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Pac-12 Power Rankings, Week 4: Someone’s a little angry this week...

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UC Los Angeles leaves the world of single-digit ranks.

UCLA v Stanford Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Leland Wong: No one man should have all that power. So we divided it among ten of us.

(Oh my God, my references are older than me.)

Rather than just have one writer determine our Power Rankings, we’ve got a group of CGB’s best and brawniest to do that task—rank the Pac-12 teams by overall performance, particularly the last game. There’s no such thing as too many cooks, despite what Smarf may tell you.

Oh, but speaking of latest games, let’s have a brief refresher:

  • #23 Utah def. Arizona, 30–24
  • #5 USC def. Cal, 30–20
  • #18 Washington State def. Nevada, 45–7
  • #7 Washington def. Colorado, 37–10
  • Arizona State def. #24 Oregon, 37–35
  • Stanfurd def. UC Los Angeles, 58–34

After a tough loss to USC, I think our writers have a mean case of the mopeys and aren’t feeling too talkative, so let’s dive right into it.

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 (4–0, 1–0 Pac-12; eight first-place votes) ↔

Last week: 1

Berkelium97 (2): The run game was phenomenal against a stingy Colorado run defense. They don’t have the best résumé, but this is clearly the best team in the Pac-12.

Nik Jam (1): Picking UW over USC based on a “Who would beat whom” hypothetical and UW is my guess.

Nick Kranz (1): Their special teams turn close wins into blowouts.

Piotr T Le (1): There is UW and then there is the rest of the 11-team conference of chaos.

atomsareenough (1): The Huskies are good. That’s pretty much it.

2. USC Trojans (4–0, 1–0 Pac-12; two first-place votes) ↔

Last week: 2

Berkelium97 (1): This team will lose to Washington State next week. But they’ll still win 10 games this year.

Nik Jam (2): I don’t think this team will do a whole lot this year, to be honest.

Nick Kranz (2): USC is such a pedestrian good team... which sounds like an insult, but isn’t meant to be. They’re just filled with good-but-not-transcendent players at every position, which makes them very tough to beat because there’s no obvious weaknesses to exploit.

Piotr T Le (3): They are not better than WSU nor Washington; the latter keeps winning comfortably, while USC has been in a dogfight in all but one win.

atomsareenough (2): Managed to survive the trap game in Berkeley. They might lose to Wazzu next week, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they pull it off. The only team I see them losing to at this point is Washington.

3. Washington State Cougars (4–0, 1–0 Pac-12) ↔↗↘

Last week: 3

Berkelium97 (3): It was all going so well until QB Tyler Hilinski entered the game, fumbled on his first play, recovered his own fumble, then threw an interception at his own 9-yard line on the next play. So much for the shutout... Seriously, though, it’s hard to read too much into a win over a team that lost to Idaho State last week.

Nik Jam (3): If Cal can hang with USC, then I’m hoping a big upset can be had on October 13.

Nick Kranz (3): I’m a little skeptical still—as Wazzu has struggled with the only team on their schedule with much of a pulse—but the advanced numbers love the Cougars. I’d love for them to shove my skepticism back in my face with a win over USC.

atomsareenough (4): I’m also still not completely sure what to think about the Cougs; QB Luke Falk is really good and their offense is legit and I think their defense is solid enough. But they haven’t left Pullman yet this year and so far they’ve beaten FCS Montana State, a terrible Oregon State team, a terrible Nevada team, and pulled out a triple-OT win against a Boise State Broncos team that just lost big at home in Boise to the Virginia Cavaliers. The Trojans come to town this week and it will be a massive step up in competition level, I suspect. We’ll see how real the Cougs are.

4. Utah Utes (4–0, 1–0 Pac-12) ↗

Last week: 6

Berkelium97 (6): My outlook on Utah is down considerably this week. The win over the BYU Cougars is looking less and less impressive as BYU has looked woeful in its games against FBS competition. Arizona is pretty bad and the Utes barely scraped by despite forcing five turnovers, including a crucial fumble recovery in the red zone with fewer than three minutes remaining.

Nik Jam: (4) To be honest, I haven’t seen much of Utah at all this year. I will give the close Arizona game a pass because it was on the road.

Nick Kranz (5): Again, I am uncomfortable putting a team this high, but there’s not much other choice. Utah won because Arizona QB Brandon Dawkins threw them the ball quite frequently.

5. California Golden Bears (3–1, 0–1 Pac-12) ↔

Last week: 5

Berkelium97 (4): They spent 45 minutes hanging with the highest-ranked team in the Pac-12 before the offense utterly imploded in the fourth quarter. It’s looking like Ross Bowers will be the difference between a successful season and a stellar season for the Bears. The run game is strong and the defense looks better and better each week. If Bowers can avoid strip sacks and stop throwing the ball up for grabs in the middle of the field, Cal will have a strong chance at finishing in the top half of the Pac-12 North.

Nik Jam (8): I’m giving Cal the worst rating among our voters. I think the sky is the limit for Cal, but I can’t justify putting them above teams that won Saturday. (And I think Colorado, who also lost to a Top 5 team, is better overall.)

Nick Kranz (4): For the record, I’m wildly uncomfortable putting Cal fourth in these rankings. But whom else am I going to put here? Colorado got blown out. Oregon lost to a much worse team than USC. Cal played USC tougher than Stanford. Utah almost lost to the second-worst team in the conference.

Piotr T Le (5): Cal is here because… well, Pac-12 is in chaos. I think Utah won, which means more than a loss. Colorado lost to a good Washington team—by a lot—but Cal’s résumé up until now means more. ASU beat Oregon, but the former has been underwhelming and the latter just lost to that underwhelming team.

atomsareenough (5): Hung tough with USC for three quarters and then gave the game away with some youthful mistakes. There are no moral victories, but as losses go, this was pretty damn encouraging.

6. Colorado Buffaloes (3–1, 0–1 Pac-12) ↗

Last week: 7

Berkelium97 (5): They were competitive with UW for 40 minutes, which is better than most of the Pac would fare. With a strong defense and a decent, but inconsistent offense, this team looks a lot like the Cal of the South.

Nik Jam (7): No shame in losing to UW, but I thought it would be closer.

Nick Kranz (6): I’m going to try not to punish teams too badly for losses to USC and UW, but I’m still pretty skeptical of Colorado’s offense.

atomsareenough (7): Pretty similar situation as Cal’s effort against USC, but… not quite as good.

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

Last week: 9

Berkelium97 (8): I’m glad that the Lobsterbacks no longer play defense. However, it hurts my soul that Ron Gould has built the second-most efficient running game in the nation. I’ll always have tremendous respect and admiration for Gould, but man it hurts to watch him work his magic in Palo Alto.

Nik Jam (5): Wow, they put a pounding on UCLA. Still not afraid of their offense.

Nick Kranz (7): Stanford has a chance against any team with a busted run defense and UCLA was more than happy to oblige.

atomsareenough (6): Stanfurd now has a top-10 offense and a bottom-25 defense, while Cal can suddenly play defense? Man, 2017 continues to be the strangest.

8. Arizona State Sun Devils (2–2, 1–0 Pac-12) ↗

Last week: 11

Berkelium97 (9): QB Manny Wilkins looks pretty good throwing the ball, but I’m even more impressed at how they used their inefficient, ineffective running game to grind out the clock and keep the ball away from Oregon. The defense continues to be pretty bad, however, which may still get head coach Todd Graham fired at the end of the year.

Nik Jam (7): Better than expected? I guess since Cal isn’t playing them, I don’t really care about whether they’re actually a good team or not.

atomsareenough (8): Probably the most surprising game of the week was ASU’s win against Oregon. Positive indicator for the Sun Devils or just a random blip where the Ducks had a bad game and ASU was ready to capitalize? I’m giving ASU a decent bump for now, but they’re still in the bottom third for me.

9. Oregon Ducks (3–1, 0–1 Pac-12) ↘

Last week: 4

Berkelium97 (7): They were able to move the ball pretty well at times, but a combination of 22 minutes of possession and only one successful third-down conversion (out of 11) doomed them.

Nik Jam (9): Didn’t watch the game, but it’s the same logic with Cal. Good team, but can’t put them above the teams that prevailed on the road.

Nick Kranz (9): Weird game. Oregon’s offense was very boom-or-bust (and occasionally self-combustive), while ASU’s offense was much more methodical. Thankfully, the Ducks aren’t quite as far along as I’d feared earlier this year.

atomsareenough (9): Kind of a head-scratching loss to ASU, really. I’m curious to see the match-up on both sides of the ball against Cal next week.

10. UC Los Angeles Bruins (2–2, 0–1 Pac-12) ↘

Last week: 8

Berkelium97 (10): Down in Westwood the pitchforks are sharpened, the torches are lit, and it’s once again time for some WHOLESALE REGIME CHANGE.

Nik Jam (10): Another year, another loss to Stanford. Sounds familiar.

Nick Kranz (10): We like to make fun of UCLA fans for their endlessly whiny complaints about coach after coach after coach... but good lord, it might be justified this time around. Letting this Stanford team put up 58 is truly an astounding achievement.

atomsareenough (11): So, does Jim Mora get fired in October or does he manage to make it to November? I’ve got that Oct. 28th date in Seattle circled. If that’s ugly—and it very well could be—it might be a scary Halloween indeed for Mora.

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

Last week: 10

Berkelium97 (11): They might be better than eleventh in the conference, but their résumé consists of blowout wins over an FCS team and one of the worst teams in FBS and close losses to increasingly questionable-looking foes.

Nik Jam (11): I don’t think they’re nearly as bad as Oregon State, but this a poor start I don’t think the team will overcome.

Nick Kranz (11): Honestly, they probably should’ve beaten Utah, but their quarterback play was just horrendous. Tough to win when the most important position on the team is a liability.

atomsareenough (10): I think it’s encouraging that they hung with Utah. I still don’t buy Brandon Dawkins’ passing ability, but maybe he can make up for that a bit with his feet enough to snag a win or two in Pac-12 play.

12. Oregon State Beavers (1–3, 0–1 Pac-12) ↔

Last week: 12

Berkelium97 (12): They didn’t lose this week!

Nick Kranz (12): S&P+ says that there’s a 15% chance that OSU doesn’t record an FBS win this year.

atomsareenough (12): What?? Actually it says 13%, which means they think there’s an 87% chance they do record an FBS win? Well, atomsareenough says it’s actually the other way around. I think there’s more like a 13% chance that they do record another FBS win.

The data

Let’s start at the very beginning—with how we each voted. It’s a very good place to start.

Pac-12 Power Rankings, Week 4: The votes

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 USC USC Wash Wash Wash Wash Wash Wash Wash
2 USC Wash Wash USC USC USC WSU USC USC USC
3 Utah WSU Utah WSU WSU WSU USC WSU WSU WSU
4 WSU Cal WSU Utah Cal Utah Utah Utah Cal Cal
5 Cal Colorado Cal Cal Utah Stanfurd Cal Colorado Utah Colorado
6 Stanfurd Utah Colorado Stanfurd Colorado Colorado Oregon Cal Colorado Utah
7 Colorado Oregon Stanfurd Colorado Stanfurd ASU ASU Stanfurd Stanfurd Stanfurd
8 ASU Stanfurd UC L.A. ASU ASU Cal Colorado ASU ASU ASU
9 Oregon ASU Oregon Oregon Oregon Oregon UC L.A. Oregon Oregon Oregon
10 Arizona UC L.A. Arizona UC L.A. UC L.A. UC L.A. Stanfurd UC L.A. UC L.A. UC L.A.
11 UC L.A. Arizona ASU Arizona Arizona Arizona Arizona Arizona Arizona Arizona
12 OSU OSU OSU OSU OSU OSU OSU OSU OSU OSU
Table 1. We voted.

I average the responses that each team receives and rank them from smallest to largest; the resulting order gives us the 1st–12th teams. But we also like to take a look at the precise average that each team received, ranking them below in Fig. 1. The error bars—those tiny vertical bars on the big blue bars—are a measure of the standard deviation, telling us how varied the responses were for each team. Cal has the largest standard deviation because we voted them anything from 4th to 8th; Oregon State has the smallest because we unanimously placed them in the basement.

Figure 1. The taller things are the lamer things.

When we focus on these precise rankings, we see that for the first time this season, we’ve lost any semblance of tiers. In fact, with the exception of Utah and Oregon, every other team’s precise ranking is pretty close to the rounded ranking. Utah (the 4th team) has a precise rank of 4.4 and Oregon (the 9th team) is basically tied for 8th.

Figure 2. I finally got un-lazy enough to use the official colors of the schools... and they don’t stand out as much as before.

We can similarly plot the rounded rankings over the course of the season. The two biggest moves were a direct result of the Arizona State–Oregon game. Stanfurd and UC L.A. had a similar dance, but the impact wasn’t as massive. We’ve also got five teams holding steady—including Cal, after battle with USC.

Figure 3. The official Cal blue is so much less blue.

When we measure the weekly movements, we see that Stanfurd, UC Los Angeles, and Utah have been the most inconsistent this year. USC is usually all over the rankings due to their once-characteristic implosions, but they’ve been pretty steady at this point—save for brief flirtations at 3rd and 1st.

Figure 4. We quantified how mad Mora is.

In the muck and the parity of the Pac-12, I don’t see Wazzu holding strong at 3rd for the rest of the year—in other words, I think their Madness score will increase in just a few short weeks. But I’m not sure if we can say the same about Oregon State. Can the Beavers turn in an upset win—or can any other team faceplant hard enough—for the Beavers to lose their home at the bottom?

(Seriously, though—the official colors in Figures 2 and 3 are so dull that I might just have to change a few to make it easier to distinguish between teams. The blues and the purple, in particular. And maybe Oregon because their colors are usually so vibrant.)