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Pac-12 Power Rankings, Week 11: Even Stanfurd is dumbfounded by their upset win

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The Pac-12 had a crazy week and things somehow get crazy for Cal despite having a bye.

NCAA Football: Washington at Stanford Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Leland Wong: Well, this was a fun week. Of course we get to kick off Big Game Week with a big win for Stanfurd; not only that, but we lucky few get to recap said week of excellent results. We’ll be judging teams based on the following results, overall performance this year, and fanbase sentiment.

  • Stanfurd defeated #9 Washington, 30–22
  • #11 USC defeated Colorado, 38–24
  • #19 Washington State defeated Utah, 33–25
  • UC L.A. defeated Arizona State, 44–37
  • Arizona defeated Oregon State, 49–28
  • Bye: California and Oregon

Berkelium97: Despite the bye, this was a pretty discouraging week for Cal fans. The Lobsterbacks have defeated Washington to make a strong claim for the Pac-12 North title. UCLA earned a crucial fifth win to set up a season finale that may pit two 5–6 teams against each other to see who earns a bowl berth. The next couple of weeks look a bit tougher than they did a week ago.

Nick Kranz: The top five in the conference are so far ahead of everybody else—and as a consequence I didn’t really spend much time ranking anybody below those five teams.

Leland Wong: I had the opposite reaction as Nick—the non–Oregon State lower half of the Pac-12 was so muddled that I agonized over differentiating them.

ragnaork: Muddled, yes, but not interestingly so. There’s a lot of five-win teams in this conference (six of ‘em!) with two weeks to go and between head-to-head matchups and a couple more dates with hapless Oregon State, not only will a few of them get to six wins, but it’s possible that ALL of them will, leaving the conference with an incredible 11 bowl-eligible teams!

This probably won’t happen, as either UCLA or Cal needs to beat their rival as underdogs next week to keep the regular-season finale from being a bowl-elimination game and Utah needs to win at UW next week to keep the final vs. Colorado from being the same.

Ruey Yen: Outside of OSU at the bottom, I see a very muddled 11 teams that are capable of beating one another on any given Saturday… even better chance for the home underdogs if the game is taking place on a Friday night. Yes, the top five of USC, Stanford, Washington, WSU, and Arizona are a cut above the rest, but no one is that dominant and this will cost the conference valuable big-bowl money.

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. USC Trojans (9–2, 7–1 Pac-12; seven first-place votes) ↗

Last week: 2

Berkelium97 (1): After a lousy September, Sam Darnold looks like a pretty good QB again. In fact, this team might be good enough to win the Pac-12 title game.

Nick Kranz (1): Other than one confusing no-show on the road against Notre Dame, pretty much exactly the USC team we were expecting.

Leland Wong (2): Yeah, the offense looked great, but I think it was the defense that truly stood out. They bottled up Phillip Lindsay and kept Steven Montez from making any big plays.

2. Washington State Cougars (9–2, 6–2 Pac-12) ↗

Last week: 3

Berkelium97 (2): If Cal cannot do the needful next week, an Apple Cup win for the Cougs is the only thing keeping us from a LSJU–USC Pac-12 title game. Other than the shutout of Colorado, this team has not looked the same since getting blown out in Berkeley. So my hopes of averting a disastrous title game are dimming.

Nick Kranz (2): Luke Falk is not exactly covering himself in glory in his final season despite setting all kinds of air raid–assisted career records. Wazzu gotta figure something out for Apple Cup. I’m keeping the Cougs at #2 because they’ve beaten Stanford and USC, but they’re making me very nervous.

Leland Wong (3): Getting a win is nice, but this was a relatively ugly performance for the offense. If not for the #SpeedD, I think the pirate ship would have sunk.

3. Stanford Cardinal (7–3, 6–2 Pac-12; one misguided first-place vote) ↗

Last week: 5

Berkelium97 (5): Every year they look poised to have a down year. After the loss to SDSU and the miraculous victory against OSU, the Lobsterbacks looked extremely vulnerable. Then they beat Washington. I’d like to be hopeful in the Big Game, but it’s not easy.

Nick Kranz (3): The hidden secret to this year’s Stanford team has been immaculate special teams (ranked #1 in the nation by S&P+), which has masked all kinds of issues on offense and defense. But when those sides of the ball have solid games . . . sigh.

Leland Wong (1): This week, Stanfurd was the only team in the upper echelon of the conference to beat another team in the said echelon, putting up the most points that the UW defense has allowed all year and having a Heisman showing for Bryce Love. While this move saddens me, it’s the only fair ranking in my eyes.

Ruey Yen (2): Yes, the Furdies are very one dimensional. But when Bryce Love is healthy, they are hard to beat despite the ultra-conservative play calling of David Shaw.

4. Washington Huskies (8–2, 5–2 Pac-12) ↘

Last week: 1

Berkelium97 (3): Ughhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

Nick Kranz (4): Thanks for nothing, jerk faces.

Leland Wong (4): That the defense allowed a Ron Gould–coached player to break out is only slightly surprising. What was truly stunning was that they allowed QB K.J. Costello to have a perfectly acceptable game. Still, this might be a bit of an overreaction for an 8-point loss to one of the conference’s stronger teams.

5. Arizona Wildcats (7–3, 5–2 Pac-12) ↘

Last week: 4

Berkelium97 (4): That pass defense is still a liability (four TDs to Darrell Garretson?!), but Tate’s gonna Tate. Arizona has quietly built the most efficient run game in the nation this season (7.34 yards per carry!).

Nick Kranz (5): Alas, Arizona’s 2017 season is over in terms of making noise at a national level, but Avi made a strong argument on twitter for their 2018 conference title chances. Hey, it’s better than USC!

Leland Wong (5): As a testament to how strong they’ve been playing this year, I looked at the game’s box score and thought “business as usual for Arizona”. Honestly, this might be a tad low.

6. Arizona State Sun Devils (5–5, 4–3 Pac-12) ↔

Last week: 6

Berkelium97 (6): I am incredibly disappointed in the most unpredictable team in the conference. They should have run wild on the UCLA defense. They’ll probably lose to Oregon State next week, then somehow beat Arizona. Because that’s the type of team ASU is this season.

Nick Kranz (6): I’ll just quote myself from last week: “ASU is gonna lose next week in Los Angeles for no particular reason, right?”

Leland Wong (10): I’m bringing Arizona State down to UC L.A.’s level for this neck-and-neck loss.

7. Utah Utes (5–5, 2–5 Pac-12) ↔

Last week: 7

Berkelium97 (10): How do you hold an opponent to 4.5 yards per passing attempt and 1.6 yards per rush and still lose? Oh right—SEVEN TURNOVERS.

Nick Kranz (7): Boy is it weird to see a Utah team that can’t run the ball, but can kinda pass the ball (when they’re not throwing it to the other team).

Leland Wong (7): An ugly offensive performance, but that should be tempered with the fact it’s their first year in this system. Not to mention they were up against a pretty formidable defense on the other side of the ball.

8T. Colorado Buffaloes (5–6, 2–6 Pac-12) ↗

Last week: 9

Berkelium97 (11): They never really had a chance against USC. They have a great advantage heading into the whatever-they-call-the-rather-forced-Utah-Colorado-rivalry-game: they have a bye week while Utah will be facing a very angry Washington team.

Nick Kranz (11): Do you suppose Utah and Colorado fighting for bowl eligibility is the fuse the Mountain rivalry needs to take off?

Leland Wong (8): I’m cutting some slack for the Buffaloes since they went up against a stacked team of Trojans. On the scoreboard, Colorado was hanging tight for three-quarters of the game—it was the second quarter that set up their failure. Statistically, it wasn’t that pretty.

8T. Oregon Ducks (5–5, 2–5 Pac-12) ↗

Last week: 10

Leland Wong (11): I think the Ducks were the toughest team for me to evaluate… With how complicated the logjam of five-win teams are (all of whom lost except for UC L.A.), I was tempted use the ye olde method of putting teams on bye above those who lost. But I also couldn’t look past their one-dimensional offense, which is what ultimately won out in my cold, shattered heart.

8T. UC Los Angeles Bruins (5–5, 3–4 Pac-12) ↗

Last week: 11

Berkelium97 (9): So much for the four-game losing streak that eliminates them from bowl eligibility…

Nick Kranz (8): ASU’s passing defense has been pretty bad, so it’s not exactly a huge shock to see Josh Rosen carve them up. The protection he got in the process was pretty shocking, though.

Leland Wong (9): A much-needed win to show that the Bruins still have some life. They had to pull out all the stops (including two runs over 30 yards by receivers) to be victorious, so we’ll have to see if they have anything left in the tank.

Ruey Yen (9): Of course, Cal’s last opponent of the regular season will likely have something to play for on Black Friday.

11. California Golden Bears (5–5, 2–5 Pac-12) ↘

Last week: 8

Berkelium97 (7): Man, these next two weeks might be tough. The pattern of Pac-12 road teams performing horribly on Fridays does not bode well for the UCLA game.

Nick Kranz (10): The sudden existence of a Stanford downfield passing game certainly concerns me, though I still think the Big Game will come down to whether or not a healthy Bryce Love can break off big runs or not.

Leland Wong (6): Of all the five-win teams, Cal didn’t lose. Cal also didn’t need a win to join the five-win club, so we’re better than UC L.A. This is terribly faulty logic, but it makes sense to me and I have no idea how else to judge this cluster of teams.

12. Oregon State Beavers (1–9, 0–7 Pac-12) ↔

Last week: 12

Berkelium97 (12): I’ve never liked ESPN’s QBR. I don’t trust a proprietary formula that isn’t made available to the public. It might as well be a random-number generator. Speaking of which, Garretson threw for 209 yards on 16/28 passing with 4 TDs and an interception. His QBR was 45.0. His opponent, Khalil Tate, threw for 68 yards on 5/7 with no TDs and an interception. His QBR? 99.1. Again, it might as well be a random-number generator.

Nick Kranz (12): The poor Beavers deserve a win—and I can’t say I’d be totally shocked if they managed to nab one against either ASU at home or Oregon on the road, since those teams don’t have Khalil Tate.

Leland Wong (12): The “feel good” portion of the Cory Hall circuit is officially over. The defense was so paper-thin that Arizona only needed to muster up seven whole passes.

The data

First up, let’s take a comprehensive look at how we all voted. If I voted the Furdies at #1, how else did I stand out?

Table 1. Pac-12 Power Rankings, Week 11

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

Take a look at how many writers we have voting above, but how few blurbs we have—clearly this week scared us all silent. We run through Table 1 to collect all of the numerical responses for each team and find the average in order to determine how we as a group have ranked said team. Arranging those averages is how we get the simplified rankings above. But we can take a look at the precisely-calculated averages in Figure 1 to see how confidence/how much agreement we have as a group; the error bars represent 1 standard deviation.

Figure 1. How we (as a unit) viewed the Pac-12 (as individuals).

Cal got screwed! Despite being just a hair below the three-team logjam at eighth, the finalized, rounded rankings will forever show Cal allll the way down at eleventh. We can start to see some groupings of teams in Fig. 1 or in Fig. 2, which charts the precise values for the entire season. As we the writers stated, we have five teams at top, a cluster of six teams, and Oregon State at the basement.

I’m stunned that ASU continues to differentiate itself from the other five-win teams. This is the third-straight week, dating back to Week 9.

Speaking of notable threes, I do think this might be the first-ever three-team tie, but I’m not certain.

Figure 2. Behold, the threesome at eighth.

We can lose the clusters—and get a real feel for how much Cal gets screwed by the rounded methodology—in Figure 3. Despite both teams sitting at five wins and sitting idly on a bye, Oregon and Cal have different moves this week (small moves with the precise values and large moves with the rounded rankings). Chaos can be a ladder, but chaos was a chute for the Bears this week. Is the difference between these teams because the next two weeks suddenly look much tougher for Cal, whereas Oregon has a winnable game against Oregon State coming up?

Figure 3. Cal really gets screwed in the rounded rankings—hard.

All of the insanity in Figure 3 (look at weeks 6–9!) can be measured by summing up how many spots each team has moved up or down each week. To come back to the motif of threes, three teams moved three spots—the biggest jumps of the week.

Figure 4. Charting the Madness of the year.

Check back next week to find out if a win over UC L.A. or Utah will result in USC or Washington taking first place and to see if the Sun Devils will continue their chokehold on this weird limbo position by conquering the Beavers.

Poll

Is Arizona State definitively the best of the five-win teams?

This poll is closed

  • 13%
    Yes—they beat Washington, after all
    (17 votes)
  • 33%
    Kind of? They’re probably the best, but the confidence differential is kind of large
    (42 votes)
  • 23%
    No—they have some bad losses on their schedule
    (29 votes)
  • 30%
    No, because I’m a Cal homer who insists on putting us at the top of these teams
    (38 votes)
126 votes total Vote Now