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Pac-12 Power Rankings, Week 11: Evil vs. Eviler. Who takes #1?

An upset over the #1 team might mean we have a new #1 team.

USC v Washington Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Leland Wong: Welcome to the Pac-12 Power Rankings! We’re ranking the Pac-12 teams based on their overall performance this year as well as their play during the past week. As you know, it was a pretty significant week. For football action only, of course.

boomtho: As a general rule, this week (and I can’t really explain why!) I switched from over-indexing on weekly results to considering the fuller body work. This will reflect, for example, why UW is still #1 and USC may not have climbed as much in my ballots as others.

Berkelium97: These are dark times, my friends. Cal has been blown out for the third consecutive week, USC looks like one of the Pac’s best teams, the furd offense is running at full strength, and Donald Trump is President-elect. These are dark times, indeed.

Nick Kranz: UW, WSU, Stanfurd, USC, Colorado and Utah are a combined 27–1 against Cal, Oregon, Oregon State, UCLA, Arizona, and Arizona State. How many games teams have (or haven’t) played against top half opponents impacts my Power Rankings.

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 ↔ (five first-place votes)

Fuck this school.

Last week: 1

boomtho (1) They’re still in the playoff hunt. They still control their own destiny. Still have the best body of work over the whole season. That’s why they’re still my #1 team.

Berkelium97 (3): I’d like to know what Rod Gilmore thinks about how this will affect their playoff chances.

Nick Kranz (1): Odd that their loss might end up being rather meaningless. The Huskies still have everything to play for.

Leland Wong (2): Despite losing a big game (thank god), they’re still a force to be reckoned with. All around, it was a bad day for them (haha) as the offense struggled to do anything and the defense couldn’t stop Sam Darnold.

Nik Jam (3): I can still see them going 12-–1… but then again I expected an easy win for them yesterday.

Ruey Yen (1): I still think the Huskies will win the Pac. They will also be in the mix for a playoff spot but probably be left out, because we can’t have nice things in the Pac.

2. USC Trojans ↗ (three first-place votes)

Last week: 5

boomtho (3): Boy, USC is playing really, really good football right now. Nice job by Helton, the staff, and the players to keep improving after the tough start. My hot take: Sam Darnold is way better than Jake Browning.

Berkelium97 (1): This cannot be happening.

Nick Kranz (2): How about that—maybe Clay Helton IS a replacement-level head coach.

Leland Wong (1): Thank you, USC. They toppled the #1 team and have been on a 6–0 streak. It’s getting harder and harder to keep holding their opening-season woes against them.

Ruey Yen (3): They are the hottest team in the Pac right now, but I would favor UW in a potential Pac-12 title game rematch.

3. Washington State Cougars ↘ (two first-place votes)

Last week: 2

boomtho (2): Cougin’ it: a comfortable, wire-to-wire win vs. an overmatched conference opponent. 2016 is goddamn weird.

Berkelium97 (2): I’d have been just as happy if ESPN decided not to show the second half and instead gave us two more hours of Mike Leach walking to work, ordering coffee, and playing with his pirate decorations.

Nick Kranz (4): I think it’s worth noting that Wazzu still has only played one team from the top half of the conference—Stanfurd, in the middle of their mid-season swoon. It gets real fast, with a road trip to the Rockies before UW comes calling.

Leland Wong (5): I feel bad ranking them this low when they’re a much better team, but they beat up on an average team turned terrible due to injuries and will forever be haunted by that FCS loss.

Nik Jam (1): The only undefeated team in the Pac-12. That means something to me, even though it seems like no one else will have them at #1. Colorado and Washington will be by far their toughest competition, though.

Ruey Yen (2): I am not giving them that much credits for their dominant win over Cal. Nevertheless, the Cougs do control their own destiny.

4. Colorado Buffaloes ↘

Last week: 3

boomtho (4): Just like everyone predicted, the South is a battle between Utah, USC, and… the Buffs. Props to Mac, as his team continued their momentum with an expected yet still solid win in the desert.

Berkelium97 (4): These next two weeks are going to be fun.

Nick Kranz (3): Two wins in the friendly mountain confines of Boulder away from an improbable division title.

Leland Wong (4): This is the best compromise I have for a team that played weak opposition, but whose only losses have come to one-loss Michigan and USC. I could see them anywhere between third and fifth, just depending on how much I want to weigh the latest game vs. their body of work.

Ruey Yen (5): I can’t help but to be a bit jealous of Colorado’s turnaround. Why can’t Cal do the same in the near future?

5. Utah Utes ↘

Last week: 4

boomtho (5): How mad must Coach Whittingham be that they dropped the game vs. us??

Berkelium97 (5): They have, by far, the easiest path to the Pac-12 South title.

Nick Kranz (5): Funny—in terms of conference title implications, I think their game against Oregon is entirely meaningless. *Ed. note: Not true - Nick is bad at math. Will be interesting to see how they approach it.

Leland Wong (3): Among the teams that I have in this cluster, Utah had a great all-around performance and against the best opponent, so they get to be top in this class.

Ruey Yen (4): Utes are very much in the mix for the South title. How did Cal beat them this year (which feels more distant in the past)?

6. Stanfurd Cardinal ↔

It's hideous, I know.

Last week: 6

boomtho (6): OF COURSE they seem to be rounding into form and regaining their offensive spark (aka Christian McCafferey) right before the play us. OF COURSE.

Berkelium97 (6): Looks like the furd running game is primed to run for 400 in the Big Game.

Nick Kranz (6): I cannot abide by another loss to this team.

Ruey Yen (6): Stanfurd has turned things around, unfortunately.

7. UCLA Bruins ↗

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

Last week: 9

boomtho (7): For one week, Mora breathes a sigh of relief. They’ll have to beat the Trojans next week and us the week after, to salvage a bowl. Is that what it will take to keep Mora safe?

Berkelium97 (7): Mora avoids what would have likely been a tenure-ending sixth consecutive loss. Fortunately for us, their bowl eligibility should evaporate next week, giving the Bruins nothing to play for on Thanksgiving weekend. (Of course, a Big Game loss would put us in the same boat.)

Nick Kranz (8): Thanks, BK97, for conjuring an entirely plausible scenario for the most forgettably sad pre-Thanksgiving rivalry game.

Leland Wong (8): It’s so easy to have the Bruins down on the Rankings since they’re 4–6, but five of those six losses were by only one score (with the exception being 10 points to Colorado). Shockingly, they somehow managed to develop a run game against the Beavers to compensate for struggles from their backup-turned-starting QB, Mike Fafaul.

Ruey Yen (7): Bruins have had their issues, but they are certainly going to be the slightly favored over Cal next week.

8. Arizona State Sun Devils ↘

Last week: 7

boomtho (8): Utah is really good, so it’s not a big surprise they lost big… a bit more surprising that it was at home though.

Berkelium97 (8): They surrendered a sack on one play when Utah rushed two defenders. ASU has plummeted from mediocre to terrible.

Nick Kranz (7): SOMEBODY has to be 7th in these rankings, and I picked ASU because they’re 2-1 against everybody else in the bottom 6. But they’re still really bad, don’t get me wrong.

Leland Wong (7): ASU got their starting quarterback back! But with a box score like this, I’d hate to see how badly they’d have done without him. Still, at least bowl-eligibility is likely for them, which makes them the best of the bottom-half of the conference.

9. California Golden Bears ↘

Last week: 8

boomtho (9): The last two weeks have really exposed the giant gulf in quality between us and the top tier teams in the league.

Berkelium97 (9): There is something wrong with this offense. And defense. And special teams.

Nick Kranz (9): You could probably justify placing Cal 11th if you were heavily weighting recent performance and injuries.

Leland Wong (9): It was a terrible showing for the defense and even the famed offense struggled. Still, their four wins is more than the teams below them have.

Nik Jam (9): The Big Game relegated to the Pac-12 Network. How the mighty have fallen.

Ruey Yen (9): Generally, you expect a team to get better as the season progresses, but injuries (both the obvious ones and probably some undisclosed ones) have stunted growth of this team.

10. Oregon Ducks ↔

Last week: 10

Boomtho (10): Giving up 52 to a previously punchless Stanfurd team might be the final straw that sends Helfrich packing.

Berkelium97 (10): Hello darkness, my old friend...

Leland Wong (10): Their defense managed to make Keller Chryst look good.

11. Oregon State Beavers ↔

Last week: 11

boomtho (11): They’re certainly better this year (as we well know), but their final record will still end up being pretty sad.

Berkelium97 (11): They may not be winning games this season, but they’ve looked much more competitive than their fellow basement-dwellers in recent weeks.

Nick Kranz (11): I could totally see OSU finishing the season off with two straight wins. And if they finish above Cal in the Pac-12 North standings I will be... displeased.

Nik Jam (10): I have them at 10 because their next two opponents are Arizona and Oregon and this is my way of saying I expect them to win both.

12. Arizona Wildcats ↔

Last week: 12

boomtho (12): Dreadful season for RichRod continues. Poor guy didn’t even get to play us!

Berkelium97 (12): The Wildcats haven’t scored more than 30 points in two months. Highlighting how far this team has fallen, only once in RichRod’s tenure had this team failed to score 30+ in consecutive games.

Nick Kranz (12): No matter what else happens between now and then, at least I know that Cal has a home game against Arizona next season to look towards.

Leland Wong (12): They found one good takeaway from this season—Samajie Grant is pretty good at running back.

The data

Here’s how precisely your esteemed crew of 10 CGB writers voted:

benwemer Bk97 boomtho Kevin Leland Nick Kranz Nik Jam Piotr ragnarok Ruey
1 Wash USC Wash USC USC Wash WSU Wash WSU Wash
3 WSU Wash USC WSU Utah Colorado Wash WSU Wash USC
4 Colorado Colorado Colorado Utah Colorado WSU Colorado Utah Utah Utah
5 Utah Utah Utah Colorado WSU Utah Utah Colorado Colorado Colorado
6 Stanfurd Stanfurd Stanfurd Stanfurd Stanfurd Stanfurd Stanfurd Stanfurd Stanfurd Stanfurd
9 Cal Cal Cal Oregon Cal Cal Cal Cal Cal Cal
10 Oregon Oregon Oregon Cal Oregon Oregon OSU Oregon Oregon Oregon
12 Arizona Arizona Arizona Arizona Arizona Arizona Arizona Arizona Arizona Arizona

We take the mathematical average for each team and assign the corresponding integer values to those teams accordingly to give the list above. Which is great and all! Look at that, USC soared from 5th to 2nd, nearly reaching the summit after beating the conference’s last undefeated team! It’s a feel-good story!


There’s a little more to this story beyond the surface. Rather than relying on those integers, studying those precisely calculated averages can reveal some more information. In fact, we see that USC finished just a hair shy of tying for first—0.100 points. Beyond that, we’ve got another near-tie for fourth place to give us a little preview of the Rumble in the Rockies—Colorado and Utah are also separated by a mere 0.100 points. These 0.100 margins make the difference between UC L.A. and ASU—0.200 points—seem like a gulf.

Figure 1. Oooooh look at all those near-ties.

Tracking these precisely-calculated averages over the course of the season, we see that Colorado and Utah have been deadlocked in near-ties since Week 8! I know that both of those teams and fanbases are avid readers, so I know we’re doing our part to intensify the Rumble in the Rockies and make it an actual rivalry this year. Plus, I think these two teams are a little peeved that they aren’t closer to that upper tier.

Figure 2. Sooooo close to the first new #1 since Week 5.

Getting rid of that drama-induced precision... er... let’s call it “peeling away that extra layer of information”... is pretty boring this week. Five of the teams simply held steady this week, which tends to happen now that we have a season worth of performances to assess.

Figure 3. Sooooo much less drama in this view! Which is great if you hate drama. And terrible if you love information.

Said boring teams have a low, uneventful Madness score. On the other hand, USC was clearly motivated when we declared last week that their four weeks of steady play resulted in them surrendering their two-year title as Maddest team of the Pac-12—they responded with a big upset win and a three-spot rise. That was the biggest move this week and a significant step towards regaining that title from ASU.

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 0 0 5
ASU 2 1 -1 3 -4 5 -3 1 -4 3 -1 28
Cal 2 -3 4 -2 2 -4 0 2 0 -1 -1 21
Colorado 4 -1 1 1 2 -3 3 1 0 0 -1 17
Oregon 2 0 -3 -2 -2 -1 0 1 2 -2 0 15
OSU 1 -1 0 0 0 2 0 -1 0 0 0 5
Stanfurd 0 0 0 0 -2 -3 0 -3 3 0 0 11
UC L.A. -2 0 0 0 2 -6 0 0 -1 0 2 13
USC -7 4 -2 -2 2 3 0 0 0 0 3 23
Utah 2 0 2 0 -3 3 0 -1 2 -2 -1 16
Washington 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 2
WSU -6 1 0 0 4 5 0 0 -2 2 -1 21
Total Madness 29 12 13 11 26 35 7 10 14 10 10

If USC wants to wrest that distinction from ASU, then a big upset loss for the Victory Bell next week would be a sure-fire way to accomplish that!