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Pac-12 Power Rankings, Week 5: WSU busted through the Trojans, but can they come out on top?

The Cougars make some moves in an effort to earn the #1 spot.

USC v Washington State
I love Coug fans. And the outrage from CGB readers at these vulgar and offensive pictures.
Photo by William Mancebo/Getty Images

Leland Wong: Well, this was a crazy week for the Pac-12. And this a lazy intro for a post.

Let’s look at the past week’s worth of games:

  • #16 WSU def. #5 USC, 30–27
  • #6 Washington def. Oregon State, 42–7
  • Stanfurd def. Arizona State, 34–24
  • UC L.A. def. Colorado, 27–23
  • Oregon def. Cal, 45–24
  • Bye: Arizona, #11 Utah

Based largely on the above games—but without completely losing sight of the performance over the course of the season and some degree of future projection—this team of 10 CGBears individually ranked the Pac-12 teams, which were then compiled to determine the much-important CGB Power Rankings.

Two-straight losses mean our writers are twice as sad, so there will even less writing this week. This means less reading for you and more time to go do your work!

Nick Kranz: The teams that I ranked 7th, 9th, and 10th last week all won—another reminder that this is mostly guesswork. It made it difficult to actually rank the teams this week (particularly screwy ASU and Oregon), but it increasingly looks like a pecking order is establishing itself... and that pecking order isn’t vastly different from preseason projections.

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 (5–0, 2–0 Pac-12; 6 first-place votes) ↔

Last week: 1

Berkelium97 (2): Although their schedule has consisted of a bunch of pillows and an okay Colorado team, it’s pretty impressive that they have outscored their opponents 220–54.

Nick Kranz (1): Every indication is that the are the best, most complete team in the conference—in a way that has been entirely boring. Now they just need to play somebody.

Leland Wong (1): I’m still not convinced they’re better than USC, but they’re still undefeated—playing a bunch of nobodies so far helps.

atomsareenough (1): Huskies start slow, but end up cruising past Oregon State. Not much learned here. We’re probably not going to learn much next week against Cal, either.

2. Washington State Cougars (5–0, 2–0 Pac-12; 4 first-place votes) ↗

Last week: 3

Berkelium97 (1): I don’t think they’ll spend more than a couple weeks at #1 because they have some weaknesses (trouble containing edge rushers and periodic trouble bringing down players in open space) that can be exploited by the right team. Oregon has the players to exploit these weaknesses this least they did until the entire team went down with injuries.

Nick Kranz (2): Two straight road games are coming up next, but both of those teams are heavily hampered by injuries. Then, a three-game stretch with two games at home against teams that aren’t as good as USC, sandwiched around a road trip to a weak team. Projecting is for dummies, but why shouldn’t Wazzu make it to 10–0 before a tough last two games?

Leland Wong (1): They may not be the best team in the conference, but they took down one of the (perceived) kings of the conference and their résumé shows it. The offense looked great (in all phases) and the defense ruined USC QB Sam Darnold’s Heisman campaign.

atomsareenough (2): I was sorely tempted to rank the Cougs #1. They had a really good week, beating USC with Luke Falk making his way into the Heisman conversation. Ultimately what it came down to, though, was as of this moment, would you rather be Washington or would you rather be Wazzu? For me the answer is still U-Dub. It’s getting close though. The Cougs are going on two potentially tough road trips back-to-back—at Oregon and then at California in the next two weeks. Washington’s biggest challenge on the schedule is a trip to Stanfurd and they’ll be hosting the Apple Cup this year to close the season. I think the Huskies are still in the driver’s seat.

3. Utah Utes (4–0, 1–0 Pac-12) ↗

Last week: 4

Berkelium97 (3): This looks like another one of those years where Utah is poised to win the Pac-12 South until they blow it with a head-scratching loss to someone like UCLA.

Nick Kranz (3): Utah gets this spot by default this week. I will be fervently rooting for them to earn it next weekend.

Leland Wong (4): They are still undefeated, but they got here by beating an FCS team and three FBS teams with a combined 4–11 record. I’m ashamed to give that my 4th-place vote, but that’s what happens when the Pac-12 cannibalizes itself.

atomsareenough (3): I’m probably not going to watch because it’ll likely be boring, but I’m interested in the result of the Utah–Stanfurd matchup next week. I think it’ll be a close game that could go either way. Maybe the Utes’ special teams will make the difference.

4. USC Trojans (4–1, 1–1 Pac-12) ↘

Last week: 2

Berkelium97 (4): Can we all finally admit that Sam Darnold is not a good QB this year? Listening to these announcers hail him as the inevitable #1 draft pick is getting very stale.

Nick Kranz (4): I’m not going to kill USC for losing the second-toughest road trip they could possibly face by one possession. And one can’t help but wonder how the game might’ve turned out if USC were healthier on the O-line. But they weren’t and they lost—and they deserved to lose a game that was not as close as the score indicated.

Leland Wong (3): I’m willing to cut them some slack for losing to a tough team in a tougher location. Plus, I think they deserve a pass because it must have been so difficult for Darnold to play with all those ESPN announcers latched onto his jock.

atomsareenough (4): Difficult to win in Pullman against a tough Wazzu team—even for USC—when you’re thin and probably not really a top-5 team in the first place. The Trojans could still conceivably win out though and remain in contention for the Pac-12 title and playoff for several weeks longer. So, this loss hurts but is not yet disastrous for USC. Darnold seems pretty overrated though.

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

Last week: 7

Berkelium97 (5): Ron Gould is otherworldly.

Leland Wong (5): QB K.J. Costello looked meh, which is a all they need with such a killer rushing offense.

Nick Kranz (5): UCLA and ASU have no semblance of a run defense—and thus are the best match-ups for Stanford. I’ll be watching closely over the next two weeks to see how the Bryce-Love-and-nothing-else offense does against Utah and Oregon.

atomsareenough (5): I’m sick of the Bryce Love hype already.

6. Oregon Ducks (4–1, 1–1 Pac-12) ↗

Last week: 9

Berkelium97 (6): I’m tempted to rank the Ducks a couple spots higher, but all the injuries are hard to ignore. With QB Justin Herbert likely out for the year, the next five games (Wazzu, @furd, @UCLA, Utah, @Wash) look much, much tougher. I’d be surprised if they get more than two wins in that span.

Leland Wong (6): I don’t see them staying at this spot for much longer with injuries to Herbert and RB Royce Freeman, but it’s hard to overlook how they moved the ball on the ground in situations where it was obvious they were running.

Nick Kranz (6): If Oregon’s lines are that good (as opposed to Cal’s lines being that bad) then I’d maybe back Oregon to weather their injuries better than you would otherwise expect. But yeah, a brutal pyrrhic victory for the Ducks.

atomsareenough (7): The good news for Oregon: the Ducks rebounded after a listless performance in Tempe and rolled over Cal in a game that many people thought might be a close one.

The bad news: The victory may have come at a steep cost, as Justin Herbert broke his collarbone on a first-half touchdown run and Royce Freeman didn’t play for much of the game. There’s depth behind Freeman, but at QB there are concerns: Taylor Alie isn’t a passer and Braxton Burmeister is a true freshman. This game may have materially lowered the ceiling on the year for the Ducks.

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

Last week: 10

Nick Kranz (7): Protect Josh Rosen and UCLA can make it a game with anyone. Colorado has got to be disappointed recording just one sack for –1 yard.

Leland Wong (7): The run game continues to be a weakness and Rosen’s stats aren’t particularly stellar, so they don’t get too big of a boost despite beating a fairly-respectable Colorado team.

atomsareenough (8): The Bruins are still good enough to beat another middle-of-the-Pac team at home.

8. Colorado Buffaloes (3–2, 0–2 Pac-12) ↘

Last week: 6

Leland Wong (9): They lost by just a field goal, but there’s so little margin for error in the middle of the conference right now.

Nick Kranz: (10): This is probably a harsh overreaction to losing a coin-flip road game; like we’ve noted all season long, the margins between teams in the middle of the conference are small, but Colorado is 0–2 and somebody’s gotta go down here. Sorry, Buffs. You’ll probably be ranked 7th in a few weeks after beating Arizona and Oregon State.

atomsareenough (6): Middling team hangs with other middling team on the road; comes up short.

9. California Golden Bears (3–2, 0–2 Pac-12) ↘

Last week: 5

Berkelium97 (8): 8 rushing yards. An inability to do anything on first down put the Bears in obvious passing situations, where the O-line was getting manhandled all game. That was one of the ugliest offensive performances I’ve seen in a while. Their résumé is not helped by the fact that all of Cal’s OOC wins are looking less and less impressive each week.

Leland Wong (10): The run game was a nightmare for the Bears, both offensively and trying to stop the run defensively. Still, the Bears fall so far for being beaten by a team on its second- and third-string quarterbacks and without their starting tailback.

Nick Kranz (9): This was my fault for ranking Cal 4th last week. Also the fault of injuries, and Oregon’s lines, and...

atomsareenough (10): Run game completely nonexistent, pass game thoroughly inconsistent, defense couldn’t stop the run even though they knew it was coming for most of the game. Major questions on both offensive and defensive lines. WR Demetris Robertson and OLB Cameron Saffle out for the year, now star linebacker Devante Downs evidently left the game this week with some kind of injury. A promising introductory season for Justin Wilcox is hitting some serious road bumps, with their single most challenging game of the year on tap next week. How will the Bears respond?

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

Last week: 8

Leland Wong (8): The defense allowed Stanfurd’s Bryce Love to set a single-game rushing record for the school and the pass defense looked awful, but at least they lost to a formidable team of Furdies.

Nick Kranz (8): The win over Oregon does look better this week, but there’s not much else on the résumé to recommend them. I guess at least they’re the fun type of mediocre?

atomsareenough (9): ASU starting to look more like a credible middle-tier team. Maybe it’s just Arizona and OSU in that bottom tier?

11. Arizona Wildcats (2–2, 0–1 Pac-12) ↔

Last week: 11

Leland Wong (11): Their two wins have come against an FCS school and a winless UTEP Miners team, but each of their losses have only been by one score to teams with a combined record of 7–1. They could end up actually be better than this.

12. Oregon State Beavers (1–4, 0–2 Pac-12) ↔

Last week: 12

Leland Wong (12): If the game ended at halftime, then their ability to keep it close with a CFP contender probably would have justified them surpassing Arizona. However, they allowed a 35–7 second half to make the game a blowout.

atomsareenough (12): I guess Gary Andersen has some positives for his team this week from the first half against the Huskies. They’re still clearly the worst team in the conference though.

The data

Title card: Two hours ago.

Two hours ago, we submitted the following ballots.

Pac-12 Power Rankings, Week 5

rk atoms Bk97 Kevin Leland Nick Kranz Nik Jam Piotr ragnarok Rob Ruey
rk atoms Bk97 Kevin Leland Nick Kranz Nik Jam Piotr ragnarok Rob Ruey
1 Wash WSU Wash WSU Wash WSU Wash WSU Wash Wash
2 WSU Wash WSU Wash WSU Wash WSU Wash WSU WSU
3 Utah Utah Utah USC Utah Utah Utah USC Utah Utah
5 Stanfurd Stanfurd Stanfurd Stanfurd Stanfurd Stanfurd Oregon Oregon Cal Stanfurd
6 Colorado Oregon UC L.A. Oregon Oregon Oregon Stanfurd Stanfurd USC Oregon
7 Oregon UC L.A. Colorado UC L.A. UC L.A. UC L.A. UC L.A. UC L.A. UC L.A. UC L.A.
8 UC L.A. Cal Oregon ASU ASU Colorado Colorado Colorado Stanfurd Colorado
9 ASU Colorado Cal Colorado Cal ASU ASU Cal Colorado Cal
10 Cal ASU Arizona Cal Colorado Cal Cal ASU ASU ASU
11 Arizona Arizona ASU Arizona Arizona Arizona Arizona Arizona Arizona Arizona
Table 1. Our votes, none of which were bought by special interests.

Google Docs takes all of the responses for each team and calculates the mathematical average and the standard deviation, which is a measure of variability in the votes for each team. By sorting the averages from smallest to largest, we get the 12-team ranking shown above. By graphing the averages (and plotting the standard deviations as error bars), we get a more insightful peek at how the teams are perceived.

Figure 1. A high-res look at the Power Rankings for Week 5. We’re all about that HD.

Figure 1 captures some of the indecision we had for the middle of the conference. Those teams are closer than the rounded rankings would suggest and they also have some pretty hefty standard deviations. Personally, I think it’s a bit easier to appreciate the distance between teams when we stack the precise values vertically—and hey, look at that, I did that down below in Figure 2.

I’d argue we have four tiers in the Pac-12 following the Week 5 games. Two teams at top, two teams after them, a mess of six teams, and two final teams in the basement.

Figure 2. Arguably four tiers in Week 5.

In either Figures 2 or 3, we see that in the aforementioned confuddling middle of the conference, there was a lot of movement in the opposite direction of how that team moved last week (with the exception of Cal and Stanfurd). UC L.A. and Oregon reversed their downward trajectories while ASU and Colorado took a bit of a stumble after being on the up-and-up (again. No one knows who you are or what you do.).

Figure 3. A lot of movement in the middle of the conference.

Since we’re all about the numbers here (Apologies to Ice-T and the rest of the Alphabetrites.), we can measure how much the teams move up and down the rankings each week. All of that movement in the middle of the Pac-12 led to a tie for the Maddest week of 2017. This is kind of a flimsy observation, but it seems like most teams have either held steady all year (Arizona, Colorado, Oregon State, Washington, and Washington State with Madness scores less than or equal to 4) or been all over the place (double-digit Madness values for Cal, Oregon, Stanfurd, UC L.A., and Utah).

Table 2 a.k.a. Figure 4. Every week, I have deep, philosophical questions about if this is a table or a figure.

Next week’s games look to be fairly straightforward (but don’t be afraid to prove me wrong, Cal), but the Stanfurd–Utah game has some potential to cause some shifts in our Power Rankings. Won’t you come back for that?