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Pac-12 Power Rankings, Week 6: Is it time for the Cougs to make it to first place?

Big wins for the Cougars, Cardinal, and Wildcats shake up the conference.

Oregon State v Washington State
No, he’s actually just holding up two hands to represent their placement in our rankings.
Photo by William Mancebo/Getty Images

Leland Wong: Not feeling particularly talkative with the fires ravaging the North Bay.

Hopefully you know the game by now. Voters vote on the Pac-12 teams by overall performance, outlook, fan sentiment, and most recent game. What recent games, you say?

  • #14 USC defeated Oregon State, 38–10
  • Arizona defeated Colorado, 45–42
  • #11 Washington State defeated Oregon, 33–10
  • Stanfurd defeated #20 Utah, 23–20
  • #6 Washington defeated Cal, 38–7

The vast majority of these votes were submitted before the news that Oregon State and Gary Andersen decided to separate and individually power through all of my break-up playlists.

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. Washington Huskies (6–0, 3–0 Pac-12) ↔

Last week: 1

Leland Wong (2): Their defense is going to tear down any guards you put up and destroy everything inside you.

Nik Jam (2): This team will come close to perfection again, especially with no USC on their schedule.

Berkelium97 (2): This is a team with very few weaknesses, so I’m surprised they yielded so many tackles for loss to Cal.

Ruey Yen (1): They provided no reason for me to drop them from the top spot, where they have been in my ranking all season long.

Nick Kranz (1): We won’t learn anything new about this team for another month. I think Wazzu is the only team that can beat ‘em in the regular season. Man do I wish the Apple Cup were in Pullman this year.

atomsareenough (1): The Huskies still seem like the best team all around in the Pac-12, with no clear deficiencies anywhere. They're #1 until I have reason for them not to be.

2. Washington State Cougars (6–0, 3–0 Pac-12) ↔

Last week: 2

Leland Wong (1): I don’t think they’re the strongest team right now, but their last two wins were against better teams than the Huskies’ last two.

Nik Jam (1): I am going to put WSU above UW because their wins are better… I think whoever wins the Apple Cup is the champ this year… with Oregon and Cal’s injuries they won’t have a chance and I don’t think Stanfurd will beat either team (but they’ve sadly proven me wrong many a time this decade whenever I doubt them)

Berkelium97 (1): Hercules Mata’afa is going to destroy us next weekend en route to a Pac-12 DPotW award.

Ruey Yen (2): I’m anticipating to be impressed by the Cougs after this Friday night.

Nick Kranz (2): A workmanlike win, which is remarkable mostly because that’s typically not something that Leach and Wazzu can do. That they CAN dispatch (an admittedly wounded) Oregon team in Eugene like that should terrify whichever poor team happens to play them next and that team is AWW GODDAMMIT YOU’VE GOTTA BE KIDDING ME.

atomsareenough (2): The Cougars haven't done anything wrong, but until there's a clear case to make that they're better than the Huskies, they're stuck at #2 on my ballot.

3. USC Trojans (5–1, 2–1 Pac-12) ↗

Last week: 4

Nik Jam (3): No reason to think they won’t win the South, right?

Berkelium97 (5): With consecutive games against Utah and Notre Dame, USC needs to get its issues sorted out quickly. Fortunately for them, they looked decent in dispatching a hapless OSU team. 10–2 and a date with UW in the Pac-12 title game looks like the likeliest outcome for USC this year.

Ruey Yen (3): Only moving up because Utes moved down. Beating OSU means nothing this year.

Nick Kranz (3): Feels like a win over Utah at home would all but seal the South title.

atomsareenough (3): USC still has their destiny in their own hands. I think that destiny is losing to the Apple Cup winner in the Pac-12 championship game, though.

4. Stanfurd Cardinal (4–2, 3–1 Pac-12) ↗

Last week: 5

Berkelium97 (3): Every year this happens. Every year we laugh at their incompetence early in the season and then they morph into a fearsome opponent. The defense may be considerably worse than it was last year, but this is a dangerous team.

Nik Jam (4): It is difficult not to be impressed by Bryce Love. I honestly do think he can get a 50+ yard TD in every game this year… I think it’d be great if he had a few against us and still lost!

Ruey Yen (4): Welp, the demise of Stanfurd has been greatly exaggerated... again.

Nick Kranz (4): The hope was that Love gets stopped by competent defenses. Instead, the fear of Love appears to have opened things up for Stanford to pass the ball just a little teensy bit.

atomsareenough (4): Despite looking awful at times, the Cardinal are still 3-1 in Pac-12 play.

5. Utah Utes (4–1, 1–1 Pac-12) ↘

Last week: 3

Berkelium97 (4): It seems like every year since since joining the Pac-12, Utah has lost a QB to injury. They really missed Huntley on Saturday and probably would have won if he played.

Leland Wong (5): In Utah’s first real test for the year, they came up short. The defense just didn’t have any answers for the Stanfurd run game.

Nick Kranz (5): What’s that? Utah played a slow, offensively-challenged game that ended with both team scoring in the 20s? You don’t say!

6. Arizona Wildcats (3–2, 1–1 Pac-12) ↗

Last week: 11

Leland Wong (6): I try to keep my votes from being too volatile, but I think this has more to do with the wealth of uncertainty for the conference this year. The Wildcats finally got their groove back in the ground game—and that helped their passing offense look its best all year.

Berkelium97 (6): I haven’t watched Arizona at all, so I still don’t know if this is a good team or a bad team. But I know that QB Khalil Tate ran for 327 of his 469 yards and that is very, very impressive.

Nik Jam (6): Arizona is getting hot at just the right time. They will make some Pac-12 South hopefuls cry… they may ruin some teams’ hopes of 6 wins as well. Whom might I be referring to there? *gulp*

Ruey Yen (6): My biggest mover this week after a surprising road win at Colorado.

Nick Kranz (6): Arizona moves up in part because they won a road game and in part because Oregon and Cal are clearly crippled by injuries. That they appear to have found a quarterback out of thin air certainly helps.

atomsareenough (7): The Wildcats beat the Buffs on the road. I'm now a little bit concerned about whether the Bears can beat them in Berkeley.

7. UC Los Angeles Bruins (3–2, 1–1 Pac-12) ↔

Last week: 7

Nik Jam (7): Just because they didn’t play doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten that they stink.

Leland Wong (7): The Baby Bears are struggling, but with a win against the Buffaloes two weeks ago, a bye, and a game against the Wildcats coming up, they could get back on the right track.

8. Oregon Ducks (4–2, 1–2 Pac-12) ↘

Last week: 6

Leland Wong (9): The Ducks fought valiantly, but there’s only so far they can go with their third-string quarterback. Imagine how it would look to lose to a team like this.

Nik Jam (9): Suddenly unable to compete because of offensive injuries combined with a difficult opponent? For some reason I can’t feel too bad for them.

Berkelium97 (7): QB Braxton Burmeister looked thoroughly mediocre. With upcoming games against furd, UCLA, Utah, and UW, a five-game losing streak may loom on the horizon.

Nick Kranz (9): Few teams have the depth to weather a quarterback injury and Oregon looks to be no different.. A reminder that football frequently sucks.

atomsareenough (5): I think I'm grading Oregon on a curve a little here. They're relying on a true freshman QB, and this is a rebuilding season, but I think the long term picture under Taggart is looking pretty hopeful right now. I could see the Ducks contending as soon as next year. They played a top-10 caliber opponent in the Cougars and were within a FG at half before Wazzu pulled away.

9. Colorado Buffaloes (3–3, 0–3 Pac-12) ↘

Last week: 8

Leland Wong (8): This seems like a bit of an overreaction at first glance, but (after a weak nonconference schedule) Colorado is on a three-game losing streak; their last two losses were at the hands of some unimpressive Pac-12 teams, but by a combined 7 points.

Berkelium97 (9): 0–3 to start conference play. How does this team prevent Colorado State from scoring a TD (CSU scored 58 against OSU and 23 against Alabama, which is more than anyone has scored against the Tide this year) and then give up OVER TEN YARDS PER PLAY to Arizona?

Nik Jam (8): The Pac-12 South’s equivalent of us, it looks like. Wonder how many combined Pac-12 wins Cal and Colorado will have by the time they play each other?

Nick Kranz (10): Colorado has been unlucky, losing two-straight games by less than a possession. But it’s also true that Arizona and UCLA probably aren’t very good, so losing close isn’t going to get you much.

10. Arizona State Sun Devils (2–3, 1–1 Pac-12) ↘

Last week: 10

Leland Wong (10): Their two wins came by a combined margin of 8 points, so they take a bit of a drop despite being on a bye.

11. California Golden Bears (3–3, 0–3 Pac-12) ↘

Last week: 9

Leland Wong (12): The Bears almost got my 11th-place vote, but I think this is appropriate after that game-ending botched snap. Cal has a stronger résumé than this, but injuries have guaranteed that this Cal team is simply not the same that started the season. The offense was totally impotent; the defense showed some flashes, but that’s not enough.

Nik Jam (11): With offensive players dropping like flies—and most of them season-ending—even 5–7 is looking bleak, let alone a bowl. If Kanawai Noa can come back and the offensive line can figure out their woes, they can get some wins as the schedule difficulty decreases.

Berkelium97 (10): Aside from a woefully inept offense, the Bears looked pretty good in the loss, considering the opponent. Special teams did a great job of limiting Dante Pettis on punt returns. The defense yielded several touchdowns, but UW had to work pretty hard to earn them (thus a woeful 5.4 ypa for Jake Browning and a mediocre 3.8 ypc for Myles Gaskin). Bizarre fun fact of the week: Cal’s opponents have accumulated 6.88 yards per play, 5.88, 5.70, 4.94, 4.71, and 4.68. The two lowest yards per play? USC and UW. The highest? Weber St.

Ruey Yen (10): While Saturday’s game was disheartening, the result was also pretty much as expected. I am concerned that injuries will make it a rough second half of the season.

Nick Kranz (11): Judging Cal’s offense based on how they have performed post-injuries, it would be objective to say that they probably have the worst offense in Power 5 football.

atomsareenough (12): No net rushing yards in the last 2 games, that's absolutely horrendous and not really excusable. I know that the Bears will almost certainly score another offensive touchdown this season, possibly even this week, but I'm having a hard time imagining it just now. Beau Baldwin's got some serious work to do to fix this offense. The defense is better but not remotely good enough to carry an offense this bad.

12. Oregon State Beavers (1–5, 0–3 Pac-12) ↔

Last week: 12

Nik Jam (12): In a league of their own right now. The teams that are in 8–11 will shuffle around, but unless they pull an upset, which looks very unlikely right now, there’s no reason to put anyone else here.

Berkelium97 (12): They have been blown out in every single FBS game. This team is hopeless.

Nick Kranz (12): The Beavers are currently last among power 5 teams in the S&P+ rankings. Sorry, Kansas and Rutgers!

atomsareenough (9): The Beavers are still terrible, but they get a bump this week due to Gary Andersen leaving $12M on the table and voluntarily agreeing to leave the program. This won't be a quick fix, and structurally it's always going to be difficult to compete in Corvallis, but this is a great opportunity to take the program in a new direction, and without a huge financial millstone burdening the athletic department as they search for a new coach. The chance of a fresh start is a big ray of sunshine for the Beavers in a bleak season.

The data

Let’s take a look at this week’s votes. Rob has a huge outlying vote for Cal (placing us at 5th, when no one else ad us above 10th. Unfortunately, he didn’t submit an explanation for his opinion.

Pac-12 Power Rankings, Week 6

rk atoms Bk97 Kevin Leland Nick Kranz Nik Jam Piotr Rob Ruey
rk atoms Bk97 Kevin Leland Nick Kranz Nik Jam Piotr Rob Ruey
1 Wash WSU Wash WSU Wash WSU Wash WSU Wash
2 WSU Wash WSU Wash WSU Wash WSU Wash WSU
4 Stanfurd Utah USC Stanfurd Stanfurd Stanfurd Stanfurd Stanfurd Stanfurd
5 Oregon USC Stanfurd Utah Utah Utah Utah Cal Utah
6 Utah Arizona UC L.A. Arizona Arizona Arizona UC L.A. Utah Arizona
7 Arizona Oregon Oregon UC L.A. UC L.A. UC L.A. Arizona UC L.A. UC L.A.
8 ASU UC L.A. Arizona Colorado ASU Colorado Colorado Oregon Colorado
9 OSU Colorado Colorado Oregon Oregon Oregon Oregon Arizona Oregon
10 UC L.A. Cal Cal ASU Colorado ASU ASU Colorado Cal
11 Colorado ASU ASU OSU Cal Cal Cal ASU ASU
Table 1. Ballots.

Atoms submitted a late ballot that not only pushed Cal into 11th place—which I think is more fair since it was Rob’s lone vote that single-handedly pushed us into 10th—but also broke up what would have been a tie for first, cementing the Huskies at the top for another week.

Speaking of outlying data, we visualized that in Fig. 1 with the error bars—the standard deviation. And sure enough, Cal has the biggest standard deviation after netting votes as high as 5th and as low as 12th. Oh, wait. I’m putting the cart before the horse. Figure 1 features the precise ranking of each team, which was obtained by averaging the votes in Table 1. Analyzing these precise values shows us just how close Wazzu was to earning first place.

Figure 1. Look at how close 1st and 2nd are...

It’s a bit easier to comprehend the differences in precise rankings by stacking them on top of each other (Fig. 2). In this view, we see that the teams broke into four tiers. Two up top from that northern state. Three reddish teams—USC, Stanfurd, and Utah—make up the second tier. The third tier is jam-packed with half of the conference and will probably feature teams that struggle to distinguish themselves and will knock each other off on the way to bowl eligibility. And at the bottom—all alone—continues to be Oregon State. But they at least have a heartbeat thanks to atoms’s and my votes!

Figure 2. No, really. Look at how close 1st and 2nd are...

Tracking the rounded rankings shows similar as Fig. 2. We see the biggest mover this week is Arizona—which probably also has a lot to do with the teams above them falling—while Cal continues our freefall.

Figure 3. Wow, look at how distant 1st and 2nd are!

But even with Arizona’s big rise, after five weeks of staying steady near the bottom, they’re still nowhere close to the top of our Madness list. That honor belongs to Stanfurd and Cal. Stanfurd for having a nice rise after a Week 2 faceplant and Cal for our injury-ridden collapse.

Figure 4. Big bump for Arizona.

But let’s see where exactly you think Cal belongs this week. And with a Friday-night showdown against the second (but almost first) team in the conference, we’ve got a great opportunity of moving up the list.


Objectively, where does Cal sit in your Power Rankings?

This poll is closed

  • 2%
    1–4. We’re in the top third of the conference
    (4 votes)
  • 0%
    (1 vote)
  • 2%
    (4 votes)
  • 0%
    (1 vote)
  • 7%
    (10 votes)
  • 14%
    (20 votes)
  • 32%
    (44 votes)
  • 36%
    (49 votes)
  • 2%
    (3 votes)
136 votes total Vote Now