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Predict the Pac-12 Season: Results!

At least the Pac-12 title game won’t be a rematch of a regular-season game...

USC v Washington
When the Pac-12’s two best teams do not play each other during the regular season, their trip to the Pac-12 title game is that much easier.
Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Last week we examined our 2017 Cal football season predictions and today we set our sights on the entire Pac-12. I tasked you all with picking the winners of all 54 Pac-12 conference games. And pick winners you did. So many winners. I’m tired of all this winning. At least, that’s what you’ll be saying if you have a distaste for the colors red or purple.

We have many games to go through, so let’s start look at our results week by week.

As is the Pac-12’s agonizing tradition, we start conference play with a matchup of the two most detestable schools in the conference. I wonder how many of you clicked the link to fill out the survey, saw this as your first choice, closed the window, turned off the computer, and walked into the sea.

Week 2

Leland Stanford Junior University (0-0) at USC (0-0): USC (83.2%) def. LSJU (16.8%)

Those with strong enough stomachs to pick a winner here overwhelmingly picked USC to open the conference schedule with a win over the Lobsterbacks. Let us all laugh as the Lobsterbacks fall to last place in the conference.

Week 3

Oregon State (0-0) at Washington State (0-0): Washington State (90.8%) def. OSU (9.2%)

In what will become a recurring theme this season, Oregon State loses.

Week 4

Utah (0-0) at Arizona (0-0): Utah (85.7%) def. Arizona (14.3%)

Oregon (0-0) at Arizona State (0-0): Oregon (63.0%) def. ASU (37.0%)

USC (1-0) at California (0-0): USC (77.3%) def. California (22.7%)

UCLA (0-0) at Leland Stanford Junior University (0-1): LSJU (86.6%) def. UCLA (13.4%)

Washington (0-0) at Colorado (0-0): Washington (92.4%) def. Colorado (7.6%)

Unfortunately, Week 4 features the Lobsterbacks’ ascent out of last place in the Pac-12 North while we then inherit the tie for the worst conference record in the North. Sadly this means we won’t spend a couple weeks posting King in the North memes. Upsets seem farfetched this weekend, making for a less-than-compelling slate of Pac-12 football.

Week 5

USC (2-0) at Washington State (1-0): USC (71.4%) def. Washington State (28.6%)

Arizona State (0-1) at Leland Stanford Junior University (1-1): LSJU (94.1%) def. ASU (5.9%)

Colorado (0-1) at UCLA (0-1): UCLA (63.9%) def. Colorado (36.1%)

California (0-1) at Oregon (1-0): Oregon (69.7%) def. California (30.3%)

Washington (1-0) at Oregon State (0-1): Washington (96.6%) def. OSU (3.4%)

12 games into the Pac-12 schedule and the smallest margin is UCLA’s +27.8% spread over Colorado. Hopefully we get some upsets during the first few weeks, otherwise this might be a pretty boring start to the Pac-12 schedule. And I’m not just being negative because we’ll all be bitter that Cal is winless, tied for last place, and demoted to ATQ South.

Week 6

Arizona (0-1) at Colorado (0-2): Colorado (83.2%) def. Arizona (16.8%)

Oregon State (0-2) at USC (3-0): USC (98.3%) def. Oregon State (1.7%)

Leland Stanford Junior University (2-1) at Utah (1-0): Utah (51.3%) def. LSJU (48.7%)

Washington State (1-1) at Oregon (2-0): Washington State (54.6%) def. Oregon (45.4%)

California (0-2) at Washington (2-0): Washington (90.8%) def. California (9.2%)

Close matchups! Two of them! Finally we have some exciting Pac-12 football as the Utes are narrow favorites over the Lobsterbacks and the Cougs are slight favorites to extend their winning streak over Oregon to 3 games. Consider how silly that latter statement would have sounded at any point from 2006-2012. Elsewhere in the conference two of the Pac-12 North’s winless teams face impossible tasks on the road.

Week 7

Washington State (2-1) at California (0-3): California (54.6%) def. Washington State (45.4%)

UCLA (1-1) at Arizona (0-2): UCLA (84.0%) def. Arizona (16.0%)

Washington (3-0) at Arizona State (0-2): Washington (94.1%) def. Arizona State (5.9%)

Utah (2-0) at USC (4-0): USC (85.7%) def. Utah (14.3%)

Colorado (1-2) at Oregon State (0-3): Colorado (62.2%) def. Oregon state (37.8%)

Oregon (2-1) at Leland Stanford Junior University (2-2): LSJU (85.7%) def. Oregon (14.3%)

Winless no more! The Bears beat the Cougs on Friday the 13th to climb out of the Pac-12 North basement. Speaking of the basement, the state of Arizona falls to 0-6 in Pac-12 play. USC defeats Utah in the battle for the Pac-12 South crown. That’s right--the Pac-12 South division title is pretty much set by mid-October.

Week 8

Arizona (0-3) at California (1-3): California (82.4%) def. Arizona (17.6%)

Arizona State (0-3) at Utah (2-1): Utah (91.6%) def. ASU (8.4%)

Oregon (2-2) at UCLA (2-1): UCLA (76.5%) def. Oregon (23.5%)

Colorado (2-2) at Washington State (2-2): Washington State (73.1%) def. Colorado (26.9%)

Leland Stanford Junior University (3-2) at Oregon State (0-4): LSJU (90.8%) def. OSU (9.2%)

Two in a row for the Bears! The Arizonas are 0-8 now. Ouch. After winning its first two Pac-12 contests, Oregon suddenly has a three-game losing streak.

Week 9

Washington State (3-2) at Arizona (0-4): Washington State (82.4%) def. Arizona (17.6%)

USC (5-0) at Arizona State (0-4): USC (95.0%) def. Arizona State (5.0%)

UCLA (3-1) at Washington (4-0): Washington (97.5%) def. UCLA (2.5%)

California (2-3) at Colorado (2-3): Colorado (66.4%) def. California (33.6%)

Utah (3-1) at Oregon (2-3): Utah (50.4%) def. Oregon (49.6%)

USC and Washington continue annihilating everything in their paths. Utah is favored by the slimmest of margins in Eugene to hand the Ducks their fourth straight loss. An upset here by the Ducks would be a great morale-booster heading into an intimidating matchup against the Huskies.

Week 10

UCLA (3-2) at Utah (4-1): Utah (80.7%) def. UCLA (19.3%)

Arizona (0-5) at USC (6-0): USC (98.3%) def. Arizona (1.7%)

Colorado (3-3) at Arizona State (0-5): Colorado (56.3%) def. Arizona State (43.7%)

Oregon (2-4) at Washington (5-0): Washington (93.3%) def. Oregon (6.7%)

Oregon State (0-5) at California (2-4): California (69.7%) def. Oregon State (30.3%)

Leland Stanford Junior University (4-2) at Washington State (4-2): WSU (54.6%) def. LSJU (45.4%)

Someone’s getting fired if the Arizonas combine for 0-12 after week 10. In fact, two people in Arizona are getting fired. Utah and Washington State win two very important games to cement those teams at second place in their respective divisions. Washington beats Oregon again to clinch a losing conference record for the Ducks (who have now lost 5 straight). Everyone then wonders what the pollsters were thinking when voting for Oregon in the rankings at the beginning of the season.

Week 11

Washington (6-0) at Leland Stanford Junior University (4-3): Washington (68.1%) def. LSJU (31.9%)

Oregon State (0-6) at Arizona (0-6): Arizona (52.1%) def. Oregon State (47.9%)

Arizona State (0-6) at UCLA (3-3): UCLA (86.6%) def. ASU (13.4%)

USC (7-0) at Colorado (4-3): USC (83.2%) def. Colorado (16.8%)

Washington State (5-2) at Utah (5-1): Utah (75.6%) def. Washington State (24.4%)

PILLOW FIGHT! Arizona’s homefield advantage gives them a narrow advantage over Oregon State in a battle of the winless. As long as the Cougs lose to Utah, Washington will lock up a trip to the Pac-12 title game. USC also punches its ticket to the title game with a win in Boulder.

Week 12

Arizona (1-6) at Oregon (2-5): Oregon (95.8%) def. Arizona (4.2%)

Arizona State (0-7) at Oregon State (0-7): Oregon State (68.9%) def. Arizona State (31.1%)

UCLA (4-3) at USC (8-0): USC (93.3%) def. UCLA (6.7%)

Utah (6-1) at Washington (7-0): Washington (91.6%) def. Utah (8.4%)

California (3-4) at Leland Stanford Junior University (4-4): LSJU (68.9%) def. California (31.1%)

PILLOW FIGHT PART II! This time Oregon State wins the battle of the winless. USC beats UCLA and probably ends the Jim Mora era. Oregon wins for the first time since September (it’s November 18th, btw). Cal loses another Big Game. For a split second, David Shaw almost smiles.

Week 13

California (3-5) at UCLA (4-4): UCLA (60.5%) def. California (39.5%)

Arizona (1-7) at Arizona State (0-8): Arizona State (88.2%) def. Arizona (11.8%)

Colorado (4-4) at Utah (6-2): Utah 80.7%) def. Colorado (19.3%)

Oregon State (1-7) at Oregon (3-5): Oregon (80.7%) def Oregon state (19.3%)

Washington State (5-3) at Washington (8-0): Washington (92.4%) def. WSU (7.6%)

Although UCLA is a moderate favorite in these results, they could be on life support after another loss to USC and the looming end of the Mora era. Potentially with a bowl berth on the line, Cal could be especially motivated to win this one.

Meanwhile in the battle between the negligible force and the trivially movable object, Arizona State avoids a winless Pac-12 season. Still, it’s hard to see RichRod and Graham surviving 1-8 seasons. With Graham’s departure, sweatband shops throughout Tempe will go out of business. If When UCLA fires Mora, half the Pac-12 South will be looking for new coaches this offseason.

After 54 games, the final standings end up as follows:

North South
1. Washington (9-0) 1. USC (9-0)
2. Washington State* (5-4) 2. Utah (7-2)
2. Leland Stanford Junior University (5-4) 3. UCLA (5-4)
4. Oregon (4-5) 4. Colorado (4-5)
5. California (3-6) 5. Arizona State* (1-8)
6. Oregon State (1-7) 5. Arizona (1-8)

Washington and USC, predictably, win their divisions. Avoiding each other in the regular season certainly makes it easier for each team to go undefeated and end up in the title game. On the other hand, it will be a relief not to have a conference championship game that is a repeat of a regular season game.

Overall, it looks like the Pac-12 falls into four tiers: playoff candidates (USC and UW), the great but not quite elite (Utah, who seems to fall into this category every year), the muddled middle (Wazzu, Leland Stanford Junior University, Oregon, Cal, UCLA, Colorado), and the bottom-feeders (OSU, ASU, Arizona).

There is a potential problem with the above standings, however. Those are merely projected win totals. A team favored by 51% of us in all 9 conference games would be projected to finish 9-0, even though it's much more likely to win about half of its games. Instead of projected win totals, below I rank the teams by their expected win totals. I calculate that by adding up their percentages for all 9 games (so our 51% team would only be expected to win 4.59 games). Below I list the projected win totals, the expected win totals, and the underrating index. I calculate the underrating index by finding the difference between expected win totals and projected win totals. This measure is larger (i.e. positive) for teams likely to finish higher than their projected win totals and smaller (i.e., negative) for teams likely to finish below their projected win totals (such as our hypothetical 51% team above, whose index would be -4.41).

Team Total Wins Projected Wins Underrating Index
1. Washington 9 8.17 -0.83
2. Washington State 5 4.61 -0.39
2. Leland Stanford Junior University 5 5.69 +0.69
4. Oregon 4 4.49 +0.49
5. California 3 3.73 +0.73
6. Oregon State 1 3.11 +2.11
1. USC 9 7.86 -1.14
2. Utah 7 5.39 -1.61
3. UCLA 5 4.13 -0.87
4. Colorado 4 2.92 -1.08
5. Arizona State 1 2.39 +1.39
5. Arizona 1 1.52 +0.52

The top teams in each division remain the same, but a few teams stand out as particularly likely to notch an upset or two. Oregon State’s underrating index of 2.11 suggests that they should finish closer to 3 wins than their lone win over Arizona. Arizona State and Cal should also have a decent chance of notching an upset at some point over the season. Unfortunately, the Lobsterbacks are also likely to finish with more than 5 wins. In fact, they have a higher expected win total than Washington State and should have a strong chance of finishing second in the Pac-12 North. You know what? I’ve decided that I don’t like the expected win totals any more. Let’s just stick with projected wins.

In addition to asking you all to pick the winners of each game, I also asked (I ask so much of you all, don’t I?) you to pick the winners of each division. The results are utterly unsurprising.

North Division Winner South Division Winner
1. Washington (73.9%) 1. USC (80.7%)
2. LSJU (9.2%) 2. Utah (9.2%)
3. Cal (6.7%) 3. Colorado (5.0%)
4. Washington State (5.9%) 4. UCLA (2.5%)
5. Oregon (4.2%) 5. Arizona State (1.7%)
6. Oregon State (0.0%) 6. Arizona (0.8%)

Look at all those homers who picked Cal to win the division! Oski’s blessings upon you.

Finally, I asked you all to pick the winner of the Pac-12 Championship Game.

Pac-12 Champion
1. USC (40.3%)
2. Washington (36.1%)
3. California (5.0%)
3. Utah (5.0%)
5. Washington State (4.2%)
6. LSJU (3.4%)
7. Oregon (1.6%)
7. Arizona State (1.6%)
9. Arizona (0.8%)
9. Colorado (0.8%)
9. UCLA (0.8%)
12. Oregon State (0.0%)

UGHHHHHHHHHHHH. Because the Juju hates us, this will likely culminate in a USC-Alabama title game.

Until that dreadful, dreadful day, however, we have plenty of actual, real-life football to enjoy. Although, we’ll probably have to wait until tomorrow to enjoy some football because today’s kickoff schedule looks turrible. Thanks for participating and Go Bears!