Clearly Vernon Adams is the only reason they stayed afloat... plus they were up by 30+ points AND THEY LOST.
Last week: 5T
Leland Wong: (4) The Cougars deserve a bit of a bump for a solid bowl win—but more importantly for seemingly turning things around up in Pullman with a nine-win season and being a factor in the North race this year.
Sam Fielder: (3) I'm giving them points here for a bowl win and for no longer being the perennial Pac-12 doormat. Interested to see how they look next year.
boomtho: (4) When the Cougs aren't Cougin it... I don't know what's up and what's down anymore.
Ruey Yen: (3) Bowl win over Miami wasn't that impressive, but it capped a very solid season for the Cougs.
Nick Kranz: (3) Wazzu overachieved relative to both their talent and their actual per play efficiency and it couldn't have happened to a fanbase more deserving of some good fortune.
atomsreareenough: (3) Washington State finished with nine wins—what a great year for them. Luke Falk comes back and it looks like Leach is building a really solid program up in Pullman.
Nik Jam: (4) Only other team besides Stanfurd to beat a Power 5 team, though I'll say BYU is better than Miami. They should continue to be good next year as Luke Falk will return.
Berkelium97: (3) Remember when they lost to Portland State and we all thought Mike Leach was toast?
Rob Hwang: (3) Who doesn't like watching the Millennium Falk-on sling the ball around?
4. Utah Utes
Last week: 4
Leland Wong: (5) It's great to beat your rival (or so I imagine since it's been so long since I've been able to make that claim), but all of those good vibes are basically lost when you let them go on a 28–0 run in the final three quarters to nearly negate your hot start. They really suffered without Devontae Booker.
Sam Fielder: (5) Held on a for a wild win over their rivals. Another solid season from the Utes.
boomtho: (3) #3–5 are kind of jumbled in my opinion, but Utah probably had the best season in total, despite falling out of the South title race late.
Ruey Yen: (4) Nice win over BYU to close the year. Current students can also tell their kids about how the Utes hosted College Gameday and defeated the great Jared Goff in 2015.
Nick Kranz: (4) One of three teams (also Cal and Arizona) who only lost to Pac-12 teams helps inflate what was otherwise a good but not great in-conference performance.
atomsreareenough: (2) Utah had a 10-win season—somewhat unexpectedly—and they beat their blood rivals in the bowl game. Hard to be disappointed with that.
Nik Jam: (2) Impressive beatdown of their rival BYU, but they did let the Cougars come back. I don't think this team will contend next season, but I could see them making me look silly.
Berkelium97: (2) Holding off BYU's rally was the difference between finishing second and finishing in the middle of the pack. It would have been a long offseason full of "what if"s if they had blown a two-game lead for the South title and lost to their rival in a bowl game.
Rob Hwang: (4) Should've had the game in the bag early. Didn't close out the game strong enough.
Last week: 7
Leland Wong: (6) Air Force was outmatched, but it was still a decisive win where a still-maligned defense was able to adapt to and stop a unique offense.
Sam Fielder: (4) Other than Furd, no one looked as good in their bowl game. What a way to go out for Jared Goff, Bryce Treggs, Maurice Harris, and the rest of the seniors.
boomtho: (5) Righted the ship after a tough five-game stretch to finish a very respectable 8–5. Good season overall for the Bears, though it would certainly have been more fun to play a better team in the bowl game.
Ruey Yen: (6) Air Force was no match for the Goffense air strikes. As expected, Bear Raid ended the year with a great showing.
Nick Kranz: (7) Rebuilding or reloading? God I hope it's the latter.
atomsreareenough: (4) California loses Goff, but this was a good season and another step forward for the program, capped off with a fun bowl win. The Bears should be decently well-covered next year at most positions, but will they be able to plug in another QB?
Nik Jam: (5) Sure it was Air Force, but that was a great performance by Cal and a great sendoff for Jared Goff. First of many Bowl games in the Sonny Dykes era, but hopefully next time we get an actual Pac-12 tie-in bowl with a Power 5 opponent to test our might.
Berkelium97: (5) After a rough middle of the season, Cal ends the season on a high note. Even the toughest Sonny Dykes critics should be pleased (or at the very least, not disappointed) with this season.
Rob Hwang: (2) Only other team other than Furd to dominate their bowl game competition. Offense was on FIRE.
6. USC Trojans
Last week: 2
Leland Wong: (3) They're Pac-12 South Champions and took the #2 team of the Big Ten to their limit. Still, they have to feel bad about struggling so much to move the ball despite all their elite talent—especially in QB Cody Kessler's final game of his five-year career.
Sam Fielder: (7) Clay Helton is DEFINITELY the guy to bring them back to national prominence.
boomtho: (6) Trojan fans have to be at least somewhat nervous about the contract Helton got.
Ruey Yen: (5) Yes, they lost their bowl game, but many Pac-12 squads played bad competitions. Even with a midseason coaching change, Trojans had an year that was this good.
Nick Kranz: (5) Get the interim tag removed, get blown out by Stanfurd, then lose to a meh B1G team? Perhaps I can get behind the Clay Helton hire.
atomsreareenough: (6) USC managed to win the division after firing their coach mid-season, so that's something. But an 8–6 finish, two losses to the Cardinal, and a bowl loss after officially retaining Helton has surely got Trojan fans wondering what's going on. Next year needs to be better or else Helton is a goner.
Nik Jam: (7) Losing what was practically a home game can't be good, even after the refs handed them a stop by incorrectly ruling a Wisconsin player out of bounds.
Berkelium97: (8) A win against Alabama will absolve Helton of his two losses, but that seems highly unlikely. As a non-USC fan, I'm quite happy with their decision to retain him.
Rob Hwang: (9) Oof. Not a good look for Clay Helton.
Last week: 5T
Leland Wong: (8) They're a good team, but losing to a team with a losing record deserves a drop.
Sam Fielder: (6) From expectations of the playoff to losing to a team with a losing record. Not a great overall season for the baby Bruins.
boomtho: (7) Same as USC, but replace "Trojan" with "Bruin" and "Helton got" with "Mora has". Lower than USC due to their bowl loss being way worse.
Ruey Yen: (7) Losing to Nebraska was an embarrassment. Bruins also didn't show up every week in 2015.
Nick Kranz: (6) If every underclassman returned, UCLA would have a scary roster. But a few key players are leaving early and UCLA already has a reputation for underachieving.
atomsreareenough: (8) Oh, UCLA. Losing badly to a 5–7 Nebraska team is a hilarious way to end your season, and a great way to slide down the Power Rankings. Good job, Bruins! They'll still be good next year though.
Nik Jam: (6) Horrible to lose to a 5–7 team, but this team should be great next season.
Berkelium97: (7) UCLA fans calling for Mora's head should not forget that this season—his worst—still brought eight wins. They could do much, much worse with a new coach.
Rob Hwang: (10) I don't even know.
Last week: 8
Leland Wong: (7) This team grew just a ridiculous amount from the start of the season to their win over Southern Miss. They limited the Golden Eagles' yardage and—most significantly—their young offense moved the ball well.
Sam Fielder: (8) Solid team in what was essentially a rebuilding year for them.
boomtho: (8) Came on a lot stronger at the end of the year, including a beatdown of their rivals and a bowl win.
Ruey Yen: (10) I still think Petersen is a great coach. Jury is still out on how well he will do recruiting-wise at UW.
Nick Kranz: (8) I'm not 100% convinced that UW's offense will be much better next year, but this is still a team trending in the right direction.
atomsreareenough: (7) Washington was a young team that started out slowly and then figured things out by the end of the year, culminating in a bowl romp over an outmanned Southern Miss team. Turns out Chris Petersen is still a good coach. They're going to be really dangerous in 2016.
Nik Jam: (8) Weak opponent, but good on them for getting into and winning a bowl game.
Berkelium97: (6) With three dominant wins to end the season, the Huskies should be optimistic heading into next season.
Rob Hwang: (6) Myles Gaskin: 181 Yds Rushing. 4 TDs. If he can do that next year coupled with Jake Browning's projected development? Oh man.....
Last week: 10
Leland Wong: (9) The Wildcats got ahead early and traded scores for the rest of the game to win, but never really confidently put away the game.
Sam Fielder: (9) Injuries doomed them but they still had a decent year.
boomtho: (9) Strange season for Rich Rod.
Ruey Yen: (9) Okay year ends with a "road" bowl win over New Mexico.
Nick Kranz: (10) Maybe the biggest surprise of the year was that RichRod produced a team that was so completely forgettable.
atomsreareenough: (9) I'm not sure what to make of Arizona. Didn't have a great year, but they won their bowl game, at least.
Nik Jam: (9) Got the Pac-12 bowl season off to a good start! Not sure they'll be much to worry about next season (and Cal doesn't play them anyway).
Berkelium97: (9) A bowl win softens the disappointment that was the 2015 season.
Rob Hwang: (5) Same as Utah...
Last week: 9
Leland Wong: (10) By losing to WVU, they have the worst bowl loss of the conference.
Sam Fielder: (10) Super up and down all year and ended the season on a down note, but still played some really entertaining games.
boomtho: (10) Equally strange season for ASU.
Ruey Yen: (8) I'm still bitter that ASU collected a bigger bowl payout than Cal despite the regular season finale.
Nick Kranz: (9) If Todd Graham can't get ASU to play decent defense, what exactly does he bring to the table?
atomsreareenough: (10) After an up-and-down year, the Sun Devils played an extremely entertaining bowl game, but West Virginia absolutely torched the Sun Devils through the air and Todd Graham and his coaches made some pretty awful game management errors. Lots of question marks going into next year, but they have some good talent.
Nik Jam: (10) The West Virginia game was a toss-up, but 6–7 was a disappointment for this squad. Some soul searching will be done and Arizona St will be a force next year.
Berkelium97: (10) After giving up more than 1,350 yards in their final two games, Arizona State may be looking for a new defensive coordinator in addition to a new offensive coordinator.
Rob Hwang: (8) What. A. Fun Game. I don't think ASU realized they were playing WVU; they probably though they were playing Cal since it was the same uniforms.
Last week: 11
Leland Wong: (11) At least they won a conference game this year.
Sam Fielder: (11) The rebuild continues. Can they take another step forward in 2016?
boomtho: (11) At least they're not last!
Nick Kranz: (11) A grim reminder for those who have been impatient with Sonny Dykes that things could indeed be much worse.
atomsreareenough: (11) The Buffs are still bottom tier in the conference. Are they ever going to make a leap?
Nik Jam: (11) They have to improve sometime right? 2016 might be a good opportunity to make up ground with several teams dropping off.
Berkelium97: (11) It looks like Mac will return next season, although that probably doesn't matter much.
Rob Hwang: (11) At least they won one Pac-12 game?
Last week: 12
Leland Wong: (12) They got blown out in nearly all their conference games.
Sam Fielder: (12) Did they bottom out in 2015 or can they go lower?
boomtho: (12) Brutal first year for Coach Andersen.
Nick Kranz: (12) At least two years away.
atomsreareenough: (12) Oregon State had one of the worst years in recent memory, right up there with Cal's 2013 season. They'll be better next year, but by how much? Why did Gary Andersen take this job again?
Nik Jam: (12) Hopefully for them they pull a 2013–2014 Cal improvement instead of a Colorado-type basement-dwelling situation.
Berkelium97: (12) After losing DC Kalani Sitake to BYU, there is officially no hope for Oregon State next season.
Rob Hwang: (12) I'm rooting for them to make some progress next year.
Here are the votes from the twelve voters this week. One voter for each team in the conference because that's totally logical and we totally planned that.
Table 1. For the first time in 2016 and the final time this season, we've got the votes.
The numbers get computered and turned into averaged rankings for each team. Plus, getting computerlized also tells us how varied the responses were for each team based on their standard deviation, or the error bars in Figure 1.
Figure 1. The precisely-averaged rankings to close out the season with the error bars representing one standard deviation.
So, it more than totally sucks that Stanfurd is a clear and confident first place above all other teams. On the flip side, Oregon State is somehow not the unanimous basement despite going winless in conference match-ups this year. Beyond that, Figure 1 also reveals how conflicted we were about teams like Oregon & Utah (for actually/almost giving away big leads and being so dependent on star players) and Wash & USC (for being bipolar in a good and a bad way).
We can also chart out the precise rankings—like the ones in Figure 1—in another figure. Let's call that figure Figure 2 because stuff.
Figure 2. The precise rankings for the 2015 Pac-12 season.
Avert your eyes, Cal fans—this is the second-biggest lead Stanfurd has held all season, just barely less than that of Week 8. We don't really have definitive tiers for our postseason rankings like we've had in past season. It's almost as if we have Stanfurd at the top, Colorado and OSU at the bottom, and everyone else in the bottom; this isn't too hard to believe considering how much parity we saw in the conference this year with several teams having randomly good weeks followed spontaneously by bad weeks.
But for you traditionalists who believe in malarkey like all heteronormative and cisnormative marriages ending in the woman taking the man's name and nonsense like love being real and something for everyone in the world, then I've got a third graph—I supposed we could call it Figure 3—that charts out the rankings over time, but using the more conventional rankings like 3rd instead of 3.25th.
Figure 3. It's Figure 2, but in Bizarro World.
The official CGB-preferred takeaway from Figure 3 is our measure of Madness, which quantifies how much the teams moved up and down each week and cumulatively over the season.
|Change on week|
Table 2. My last opportunity to muse over that Muse song to the amusement of no one but myself—my own muse.
Despite some lolwut-y bowl results, this was a pretty quiet week; you can't even argue that it's due to two teams not playing since their spots were pretty locked-in for the majority of the season.
And with the season officially finished, we can crown Colorado as our Least Mad team of the season for being consistently poor; Oregon State's brief success after their season debut made it impossible for them to take the title. But still—due to schadenfreude—it's far more interesting to take a look at which team is the Maddest this year. And it's the same team as last year—USC! Most observers would agree that they've been so bipolar these past two years that this isn't much of a surprise; plus, I think Cal fans in particular like to be extra punishing to the Trojans for all of their slip ups. Sorry, DC Trojan.
With the season being all finished and junk, we can take a look at how much each team's final placement differs from our preseason perception.
Table 3. I don't usually go this far, but I'm making an exception this week because I think what we have is really special.
WSU was the big winner and ASU the big loser. Cal got a three-spot bump, thanks to outperforming the Arizona schools, but getting shown up by WSU (well, not in the head-to-head sense).
Well, I think I know when I've outstayed my welcome. And yet I continue to stay past that point because I'm annoying like that, but unfortunately, the end of the season means the end of my blabbering. And it also means no more taking Mondays off from the gym to put these posts together. So... bye?