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Pac-12 Football Power Rankings: Can Colorado break into the top half?

The 2–0 Buffaloes vie for their highest Power Ranking ever.

NCAA Football: Idaho State at Colorado Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Leland Wong: I know you know what time it is because your heart skipped a beat with excitement—let’s Power Rank! The Power Rankings is a feature where various CGB writers congregate in our palatial command center to rate the Pac-12 teams by overall strength with a close eye on the most recent game. So of course this means studying game film and poring over stats.

Berkelium97: I didn’t watch a minute of Pac-12 football this week, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Leland Wong: Well, without further ado, let’s unveil the rankings. The parenthetical name next to each voter lists how he ranked that team.

The rankings

1. Stanfurd Cardinal (8 first-place votes) ↔

It's hideous, I know.

Last week: 1

Leland Wong (1): No one’s done enough to unseat the (diabolical and haughty) kings yet and a bye week before they start conference play should do nothing but help them.

Ruey Yen (1): I think I might have gotten brainwashed by the number of Stanfurd memorabilia and stuff at the College Football Hall of Fame this past weekend in Atlanta such that I am actually believing them to be a real college football program. That’s a cool museum, by the way.

boomtho (1): Sigh.

2. Washington Huskies (3 first-place votes) ↔

Fuck this school.

Last week: 2

Piotr T Le (1): They continue to dominate opposing teams the way we expect them to perform. Until the winds change on this team, they will remain my #1 pick for the power rankings.

Leland Wong (3): I was actually skeptical that the offense would match the preseason hype, but they’re starting to prove me wrong. Ugh.

Ruey Yen (3): Expected result, but still impressive nonetheless.

atomsareenough (1): Everything seems on track for the Huskies.

boomtho (2): Impressive offensive display, though I’m skeptical Browning & Co. can do it against better teams. Playing 60 minutes against that defense seems really unfun.

Berkelium97 (2): Is it September 30th yet?

3. Oregon Ducks ↔

Last week: 3

Leland Wong (2): Virginia doesn’t exactly have the most productive offense in this still-early season, but kudos to the much-maligned Oregon pass defense for holding Virginia to completing only ~50% of their passes and getting 6 sacks.

Ruey Yen (5): Beating UVA didn’t change my view of the Ducks at all. They are still an okay team on this down year.

atomsareenough (6): They beat Virginia, but I don’t think the Ducks are at all elite this year.

boomtho (3): They’re 3rd almost by default since they’re 2–0 and the LA schools are 1–1. However, they’re certainly more vulnerable than in years past. So, what’s going to definitely happen is Cal fans will be optimistic before they run us out of the stadium and we lose by 20.

4. UC Los Angeles Bruins ↔

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

Last week: 4

Piotr T Le (4): Above USC because of their better loss against A&M vis-a-vis the emasculation USC had at Jerry World.

Ruey Yen (2): They are still my pick to win the Pac.

atomsareenough (7): They finally pulled away from UNLV, but it feels like this team is still figuring itself out.

boomtho (5): Not a super impressive win as they’re clearly still developing their team identity. Mora can’t be thrilled with the slow start, but I expect them to turn the corner quickly. I have them above USC since I think their close loss vs. A&M is ever so slightly more impressive than the blowout loss to Alabama.

Nick Kranz (4): Won a meaningless game and Texas A&M didn't play anybody, so we really don't know any more about this team than we did last year.

5. Utah Utes ↔

Last week: 5

Piotr T Le (5): Barely escaped BYU on the last play of the game. They are undefeated, but still haven’t shown enough to leap above UC Los Angeles.

Ruey Yen (6): Was going to say that beating BYU was impressive, but then again, BYU barely got by Arizona.

atomsareenough (3): Beating your blood rival, no matter the score, always provides a lift.

boomtho (6): I can’t even imagine how satisfying it would be to beat your rival, at home, with a defensive stand on the last play of the game. 2009 Big Game gets pretty close though!

Berkelium97 (5): The defense looks good, but the offense is shaky. Still, that should be good enough for at least 4 or 5 wins in the Pac-12 South.

Nick Kranz (5): I don't think anybody is super impressed with Utah's hideous win over BYU, but it's still a win and BYU is still a decent team.

6. USC Trojans ↗

Last week: 10

Ruey Yen (9): They beat Utah State as expected, but other schools had a better week.

atomsareenough (8): Solid win against Utah State, but I don’t know if it’s enough to wash the opening game beat down out of their mouths just yet. They’re better than #8, but that’s where they are for now on my ballot.

boomtho (5): Biggest thing for them was seeing the offense put up points. That should give them some confidence as the schedule turns tougher.

Berkelium97 (8): A great win over what’s usually a solid Utah State team. We should find out much more about USC this weekend.

7. Arizona State Sun Devils ↗

Last week: 8

Ruey Yen (8): I hope the Cal at ASU game in a couple of weeks will be as exciting as this Texas Tech–ASU game… but with ASU losing, of course.

atomsareenough (4): I expected Texas Tech would put up a crapton of points. I did not expect that ASU would put up even more.

boomtho (8): I’m really impressed/surprised that ASU was able to put up 68 points in a game. Outscoring TTU by 13 is really impressive for a team that entered the season with question marks on offense.

Berkelium97 (2): Like a Phoenix rising from Arizona, the Sun Devils have climbed many spots with a win over a solid Power 5 team. That’s arguably the best opponent the Pac-12 has beaten this year.

Nick Kranz (7): Your reminder that Todd Graham is nominally a defensively minded head coach.

8. Colorado Buffaloes ↘

Last week: 9

Leland Wong (8): You should never read too much into a win over an FCS school, but after so many years at the bottom of the Pac-12, the Buffaloes have gotta be feeling great after a blowout that was 56–0 when there was 2 minutes left in the game. Especially when you have utterly silly stats like holding the Idaho State offense to under 100 yards—less than the length of the field!

Ruey Yen (7): I am surprised how high I have the Buffs in this ranking. Have they really turned the program around?

atomsareenough (5): I don’t actually think the Buffs are good, but for a change, Colorado fans don’t really have much to complain about yet. They’re ⅓ of the way to bowl eligibility!

boomtho (8): It’s Idaho State, so I’m definitely not anointing them as world beaters yet… but they’re 2–0 and are putting up lots of points. I’m genuinely happy for Buffs fans as they’ve been through a lot. They seem to have come a long way since year 1 under Mac, a.k.a. LOLORADO.

Berkelium97 (7): Two blowout victories. Enjoy the high while it lasts, Buffs!

Nick Kranz (6): Might be the biggest paper tiger in the conference, but when everybody else is either losing games and playing down to bad opponents, winning big is a virtue.

9. California Golden Bears ↘

Last week: 6

Piotr T Le (9): Ugh. No, Bears, no. This is going to be one of THOSE seasons for us.

Ruey Yen (4): There were some improvements over the first week, but the lack of execution really hurt us. Davis Webb’s inability to find open receivers down the stretch really dashed my previously (unrealistic) dream of the Bears winning every shootout.

atomsareenough (9): Was it exciting? Sure, but it was also frustrating as hell. If your team identity is on offensive execution, then you can’t have the kinds of mistakes we had. And if you know the other team is going to run, run, run, then you have to be able to at least slow them down and not allow nearly 10 yards per carry to their star running back.

boomtho (10): Totally winnable game despite Pumphrey running wild… which makes the fact that we didn’t win that much more disappointing. I sadly think this was a game we had to have to get bowl-eligible.

Berkelium97 (9): At least Cal will be fun to watch all season. The Cal–ASU game should be absolute madness.

Nick Kranz (9): If SDSU were in the Pac-12, I think I'd slot them between Utah and Colorado, for whatever that's worth.

10. Arizona Wildcats ↘

Last week: 9

Piotr T Le (11): Being down against Grambling State until the 3rd quarter is an embarrassment to the Wildcats program.

Ruey Yen (10): I was personally relieved to see that the Wildcats did not embarrass the Pac by losing to Grambling State.

atomsareenough (12): Grambling kept it close. Grambling. That’s a pretty garbage performance by a Pac-12 team.

boomtho (10): Yeesh, at least they beat Grambling, though that game was so much closer than anyone had a right to expect. Least convincing win of the week by far though.

Berkelium97 (12): Grambling is not a good FCS team, yet they were on their way to a victory until the starting QB was injured. Is that the Tuscon heat or is RichRod’s seat getting pretty toasty?

Nick Kranz (11): Struggling with Grambling is significantly more embarrassing than losing a close game to Minnesota.

11. Washington State Cougars ↗

Last week: 12

Piotr T Le (10): If there is one team I am more disappointed with than Cal, it’s WSU. So much potential being squandered away.

Ruey Yen (11): I moved them up a spot because they showed the potential to be a better and actually good team. Kind of like last year.

atomsareenough (11): So close. The Cougs made a game of it with Boise, but 0–2 with Pac-12 play still to come is not a good spot to be in for a team that was expected to contend.

boomtho (11): Really good fight for the Cougars, but this is a really tough start for the team to contend with after the success they had last year.

Berkelium97 (11): They were probably hoping to be better than the 3rd-best team in the Palouse this year.

Nick Kranz (12): Is there something about the Air Raid that dooms teams to play high stakes shoot outs against every team regardless of quality?

12. Oregon State Beavers ↘

Last week: 11

atomsareenough (10): No game for the Beavs. They might float up due to other teams’ incompetence though.

boomtho (12): Won the bye! They get a nice tune-up game vs. Idaho State (which will be an interesting comparison point for them vs. Colorado) before a tough one vs. Boise State.

The data

In case you can’t count cards and weren’t able to track all of the votes from the body of the article, they’re compiled here:

atoms benwemer Bk97 boomtho KWBears Leland Nick Kranz Nik Jam Piotr ragnarok Ruey
1 Wash Wash Stanfurd Stanfurd Stanfurd Stanfurd Stanfurd Stanfurd Wash Stanfurd Stanfurd
2 Stanfurd Stanfurd ASU Wash Oregon Oregon Wash Wash Stanfurd Utah UC L.A.
3 Utah Oregon Wash Oregon Wash Wash Oregon Oregon Oregon Wash Wash
4 ASU USC Oregon UC L.A. USC USC UC L.A. Utah UC L.A. Oregon Cal
5 Colorado UC L.A. Utah USC UC L.A. UC L.A. Utah UC L.A. Utah Colorado Oregon
6 Oregon Utah UC L.A. Utah Utah Utah Colorado USC USC UC L.A. Utah
7 UC L.A. ASU Colorado Colorado ASU ASU ASU Colorado ASU USC Colorado
8 USC Cal USC ASU Cal Colorado USC ASU Colorado ASU ASU
9 Cal Colorado Cal Cal Arizona Cal Cal Cal Cal Cal USC
10 OSU WSU OSU Arizona Colorado WSU OSU Arizona WSU OSU Arizona
11 WSU Arizona WSU WSU WSU Arizona Arizona WSU Arizona Arizona WSU

Those numbers get crunched and computerlated to give the averaged rankings as well as each team’s standard deviation—a measure of how varied the responses were for that team. The thing that jumps out to me from Fig. 1 is the three-team basement that’s so well-defined, you’d mistake it for my abs.

Figure 1. Week 2’s Power Rankings.

Additionally, we can take these precise rankings and follow them over time (Fig. 2). UC Los Angeles and Utah have been so tight for the past two weeks that I’m inclined to believe they’re pure BFFles. And beyond the aforementioned basement triad, it’s actually pretty difficult to find clusters or tiers of teams based on our assessments.

Figure 2. Graphing the precise rankings over time.

I’ve also included a plot against time of the rounded rankings. (Rounded to the nearest integer—not rounded to the nearest 37.) In this figure, we get a good look at how stable the top five teams were during Week 2... and how messy all the other teams were. USC, of course, is rather attention-starved and wants us to notice it by bouncing up and down the graph. In proof that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, Colorado has gotten my attention by being well-behaved—but a week late. They dropped this week to #8, but after a 2–0 start to the season, I noticed that their Week 1 rank is by far the highest they’ve been ranked in the two years that I’ve been running ruining this feature—the previous best was #10.

Figure 3. If you don’t like information, then this is an improved version of Figure 2.

But USC’s transient badness is captured as Madness—a quantified calculation of how much the teams are around in our rankings. USC is synonymous (at least, in mind) with Madness—both winning the Maddest Pac-12 team for the past two seasons and for having two separate weeks with a CGB-record Madness of 8. (Cal hit a Madness score of 8 in 2014 for a complete faceplant against Washington.) It’s early in the 2016 season, but USC is already making a statement that the Madness crown must be taken from them.

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

Apologies for the weird formatting and alignment on Arizona and ASU in the Madness table. Blame the wonky SBN editor that’s being rolled out despite not yet being ready for primetime and the mildly popular NFL and college football seasons.

Come back next week for more insight from ragnarok, pretty graphs, messed-up tables, and boring, babbling drivel from me!