Leland Wong: The Pac-12 ended bowl season in spectacularly stunning fashion—going 1–8. But all that matters to us right now is that the Pac-12 bowl season ended, meaning it’s time for one final Pac-12 Power Ranking.
Here’s how we got to 1–8:
- #25 Boise State defeated Oregon, 38–28
- Utah defeated West Virginia, 30–14
- Kansas State defeated UC Los Angeles, 35–17
- Purdue defeated Arizona, 38–35
- #15 TCU defeated #13 Stanfurd, 39–37
- #16 Michigan State defeated #18 Washington State, 42–17
- #5 Ohio State defeated #8 USC, 24–7
- #24 NC State defeated Arizona State, 52–31
- #9 Penn State defeated #11 Washington, 35–28
- No bowl: California, Colorado, Oregon State
We’ll be ranking the Pac-12 teams based on overall performance this season, fanbase sentiment, outlook for the future, and with a bit of an emphasis on the bowl results.
And to end my introduction with a bit of sourness, note that some votes were submitted before news broke of RichRod’s firing.
Berkelium97: I’m basing my final ratings on how the teams ended the year and how each team’s fanbase should feel heading into the offseason. Given that the conference won a whopping one bowl game and two of the non-bowlers made less-than-inspiring hires, several Pac-12 fanbases aren’t feeling very happy heading into 2018.
ragnarok: Given that the conference nearly got wiped out during Bowl season, I basically copied my rankings from the last week of the regular season and then moved up Utah a couple spots. I also swapped fUCLA and ASU based not on their bowl games, but on how I expect their respective coaching hires to impact their respective trajectories.
Nik Jam: Yeah I could have put Cal higher than some teams out of pettiness over bowl losses—or rather, put those teams below Cal—and I could get too judgey over teams’ head coaching chances… But I’ll be nice and fair!
Nick Kranz: It’s worth noting that, while the Pac-12’s 1–8 record is bad, it’s not really all that shocking. S&P projected the Pac-12 as underdogs in seven of nine bowl games (admittedly, a few were razor-thin underdogs) and that didn’t even include the impacts of no Josh Rosen and Luke Falk or the impacts of coaching changes that surely impacted Oregon, UCLA, and Arizona State.
This was a clear down year for the conference. That fact was reflected in a lack of marquee wins in non-conference, weak performances in the middle and at the top of the conference, and a weak bowl performance. The cause? Mostly bad defenses. Washington was the only consistent top-25 defense across all metrics, with Washington State and Utah putting together borderline top-25 cases. The preseason hype over Pac-12 quarterbacking turned out to be mostly legit—offenses were solid and USC/UCLA/UW/Arizona all were top-25 level. But nobody had the consistency on either side of the ball to truly impress as an elite, playoff-worthy team.
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 (10–3, 7–2 Pac-12; 3 first-place votes) ↗
Last week: 3
Berkelium97 (1): Eh, I guess they’re #1. Sure, they didn’t win the conference or even their division, but they looked competitive in their bowl game and didn’t have any stretches where they looked consistently bad (unlike furd and USC).
Leland Wong (2): Despite the heartbreak from getting knocked out of the Pac-12 Championship Game late in the season, this team is dangerously good. Still, I do think they’re just a tad overhyped, which is why they don’t get my #1 vote.
2. USC Trojans (11–3, 8–1 Pac-12; 4 first-place votes) ↔
Last week: 2
Berkelium97 (3): Midway through the season I predicted that USC would finish they regular season as the worst 10-win team in the nation. I stand by that assessment.
Leland Wong (3): Am I over-weighing their ugly performance in the Cotton Bowl? Or am I under-weighing their Pac-12 Championship? I honestly have no idea, but Bk97 made a comment about how ugly their losses were and I think that’s what wins out here. As for the Cotton Bowl, it was probably hard for Sam Darnold to put the team on his back and lead them to victory when he was so weighed down by ESPN commentators kissing his ass and sucking his—kissing his feet. They were also kissing his feet.
3. Stanfurd Cardinal (9–5, 7–2 Pac-12; 1 first-place vote) ↘
Last week: 1
Berkelium97 (2): It’s going to be incredibly annoying when Love declares for the draft and David Shaw still finds some way to win the Pac-12 North next year.
Leland Wong (1): Am I ranking the Cardinal too high? On the one hand, they’re terrible people who deserve nothing but the worst in life. But they won the division, had a Heisman candidate, have the best running back coach in all of life, and have priceless stability in their coaches. And on top of all that, although they didn’t win their bowl, they didn’t embarrass themselves either. I mean, they embarrassed themselves by throwing away a 18-point lead and with their joke of a band, but they didn’t embarrass themselves in terms of the final score, at least?
4. Washington State Cougars (9–4, 6–3 Pac-12) ↔
Last week: 4
Berkelium97 (5): This team could have been so much better than this. Two blowout losses cap a disappointing season in Pullman. However, the Cougs are in a great place when a 9-win season is a disappointment.
Leland Wong (4): Again, the insanity of their bowl performance rendered this a vexingly difficult decision. I was reluctant to allow one bad performance taint a successful season, especially when they were led against the Spartans by a back-up—is that reason for pessimism in Pullman? And what happened to that #SpeedD? I think it’s fair to acknowledge that the Cougs struggled the most out of that top tier of teams in the Pac-12.
T5. Oregon Ducks (7–6, 4–5 Pac-12) ↔
Last week: 5
Berkelium97 (6): It’s been a rough December for the Ducks. They’re probably feeling considerably worse than sixth in the Pac-12.
Leland Wong (6): Arguably a tougher October with QB Justin Herbert missing five games in which the Ducks went 1–4. I wanted to give Oregon some bonus points for how good they could have been with Herbert (not to mention being good enough without him to freakin’ beat Cal), but they looked so bad against Boise State and Herbert looked worse. Plus, their ride on the carousel led to the premature exit of their exciting head coach—whose greatest impact was potentially as a recruiter. Mario Cristobal seems like a good hire to me, but the less-than-one-year tenure for Willie Taggart has probably left the Ducks feeling a little bitter. And who wants bitter duck?
T5. Utah Utes (7–6, 3–6 Pac-12) ↗
Last week: 8
Berkelium97 (4): I think this is a much better team than the 7–6 record indicates. Utah was uncharacteristically unlucky in one-score games this season. I don’t expect that to be the case next season.
Leland Wong (5): Wooo for winning a bowl! The Utes most definitely get a bonus boost for that. The defense continued to impress and the offense is showing progress. I expected a faster turnaround under OC Troy Taylor, but I still think they’re trending up.
T7. Arizona Wildcats (7–6, 5–4 Pac-12) ↔
Last week: 7
Berkelium97 (7): At the end of October, I thought Arizona would be a favorite to win the Pac-12 South in 2018—largely thanks to Khalil Tate’s incredible combination of running and passing. He’s still a great passer, but he was held to only 118 rushing yards over Arizona’s final three games. That’s a strong and discouraging contrast to the 200+ rushing yards he had averaged per game since inheriting the top QB spot. Arizona is no longer the basement dweller most of us thought they were at the start of the season, but they look merely mediocre now.
Leland Wong (8): Writing this about an hour after the news of RichRod’s firing broke and I have no idea how to incorporate that development. Tate was an absolute stud overall and despite his poor performance against Purdue, he’s giving plenty of reasons for optimism. But sheer uncertainty with the coaching staff is compounded by the reports that the firing was due to allegations of “sexual harassment/hostile work place”, which is disgusting and will taint the fanbase sentiment, to say the least.
Nik Jam (8): I will put them above Arizona State because I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt that their new coaching hire will be better than Herm...
T7. UC Los Angeles Bruins (6–7, 4–5 Pac-12) ↗
Last week: 9
Berkelium97 (8): I really, really, hope this Chip Kelly thing doesn’t work out.
Leland Wong (7): Kudos for the biggest splash of the coaching hires—and no, that’s not a weight joke. Even if they lose QB Josh Rosen to the draft and had one of the worst rush offenses in the country, things are looking bright for our baby bears as Kelly is well-equipped to fix the ship on that last one.
9. Arizona State Sun Devils (7–6, 5–4 Pac-12) ↘
Last week: 6
Berkelium97 (10): ASU was the most unpredictable team of the year this season. Next year, I expect them to be a bit more predictable and much, much worse. This team is going to be a tire fire under Herm—and it will be gleefully entertaining for everyone outside Tempe.
Leland Wong (9): Despite finishing second in their division, the Sun Devils plummet due to a three-score loss in the Sun Bowl and the all-around WTFery of the Herm Edwards move—and this is coming from someone who didn’t hate the idea in theory. But when your paradigm-shifting football structure involves not just retaining, but maximizing the skills of your offensive and defensive coordinators only for them to leave shortly later, you have the hottest of messes.
Nik Jam (9): Shame we won’t see ASU in their first year with Herm. Hopefully it won’t be the only one.
10. California Golden Bears (5–7, 2–7 Pac-12) ↔
Last week: 10
Berkelium97 (9): If this were purely a ranking of how excited each fanbase is at the end of the year, the Bears would hover around 6 or 7. Alas, three games decided by a field goal or less made the difference between eight wins and five wins—and I have to penalize them for having seven losses.
Leland Wong (10): Cal might be criminally underrated due to having so many close losses and (thusfar) only losing one member of the coaching staff, but I just can’t justify placing them above teams that went bowling. It was a year of improvement for the Bears, but that won’t show here.
Nik Jam (10): Wish Cal could have got some low level bowl and then the Pac would have been 2–8!!!
11. Colorado Buffaloes (5–7, 2–7 Pac-12) ↔
Last week: 11
Berkelium97 (11): Meh. I think that scrapping for bowl eligibility will be the new normal for Colorado over the next few years.
Leland Wong (11): An utter let-down season after winning 10 games last year. Maintaining stability wins them a little more goodwill, but how are the fans feeling about MacIntyre after this slip? Plus, the Buffaloes are losing a lot of talent to graduation, particularly offensively. I have to guess that the fans in Boulder are feeling a little uneasy.
12. Oregon State Beavers (1–11, 0–9 Pac-12) ↔
Last week: 12
Berkelium97 (12): I’m positively tickled that they hired Mike Riley again.
Leland Wong (12): The Beavers won one game—over an FCS school that missed a game-tying field goal as the clock expired—do we need further justification than that? Their next head coach will be an alumnus with some hype around him, but he’s a tad bit unproven. And his name is so woefully boring and not the name of a building on the UC Berkeley campus.
Table 1 shows how this esteemed panel of geniuses voted this week.
Table 1. The votes in the final Pac-12 Power Rankings of 2017
|rk||Bk97||Kevin||Leland||Nick Kranz||Nik Jam||Piotr||ragnarok||Ruey|
|rk||Bk97||Kevin||Leland||Nick Kranz||Nik Jam||Piotr||ragnarok||Ruey|
|7||Arizona||Arizona||UC L.A.||Arizona||UC L.A.||Oregon||UC L.A.||Utah|
|8||UC L.A.||UC L.A.||Arizona||UC L.A.||Arizona||Arizona||Arizona||UC L.A.|
We collect the responses for every team and average them to figure out our cumulative rankings, given above. We also capture those averaged rankings in Figure 1, along with the standard deviations in the error bars.
Let’s take a look at the season overall, starting with the precise rankings (Fig. 2). We’ve nearly got an unprecedented threeway tie at first place; the #1 team—Washington—actually did not get the most first-place votes this week. USC got the most first-place votes, but enough of us put them all the way down at third to offset their four first-place votes.
Beyond these three, we’ve kind of lost all the tiers that characterized the conference for the prior weeks of the season. Wazzu seems a little low for a nine-win team and is instead closer to the tied tandem of seven-win teams in Oregon and Utah. The Utes had a huge jump in their rank to get here, probably by virtue of being the only team in get a bowl win.
Figure 3 is a lower-resolution version of Figure 2 as it uses the rounded rankings. As such, we’ve lost sight of just how close the top three teams were. I’m usually less excited about this graph for this reason, but this week’s has something pretty cool...
Figure 3 shows just how boring of a year it’s been for Oregon State, who dropped one spot in Week 1 and held steady since then. This one-spot move resulted in a Madness score of 1 for Oregon State. The Madness scores this week—and for the whole season—are collected in Table 2.
With the season finally over, we can officially name Cal as the Maddest team of the year. And as history always shows, the Baby Bears are desperate to following in our footsteps by being the second-Maddest team. The UC schools are in fact the only programs to have Madness scores in the 30s.
Table 2. The Madness of the 2017 Pac-12 Football season
Speaking of the season’s end, we can also compare how our final rankings compared to our preseason rankings. I mean, every single comment in the preseason post is about what a useless exercise it is—it’s meaningless without any data and overly reliant on perception and prejudices. It would be utterly mad if our preseason ranks were 100% spot-on for 8 of 12 teams in the conference, right?
Table 3. Comparing the preseason and postseason rankings
|.||Preseason rank||Postseason rank||Final change|
|.||Preseason rank||Postseason rank||Final change|
Yeah, that’s right. We’re killin’ it. In total, the cumulative differences between the preseason and postseason rankings summed to 14 total. This means that each team averaged out to be just over one spot off from our preseason rank. For comparison, here’s this same metric in past years: 38 in 2016 (largely thanks to UC L.A.’s 10-spot drop), 33 in 2015, and 26 in 2014 (featuring three spot-on predictions and atomsareenough pleading “Can someone please hire away Jim Mora?”).
May you never again question our genius or our qualifications to be amateur professional sportwriters. Thanks for reading this series in 2017 and may 2018 bring Cal higher up our rankings.
Overall, how much do you agree with our final power rankings?
This poll is closed
Total agreement—these rankings must have been sent down by some deity
Pretty good overall
A little off this week
Terrible in every sense of the word