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Pac-12 Football Power Rankings, Week 3: The first win of the year deserves hugs!

A win over USC cements Stanfurd’s place, but how did this week’s games treat the other teams?

NCAA Football: Idaho at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Leland Wong: The nicest thing about a week of college football is getting to read your favorite CGB writers’ thoughts on how the Pac-12 teams are trending, right?

If so, then you’re in the right place—each week we’re ranking the Pac-12 teams based on overall strength and most-recent result.

If not, then I’m sure you’re trying to break my heart by not appreciating my work. Well, the joke’s on you because you can’t break that which is already broken.

Berkelium97: This is looking more and more like a down year for the Pac-12. Everyone has demonstrated some glaring flaws this year, with the exception of furd and Washington.

Piotr T Le: Cal gave the rest of the nation a taste of #Pac12AfterDark while doing a good job on #Drop50. The Big-12 itself just beat itself out of CFP contention—now it comes down to Cal to spoil Stanfurd’s and Washington’s bids for that… hey, a man can dream about Cal going 12–1 with CFP… right?

Ruey Yen: My only change from the last week is a flip between Utah and Oregon. There is a lot of parity in the Pac this year because every team is flawed. I am also not convinced (yet) that Washington is for real since they haven’t played anyone. With Pac-12 play in full swing next week, my ranking will either be proved reasonable or just flat out wrong.

boomtho: I agree with Bk97—the Pac-12 certainly seems down this year vs. previous years. It’s largely driven by the decline of the top programs (LA schools and Oregon), but even the middle of the conference seems softer than year’s past. This could be a great opportunity for Cal and Coach Dykes to exceed expectations.

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. Stanfurd Cardinal (10 first-place votes) ↔

It's hideous, I know.

Last week: 1

Berkelium97 (1): Someone needs to do the needful and stop this team from getting to the playoffs.

Leland Wong (1): Who cares about having a veteran vs. first-year quarterback (vs. two first-year quarterbacks) when you have Christian McCaffrey and can get away with just 15 pass attempts?

Piotr T Le (2): This team reminds me of the early 1980’s Chicago Bears. McCaffrey is literally their whole offense—he accounts for 72.5% of their rushing yards and 41% of their passing yards and their QBs have thrown for a total of 34 passess… that’s like one half by Davis Webb. Their overreliance on McCaffrey is the reason they aren’t #1 for me. Once someone shuts McCaffrey down… well, it won’t be pretty down at the Taco Bell Campus.

Nick Kranz (1): A very prototypical Stanfurd-under-Shaw win, which vexes me to no end.

Nik Jam (1): Hopefully UCLA or Washington can expose them, but they’re clearly the class of the conference… It is a low bar, though.

Ruey Yen (1): They are the best of the Pac this year, but they will be upset by someone this year. Why not Cal? Sure, they will not overlook us due to it being the rivalry game…

boomtho (1): Totally suffocated a USC attack that has a decent number of playmakers.

2. Washington Huskies (1 first-place vote) ↔

Fuck this school.

Last week: 2

Leland Wong (2): The Tomato Can Beat-Up Tour is finally over. We don’t know much about them since they’ve only beaten up on outclassed teams, but at least they did their job and beat up on said outclassed teams.

Piotr T Le (1): They are my #1 due to the fact that they don’t have to rely on one player to manufacture an offense. Their defense is also very strong and their test will come when they face Stanfurd on the 30th.

Nick Kranz (2): Beat Stanfurd and I’ll pretend that purple isn’t an awful color for a few months.

Nik Jam (2): No reason to doubt them right now, but what the heck was with that cupcake schedule? Come on. I would like to see Arizona make them pay, but the Wildcats don’t normally schedule big names either. (BYU being the only one in the past two or three years)

Ruey Yen (3): Washington’s easy early-season schedule continues with the Arizona Wildcats next week.

boomtho (2): I really hope their final poll ranking suffers a ton because of the horrible non-conference schedule the played. Now their real games begin and we get to actually learn about them.

3. Utah Utes ↗

Last week: 5

Berkelium97 (3): The Utes have very quietly cruised to 3–0. Their game against USC this week should tell us much more about them.

Leland Wong (3): Not the stiffest competition, but it’s great for the Utes to have some options at running back after the shocking retirement of Joe Williams. Oh, and the feared Utah defense tallied up 10 sacks. I imagine that’s a good thing.

Nik Jam (3): Great start to the season. Looking forward to their game against Cal! More on that in next week’s Power Rankings and my Pick ‘em post.

Ruey Yen (5): Took them awhile to get it going against San Jose State.

boomtho (3): Kind of third by default? Hard to find much fault with their games this year, but they haven’t really inspired, either.

4. UC Los Angeles Bruins ↔

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

Last week: 4

Berkelium97 (5): I’m used to considering a win over BYU to be an impressive win. But earlier this season BYU barely beat a bad Arizona team and lost to a one-dimensional Utah team, so I can’t give UCLA too much credit here.

Leland Wong (6): The run game was wholly impotent and Josh Rosen only had okay-ish numbers, so they had to rely on the defense to shut down BYU.

Nick Kranz (3): BYU plays the exact same game every week regardless of opponent, but in the exact opposite way that Cal does. I don’t get them and I refuse to try to fit them into my larger Pac-12 ethos. They should go away.

Nik Jam (4): Easily my favorite for Pac-12 South’s title in the early going, although for now I’m giving Utah a higher ranking because of 3–0 vs. 2–1.

Ruey Yen (2): Good enough team to win in different ways. I am interested to see how the Stanfurd–UCLA game will go next weekend.

boomtho (4): Thought about dropping them to 12 for killing my parlay with that back-door cover… but we’re principled rankers here at CGB!

5. California Golden Bears ↗

Last week: 9

Berkelium97 (4): The Pac-12’s only win over a ranked team gives Cal’s resume a big boost. They can clearly score tons of points on anyone... and give up tons of points to anyone with a strong running game.

Leland Wong (5): An upset over a ranked team and such a potent offense are always great things, but that run defense must improve if they want to rank better.

Piotr T Le (5): A big win against Texas provides us with a nice reputation boost. Furthermore, the loss against SDSU is looking better (as much as losses can look good)...

Nick Kranz (6): The Pac-12’s random number generator could be 3–0 or 1–2 just as easily—and I expect more of the same. Sixth place seems like a fair compromise.

Nik Jam (6): A great win over Texas, but they need to start beating the big dogs before I rank Cal above ‘em.

Ruey Yen (4): Might be homerism talking here, but I truly believe that the 2016 Golden Bears can beat any other Pac-12 team on a given night.

boomtho (5): This win probably looks better now than at the end of the year, as I expect Texas to finish in the #20–25 range and ND to finish below their #10 ranking. But for now… it’s a win against a top-15 team that everyone expected to come in and trounce Cal. Sounds like a field rushing is in order!

6. Oregon Ducks ↘

Last week: 3

Leland Wong (4): I’m willing to give the Ducks a bit of a break because they probably had to completely shelf their offensive plans due to Royce Freeman going out with an injury, but this loss is just a bit perplexing due to some bad decisions on 2-point conversions.

Berkelium97 (6): The pass offense and pass defense looked much worse than the stats suggested. The Ducks are definitely beatable this year.

Piotr T Le (6): Looking vulnerable with poor play calling on the 2-pt conversions against a fading blueblood.

Nick Kranz (7): Vernon Adams wasn’t Marcus Mariota and Dakota Prukop is not Vernon Adams.

Nik Jam (5): Still gonna be a tough one for Pac-12 opponents, especially since no one seems to be much better than them except Furd.

Ruey Yen (6): While it is always tough to beat a Power 5 opponent on the road, Oregon is just not quite the same this year. Frankly, it’s about time.

boomtho (6): The Ducks will feel disappointed as they had a lot of chances to win this game. Ultimately, a road loss to a pretty decent Power 5 team is nothing to sneer at, so I’m not going to drop them too far. For most teams, losing a RB the caliber of Royce Freeman would hurt a ton—Oregon likely has the depth to weather that.

7. Colorado Buffaloes ↗

Last week: 8

Leland Wong (7): This game actually started off with a big lead for Colorado and stellar, gutsy play by Sefo Liufau.

Berkelium97 (9): They looked great for 15 minutes and then regressed to the Buffs team we’ve known from the past few years.

Piotr T Le (7): Colorado blew a large lead against one of the best teams in the nation. No one gave them a shot, but for a long time they were giving Ol’ Khaki Pants a run for his money.

Nick Kranz (5): Playing Michigan tough really impresses me, but if Sefo is out, they would instantly drop towards the bottom of the conference competitiveness-wise.

Nik Jam (8): I would love to see the Buffs be a relevant factor in the Pac-12 South race. They had an encouraging effort against Michigan. Hopefully Sefo is okay.

Ruey Yen (7): Respectable result at Michigan for the program on the upswing.

boomtho (8): The final score totally masks how well Colorado played to start this game. Their complete run of performance this year makes them seem like a much, much improved team vs the last two years.

T8. Arizona State Sun Devils ↘

Last week: 7

Berkelium97 (8): They were down by 13 in the fourth quarter to a G5 team that has won 7 games over the past two seasons. The Sun Devils look deeply flawed this year.

Leland Wong (9): They racked up a lot of yards on the ground and in the air… but turning the ball over three times in a three-point victory to UTSA is not a good thing.

Piotr T Le (9): The are undefeated, for sure. However, it is the process that matters and their process is uglier than my midterm grades from Math 1B at Cal.

Nick Kranz (8): Honestly, it looked like they were planning on beating UTSA without even trying, but had to open up the playbook in the 4th quarter when it was obvious that a loss was on the table.

Nik Jam (7): 3–0 is 3–0, but the only reason I would be worried about next week is the whole “home-field advantage” thing.

Ruey Yen (9): Barely beating UTSA looks bad. Curious to see how that team responds this coming week against Cal.

boomtho (9): Their record says they’re 3–0, but the only have one good win (TTU) and struggled mightily vs UTSA. Cal has a good shot to win this game next week.

T8. USC Trojans ↘

Last week: 6

Berkelium97 (7): Do they regret hiring Helton yet?

Leland Wong (8): They’re not gonna rank this low in terms of standings or head-to-head, but they’ve gotta be feeling down with a 1–2 start to the season (1–4 with Clay Helton as the official head coach), losing every big game they’ve had.

Piotr T Le (8): They are severely underperforming even with blue-chip talents around them. Daniel Jeremiah noted that at the USC v. Bama game, he didn’t see any top-level NFL talent on the field sans Adoree Jackson. This is surprising because Juju Smith-Schuster was supposed to be a first-round WR, yet when compared to Cal WRs, he would be between Bug Rivera and Raymond Hudson with 447 fewer yards than Chad “Oh So Handsome” Hansen.

Nick Kranz (9): For the nth year in a row, USC is useless where n = times USC could have done something that made me happy but didn’t.

Nik Jam (9): Still early—they might wind up being pretty good, but they could have at least made the Furd game close.

Ruey Yen (9): They are more talented than how they have played thus far. By the time Cal faces them in the end of October, the Trojans will either have things figured out or be a complete dumpster fire (hey, it’s USC after all).

boomtho (7): Clay Helton fever—have you caught it yet?! But more seriously, a road loss to the best team in the conference is nothing to get too worried about.

10. Arizona Wildcats ↔

Last week: 10

Berkelium97 (11): They didn’t have a double-digit deficit to an FCS team this week, so that’s an improvement.

Leland Wong (10): The stats don’t look too bad, which is more than we can say about playing Hawai’i back in Week 0.

Piotr T Le (11): They ain’t good, that’s for sure. They haven’t shown anything to merit a change in their ranking. They will face #9 Washington, whom I have as the #1 team in the Pac-12. This match-up will say more about Washington than Arizona sans an upset or a solid performance.

Nik Jam (10): Beating a Hawaii team that has to be really tired and jet lagged by now can’t mean a whole lot. Why does it seem like Arizona is great every the season they play us and mediocre when they play Stanfurd? Conspiracy I say.

Ruey Yen (10): Yes, Zona did beat Hawaii but I am going to knock them for the margin of victory (unless they also boneheadedly drop a ball just before the end zone).

boomtho (10): I might have them 1–2 spots too low—they did win after all. But they haven’t really impressed, so this week at least I’m rewarding teams that took on tougher opponents (e.g., Colorado), even if they lost.

11. Washington State Cougars ↔

Last week: 11

Berkelium97 (10): At least they didn’t lose to every team in the Palouse region this season.

Leland Wong (11): They got a win, but had to turn to a team that literally won’t even be in their league anymore in two years. But hey, where did they get a running game from?

Nik Jam (11): Wouldn’t be surprised if they manage to have a decent conference season again, but 5–4 will be tough.

Ruey Yen (11): So with the Idaho Vandals will be dropping down to FCS in 2018, I don’t think one can read too much into Wazzu’s win over them then. Still, I think the Cougs will upset somebody this year. #Pac12AfterDark

boomtho (12): I’m out of steam for these comments. They’re totally uninspiring, but probably aren’t actually the bottom of the conference.

12. Oregon State Beavers ↔

Last week: 12

Leland Wong (12): Did they really allow Idaho State running back Jakori Ford to run for 122 yards on 8 touches? Did someone accidentally report a stat from an EA Sports NCAA Football game?

Nik Jam (12): Someone will overlook the Beavers and pay for it… maybe.

Ruey Yen (12): Idaho State was awful. Nothing to see here.

boomtho (11): Fun show for the fans.

The data

I never know how to transition here, so let’s just show the votes!

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

We calculate the average a.k.a. mean for each team and graph them below, with the error bars representing how varied the responses were for each team (that is, the standard deviation). These precise rankings give you a little more information than the rounded rankings, such as how close teams are like Utah & UC L.A. or Colorado, ASU, & USC.

Figure 1. As much as I dislike the new SBN Editor, these captions are nice.

Following these precise rankings over time adds a whole ‘nother layer to the bean dip that is our rankings. Sometimes, that layer is terrible like a guacamole with peas—see Stanfurd moving a hair up and up each week despite always being our #1 officially—but it’s nice to have that data because knowledge is power or something. (Furthermore, time is money, money is power, power is pizza, and pizza is knowledge.)

Figure 2. Following the precise rankings over time.

But for the purposes of clarity, let’s also track the rounded rankings over time; it may help visually to have a little more spacing between teams. The timing is poor because we have our firs tie of the year (ASU & USC), but I’m sure they had a conversation about consent before this.

Figure 3. Respect the personal bubbles of the other lines and give them space.

Based on these simplified numbers, we also record the volatility of each team and how much they move up and down our little ranking. By suffering a dispiriting loss followed by an upset of the eleventh-ranked team at the time, Cal’s experiencing a little bit of 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
ASU 2 1 -1 4
Cal 2 -3 4 9
Colorado 4 -1 1 6
Oregon 2 0 -3 5
OSU 1 -1 0 2
Stanfurd 0 0 0 0
UC L.A. -2 0 0 2
USC -7 4 -2 13
Utah 2 0 2 4
Washington 1 0 0 1
WSU -6 1 0 7
Total Madness 29 12 13

Well, that’s all I’ve got this week. Primarily because work—both the actual work and silly drama at work—is slowly killing me. So, yeah. Have fun tonight?