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Pac-12 Football Power Rankings, Week 1: Losing to an FCS squad makes you go “BLEEECH!”

What’s worse—a tight loss to an FCS school, a blowout loss in front of a national audience, or... being Oregon State?

Eastern Washington v Washington State Photo by William Mancebo/Getty Images

Leland Wong: In my opinion, Week 1 of college football in the Pac-12 was pretty cray-cray. USC getting demolished in one of the biggest games of the season? Wazzu was upset by an FCS squad for the second year in a row? Colorado being on the pretty side of a blowout? Apparently the world no longer makes sense—dogs are friends with cats, ugly people no longer die alone, and Twist resembles a Sphynx cat.

Piotr T Le : This week was nuts. UCLA going to the wire against A&M where Myles Garret manhandled an overwhelmed UCLA O-line and the rest of the offense living and dying by the Rosen-one. USC… well…. It was fun seeing them get man-handled at Jerry World. WSU losing to an FCS opponent in a WSU fashion (they will probably go 9–3 like per tradition). I foresee a lot of volatility in the following few weeks.

Berkelium97: A pure Power Rankings approach produces some funny results in the first few weeks. FBS wins > FCS wins > FBS losses > FCS losses (lol). There’s some wiggle room here: a one-point loss to Alabama (dream on, USC) would be better than most losses, but most results fit within the hierarchy I’ve presented above.

Ruey Yen: Not a particularly great week for the conference, but that was pretty much the expectation coming in.

boomtho: Like others have mentioned, this was a pretty crazy Week 1, which makes the Power Rankings difficult. I tried to steer more towards a “what actually happened on the field” ranking in this week, which means I have schools like USC and UCLA pretty low—much lower than I actually think they are in talent terms (or likely Pac-12 finishing place).

Leland Wong: Now let’s get some super-fun technical details our of the way. Note that we’re considering the Cal-Hawai’i game as if it happened during this week, with every other team’s season opener. You’ll find two types of parenthetical numbers down below—the one next to the school name is the number of first-place votes that this team received and the ones next to each voter’s name is where they ranked the respective school.

Sorry, but I can no longer put my beautiful, custom-made arrow icons indicating movement up, down, or lack thereof because of image-based restrictions of the new, totally fully functional, and not at all problematic SBN story editor. Instead, you’ll get absurdly tiny emoji arrows and you’ll like them. Does it seem like the new SBN story editor still has a couple of kinks and it’s not ready for primetime yet? Because that’s so totally not at all the case by any stretch of the imagination.

The rankings

1. Stanfurd Cardinal (8) ↔

It's hideous, I know.

Last week: 1

Piotr T Le (2): Won against a mediocre opponent. If Burns can be a sufficient threat to keep only seven in the box, Stanfurd will prosper.

Ruey Yen (2): Not an impressive win. People tend to think that they have good coaching. Will probably be better...unfortunately.

Nick Kranz (1): One of those games that Shaw specializes in, where it was technically close, but there was never any real doubt about which team was going to win. Stanfurd’s QBs performed a level or two above what I thought they would need to win with the talent around them, sadly.

Perryscope (1): I was not surprised that Kansas State was with Furd the entire game. Bill Snyder always has a great gameplan and is hard to beat. Stanfurd has difficulty on Week 1s. They are still clearly the best team in the conference.

boomtho (1): They were acutally less impressive than I expected them to be, even if Coach Snyder had all offseason to prep for them. Burns looked really good at times, which is pretty scary.

2. Washington Huskies (3) ↗

Fuck this school.

Last week: 3

Berkelium97 (1): A dominant win in all phases of the game: offense, defense, and special teams. With a 24–0 lead after the first quarter and a 34–3 lead at halftime, Washington could have won by a huge margin if they hadn’t gone into cruise control.

Piotr T Le (1): They are now the class of the conference. Stanfurd vs. Washington will probably decide whether the Pac-12 will have a CFP rep.

Ruey Yen (4): Beating Rutgers doesn’t mean all that much, but they are a B1G team.

Nick Kranz: (2): I, for one, begrudgingly will be rooting for our Husky overlords.

Perryscope (2): Sizable win against a mediocre opponent, but nobody else is deserving of this #2 spot.

boomtho (2): Rutgers probably sucks, but still, UW looked as good as people expected.

3. Oregon Ducks ↗

Last week: 5

Berkelium97 (6): Having not watched this game, I can’t make sense of this one. UC Davis wasn’t very efficient through the air or on the ground but they still scored 28 points. Oregon didn’t have any special team follies and they only had two turnovers. So how did UC Davis score so many points? No matter—it was great to see that Ron Gould’s running backs terrorized Oregon once again.

Piotr T Le (4): Oregon blew the doors open; however, UC Davis also scored quite a few points. We’ll see how they will fare in the future.

Ruey Yen (5): Oregon faces some questions coming into this season; most of them were not answered in this game.

Perryscope (3): They can beat anyone in this conference that’s been a constant. But the defense was questionable yesterday against UC Davis.

boomtho (3): I’m probably ranking them too high if it was solely based on Week 1, but I’m giving them the “benefit of the doubt” because they’re Oregon.

4. UC Los Angeles Bruins ↘

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

Last week: 2

Leland Wong (2): I know that UC L.A. doesn’t deserve my personal #2 ranking after struggling for the majority of the game and needing a late-game rally... but it was a road game against a talented team and I just don’t think any other Pac-12 team had a strong-enough showing.

Berkelium97 (9): This wasn’t even a good aTm team. WHOLESALE REGIME CHANGE.

Piotr T Le (4): I am not going to overcorrect due to this week. A&M is a good program with a lot of talent, especially with Myles Garret crushing dreams. However, if Rosen continues to be a boom bust QB on a per-drive basis, I can see UCLA dropping in these rankings.

Nik Jam (5): Can’t fault them too much for losing on the road to a good team. I put them above Cal solely on my expectations for the future.

Ruey Yen (3): They are still high on my ranking due to their potential.

Nick Kranz (3): The real question is which teams in the Pac-12 have the defensive line to give UCLA fits like A&M does? Utah? Washington? This likely isn’t a banner year for defensive lines in the Pac-12, so UCLA’s biggest weakness might not get exposed much.

Perryscope (4): I’m happy they forced that game to overtime. If they can get started quicker with Rosen controlling the game, they are a dangerous team.

boomtho (8): They’ll finish 1st or 2nd in the South, so this is a temporary blip on their way to a top-four ranking by season’s end. Texas A&M is a pretty solid team, but a loss is a loss.

5. Utah Utes ↗

Last week: 7

Leland Wong (4): I know that Southern Utah isn’t the most formidable opponent, but I think the Utes have to be feeling good after developing a pretty good passing offense.

Nick Kranz (5): Based on one FCS game worth of evidence (so, you know, not much) Utah is even more Utahish than usual. The offense might be the worst in the conference give or take an Oregon State, but their defense will keep them in most games.

boomtho (5): They won… so better than the Cougs?

6. California Golden Bears (1) ↗

Last week: 8

Leland Wong (7): This ranking is more of a reflection of other Pac-12 teams derping their way below Cal rather than a reflection of the Cal-Hawai’i game. The Golden Bears’ run defense must improve if they want to compete in the Pac-12.

Berkelium97 (4): A blowout win over an FBS team on the other side of the planet is good enough for fourth this week. The defense needs improvement, however.

Piotr T Le (6): We won and nearly covered the spread. However, the utter lack of a run defense is stressing me out because we’re going to face Pumphrey, McCafferey, Freeman, Swoops, and Jambo. We can’t rely on having a +3 turnover ratio to win games in the future.

Nik Jam (6): Granted there’s a lot of nuance, but seeing Hawaii’s offense do really well against us… then seeing them do almost nothing against Michigan… then seeing how Texas did against Notre Dame doesn’t make me feel good beyond Week 1.

Ruey Yen (1): Because, why not? I want to believe that all of the shortcomings from the victory over Hawaii is due to the travel.

Nick Kranz (7): Not really comfortable with Cal this high after a mediocre performance, but I can’t control the bed-wetting that occurred elsewhere in the conference.

Perryscope (8): Glad we got the win. Offense had great ups: putting up 51 points and Webb looked comfortable. Defense had a tough time tackling, but with some turnovers Cal will force, I think we can really be competitive in this conference.

boomtho (6): Decent win, still some worrying signs. Slotted us above ASU given the weird game set-up and poor field conditions that the team had to deal with.

7. Colorado Buffaloes ↗

Last week: 11

Berkelium97 (3): I’m sure it won’t be reflective of their performances over the course of the season, but Colorado’s 37-point win over a bowl team is the program’s first feel-good win in a long time.

Piotr T Le (7): A win is a win is a win is a win. They did a good job disposing of a lesser opponent; however, my past bias against Colorado puts them below Cal.

Ruey Yen (6): Buffs looked pretty good in the parts of this game that I saw.

Colorado (9): Good win over a serious rival.

boomtho (4): This is much higher than they “deserve” based on talent or likely finish in the Pac-12, but holy hell, for one week, the Buffs looked great. They appear to have continued the progress we saw towards the end of last season. And, always nice to win big over a rival!

8. Arizona State Sun Devils ↗

Last week: 10

Leland Wong (8): The final score belies how close this game was at halftime, which is a little disconcerting when you’re up against an FCS school.

Berkelium97 (7): This defense allowed an FCS team to average 11.2 yards per passing attempt. That’s ridiculous.

Piotr T Le (9): They won the game they should’ve won. However, just because you do so doesn’t mean you’re a good team. The lack of passing prowess by a Graham offense is concerning, especially against an FCS team.

Ruey Yen (8): Saved the Pac from embarrassment by beating a FCS team.

Perryscope (7): Won easily against a poor team, but at least the pieces were there. They have a new quarterback in Manny Wilkins, a product of San Marin High School in Novato.

boomtho (7): Beat a bad team which, at least for Week 1, jumps you above the teams that lost.

9. Arizona Wildcats ↔

Last week: 9

Leland Wong (9): I’m not sure how bad this loss will look by the end of the season because BYU is a bit of a mystery (Kalani Sitake’s first job as a head coach) with great potential (anyone else have bad memories of 2014 and QB Taysom Hill?), but a last-minute loss is a gut punch that always causes a Power Rankings drop.

Berkelium97 (8): The Pac-12’s best loss of the week. I only watched a few minutes of the first quarter so my insight is limited. Solomon looked pretty good but he seemed to be running for his life on most passing plays. That O-line needs work.

Piotr T Le (8): Arizona had the best loss, by a handful of points. However, a loss is a loss and BYU doesn’t look as impressive as it has looked in the past.

Ruey Yen (9): Hooray for CGB groupthink. Hard to argue against this being the best loss.

Nick Kranz (8): I’ll go ahead and go against the grain and say that UCLA’s loss (on the road) was the ‘best’ loss. I wasn’t able to watch this game, but a quick glance at the box score makes me wonder why it was as close as it was.

Perryscope (10): Not sure how bad this loss will be. BYU is a solid program every year. Plus Colorado won its game.

boomtho (10): Have them low because of the loss (and BYU is obviously not as good as Bama or Texas A&M)... but I don’t think this ends up looking awful by the end of the year.

10. USC Trojans ↘

Last week: 3

Leland Wong (12): I typically try to avoid weighing the latest game so heavily, but what the hell—it’s the only data point we have and it’s USC getting humiliated with a national audience.

Berkelium97 (11): lololololol.

Piotr T Le (11): It was a curbstomping for the ages. For context, ‘Bama in 2015 beat Charleston Southern 56–6, which is the only comparable win to the SC game. SAD!

Ruey Yen (10): I’ve got no sympathy for USC.

Nick Kranz (11): Clay Helton is USC’s third-straight indefensibly awful coaching hire—and this isn’t even something we’re saying with 20/20 hindsight. Kiffin, Sarkisian, and Helton were all panned immediately.

Perryscope (6): I only have them ranked so highly is because they played Alabama. The fact that the spread was 11.5 was laughable—I made easy money on that bet. But they will bounce back—they better because they play stanfurd in two weeks.

boomtho (9): There’s no shame in losing to Bama. None. Zilch. Nada. And yet… it’s the way they lost—showing a brief flash of competitiveness early, but then just getting torn apart by Bama. Clay Helton is now 0–3 after being elevated to permanent HC. Final thought: HAHAHAHAHA.

11. Oregon State Beavers ↗

Last week: 12

Leland Wong (10): Oregon State looked much better in their 2016 debut than they did last year; however, I think it’s key to notice that they were beneficiaries of three unforced gaffes by Minnesota: two high snaps that went above the QB’s head (one of which went out of the endzone for a safety) and a lost fumble on a punt return.

Berkelium97 (10): A close loss on the road against a team that went bowling last season looks much better than anything the Beavers did last year.

Piotr T Le (11): They did well, even in a loss, due to the fact that they fought and lost in the final minutes of the game to a decent Minnesota.

Nik Jam (12): Looked improved from what I heard (I didn’t see the game), but it won’t mean much if the team still fails in conference play. Gotta prove me wrong.

Ruey Yen (11): Surprising close loss.

Perryscope (12): Impressive showing, but yet again fall short.

boomtho (11): Hey, they’re not in the basement! Competitive showing against a decent (I think???) Minnesota team.

12. Washington State Cougars ↘

Last week: 6

Berkelium97 (12): Last time the Cougs Coug’d it against an FCS team, they went on to win nine games. Is it strange that I expect the same thing to happen this season?

Piotr T Le (12): C’mon, son. If last year was any indication, they will go 9–3 but this is too funny.

Nik Jam (11): Terrible. I thought they would do better given that they already knew not to take a FCS team lightly. I still expect them to be good, and I expect Oregon State to be bad, hence my ranking.

Ruey Yen (12): Are the Cougs going to make a run at the Pac-12 North title after losing to another FCS team?

Nick Kranz (12): I haven’t heard a good explanation yet for why Wazzu’s defense laid such a spectacular egg, but I admire Mike Leach’s ability to repeatedly toil to build up good will from his fan base only to repeatedly torch it over the course of four hours each September.

Perryscope (11): Quite disappointing. I was high on them, but I think this will be a wake-up call for Leach’s squad. Defense looked much worse than ours.

boomtho (12): OH. MY. GOD. THE LULZ ARE FANTASTIC. They will still totally finish 3rd or 4th in the North, so I will make sure to enjoy them Cougin’ It for now.

The data

First of all, we’ll take a look at this week’s votes.

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

These varied responses get all calcumalated to give the rankings up above—and I’ve captured all of said variety in the form of the standard deviation for each team in the form of the error bars. The precise values of Figure 1 show that UC L.A. and Utah were practically tied—to the point where I considered rounding all of the values instead of having so many sig figs.

Figure 1. How each team was precisely ranked. Error bars represent 1 standard deviation.

And now that we have two weeks’ worth of data, we can start tracking things over time. Hurray for more work! Here, we can immediately see Colorado’s huge rise—from expecting another struggling season to a big win over a Power 5 foe—and mammoth plummets for the faceplants of USC and WSU. Arizona’s precise ranking has managed to stay nearly perfectly flat, which is mathematically fascinating. And probably a function of none of us paying that close attention to a school we aren’t playing this year who had an insignificant result.

Figure 2. A precise ranking of each team’s ranking through two whole weeks.

We can also track this time course with the simplified, rounded rankings that were presented way way up in the body of the text. I’m already in midseason form with respect to my inability to intelligently describe how this graph differs from Figure 2 because I’m dumb and lazy.

Figure 3. A non-precise ranking of each team’s ranking through too hole week.s

The final analysis we can perform thanks to the incorporation of time is the homebrewed concept of Madness—how much each team is moving up and down the rankings. And, following a CGB tradition, USC loves them some Madness. I’d certainly reason that this is—at least—caused in part due to their annual collection of elite talent juxtaposed with their recent string of leaders being unable to coach consistency. And I’d certainly speculate that this is in large part due to USChadenfreude and Cal fans rejoicing in USC’s stumbles because they’re a rival that used black magic to assert dominance over us year after year after year.

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

New-SBN doesn’t want us to have polls, so I have to do that lame pander-for-comments thing where I ask you to comment on which of the Pac-12 basement teams is the worst: USC, OSU, or WSU. And why don’t you go ahead and comment about which Pac-12 basement team had the best week? At this rate, go ahead and just tell me how you’d rank those three.

Well, that’s all we’ve got for this week. We’ll be back next week—when USC will probably post a modern record for points in a dominant win over Utah State to jump back up our Rankings and revel in more Madness.