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Pac-12 Power Rankings, Week 9: Shaw’s emotive reaction totally belies Stanfurd moving up our list!

Our latest performance-based rankings have some... peculiar moves (or lack thereof) despite wins and losses.

NCAA Football: Stanford at Arizona Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Leland Wong: Everyone knows that college football and early November is a recipe for me making the laziest song reference in my arsenal. (Omg this album came out when I was a drowning undergrad at Berkeley.)

But no matter what point of the season it is, you can also bet on CGB releasing our Power Rankings! (That’s a lie.) The Power Rankings is our means of ranking the Pac-12 teams based on overall performance over the season with a little extra spice from the latest set of games. (Spoiler alert: I don’t think we did a good job of that this week.)

Nick Kranz: One important question for this week—how do you balance the season-long résumé that a team has built against the injuries that are starting to pile up around the conference? There are a few teams that arguably should be downgraded because their ability to perform is pretty severely diminished.

boomtho: Finally deep enough into the season where we should start to see less-dramatic swings week to week. As it has been for a while, it’s Washington… and then everyone else, with a huge gap in between.

The rankings

In the event of a tie, those teams are listed alphabetically. The parenthetical number next to each voter’s name is where they ranked that team.

1. Washington Huskies (9 first-place votes) ↔

Fuck this school.

Last week: 1

Nick Kranz (1): Still feel like they can be had on the road—the other big question, considering their future road games, is how well their defense is equipped to handle air-raid offenses.

Berkelium97 (1): Run defense remains their weakness, but they survived their toughest challenge to a playoff berth. The USC game is looking increasingly perilous, though…

boomtho (1): Utah is damn good, especially at home. Still, this has to give hope to Cal and other teams that will get UW at home.

Leland Wong (1): They’re so good in all phases of the game that it’s somehow boring, terrifying, and infuriating all at the same time.

2. Utah Utes ↗

Last week: 4

Nick Kranz (4): No coach wrings more wins out of his talent baseline than Whittingham, but they likely need to win out to take the South title now.

Berkelium97 (2): What if the Cal defense hadn’t mounted a miraculous, seven-play goal-line stand? What if the Pac-12 had called just one of those three blocks in the back in UW’s game-winning punt return? The difference between a playoff team and a Holiday Bowl team is heartbreakingly thin for the Utes.

boomtho (4): Really good, tough, competitive showing against UW. The Joe Williams story is really cool.

Leland Wong (2): They played the Pac-12’s top team close enough that I don’t think they should fall too far in the Rankings. Their defense forced QB Jake Browning to have a mediocre day, but of all possibilities, it was special teams that sealed the loss. So much for having an elite special teams squad.

3. Colorado Buffaloes ↔

Last week: 3

boomtho (2): Guess I have them at #2? Because of the bye? They’re firmly in that second tier with Utah, USC, and WSU though.

Leland Wong (3): The Buffs are still in a good position to secure the South and the bye week came at good time for a break before the closing stretch.

4. Washington State Cougars ↘

Last week: 2

Nick Kranz (5): A thoroughly lame performance that acted as a reminder that this team lost to Eastern Washington. Still, they only need to win home games against Arizona and Cal to ensure that the Apple Cup (in Pullman!) decides the North title.

Berkelium97 (5): In recent weeks, they’ve won by 5 against UCLA, 5 against ASU, and 4 against Oregon State. They haven’t Couged it yet, but with two more bottom feeders (Arizona, Cal) in the next two weeks, a Couging seems probable. If they manage to win those two, however, they’ll probably go on to beat Colorado and UW. Because Cougs.

boomtho (3): We all laughed when Leach had another early-season slump. Well, who’s laughing now…

Leland Wong (5): A down game given the recent success of the Cougars makes them fall slightly in our Rankings. Their resurgence was due to the development of their run game and defense, but those disappeared against Oregon State and they had to rely on their classic Air Raid to get the win.

5. USC Trojans ↔

Last week: 5

Nick Kranz (3): I don’t care that they lost to Utah—USC was the better team that day (and Helton’s decisions lost the game) and they’re playing even better football now.

Berkelium97 (3): I’m not ready to live in a world where USC is good again.

boomtho (5): I don’t watch USC regularly, but against Cal, it almost seems like what the coaches have to do is leave things simple (run the damn ball) and then let the players’ natural athleticism and talent advantages win out.

Leland Wong (4): Their early-season woes are fading more and more each week faster than my hopes for a happy life. The recent version of the Trojans—especially those who showed up last Thursday were scarier on offense than Twist in a scoop-neck coming in for a hug. (I can say this because I know Twist doesn’t read this shit.)

6. Stanfurd Cardinal ↗

It's hideous, I know.

Last week: 9

Nick Kranz (6): Christian McCaffrey appears healthy and the closing schedule is pretty soft. A 9–3 regular season is somehow still not out of the question.

Berkelium97 (6): There’s nothing like a game against Arizona to cure what ails your offense.

boomtho (6): Nice easy game for Keller Chryst to start with. Like most cynical Cal fans would have predicted, they appear to be rounding into form just in time for Big Game.

Leland Wong (6): Chryst had a pretty underwhelming debut, if I had to put it kindly. Still, with McCaffrey progressively recovering from injury, that’s all they need at quarterback.

7. California Golden Bears ↔

Last week: 7

Nick Kranz (7): This team and this season look so, so different with a win over Oregon State. As it is, they desperately need to get healthy or they’ll take a three-game losing streak into Big Game.

Berkelium97 (8): Injuries are mounting and bowl eligibility is becoming increasingly improbable.

boomtho (7): Definitely giving a bit of a homer adjustment to this week’s loss, given the schedule imbalance. One day we’ll beat USC… one day…

Leland Wong (9): Cal takes an extra bump for getting humiliated on national television, continuing to perpetuate the belief that we have no defense, and extending an absurd streak of futiliity against USC. Here’s to the hallowed Cal tradition of not just making one opposing player look like a superstar, but two.

8. Oregon Ducks ↘

Last week: 10

Nick Kranz (8): I’ll admit that I’m a little worried about Oregon after this season now that they appear to have solved their QB issue. Although maybe I should wait until Justin Herbert takes apart better defenses than Cal and ASU.

Berkelium97 (7): SEVEN HUNDRED THIRTY FOUR YARDS. Let’s see if they can replicate it against a tough upcoming stretch at USC, vs furd, and at Utah.

boomtho (8): For one week in an empty Autzen, Oregon Football was fun again.

Leland Wong (8): That Duck offense is good enough that bowl eligibility isn’t completely impossible anymore and I think the Oregon community has to be feeling great about the emergence of Herbert.

9. UC Los Angeles Bruins ↘

You are going to get banned if you don't compliment this logo right now.

Last week: 8

Nick Kranz (10): If Rosen ends up out for the season, UCLA could easily finish 4–8—will institutional inertia save Mora?

boomtho (9): Biggest Pac-12 surprise of the season for me, despite the Rosen injury issues. I really thought they had a ton of talent and Mora was a high-floor coach.

Leland Wong (7): It sounds like the bye week isn’t enough to help the Bruins get healthy as Rosen may need some more time to heal from his nerve injury.

10. Arizona State Sun Devils ↘

Last week: 6

Nick Kranz (9): I thought they actually played reasonably against the Ducks considering their QB situation, but they’re in a bad place right now.

Berkelium97 (8): Why are they so bad on the road?

boomtho (11): Probably have them too low, but pretty disappointing loss to Oregon. It’s helpful to see their results against real teams now vs. the early schedule.

Leland Wong (11): The Sun Devils are struggling immensely thanks to injuries to two quarterbacks. To make matters worse, the defense couldn’t stop Oregon passing or rushing the ball.

11. Oregon State Beavers ↔

Last week: 11

Nick Kranz (11): A warning to Oregon and Arizona: OSU is just barely good enough to be a threat to teams when they play at home.

Berkelium97 (11): I’m not sure if it was due to the zombie beaver painted at midfield or what, but this is a surprisingly pesky team at home.

boomtho (10): This loss has to hurt. They had a really good chance to knock off a good WSU team at home.

Leland Wong (10): Considering how poorly their season started, going toe-to-toe with a formidable Cougars team is a pretty big win for the Beavers—and they did it all without starting QB Darell Garretson.

12. Arizona Wildcats ↔

Last week: 12

Nick Kranz (12): Allowed Stanfurd to score multiple offensive touchdowns and should feel great shame as a consequence.

Berkelium97 (12): This team is turrible. Can RichRod survive this?

boomtho (12): I definitely haven’t followed Arizona closely, but this is baffling to me. Rich Rod, I thought, is a pretty good coach. What is going on?

Leland Wong (12): I know that RichRod is all about the run-first spread, but seriously—they connected on 5 of 20 passes. I should be a little more empathetic because they’ve been forced to play WR Samajie Grant at RB, but the lack of passing game and the utter ineptitude from their alleged new-look and improved defense are just unforgivable.

The data

First things first, let’s take a look at how every contributor voted. For the record, our votes may have been influenced by the lovely views of Lake Tahoe we were basking in at Twist’s palatial second home.

benwemer Bk97 boomtho Kevin Leland Nick Kranz Nik Jam Piotr ragnarok
1 Wash Wash Wash Wash Wash Wash Wash Wash Wash
2 Colorado Utah Colorado Utah Utah Colorado WSU WSU Utah
3 Utah USC WSU WSU Colorado USC Colorado Utah Colorado
4 USC Colorado Utah Colorado USC Utah Utah Colorado WSU
6 Stanfurd Stanfurd Stanfurd Stanfurd Stanfurd Stanfurd Stanfurd Stanfurd Stanfurd
7 Oregon Oregon Cal UC L.A. UC L.A. Cal UC L.A. Cal UC L.A.
8 Cal ASU Oregon Cal Oregon Oregon Oregon UC L.A. Cal
9 ASU Cal UC L.A. Oregon Cal ASU Cal Oregon Oregon
12 Arizona Arizona Arizona Arizona Arizona Arizona Arizona Arizona Arizona

Those numbers get all compulated to give the overall rankings listed above. And that’s a great ending spot for other blogs (I’m looking at you, Uncle Ted.), but this is the California Golden Blogs. (These are the California Golden Blogs?) We excel at generating content out of nothing, so we found a way to make this post even longer.

We take the precise averages that each team scored and squeeze it for any remaining droplet of information. And of course they turned to the ex–grad student, who has experience in drawing conclusions our of a lack of data. Thus, Figure 1 shows the precise, averaged scores of each team; the range of responses that each team received is also captured in the error bars. (“Captured” in this context seems very business-speak, so I got skills in academia and industry. Holla.)

And immediately, I’d like to draw your attention to aforementioned meaningless data. (Which is actually kind of difficult to discern in a figure and I would be better served if I provided a table with just the averages.) Five of the twelve teams have average scores that were perfect integers—Washington, Colorado, Stanfurd, Cal, and Arizona. That’s nearly half the conference and is an utterly meaningless observation. Butttt I do think one meaningful conclusion that we can draw from this more in-depth data (which I discuss nearly every week, as my six regular readers have noticed) is just how close Utah–Colorado and Cal–Oregon–UC L.A. are. When you simply round the numbers, you lose this kind of information as it would appear to be a gap between these schools. They say that numbers don’t lie, but clearly numbers are treacherous minxes. (I probably should have preceded that with a trigger warning there.)

Figure 1. Taller bars are better because short things have no reason to live.

When we follow these precise rankings over time (Make sure your following distance is far enough for the pepper spray to be effectively ineffective.), we see that Colorado and Utah have been in a hotly-contested near-tie for the past two weeks, with the two schools swapping who’s on top. (Sexy! I’d imagine that what sexings is like. I wouldn’t actually know.) Based on the likelihood that their “rivalry” game at the end of the season may decide the South AS WELL AS THIS OBSERVATION FROM OUR IMMENSELY IMPORTANT POWER RANKINGS, it’s looking like the Rumble in the Rockies will realistically revert to a rivalry.

Figure 2. That stability at the top of the chart is annoying.

But we can also take a look at the season-long trends with the averaged values, which highlights some interesting non-trends. Utah took a three-spot jump for a close loss with that accursed top team (but Figure 2 shows that it was really a minor bump in the numbers). WSU actually fell two spots for a close win over an impotent Oregon State. By the way, Oregon State beat Cal earlier in the season; this week, that Cal squad got obliterated by USC on national TV, but didn’t fall in the average rankings and only had a slight drop in the precise numbers. Said dominant team—USC—also held steady. Stanfurd had a closer win over a worse team, but took a pretty big leap.

There was probably a little bit of homerism in the Cal ranking, but beyond that, I’m not sure if I agree with how the groupthink rewarded/penalized teams for wins/losses this week, but there’s a reason why this is a group-driven list and not dictated solely by me. (Because I have very little football knowledge and am endlessly swamped with so many people depending on me and begging for my company.)

Figure 3. It’s like Figure 2. But different.

The very very last drop of content that we choke out of those votes is the Madness—our homebrewed quantification of the volatility of teams over the season. Our two-year reigning champion as Maddest team is USC, but look at how steady they’ve held since Week 6! (That trendline in Fig. 3 is flatter than Elliot Reid’s butt. And yes, I just made a reference to a show that ended in 2009. And no, I don’t know what you’re referring to when you say “actual final season featuring med students that aired from 2009–2010.”)

And thus, we now have a new frontrunner for Maddest team! Arizona State, come on down! Can USC crack under Coach Helton to reassert their Madness?

Change on week
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 Post Team's Madness
Arizona 0 -1 0 1 -2 0 -1 0 0 5
ASU 2 1 -1 3 -4 5 -3 1 -4 24
Cal 2 -3 4 -2 2 -4 0 2 0 19
Colorado 4 -1 1 1 2 -3 3 1 0 16
Oregon 2 0 -3 -2 -2 -1 0 1 2 13
OSU 1 -1 0 0 0 2 0 -1 0 5
Stanfurd 0 0 0 0 -2 -3 0 -3 3 11
UC L.A. -2 0 0 0 2 -6 0 0 -1 11
USC -7 4 -2 -2 2 3 0 0 0 20
Utah 2 0 2 0 -3 3 0 -1 2 13
Washington 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 2
WSU -6 1 0 0 4 5 0 0 -2 18
Total Madness 29 12 13 11 26 35 7 10 14

There’s some potential for Madness this week if we see upsets or underwhelming performances in trap games (WSU–OSU) or games with teams on the rise (Oregon–USC). Either way, come check out next week’s Power Rankings to see how the teams do! (And because I determine my self-worth for the next three days based on page views. Please help.)