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Pac-12 Power Rankings, Week 12: Imagine how excited they’ll be if they ever get to a single-digit rank!

In which the conference gets snapped in half as if it were a Slim Jim.

NCAA Football: Arizona at Oregon State Cole Elsasser-USA TODAY Sports

Leland Wong: You know what’s weird? (My face.) Writing about Cal Football while watching Cal Basketball. (Go Bears—beat the Aztecs!) It’s a strange, disjointedly complementary union. (Like getting super weepy when you hear love songs. Oh, is that just me?)

Regardless, we’re here to discuss Cal’s soul-crushing Big Game loss and other Pac-12 results. This cohort of CGBears is here to draft up our own Power Rankings, evaluating the teams by their season-long history and the latest game in particular.

We’ve only got eight voters today because the rest of us may still be curled up in a puddle of our own tears, longing after the Axe. Or maybe not.

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 ↔ (six first-place votes)

Fuck this school.

Last week: 1

Ruey Yen (1): An easy home win to keep their Pac-12 title hope alive. They are still my pick to win the Pac.

Leland Wong (2): Jake Browning had an off day… yet they still won big over a team that’s likely to be bowl-eligible thanks to their strong run game and absurd defense.

2. USC Trojans ↔ (two first-place votes)

Last week: 2

Berkelium97 (1): Hello darkness, my old friend…

Leland Wong (1): They get a bonus boost for a big win in their rivalry game. I have to imagine that would be a great feeling for the fanbase, since it’s been so long since we’ve had that experience.

Ruey Yen (3): I apparently am a holdout against giving the Trojans credit for turning their season around. To be fair, beating UCLA this year doesn’t mean too much (although I would obviously love for Cal to do that next week).

Nik Jam (2): The best team in the Pac-12 right now… but going to have to hope Utah helps them out. But that’s why you don’t embarrass yourself against Stanfurd. (Not that we can talk about that.)

3. Colorado Buffaloes ↗

Last week: 4

Berkelium97 (2): One win away from the Pac-12 Championship Game.

Leland Wong (3): The offense tallied over 600 yards and their defense held the Air Raid to a critical scoreless fourth quarter.

Nik Jam (2): I thought Washington State was better. Didn’t watch the game for obvious reasons, but props for proving me wrong.

4. Washington State Cougars ↘

Last week: 3

Ruey Yen (4): Cougs can still make the Pac-12 title game if they can win the Apple Cup next week. Losing at Colorado is an acceptable outcome in 2016.

Leland Wong (4): The Cougars shouldn’t take fourth place as an insult. They’ve played well all season (including this week’s loss) and are still in a good position this year.

5. Stanfurd Cardinal ↗

It's hideous, I know.

Last week: 6

Berkelium97 (5): I’m quite impressed at how David Shaw consistently gets 9 wins out of these woefully average teams.

Ruey Yen (6): Furdies manage to be a top-25 team even in a “down” year. Ugh.

Leland Wong (5): Having Christian McCaffrey return to form was pivotal for them to successfully hold the Axe hostage for another year. The offense overall looked pretty formidable—but you have the take the opposition into consideration.

Nik Jam (5): As Ruey said… if this is a “down year” for them, then I’m just really pessimistic they’ll ever have the kind of year that, say Oregon and Notre Dame, are having right now. And unfortunately the end of the Big Game drought for Cal may come down to Furd being bad rather than Cal being very good… It’s going to be a long next few years. (In addition to that whole new president thing… which one will come to a glorious end first?)

At least McCaffrey probably will leave, but losing big players hasn’t stopped them much before.

6. Utah Utes ↘

Last week: 5

Berkelium97 (6): For the third year in a row, the Utes will fall just short of winning the division.

Leland Wong (6): And for the second time this year, the Utes fall to a team they had no business losing to. I can’t believe I’m saying this about Utah, but the offense was actually fine… it was the defense that dropped the ball against a freshman quarterback.

7. Oregon Ducks ↗

Last week: 10

Berkelium97 (7): This win may have saved Mark Helfrich’s job.

Ruey Yen (10): Ducks may have pulled an upset at Utah, but I am still not convinced that they are that good. Oregon winning the Civil War is not a given, nor is Mark Helfrich’s job status.

Leland Wong (8): This isn’t to say the Ducks are that good either… but their roster still has some elite talent thanks to years of recruiting as a powerhouse. But an upset win is great and even better revenge after Utah utterly obliterated them in Autzen last year.

Nik Jam (8): When they played well defensively enough to win, that’s when I knew maybe Stanfurd’s offensive resurgence wasn’t just a result of Oregon being really bad, and that’s when I started to come to terms with the Big Game being a lost cause.

8. Arizona State Sun Devils ↔

Last week: 8

Berkelium97 (9): Remember when ASU was 5–1? That was in early October and they still haven’t reached bowl eligibility.

Leland Wong (7): The Sun Devils being this high is kind of a testament to how weak the conference is… They still have to be considered among the best of the bottom half of the conference because they’re one mere win away from a bowl—with the unreasonably bad Wildcats coming up.

Nik Jam (10): Quietly having a slump almost equal to Cal’s—both overshadowed by Arizona’s.

9. UCLA Bruins ↘

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

Last week: 7


Leland Wong (9): The same story all season—the Bruins just can’t move the ball as they were incapable of moving the ball for more than 300 yards and their replacement quarterback Mike Fafaul couldn’t complete half of his passes. They don’t have any particularly atrocious losses, but that’s offset by losing to their crosstown rivals.

Nik Jam (7): UCLA deserves to be the Vegas favorites over Cal… and the higher-ranked team in our Power Rankings. Still, I really think with home-field advantage, there is no excuse for Cal to not show up and take these bums down. This is still a coin flip in my opinion.

10. Oregon State Beavers ↗

Last week: 11

Berkelium97 (8): OSU vaults to the top of the bottom-dwellers in my ballot because 1) they won and 2) they’re the only bottom-dweller who has consistently been competitive over the past few weeks.

Leland Wong (10): I’m struggling with how to rank the Beavs… I originally had them at 11th, but I think Bk97 is right that they’ve fought hard enough to deserve better than being so low.

Nik Jam (10): Great win for them… I’m not as confident in them winning the Civil War as I used to be though. (Mainly because of how Oregon played.)

11. California Golden Bears ↘

Last week: 9

Berkelium97 (11): It’s looking more and more like the norm under Sonny Dykes is 4–5 wins.

Ruey Yen (9): It’s more or less a down year for the Pac-12, but the Golden Bears are still in the latter third of the conference. Silver lining for this being a relatively competitive Big Game?

Leland Wong (11): I’m giving them credit for staying close for half of the game, but that defense is uglier than the members of the Stanfurd Axe Committee.

Nik Jam (11): Yeah, body of work–wise, they’re not #11, but this is out of anger and emotion here. Disheartening efforts lately on defense. Sooner or later, injuries can’t be an excuse.

12. Arizona Wildcats ↔

Last week: 12

Berkelium97 (12): Not only did Arizona lose the battle to determine the Pac-12’s worst team, but they were blown out. This is probably the end for RichRod.

Leland Wong (12): Gotta agree with Nick that this should effectively kill any doubts about them being the worst team in the conference this year. Yeah, some teams lost their rivalry games (That’s coming next week for the Wildcats.), but they managed to make the Beavers’ offense look elite.

The data

Here’s a detailed look at how the eight of us individually ranked the conference:

Bk97 boomtho Kevin Leland Nick Kranz Nik Jam Piotr Ruey
1 USC Wash Wash USC Wash Wash Wash Wash
2 Colorado Colorado USC Wash Colorado Colorado USC Colorado
3 Wash USC Colorado Colorado USC USC Colorado USC
5 Stanfurd Stanfurd Stanfurd Stanfurd Stanfurd Stanfurd Stanfurd Utah
6 Utah Utah Utah Utah Utah Utah Utah Stanfurd
7 Oregon Oregon ASU ASU Oregon UC L.A. UC L.A. ASU
8 OSU OSU Oregon Oregon ASU Oregon ASU UC L.A.
9 ASU UC L.A. UC L.A. UC L.A. UC L.A. OSU Oregon Cal
11 Cal Cal OSU Cal Cal Cal Cal OSU
12 Arizona Arizona Arizona Arizona Arizona Arizona Arizona Arizona

We get the main rankings that were given above by calculating the mathematical averages of the responses for each team. We get the main rankings by converting those crisp averages to clunky and boring rounded numbers. So, let’s take a look at the precise values to see how closely ranked some of the teams are.

Figure 1. More blue is good because it’s up with the blue and gold.

The precise rankings show us that USC & Colorado and Oregon, ASU, and UC L.A. were nearly tied. Interestingly, the standard deviations (error bars) suggest that we’ve reached a relative consensus when it comes to the teams at the top of the conference. Five of the bottom six teams? We’re pretty conflicted...

Figure 2. I’d like a banana with that split. And with that terrible line.

But beyond standard deviations, I think the most fascinating observation from the precise rankings (Fig. 1 or 2) is the huge divide in the middle of the conference. It’s just yuge. While it’s true that we had a similar big divide in Week 2 (splitting the top nine and the bottom three), this week’s result is an even split between the top and bottom halves. The chasm is so wide that the precise rankings for Oregon—the 7th-ranked team—is an exact 8.000. That’s just how far they are from #6 (Utah, with a precise rank of 5.875). And it’s a pretty understandable split as the recent play from the top teams has been good enough that any of them could conceivably be a division winner, while the teams at the bottom feel like they aren’t playing well enough to be strongly favored over any other Pac-12 foe.

Figure 3. Disappearing divide.

Following the rounded rankings over time is... much less interesting this week. The big takeaway is that this is the lowest rankings for the Golden Bears since Week 7 and that we’ve been on a steady decline since Week 9.

The movement up and down Figure 3 has been tallied up down in the table below. We’ve got three teams that have boringly steady—and have single-digit Madness scores as a result. Meanwhile, ASU is pushing 30 and looks to be a lock for the Maddest team of 2016.

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 0 5
ASU 2 1 -1 3 -4 5 -3 1 -4 3 -1 0 28
Cal 2 -3 4 -2 2 -4 0 2 0 -1 -1 -2 23
Colorado 4 -1 1 1 2 -3 3 1 0 0 -1 1 18
Oregon 2 0 -3 -2 -2 -1 0 1 2 -2 0 3 18
OSU 1 -1 0 0 0 2 0 -1 0 0 0 1 6
Stanfurd 0 0 0 0 -2 -3 0 -3 3 0 0 1 12
UC L.A. -2 0 0 0 2 -6 0 0 -1 0 2 -2 15
USC -7 4 -2 -2 2 3 0 0 0 0 3 0 23
Utah 2 0 2 0 -3 3 0 -1 2 -2 -1 -1 17
Washington 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2
WSU -6 1 0 0 4 5 0 0 -2 2 -1 -1 22
Total Madness 29 12 13 11 26 35 7 10 14 10 10 12

It would be pretty tough for USC to surpass ASU and become the three-time Maddest Pac-12 team. Cal and Wazzu also have ASU in reach, but I don’t see that happening. No win over a struggling UC L.A. team would result in a big jump and a monumental case of Cougin’ it in the Apple Cup wouldn’t mean much when their opposition blows out everyone.