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Pac-12 Football Power Rankings, Week 4: Colorado can’t dab, but sure can win

Are the Buffaloes really one of the best Pac-12 teams this year?

Colorado v Oregon
Hm, their jerseys are so generic that it’s not immediately clear which team this is.
Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images

Leland Wong: Welcome to CGB’s Pac-12 Power Rankings! This is our weekly feature in which a group of CGB writers rank the conference teams by overall performance with a keen eye on the latest game—is a team trending so hot that they’re basically this weekend in the Bay Area or are they so cold that it’s sweater weather?

I’ve always tried to keep my personal Power Rankings from being too heavily based on the most recent result… but I find the conference to have so much parity and the teams to have so many flaws that it’s difficult to overlook a team’s loss as an outlier. My votes this week are basically in 94% agreement with the Sam Fielder Formula—winning teams up top and losing teams at the bottom.

Berkelium97: All of the Pac-12’s undefeated teams had to make fourth-quarter comebacks to win their respective games, all of which were played against teams with records at or below .500. It’s increasingly looking like any Pac-12 team can beat any other at any time, depending on which team’s offense/defense is hot. There are many strong units in the Pac-12, but plenty of inconsistency.

ragnarok: I had trouble deciding which team’s fourth-quarter comeback outclassed all the others, so I left the top 3 (Furd/Utah/UW) the same as I’ve had them all year—there just didn’t seem to be enough to justify swapping any of them.

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): The offense is thoroughly mediocre outside of Christian McCaffrey. They’re beatable, but who’s going to step up and deal a blow to their playoff hopes?

Nick Kranz (1): It drives me insane that David Shaw is never adequately punished for his one glaringly obvious weakness as a coach.

Leland Wong (1): The run defense did a pretty good job of bottling up the Bruins… and that’s about the only impressive thing they did. Unfortunately, there’s just no other team that’s done anything to remotely justify bringing the Furdies down the ranks.

atomsareenough (1): Cardinal keep finding a way to win, unfortunately. Neither QB looks particularly good though.They’re not the dominant force this year that they have been.

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

Fuck this school.

Last week: 2

Berkelium97 (3): A “top-ten” team barely beat one of the worst teams in the conference. The Huskies are looking overrated. We’ll find out if Washington is the real deal when the Lobsterbacks visit Seattle this Friday night.

Leland Wong (3): In their first real “test” of the season—which came against a struggling Wildcats team—they really didn’t impress, including Jake Browning having a bad day against one of the worst pass defenses in the nation.

atomsareenough (2): Huskies survive. I’m not a full believer yet, but they found a way to win so I’m not going to knock them down very far.

3. Utah Utes ↔

Last week: 3

Berkelium97 (2): The offense looked pretty good, but the defense took a step back.

Nick Kranz (4): Teams that can stop their running game will probably handle them easily. Is Cal one of those teams? Don’t answer that question.

Leland Wong (4): Statistically, they had a good game offensively against the Trojans—and 4 of 4 for fourth-down conversions is insane. Combining this kind of offense with their defense is going to be dangerous.

atomsareenough (4): I was impressed with Utah’s gameplan and execution. Whittingham is a smart coach. I don’t expect them to contend, but they’re always going to be a tough out every week.

4. UC Los Angeles Bruins ↔

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

Last week: 4

Berkelium97 (6): The defense is looking pretty good. The offense? Not so much.

Nick Kranz (2): On one hand, a close loss to Stanfurd is hardly an awful result and the rest of the South looks tractable. On the other hand, it’s very UCLA to lose two close-ish games to two of the best teams on the schedule.

Leland Wong (2): In such a weak Pac-12 year, I’m not going to punish the Baby Bears for nearly upsetting the #1 team in an absurdly close game (comparable yardage, third-down conversions, and UC L.A. was actually leading until Furd got the go-ahead touchdown with less than 30 seconds in the game).

atomsareenough (8): The Cardinal seem to have their number, but the Bruins should still be competitive in the Pac-12 South. On the other hand, they’re sitting at 2–2, have lost two winnable games to decent opponents, and their best win was a nailbiter at BYU. That’s not exactly grabbing the brass ring in a year of relative opportunity.

5. Arizona State Sun Devils ↗

Last week: T8

Berkelium97 (4): A mediocre team, but I can’t fault them too much because they’re 4–0.

Nick Kranz (6): Anything I could say here would just be sour grapes.

Leland Wong (6): Kudos for somewhat-limiting the potent Cal offense in the first half and totally rallying to have a stunning second half.

atomsareenough (5): The defense hung tough and Manny Wilkins played great down the stretch. Those are good signs for the Sun Devils.

6. Colorado Buffaloes ↗

Last week: 7

Berkelium97 (5): I was skeptical of the Buffs, but it’s tough to win in Eugene. They look like the surprise team of the conference so far this year.

Nick Kranz (5): It’s good for this conference to have a relevant Colorado. For Cal’s sake, I’m glad that a collection of key players (Tupou, Awuzie, Liufau, etc.) will be gone when the Buffs rotate back onto the schedule.

Leland Wong (5): And to think I was worried about how they’d look without Sefo Liufau.

atomsareenough (3): Signature win for MacIntyre and the Buffs. Yeah, Oregon is diminished from what it once was, but they’re still a good team and Autzen is a tough place to win. Props to Colorado.

Nik Jam (5): Called it in my Pick-em post that Colorado is this year’s Washington State. The Cougs also got a win in Oregon as their statement win.

7. California Golden Bears ↘

Last week: 5

Berkelium97 (7): During the first 26 minutes Cal looked like a team that could compete for the Pac-12 North title. Then the remaining 34 minutes happened.

Nick Kranz (7): Cal will be ranked #7 after losses and #6 after wins as they march towards 6–6 this year.

Leland Wong (8): The Bears deserve credit for making such strides in run defense since the Texas game… too bad it only lasted the first half.

atomsareenough (7): Bears lose this week’s crapshoot. Better luck next week, hopefully!

8. Oregon Ducks ↘

Last week: 6

Berkelium97 (8): The duck uniforms were appropriate because the team laid an egg on Saturday. It sounds like feathers are getting ruffled in Niketown.

Nick Kranz (8): You have a minute on the clock, 1st and goal, with timeouts. You have the entire goal line playbook available. Hell, it might even be in your best interests to run a little clock. And you throw a contested, one on one fade to a receiver without any kind of height advantage over his defender. Goodness gracious did Oregon deserve to lose.

Leland Wong (7): The run game wasn’t that bad without Royce Freeman, but they’ll have to adjust to the loss of Devon Allen. As as the most important criterion for Power Rankings, their duck-inspired uniforms were beauuutiful.

atomsareenough (9): LOL Berkelium, that’s fantastic. But yeah, if ever you wanted an indication that the Ducks train has been losing steam over the last couple of years, losing to Colorado (albeit an improved Colorado) is it.

9. Arizona Wildcats ↗

Last week: 10

Berkelium97 (10): Throughout the Cal game I was quite surprised to see the ticker show that Arizona was keeping up with Washington. Tucson has been a house of horrors for top-ten teams in the conference for the past decade (RIP our Rose Bowl hopes in 2006.) and Washington is fortunate to have won this one.

Leland Wong (10): I’m kinda being hypocritical here because I rewarded UC L.A. for a close game against Furd while not really rewarding Arizona for a close game against Washington, but I guess that has more to do with Arizona struggling all season and Washington being unproven (in addition to being a terrible school). Still, I think the Wildcats deserve some credit for stepping up their pass defense this week.

atomsareenough (6): I’m doing the opposite as Leland. I’m not rewarding UC L.A. for hanging with the Cardinal because they expect to compete and they clearly haven’t solved their Stanfurd problem, which has lasted several years now. I am rewarding Arizona for hanging with Washington though, because the Wildcats have looked awful this year and this is improvement.

10. USC Trojans ↘

Last week: T8

Berkelium97 (11): That’s a devastating loss for a team in such a precarious mental position right now. The wheels may come off with a loss to ASU next week.

Nick Kranz (10): I watched the first half and USC was in completely control despite fumbleitis. I have no clue what happened in the second half.

Leland Wong (9): Sam Darnold had a solid debut as a starter and all of their losses have come to pretty good teams, so this ranking is more a reflection of the mental anguish they’re in (and the high standards at USC)—but things will easily snowball with rumors and hot seats if they don’t win woon.

atomsareenough (12): At this point I’m waiting for the axe to fall on Helton any day now. Pitchforks and torches are being gathered.

11. Washington State Cougars ↔

Last week: 11

Leland Wong (11): They had a bye week to rest before an Oregon squad—one they beat last year and this year looks to be the most vulnerable they’ve been in years—but things are going so poorly in Pullman that I’m skeptical they’ll pull off the win again this year.

atomsareenough (11): We’ll see if the week off did them any good.

12. Oregon State Beavers ↔

Last week: 12

Berkelium97 (12): I watched a few minutes of this game and saw one of the players trying to lift the team’s spirits by yelling “It’s not over!” at them and trying to hype them up. The score was 14–7. If this is a team that gets down by being down a touchdown, it will be a rough year in Corvallis.

Nick Kranz (12): When OSU hung tough with Minnesota I thought the Beavers might be frisky this year, but Minnesota has been bad and OSU hasn’t looked good since. Phew.

Leland Wong (12): I kinda like the chutzpah that HC Gary Andersen has to keep throwing inexperienced freshmen into games—as he did late last season and by playing freshman walk-on QB Conor Blount when starter Darell Garrettson wasn’t getting it done. But, chutzpah isn’t enough to overshadow win-loss record, a defense that couldn’t contain Boise State, or an unproductive offense.

atomsareenough (10): They were somewhat competitive with a decent team. That’s progress, right?

The data

We were a little light on the words today, but not light on the votes! The full rankings from each of our voters is given in the following table.

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

The averages for each team are calculated to give the rankings listed in the main body of the post. We also calculate the standard deviations, which quantifies the ranges of responses for each teams; this is represented graphically by the error bars in Figure 1. I like big standard deviations and I cannot lie—look at dat error bar on UC L.A.! The Southern Branch received votes as high as 2nd and as low as 8th and that’s reflected here.

Figure 1. The precise Power Rankings from Week 4 of the college football season.

As someone who plays with graphs for a living, it’s a natural progression when you follow numbers over time to graph those numbers against time and by tracking the precise rankings over time, we can learn more detailed information than with the rounded rankings. For example, the top four teams all stayed in place, but Fig. 2 shows that three of the four are actually falling just a big—Yay for Stanfurd falling!—while Utah is just a bit on the rise. Even Washington State is idly rising while poor Oregon State is falling further and further.

Figure 2. Following the Pac-12 teams over the course of the season.

Briefly (because I do have control over the time that it takes for you to read this), we’ll get into Figure 3, which charts the rounded rankings this year. Here, we see how long the poles of the conference have stayed put and how inconsistent the middle of the conference have been.

Figure 3. The rounded rankings week-by-week.

The volatility of said middle teams—and all of the teams—is captured in the form of Madness. Although both of these teams moved two spots this week, it looks like Cal’s going to push USC to be the Maddest team of the conference this year. And through four weeks, only one team has held steady for this season; who will be a hero and knock Stanfurd from the #1 spot?

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
ASU 2 1 -1 3 7
Cal 2 -3 4 -2 11
Colorado 4 -1 1 1 7
Oregon 2 0 -3 -2 7
OSU 1 -1 0 0 2
Stanfurd 0 0 0 0 0
UC L.A. -2 0 0 0 2
USC -7 4 -2 -2 15
Utah 2 0 2 0 4
Washington 1 0 0 0 1
WSU -6 1 0 0 7
Total Madness 29 12 13 11

We’ve got a big week of Pac-12 play coming up with the #1 team playing the number #2 team, so there’s a strong chance that the top of the conference won’t be holding steady when the next Power Rankings are released. Based on this week’s rankings, this upcoming week will feature said top half–vs.–top half game and one bottom half–vs.–bottom half game (Oregon vs. Wazzu), but the other four games feature one team from the top half facing off against one team from the bottom half. Any upsets in those games will surely mix up that mud in the middle of the conference.