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Pac-12 Power Rankings: Who reigns supreme at the end of the regular season?

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Something wicked this way comes. From the POV of someone at the top. A place Cal fans haven’t been in awhile.

NCAA Football: Arizona at Arizona State The Republic-USA TODAY NETWORK

Leland Wong: Hello. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—after losses, writing and reading at CGB tends to drop. After a bowl-losing, season-ending loss, I’m expecting this to be doubly apparent this week. In case you haven’t noticed, the past weekend featured several Pac-12 games:

  • UC Los Angeles defeated California, 30–27
  • Arizona State defeated Arizona, 42–30
  • Oregon defeated Oregon State, 69–10
  • #21 Stanfurd defeated #8 Notre Dame, 38–20
  • #17 Washington defeated #13 Washington State, 41–14
  • Utah defeated Colorado, 34–13
  • Bye: #11 USC

Based on this set of activity, overall performance for the 2017 season, and fanbase feels, the CGB writers are ranking the Pac-12 teams in our Power Rankings.

Nick Kranz: Let’s pour one out for Todd Graham, Jim Mora, and Pac-12 South stability. Other than the soap opera that is USC, the Pac-12 South had gone five years without a coaching change—in part because there was so much parity between every program in the division. It was inevitable that somebody would try to find a coach who could break past that parity and compete with USC . . . I just wouldn’t have wagered on it being ASU pulling that trigger.

Nik Jam: All six rivalry games—including the Mountain’s “rivalry”—were won by the home team. Cal actually had the closest loss. Yay?

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. Stanfurd Cardinal (9–3, 7–2 Pac-12; six first-place votes) ↗

Last week: 3

Berkelium97 (1): Ugh.

Leland Wong (1): A win over a Top-10 team, winning the Pac-12 North, and suddenly remembering how to throw the ball. I can’t imagine the pure ecstasy that must be felt right now by their 17 fans.

Nick Kranz (2): K.J. Costello’s emergence late in the year as a redshirt freshman really is a game changer for Stanford—and the biggest reason to expect Stanford to stay in the top tier of Pac-12 teams next season.

Nik Jam (1): This comparison won’t work since most of you are Giants fans, but as an A’s fan, I get a sinking feeling of inevitability when SF is in the World Series. The same is true for Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship Game (and subsequent bowl game). Me picking them over USC is basically saying I expect them to win.

atomsareenough (1): Wazzu loses, Notre Dame implodes, everything is turning up Cardinal. Ugh.

Ruey Yen (1): At least Stanford won’t be going to the Rose Bowl for winning the Pac this year.

2. USC Trojans (10–2, 8–1 Pac-12; three first-place votes) ↘

Last week: 1

Leland Wong (3): Another one of those weeks where the ranking belies just how well the team is. I’m still acutely aware of how dangerous this team is, but they had a bye while two other teams had quality wins.

Nick Kranz (1): USC has one utterly inexplicable no-show on the road against Notre Dame but has otherwise been the best team in this conference week-in and week-out. Please prove it next weekend.

3. Washington Huskies (10–2, 7–2 Pac-12) ↗

Last week: 4

Berkelium97 (2): Where was this team the last two weeks against Utah and the Lobsterbacks?

Leland Wong (2): A total decimation of a rival—the score was 34–0 midway through the fourth quarter. If not for another team’s beatdown of a rival, this would be a #1-caliber performance.

Nick Kranz (3): I do appreciate the Apple Cup existing within the Pac-12 because at least it’s a reminder that we’re not the only fanbase dealing with a one-sided rivalry game at the moment.

Ruey Yen (2): I think U-Dub fans will ultimately deeply regret the few near misses of this season. They had the talent to do more, but didn’t get it done.

4. Washington State Cougars (9–3, 6–3 Pac-12) ↘

Last week: 2

Berkelium97 (6): Will the Cougs ever put together a complete season under Mike Leach? They have looked brilliant at times over the past two years, but they can’t seem to sustain those performances in November and December.

Leland Wong (5): There are no words to describe how horrid this performance was, but I (perhaps erroneously) will give them a tiny edge for overall body of work. Luke Falk continues to have bipolar performances—throwing three picks—and the famed Air Raid offense was held scoreless for over 50 minutes. On the other side of the ball, the #SpeedD made Myles Gaskin look like… Bryce Love. (Sigh.)

Nick Kranz (5): Mike Leach is probably as good a coach as Wazzu could hope for, but I do think that there’s a limit to what he can achieve in Pullman. This year is probably pretty close to that limit.

Nik Jam (4): What’s worse: a close, torturous three-point loss in the rivalry game or knowing the game is essentially over in the second quarter? Especially since in this case, a Pac-12 title game was on the line… I’m not sure I’d switch places with WSU in terms of rivalry game results. (Certainly I’d take the overall W/L record, though.)

atomsareenough (7): I ended up putting the Wazzu in the middle. On the one hand, it was a good season for the Cougs. On the other hand, having a conference championship berth in your hands and not just losing, but totally blowing it against your hated rivals… that stings. So those two factors kind of balanced each other out for me.

5. Oregon Ducks (7–5, 4–5 Pac-12) ↔

Last week: 5

Berkelium97 (4): A blowout win over Arizona and a blowout win over a rival make for a fine way to end the regular season.

Leland Wong (4): Gotta feel good to end the regular season by putting up dumb points—as they did to start the season. This could have been a much more dangerous team if they had QB Justin Herbert for the whole season.

Nick Kranz (5): Can’t help but think that Oregon could’ve competed with the top three in the North with better injury luck . . . and that they’ll do just that next year.

6. Arizona State Sun Devils (7–5, 5–4 Pac-12) ↗

Last week: 7

Berkelium97 (5): After 12 games, I feel like I have learned absolutely nothing about this ASU team. This is the most unpredictable team in the conference.

Leland Wong (6): The run game looked good. The pass game looked good. And the administration is making it known that they demand excellence out of their football program. Not a terrible week for ASU.

Nick Kranz (6): ASU is probably the biggest overachiever when you compare their per-play efficiencies to their actual W/L record, but credit for making plays in close games. I look forward to ASU hiring somebody who will probably bring in worse results than Todd Graham.

Nik Jam (6): Maybe all of 2012 and the situation with Sonny looking for new jobs would have still gotten Tedford and Dykes fired no matter what… but I’m having trouble imagining Cal firing their coach after a Big Game win...

atomsareenough (9): They beat their rival, so normally I’d have them higher, but I actually put them behind Arizona for their stupid move of shelling out millions of dollars for the privilege of firing Todd Graham and hiring... whom, Kevin Sumlin? Mike Norvell? The new coach may turn out to be fine, but that doesn’t make firing a guy who went 6–3 in conference at ASU smart or reasonable.

Ruey Yen (10): ASU got the money to go after a big-name coach, but until they do so, I’m punishing them for firing Todd Graham midseason, after winning their rivalry game (against a good Arizona team).

7. Arizona Wildcats (7–5, 5–4 Pac-12) ↘

Last week: 6

Berkelium97 (7): Getting outscored 28–6 in the second half is a great reminder of how important Khalil Tate is to this team.

Leland Wong (7): We have to punish Arizona for how poorly they played without Tate. And the defense just didn’t have any answers for the Sun Devils’ assault.

Nick Kranz (7): Arizona’s defense is still a pretty big obstacle to their viability as a contender in the South, with or without Tate. No real reason to think that will change between now and 2018, either.

atomsareenough (8): Considering how they started the year, I’d call this a successful season for the Wildcats. Khalil Tate for Heisman 2018!

8. Utah Utes (6–6, 3–6 Pac-12) ↔

Last week: 8

Leland Wong (9): I think this was close to the team that Kyle Whittingham had in mind when he hired Troy Taylor as offensive coordinator. The offense—albeit not perfect—was still damn good and the defense was stout as you’d expect from Utah. And to top it off, the Utes will get to a bowl game.

Nick Kranz (8): Cal fans can complain about close losses, but Utah lost four Pac-12 games by one possession. Maybe one day Whittingham will escape life on the margins at Utah.

9. UC Los Angeles Bruins (6–6, 4–5 Pac-12) ↗

Last week: 10

Berkelium97 (9): I’m going to miss Jim Mora.

Leland Wong (8): The run defense was still pretty rough, but they made enough plays to win a bowl invite. I had them at one spot lower originally, but they get a boost for all the Chip Kelly hype.

Nick Kranz (9): Devon Modster certainly looks like a solid quarterback, so Josh Rosen’s presumed departure might not hurt much. If Jordan Lasley doesn’t head to the NFL, Chip Kelly is inheriting plenty of offensive firepower. But that defense is a bigger problem.

atomsareenough (4): Yeah, they beat Cal and gained bowl eligibility, which is all well and good for UCLA, but I’m putting them at #4 for winning the Chip Kelly sweepstakes. I laughed and made snarky comments when I saw UCLA fans saying “we should resist the urge to hire Chip Kelly” early on because I thought for sure Chip would prefer another job anyway. But I was wrong and he picked UCLA. Just great. I miss Jim Mora already.

Ruey Yen (7): I am not sure that Chip Kelly is planning to stay at UCLA for that long. Nonetheless, Bruins earn a lot of national attention for grabbing one of the top prizes in the coaching carousel.

10. California Golden Bears (5–7, 2–7 Pac-12) ↘

Last week: 9

Berkelium97 (10): Nick made a great point after the UCLA game that Wilcox has turned Cal into Utah: strong defense, competent special teams, and just enough offense to be competitive. Those Utah teams win an inordinate number of one-score games (not this year, though) and Cal, unfortunately, has been on the wrong side of all those one-score games.

Leland Wong (10): Cal lost on (basically) a walk-off field goal, but there’s no justification to rank them over any bowl-eligible teams.

Nick Kranz (10): I did make a great point, thanks BK97! But seriously, I am slightly worried that we’ll struggle to break out of that Utah zone where we’re playing a bunch of tight games while failing to ever truly compete with the Washingtons and USCs of the world.

Nik Jam (11): I’m giving #10 to Colorado on the head-to-head victory. Unfortunately as much as Cal overachieved, there was nine bowl-eligible teams and Cal wasn’t one of them, so double-digit spot it is.

atomsareenough (10): So much coulda, woulda, shoulda and not enough making plays in key moments. Hopefully that’s something the Bears can be better at next year. Stupid penalties kept happening at bad times against UCLA, which was a new and annoying wrinkle. Oh well, onto recruiting season.

Ruey Yen (9): Yes, the Bears limped to the end of the season with two close losses to bitter rivals. Sure, there will be some turnover in the assistant coaches. But with Justin Wilcox back and Bears (presumably) getting healthier, there is plenty to build upon from this season. I would not be shocked if Ross Bowers took a major leap forward next year.

11. Colorado Buffaloes (5–7, 2–7 Pac-12) ↔

Last week: 11

Leland Wong (11): They looked much worse in their loss than Cal did, which is why they’re below Cal despite winning the head-to-head. The score was 28–0 at halftime and the defense couldn’t stop Cal alumnus Troy Taylor’s offense for the Utes.

Nick Kranz (11): Yeah, same. Colorado’s only two wins were a home win over Cal and a very narrow win over OSU, plus a weaker non-con schedule. That’s all more valuable than the head-to-head.

atomsareenough (11): Bad way to end the season for the Buffs—missing out on a bowl game and losing by three TDs to the Utes.

12. Oregon State Beavers (1–11, 0–9 Pac-12) ↔

Last week: 12

Berkelium97 (12): I’m morbidly curious about which teams is worse: Cal 2013 or OSU 2017.

Nick Kranz (12): I’d say that 2017 OSU is like if Cal 2013 didn’t have Jared Goff. In other words - awful, but with even less hope for the future.

Nik Jam (12): Hey, OSU lost to Oregon by 59. Cal lost to Furd in 2013 by 53. We’re better!!!

Leland Wong (12): Wish I could rank them lower for getting blown out by their archrival. We know how it feels.

But here’s one factor for Cory Hall’s current team of Oregon State 2017 vs. Cal 2013:

In the conference's 12-team era, only two other teams were outscored by more points in a season than Oregon State (268) was this season: Colorado in 2012 (338) and Cal in 2013 (275).

atomsareenough (12): The Beavers were down 52–7… at the half. Good luck to the next head coach there.

The data

First and foremost, these are the votes, for those who are curious. I promise that they are not spurious, so don’t run around making that accusation, as it would be quite scurrilous.

Table 1. Pac-12 Power Rankings, week 13 votes

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 Stanfurd Stanfurd USC Stanfurd USC Stanfurd Stanfurd USC Stanfurd
2 USC Wash Stanfurd Wash Stanfurd USC USC Stanfurd Wash
3 Wash USC Wash USC Wash Wash Wash Wash USC
4 UC L.A. Oregon WSU Oregon WSU WSU WSU WSU WSU
5 Utah ASU Oregon WSU Oregon Oregon Oregon Oregon Oregon
6 Oregon WSU ASU ASU ASU ASU Arizona ASU Arizona
7 WSU Arizona Arizona Arizona Arizona Arizona ASU Arizona UC L.A.
8 Arizona Utah Utah UC L.A. Utah UC L.A. Utah Utah Utah
9 ASU UC L.A. UC L.A. Utah UC L.A. Utah UC L.A. UC L.A. Cal
10 Cal Cal Cal Cal Cal Colorado Colorado Cal ASU
11 Colorado Colorado Colorado Colorado Colorado Cal Cal Colorado Colorado
12 OSU OSU OSU OSU OSU OSU OSU OSU OSU

We run a little math on those numbers to determine the average response that each team received. By running a little bit more math, we find the standard deviation, which tells us how much variation there was in how we evaluated each team. These precisely-calculated rankings are shown in Figure 1, but be forewarned—you will have to come face-to-face with Stanfurd at the top of the rankings.

Figure 1. A nightmare in 626x376 pixels.

We can view a near-whole-season’s worth of these precise rankings in Figure 2. Here we see three near-ties: WSU & Oregon, ASU & Arizona, and Utah & UC Los Angeles. Figure 2 shows that the good lord giveth and the good lord taketh—one week after being the first team to be unanimous #1, USC drops a spot by being on bye.

And since I’ve been so big on tiers all year, I could argue seeing five here.

  1. The elite teams: Stanfurd, USC, and Washington.
  2. The great teams: WSU and Oregon.
  3. The just-bowl-eligible in ASU, Arizona, Utah, and UC Los Angeles.
  4. The teams that missed out on bowl season: Cal and Colorado.
  5. Oregon State. Just Oregon State.
Figure 2. None of you enjoyed my Johnson & Johnson caption for Figure 2 last week. If you don’t appreciate me at my wittiest, then you don’t deserve me at my prettiest. (Joke’s on you—I’m always quite pretty.)

We can clean up the above figure by using the rounded rankings again, as shown in Figure 3. Poor Arizona’s been on a slide since Week 9, when the peaked here.

Figure 3. Trying to caption a boring image is hard.

The Madness score quantifies movements like these. Oregon State made one move in Week 1 and has held steady since, earning a Madness score of 1. Cal is the only team with a Madness in the 30s, a near lock to end the season as the Maddest Pac-12 team.

Table 2. Madness for Week 13

. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 Post Team's Madness
. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 Post Team's Madness
Arizona 1 0 1 -1 0 5 -2 3 3 -2 -1 -1 -1 . 21
ASU -1 0 -1 3 -2 0 4 2 -2 0 0 -1 1 . 17
Cal 3 -2 4 0 -4 -2 7 -2 -3 1 -3 2 -1 . 34
Colorado 0 0 -1 1 -2 -1 -2 0 3 -1 1 -3 0 . 15
Oregon 0 1 3 -5 3 -2 -1 -1 3 -3 2 3 0 . 27
OSU -1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 . 1
Stanfurd 2 -7 -1 2 2 1 2 -1 -2 0 2 0 2 . 24
UC L.A. 2 2 -5 -2 3 0 -3 2 -2 -1 3 -2 1 . 28
USC -1 2 -1 0 -2 1 2 -6 4 1 1 0 -1 . 22
Utah -4 4 -1 2 1 -2 0 -4 -2 4 0 -1 0 . 25
Washington 0 -1 1 0 0 0 -2 2 0 0 -3 0 1 . 10
WSU 0 0 1 0 1 0 -5 5 -2 1 1 0 -2 . 18
Total Madness 15 19 20 16 20 14 30 28 26 14 17 13 10 . .

Well, this is definitely the last you’ll be hearing from me for awhile. We’ll be back at the end of the season to give our final assessments of the teams.

Bye.

Poll

Should Cal be ranked above Colorado?

This poll is closed

  • 17%
    Yes, but I’m an unrealistic homer for Cal
    (15 votes)
  • 41%
    Yes, they have better body of work and a closer loss this past week
    (36 votes)
  • 41%
    No, Colorado won the head-to-head
    (36 votes)
87 votes total Vote Now