Leland Wong: Fun fact: I improperly used the word “penultimate” as a freshman at Berkeley, completely unaware of what that prefix “pen” meant. One of the 417 mistakes I made during my time there.
As such, we find ourselves at the penultimate edition of the 2016 Pac-12 Power Rankings! (At least, for football. But it’s safe to assume that we won’t find anyone willing to volunteer to lead this for basketball.) Today, we’re here to rank the Pac-12 teams based on their performances—over the course of the regular season, but especially their regular-season finales.
boomtho: And another crap-tastic Cal season ends. Harrumph and good riddance. Maybe we’ll compete for a Rose Bowl next year…?
Nick Kranz: I think it’s worth reflecting on how many fan bases range between disappointed and deeply unhappy. I’m pretty sure UCLA, ASU, Arizona, and Oregon fans want to see new coaches. Cal fans might be there too. Exactly ONE Pac-12 head coach has been fired in the past four years! That’s pretty incredible, and seems unlikely to last.
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 ↔ (eight first-place votes)
Last week: 1
Berkelium97 (2): If I were a Husky, I’d be very relieved not to face USC in the title game.
boomtho (1): Awesome season for Chris Petersen and the Huskies. Now, they wait to see how the CFP can screw them out of a top-four spot…
Leland Wong (1): Another week, another all-around impressive performance on offense and defense, this week coming against a pretty good Wazzu squad. This school is genuinely terrifying.
Nick Kranz (1): Hoping the Huskies lose, otherwise this year might be the first year in a dynasty considering where the rest of the North is right now.
Nik Jam (1): I fully expect it to happen, but it would be shameful if they get screwed out of the playoff if they win Friday.
Ruey Yen (1): Please don’t screw things up by losing to Colorado (or just barely beating them) to miss out on the CFP. The rest of the Pac (mostly Cal) can use the payout.
Leland Wong: Please lose to Colorado. If there’s a god, six gods, or any gods.
2. Colorado Buffaloes ↗ (one first-place vote)
Last week: 3
Berkelium97 (1): Is Colorado the best team in the Pac-12? Maybe not, but I’m rewarding them for an improbable journey to the Pac-12 title game.
boomtho (2): I still think they’re a half-step below UW, but what a season for them. They had to fight to earn their last win to make it to the Championship Game. Hats off to them.
Leland Wong (2): The Buffaloes won on the strength of their defense and had a great turnaround to win the Pac-12 South. The offense was just a tad underwhelming, but they’ve had a great season and and a great division-clinching win to earn this spot.
Nick Kranz (2): I think Colorado has enough defense to turn the title game into an ugly, low-scoring affair that could go either way. But yeah, UW is a clear favorite. Go Buffs.
Nik Jam (2): Mad respect—may or may not be looking forward to seeing them in 2017 or 2018 at Memorial.
Ruey Yen (2): Colorado in 2016 is what Cal has been aspiring to be. Now, I foresee a potential controversy if they lose to UW (who goes to the playoffs) and USC gets the Rose Bowl bid.
3. USC Trojans ↘
Last week: 2
Berkelium97 (3): At least they won’t go to a Rose Bowl. What a depressing consolation.
boomtho (3): Usually with USC I go snarky, but honestly, I’m really impressed by the coaching and program building that Clay Helton did to keep the team together through a tough start and a QB change.
Leland Wong (3): A huge day all-around for the Trojans, thanks in large part to an inhuman performance by Adoree’ Jackson. The pass defense looked great against Notre Dame and Helton successfully pulled off a midseason turnaround.
Nick Kranz (3): For the nth year in a row USC will start next year as conference favorites. For the first time in a long time it might actually come true.
Nik Jam (3): Any reason to think 2017 will be the year?
4. Washington State Cougars ↔
Last week: 4
Berkelium97 (4): Two losses. Eight wins. Two losses. What an unexpectedly symmetrical season.
boomtho (5): In aggregate, a very successful season, but still a ton of missed chances for the Cougs. Pairing a prolific offense with a (gasp!) actual defense is a template that Sonny should try to emulate.
Leland Wong (5): After a phenomenal season, the newfound run game completely sputtered out, Luke Falk threw three picks, and the defense couldn’t stop a thing.
Nick Kranz (4): The bottom fell out when they finally faced upper-echelon teams in the conference, but still a solid year considering.
Nik Jam (4): At least they whooped Stanfurd. They’ll have that.
Ruey Yen (5): Is this the best case scenario for the Sonny Dykes regime in a few years? Wazzu came within a game of the Pac-12 Title game.
5. Utah Utes ↗
Last week: 6
Berkelium97 (5): Utah is turning into the Pac-12’s perpetual “There’s always next year…” team.
boomtho (4): The #teamchaos agent in me loves how our goal line stand basically eliminated their chance the South.
Leland Wong (4): The Utes just narrowly lost an utterly close game with the difference maker likely being that the lost the turnover battle, 4–2. Overall, they’ve had a great season, but it’s marred by two WTF losses to Cal and Oregon.
Nick Kranz (5): 8–4 feels about right, in that Utah had as many close wins as close losses. Just not enough offense to win against the good teams and pull away from the bad teams.
Nik Jam (5): Disappointing end to the season, but I’m sure the Sun or Vegas Bowl will be fun nonetheless. Jealous.
6. Stanfurd Cardinal ↘
Last week: 5
Berkelium97 (6): Larry Scott and the Pac-12 haven’t done much good this year, but not airing Saturday’s LSJU game was perhaps the crowning achievement of the Scott era. Bravo!
boomtho (6): They had a pretty bad year by most expectations, yet still finish 9–3. The jealousy is real and powerful.
Leland Wong (6): The Furd won’t be climbing my rankings too high due to their weak opposition, but their oft-ridiculed offense looked pretty sharp.
Nick Kranz (6): Slowly, but surely getting ever so slightly worse each year removed from Harbaugh. Hopefully Solomon Thomas and McCaffrey go away quick-like.
Nik Jam (6): They’ll probably reach 10 wins and frustrate me next month.
Ruey Yen (6): They are likely to win 10 games on a “down year”. Ugh, they really don’t deserve to be a football powerhouse.
7. Oregon State Beavers ↗
Last week: 10
Berkelium97 (7): Ending the season with a pair of wins should give the Beavers some hope going into next season. Gary Andersen may not turn the Beavs into Pac-12 contenders, but it looks like they’ll become a moderately competitive team that occasionally earns a bowl berth (that sounds like a certain Cal coach).
boomtho (7): Hey, congrats to the Beavers for winning a rivalry game despite not having a great year. That seems like a fun concept our coaches should consider implementing next year.
Leland Wong (7): A great win in the Civil War thanks to some solid offense, limiting Oregon on third down, and controlling the time of possession; however, the Beavers are mainly moving up the Rankings as beneficiaries of poor showings from other teams.
Nick Kranz (7): OSU is a quarterback away from being meaningfully competitive, but I’m skeptical that they have one on the roster.
Nik Jam (7): If I had any faith in Sonny, I’d look forward to having Oregon State be a fun, pesky conference rival again.
8. California Golden Bears ↗
Last week: 11
Berkelium97 (8): We didn’t finish last in the North! Contract extensions for everyone!
boomtho (8): Thanks to a very down year for the Pac-12, we finished 4th in the North, despite losing to OSU below us. This is probably a year that will look more fun five years down the road—Close games! Goal line stands!—but for now, the frustration remains.
Leland Wong (8): I’m tempering Cal’s win because of how tremendously impotent UC Los Angeles was. Still, Cal won a secondary-rivalry game and looked pretty solid in all phases of the game, which is a step up for the team.
Nick Kranz (8): I think I’m out of words for Cal Football 2016, except for this: Suck it, UCLA.
Nik Jam (8): It still feels wrong giving Cal the #8 spot… but then I remember how bad the four teams I ranked below them are. (Of course, #12 beat Cal)
Ruey Yen (7): Ending the season on a high note (and plenty of homerism) have me putting the Bears as the best of the worst.
9. Oregon Ducks ↘
Last week: 7
Berkelium97 (10): All the goodwill from last week’s win over Utah goes out the window with an embarrassing loss to Oregon State. Hey, that sounds familiar!
boomtho (9): I think it’s fitting I have them a spot below Cal, as the defense is what killed both teams. It sure seems like we’ve seen the last of Helfrich. Lane Kiffin, are you the next contestant on “Take Phil Knight’s Money”?
Leland Wong (11): The kind of loss that was emblematic of their season. The defense was just happy to let Ryan Nall run around at will.
Nik Jam (11): Curse the Ducks. Now the Cal Bears have the longest rivalry losing streak and it’s not even close.
10. Arizona Wildcats ↗
Last week: 12
Berkelium97 (9): It was a long, agonizing, injury-riddled season, but the Wildcats ended it on a high note by snapping an 8-game losing streak and ending ASU’s bowl hopes.
boomtho (10): Gotta be a really satisfying way to end the year, even though it was a very disappointing one overall.
Leland Wong (9): Must be great to end a struggling season with a 21-point win over your archrival. The run-first spread had a brilliant return to form, but the defense didn’t have a particularly great day.
Nik Jam (10): The bottom of the Pac-12 is so bad that one rivalry upset moves you up two spots on my list despite overall finishing 1–8.
11. Arizona State Sun Devils ↘
Last week: 8
Berkelium97 (12): ASU was 5–1 at one point. What a disaster.
boomtho (12): ASU was 5–1 against a paper-soft schedule and then the bottom fell out when they started to play decent teams
Leland Wong (10): And to think that last week, I said ASU was likely to be bowl-eligible. Oops… Arizona ran the ball about six times as often as they passed, but the ASU defense still couldn’t stop that RichRod run offense.
Nick Kranz (10): Allowed almost 30 more points than any other team has allowed to Arizona. If Todd Graham isn’t going to field a decent defense, what exactly is the point of employing him?
Nik Jam (12): Six-straight losses is the most in the league at the end of the season, so they deserve #12 for me.
12. UCLA Bruins ↘
Last week: 9
Berkelium97 (11): This team is hopelessly bad.
boomtho (11): It’s really hard to imagine that a team that has recruited this well, has what appears to be a pretty competent coaching staff, and didn’t play a backbreaker of a schedule could finish like this.
Leland Wong (12): I’ve been giving UC Los Angeles the benefit of the doubt all season because they didn’t have any bad losses, so I thought they might just be a quietly solid team. But under Mike Fafaul’s leadership, they really are just that bad.
Nick Kranz (11): I hadn’t really watched UCLA all season long and was simply shocked at how bad they were in pretty much every way. Wow.
Nik Jam (9): At least Sonny Dykes’s Cal teams don’t quit. Shameful performance on Saturday.
Ruey Yen (12): They are at the cellar for having quit before the game on Saturday.
We came up with these rankings by averaging out the individual rankings submitted by our moderately beloved crew of writers. The full list of our individual ranks is shown in the following table.
|Bk97||boomtho||Kevin||Leland||Nick Kranz||Nik Jam||Piotr||ragnarok||Ruey|
|11||UC L.A.||UC L.A.||UC L.A.||Oregon||UC L.A.||Oregon||UC L.A.||ASU||ASU|
|12||ASU||ASU||Arizona||UC L.A.||Arizona||ASU||ASU||UC L.A.||UC L.A.|
Reworking the rankings to use the mathematical rankings (coupled with error bars representing 1 standard deviation) gives the following precise rankings. Last week, we saw a big divide between the top and bottom halves of the conference, but a slight divide denoting a four-team basement. Three of those teams lost this week and the fourth team has been losing nonstop this year.
We can also track these precise rankings over the course of the season. ASU and UC Los Angeles have been flirting in this brilliant dance for the past three weeks, with UC Los Angeles earning the distinction of being the bottom for the past two.
Let’s be complete and chart the rounded rankings over the season. For the past four weeks, there’s been a clear divide between the six teams at the top and the six on the bottom. Unfortunately, Cal has only broken into that 50th percentile three times, with the last appearance being wayyy back in Week 5. Unsurprisingly, this split also designates teams with winning vs. losing records (both overall and in conference play); each half is also split equally with three North and three South teams.
Arizona State’s three-spot fall is just another step towards securing the title of Maddest team of the year, wrenching it from the grasps of the two-time winner, USC. The Trojans are just the third-Maddest team, with the Golden Bears in second. Despite being consistently bad to end the season, Cal started the year alternating between wins and losses, which was the main thrust behind their Madness campaign.
|Change on week|
Well, that’s all I’ve got for... who knows how long? We’ll be back in about a month when we’ll release our final rankings, encompassing bowl season and the year overall.
Until then—hooray, I can go back to having enough time to go to the gym on Monday nights!