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Pac-12 Power Rankings, Week 9: Hooray! Terrible wins still look pretty good with Stanfurd grade inflation!

Stanfurd celebrates their mediocrity; can we do the same as Cal fans?

NCAA Football: Stanford at Oregon State
Hi Coach Gould.
Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

Leland Wong: As Cal fans, we’re coming off a tough loss, which means I know we’ll be getting plenty of views and comments. Hello to all 47 of you reading this!

Including our tough loss, here are the other Pac-12 games this past weekend:

  • #20 Stanfurd defeated Oregon State, 15–14
  • Colorado defeated California, 44–28
  • #12 Washington defeated UC Los Angeles, 44–23
  • Oregon defeated Utah, 41–20
  • Arizona defeated #15 Washington State, 58–37
  • #21 USC defeated Arizona State, 48–17

Based on those games (HINT HINT), overall performance for the season, fan sentiment, the quality of anagrams formed by their school name, and God-knows-what-other factors, your team of CGB writers are ranking the Pac-12 teams with our Power Rankings.

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 (7–1, 4–1 Pac-12; seven first-place votes) ↔

Last week: 1

Berkelium97 (2): It is a shame that Washington isn’t playing USC or Arizona in the regular season—they could use it to boost their strength of schedule and we all could enjoy a fantastic matchup.

Nik Jam (1): Don’t see another loss for them this regular season.

Leland Wong (2): The domination we expected, but UC L.A. isn’t a good enough team for them to take back my first-place vote.

Nick Kranz (1): Yeah, the UW defense and the Arizona offense would indeed make for great football theater. Those have to be the two best individual units in the conference, right?

2. Arizona Wildcats (6–2, 4–1 Pac-12; two first-place votes) ↗

Last week: 5

Berkelium97 (1): The defense still looks vulnerable enough to surrender a loss if the offense has an off day (600 passing yards allowed?!). Fortunately for Arizona, Khalil Tate does not appear to have off days.

Nick Kranz (2): If my confused attempt to decipher the NCAA record books is correct, Khalil Tate could break the record for most yards/rush in a single season. He’s the best college football player in the country and I will accept no arguments to the contrary. It’s amazing what one player can do for a team that would have been utterly pedestrian without him.

Leland Wong (1): A two-score win over a ranked opponent is by far the best thing done this week; couple that with the new world order that is Tate and they’re the easy choice for my #1 vote.

Nik Jam (3): Arizona continues to be Arizona. I wouldn’t be surprised if they beat USC next week, but for now, I’ll put USC up top.

3. USC Trojans (7–2, 4–1 Pac-12) ↗

Last week: 7

Berkelium97 (3): A nice bounce-back game to set up the battle for the Pac-12 South.

Nik Jam (2): Considered giving them the #1 spot, but nah. Beating Arizona would put them there for sure no matter what UW does next week.

Leland Wong (3): A statement win over a feisty team of Sun Devils was one of the best moves by the teams at the top of the conference.

Nick Kranz (3): So the Pac-12 South race comes down to this question: Is USC the defense that can stop Arizona’s Khalil Tate?

4. Washington State Cougars (7–2, 4–2 Pac-12) ↘

Last week: 2

Berkelium97 (4): A flurry of interceptions turned a 27–30 shootout into a 30–51 blowout. The Cougs have turned the ball over 13 times in the last three games.

Nik Jam (6): No real shame in losing to Arizona at this point.

Leland Wong (4): Losing two of the past three is quite the slide, but I think they deserve some credit for the strength of their play over the first six games. Being in a quarterback competition at this point in the season doesn’t help.

Nick Kranz (5): Luke Falk struggling against Cal? You can write that off as a one-game blip. Luke Falk struggling against Arizona? That’s a much bigger problem. WSU can keep their North hopes alive with a win over Stanford, but does anybody feel like this team has what it takes to win in Seattle?

5. Stanfurd Cardinal (6–2, 5–1 Pac-12) ↘

Last week: 3

Berkelium97 (8): Without Bryce Love, this team is abysmal. If Love is out for the next two weeks, the Lobsterbacks are going to get blown out by the Washingtons.

Nik Jam (4): Even without Love, there was no reason the game should have been so bad for Furd. Please let it stay that way even if he returns.

Leland Wong (8): A moral loss, but Stanfurd still adds a tally to the win column. The offense looked lost out there, but the defense kept them in it.

Nick Kranz (4): I’m ranking Stanford on the presumption that Love will be back healthy next week, but I suppose it’s now self-evident that a Love-less Stanford can lose to any team in this conference rather easily. And Bryce, you should take this injury scare as a reminder that you need to declare for the draft and get paid while you still can.

6. Arizona State Sun Devils (4–4, 3–2 Pac-12) ↘

Last week: 4

Berkelium97 (5): ASU has assumed the role of the Pac-12’s random number generator. I cannot make sense of this team.

Nick Kranz (6): The advanced stats said that ASU was outperforming their baseline stats—and sure enough the Devils followed up two shock wins with a crushing loss to USC. This doesn’t make that defensive performance against Washington any more explicable.

Nik Jam (7): ASU was really the first team to make USC look like National Champs (besides maybe OSU). Not good.

Leland Wong (7): The famed and feared ultra-aggressive Todd Graham defense was roasted by USC on the ground and in the air; I kinda wish USC coach Clay Helton got a Gatorade bath so they could win by sea, too.

7. Oregon Ducks (5–4, 2–4 Pac-12) ↗

Last week: 10

Berkelium97 (7): The season is saved! The Ducks are now one win from bowl eligibility, which they’ll likely earn with a Civil War victory.

Nik Jam (5): Figures the Ducks wouldn’t stay bad the whole rest of the season. They should be a danger to anyone who still has to play them.

Leland Wong (5): This feels way too high, but it’s so hard to differentiate the teams with 4–5 wins; Utah is a tough team and it probably feels great for the Oregon fans to finally get a win despite completely lacking a quarterback. Yay let’s hand-wave away controversial rankings by using feelings!

Nick Kranz (8): Kudos to Oregon for figuring out how to win without a QB by beating a different team without a QB.

8. Colorado Buffaloes (5–4, 2–4 Pac-12) ↗

Last week: 11

Berkelium97 (6): Well, it looks like the QB controversy has sorted itself out.

Nick Kranz (7): I’m probably giving Colorado too much credit for winning a home game against a lower-half team in the conference, but Montez did shred a presumably good passing defense.

Nik Jam (8): The Pac-12 is so muddled that a team can jump up three spots for winning a game at home against another bottom half team.

Leland Wong (6): A huge rebound win after last week’s faceplant, but bowl eligibility is still looking unlikely.

9. California Golden Bears (4–5, 1–5 Pac-12) ↘

Last week: 6

Berkelium97 (9): Somehow the same team that destroyed Wazzu two weeks ago was dominated on both sides of the ball by a mediocre Colorado team. How did that defense allow Steven Montez to bounce back from the worst game of his career with the best game of his career? Bowl eligibility is in jeopardy.

Nick Kranz (9): This team is (mostly metaphorically) bleeding out on the streets of the Pac-12, too beaten and bruised to keep up.

Nik Jam (9): If this is how they play on the road against Colorado, I have no faith in the Furd or UCLA games anymore…

Leland Wong (9): It looked like the Bears were going through the motions on both sides of the ball, which is an especially troublesome thing when the team on the other side of the ball is Colorado.

10. UC Los Angeles Bruins (4–4, 2–3 Pac-12) ↘

Last week: 8

Berkelium97 (10): The Bruins suffer the first loss of what I’m hoping is the four-game losing streak that eliminates bowl eligibility and gives them nothing to play for against Cal. The likeliest win is this weekend against Utah, but an injured Josh Rosen puts that in doubt.

Nik Jam (10): OK I lied, I still think Cal can beat UCLA.

Leland Wong (10): Not too stunning for a Pac-12 team to lose so badly to the Huskies, but it’s definitely problematic to get QB Josh Rosen injured—even if it isn’t “serious”.

Nick Kranz (10): Rosen getting injured is such a predictable plot twist. Come on, Pac-12 After Dark isn’t supposed to be formulaic!

11. Utah Utes (4–4, 1–4 Pac-12) ↘

Last week: 9

Berkelium97 (12): The tailspin continues as the Utes allow 350 rushing yards to a woefully one-dimensional Oregon team. Utah has a narrow path to bowl eligibility: a loss to UCLA this week will give them near-impossible odds to earn six wins.

Nik Jam (11): Maybe Cal would have been better off playing Utah after all; I doubt the Utes get to 6 wins now.

Leland Wong (12): Utah has far more wins than Oregon State, but with a much easier nonconference schedule. Adding onto that a 21-point loss to a run-only team of Ducks and I think the Utes are in the worst spot right now. (Let us all remember that I gave them my third-place vote in the preseason.)

Nick Kranz (11): And I put Utah 8th in the preseason, three spots lower than any other CGB voter! It’s a rare horn-tooting opportunity! Go me!

12. Oregon State Beavers (1–7, 0–5 Pac-12) ↔

Last week: 12

Berkelium97 (11): All they had to do was run out the clock. Then they fumbled, gave up a 4th-and-10 conversion, and allowed the only passing touchdown of the night. After two heartbreaking losses, how motivated will the Beavs be on their first road trip under interim coach Cory Hall?

Nik Jam (12): I’m still weeping for the Beavers. That was terrible. No reason to believe they will beat even an injured Cal team, but who the hell knows at this point?

Leland Wong (11): Super-tough for me to bring them out of the basement since they only have one win and no other team in the conference has fewer than four. Still, I think they deserve better than 12th for the resistance they showed against Stanfurd. Who’s surprised that they have a deep understanding of resistance when their interim head coach is an expert in electrical engineering?

Nick Kranz (12): It’s always particularly cruel when the bad teams lose games due to bad turnover luck. OSU was the better team for 60 minutes, but that doesn’t always mean you get the W.

The data

Let’s start off our deeper analysis with a look at how we all voted (including all of the objectively wrong people who voted a non-Arizona team to be 1st).

Table 1. Pac-12 Power Rankings, Week 9

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

The CGB Intern combs through that data to find how each of us ranked each team and calculates the mathematical average to come up with our official ranking for that team this week; sorting those precise rankings gives us the list above. And plotting out those precise rankings gives us the figure below. The error bars in Fig. 1 represent 1 standard deviation—a quantification of how varied our votes were for that team. Note that Utah has a precise ranking of 11.000 and a standard deviation of 1.000; this has absolutely no significance besides being cool and confirming that we here at CGB are damn good at our job. Especially that Berkelium97 fellow, who also ranked Arizona first. Stanfurd has a huge standard deviation as we were all torn on how to grade an ugly win and how to evaluate their Love-less team; love’s not real anyway, so clearly a loveless life is the real life and a Love-less Stanfurd is the real Stanfurd.

Figure 1. The precise Pac-12 Power Rankings.

We can chart out our precise rankings over the course of the season to find any trends; the trend is that nothing makes sense in the Pac-12. With so much parity in the conference, the only thing that’s been kind of constant is the bookends of the conference. Washington gained a little more distance with a win over an uninspiring UC Los Angeles, but Oregon State is registering as the tiniest of blips for taking Stanfurd to the limit. Furthermore, one of my favorite activities with these precise rankings is to look at the tiers or clusters in the conference, but none are too apparent this week. I could perhaps make an argument for two broad classes. There are eight teams at the top (Washington through Colorado) and four on the bottom (Cal through OSU). That’s eight teams that have a good chance of going bowling and four teams that run the risk of spending their holidays as I do—cold, alone, and ugly.

Figure 2. What’s the point in even tracking data when it’s so confusing?

For the purposes of completeness, let’s bring it full circle to the rounded rankings.

Figure 3. The rounded rankings are just as confuddling.

Figures 2 and 3 are so tough to follow because they’re filled with so much volatility and risers and fallers. We can at least attempt to draw some meaningful observations from this—the hottest of messes—by summing up the magnitudes of how far each team went up or down our rankings. With the exception of our top and bottom teams, every school moved at least two spots this week.

Figure 4. sdf

Cal is on the verge of passing 30 Madness points while the second-Maddest team—Utah—has barely breached into the 20s. It would probably take a 146–0 win against Oregon State for California to break the 30-point barrier by next week... or a loss.

Come back next week to see if Cal can accomplish this—the greatest of all honors!