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Pac-12 Power Rankings, Week 5: Did the Huskies stretch enough for first place to be in their grasp?

Some minor mixings across the conference this week, except for a few doomed teams.

NCAA Football: Brigham Young at Washington Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

Leland Wong: Welcome to our Power Rankings recapping Week 5 of the College Football season.

Here, your esteemed group of CGBears embark on the totally-easy task of ranking the Pac-12 teams by some combination of performance this season and fanbase sentiment. In addition, we tend to put a large emphasis on the latest game; here’s the list of the most recent games.

  • Colorado def. UC Los Angeles, 38–16
  • Washington State def. Utah, 28–24
  • #8 Notre Dame def. #7 Stanfurd, 38–17
  • #11 Washington def. #20 BYU, 35–7
  • Arizona State def. Oregon State, 52–24
  • #19 Oregon def. #24 California, 42–24
  • USC def. Arizona, 24–20

Berkelium97: Wow, the Pac-12 South is bad this year. I have one South team in my top six (Colorado). I will not be surprised if the North sweeps my top five (because there is no way OSU is climbing out of the basement to make it a clean sweep) on a regular basis this year.

Alex Ghenis: The whole conference seems to be broken into a few tiers of elite (Washington/Stanford/Oregon), good (Colorado/Cal/WSU/USC/ASU), mediocre (Utah/Zona), and bad (OSU/UCLA). This is the point in the season where roster depth is going to start being a factor, so I expect recent recruiting success to show itself in the coming weeks.

ESPN FPI references: for each team, each post includes the current FPI and change over last week, then whom they beat with last week’s FPI and the new FPI (##/##), then next week’s match-up with FPI and % win chance. This week, the Pac-12 is this order (#Pac/#FBS): Washington (1/8), Stanfurd (2/16), Oregon (3/29), WSU (4/32), USC (5/34), Utah (6/36), ASU (7/37), Cal (8/52), Colorado (9/53), Arizona (10/57), UC L.A. (11/74), OSU (12/104)

Ruey Yen: Outside of the Cal–Oregon game, which I thought may be a toss-up, there weren’t really any surprising results this past week in the Pac-12. I think it is pretty clear that the Pac-12 North is significantly better than the South. Still, I would not be shocked if USC (not Colorado) just keep on figuring things out and pull off an upset in the title game to screw the Pac out of another College Football Playoff spot.

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 (4–1, 3–0 Pac-12; ten first-place votes) ↗

NCAA Football: Washington at Colorado Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Last week: 2

Berkelium97 (1): I expected this game to be competitive, but that was an absolute massacre. If Jake Browning can play like that more often, this team will be unstoppable.

Alex Ghenis (1): Washington is an elite team and the Pac-12’s best chance at the playoffs. No reason to not have them at the top of the list, especially until they’ve played some of the more-competitive teams in the conference.

FPI #8 (same), W 35-7 v BYU (61/62). Next week: @ UC L.A. (74), 91.9% win chance

Nick Kranz (1): A 270–total yardage advantage in a slow-paced, 10-possession game is brutal. UW crossed the 50-yard line on every single one of their drives!

2. Stanfurd Cardinal (4–1, 2–0 Pac-12; one first-place vote) ↘

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl - Stanford v Oklahoma State Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Last week: 1

Berkelium97 (2): My praise about how the Lobsterbacks had developed a potent and balanced offense may have been a bit premature. They were outgained 229–550 and it looks like something is broken with the run game, which is now 124th in the nation with 94.4 yards per game.

Alex Ghenis (2): Playing a top-10 Notre Dame team on the road is no easy task, so can’t bash them too hard for the loss. Still, K.J. Costello is a middle-of-the-road QB and was pretty awful (a 39.8 QBR and –28 rushing/sack yards) that night. On top of that, there doesn’t seem to be much of a rushing threat outside of Bryce Love (who’s a bit dinged up). An elite defense would have held Notre Dame to far fewer points, as well. The fluky win at Oregon is the only thing holding them above the Ducks in the Power Rankings, although Oregon “feels” like the better and more well-rounded team.

FPI #16 (-5), L 38-17 @ Notre Dame (9/9). Next week: v Utah (36) 75.0% win chance

thedozen (2): I expected the Fighting Irish to win, but not by this much. Notre Dame only beat Ball State by 8 and Vanderbilt by 5 during prior weeks. Stanfurd simply had no answers for the combination of WR Miles Boykin and RB Dexter Williams.

Nick Kranz (3): The frustrating part is that they should be 3–2. But at thank goodness Notre Dame finally exposed Stanford for what they are: a good team with some pretty obvious flaw, and not the physically-dominant version of recent vintage.

Ruey Yen (2): Can’t say that I was surprised by this result. Notre Dame matched up well against the Cardinal. Whatever breaks that Stanford got last week (fortunately) did not repeat themselves.

3. Oregon Ducks (4–1, 1–1 Pac-12) ↗

National Championship - Oregon v Ohio State Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Last week: 4

Berkelium97 (3): A great bounce-back win for the Ducks. After looking helpless in the second half of last week’s game, the DBs looked much better this week. But the normally stout run defense had no answer for Cal’s multifaceted run game. And this was the second week in a row that the offense went into hibernation during the second half. Oregon has some work to do if they’re going to be competitive with UW next weekend.

Piotr T Le (2): The Ducks are better than we expected; I think they are better than their #18 ranking with QB Justin Herbert chugging along on all cylinders. I put them above Furd despite the 0–1 head-to-head since the loss was less of a “Furd is better” and more of a “Furd is luckier”.

Alex Ghenis (3): When Oregon is on point, they can play with anyone in the conference. We all know that Herbert is good—and he did damn well against what’s been a pretty solid Cal defense—but Oregon’s D is really what closed out the game. How much of that was Oregon and how much was on Cal’s QBs is debatable, but regardless, they did things right in what is truly a “team sport”. The Ducks are lucky to have a bye week before Washington comes to town on 10/13.

FPI #29 (+4), W 42-24 @ Cal (42/52). Next week: bye

Nick Kranz (2): Agree with Piotr—I’m putting Oregon #2 because I think they’re a better team than Stanford despite the head-to-head result in OT. And I’m legit excited to watch the best offense and the best defense in the conference go head-to-head in two weeks.

Ruey Yen (3): Oregon should have beaten Stanford the week before. Talent still flocks to Eugene regardless of who is the head coach.

4. Colorado Buffaloes (4–0, 1–0 Pac-12) ↗

Colorado v Colorado State Photo by Joe Mahoney/Getty Images

Last week: 5

Berkelium97 (4): The conference’s last undefeated team. I’m surprised they let UCLA hang around for so long, but they ultimately secured a comfortable victory. Steven Montez looks like the conference’s second-best QB after Oregon’s Justin Herbert.

Alex Ghenis (4): Yes, Colorado is undefeated, but they also haven’t beaten anybody with a pulse—so thus they sit behind the top-three one-loss teams in the North. The computer overlords show them as only being favored in the late-October game against Oregon State, but otherwise underdogs (including the season-closer at Cal). This next week’s game against ASU will be interesting to gauge both teams’ quality and place in the South.

FPI #53 (+9), W 38-16 v UC L.A. (70/74). Next week: v ASU (37) 43.6% win chance

Nick Kranz (6): As Alex notes, Colorado’s three FBS wins are against teams with a combined record of 1–12. I’m not really convinced that Colorado is much different than Cal, really. But we’re going to have to see another couple games to get much of a read on the Buffs.

Ruey Yen (4): I think the consensus here is that UCLA is bad, rather than that Colorado is really good.

5. ATQ South Golden Bears (3–1, 0–1 Pac-12) ↘

Oregon v California

Last week: 3

Berkelium97 (5): This is a game Cal could have won. Four scoring opportunities were wasted due to turnovers and a failed fourth-and-goal conversion—and one of those failed opportunities turned into a TD for the Ducks. Failing to capitalize on those opportunities demonstrates that Cal is not yet ready to contend for the Pac-12 North. Fortunately for the Bears, the conference is full of beatable teams, so this team can still win seven or eight games.

Piotr T Le (6): Per SEC speak: “Quality loss.” Sadly it was a blowout that really showed what would happen if Cal’s lack of an effective passing game and inability to generate pressure without Cameron Goode can do. Honestly, this was the worst-case scenario game for Cal in the two major weaknesses, but if the coaching and players are as resilient as we all believe them to be, then we should look to bounce back. For opponents, if they can force Cal’s weaknesses to remain Achilles’ heel–level weaknesses, we can see a longer season for Cal with the chance of a bowl game in question.

Alex Ghenis (5): If it weren’t for the turnovers—especially the ones returned for scores—this would’ve been a more competitive game against one of the top teams in the conference. Cal had more first downs than Oregon (25 vs. 21) and the total yardage was within a reasonable amount (485 vs, 427, favor Oregon). Hopefully the QB decision-making will improve, our defense can rediscover its turnover mojo, and Marcel Dancy comes back healthy so we have better depth at RB. The talent gap with the Oregon/Washington/Stanfurd/USC group is a reminder that we’re still in long-term rebuild mode.

FPI #52 (-10), L 42-24 v Oregon (33/29). Next week: @ Arizona (57) 42.9% win chance

Nick Kranz (7): A big question for the rest of the season: Can this team move the ball on offense and not turn it over in the same game?

Ruey Yen (6): The Bears made some mistakes and fell behind for the first time this year. The young offense then made more mistakes in an effort to come back. It is obviously a disappointing outcome, but one that is not that surprising either given what the two-headed Cal offense has shown in 2018.

6. Washington State Cougars (4–1, 1–1 Pac-12) ↗

NCAA Football: Washington at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Last week: 9

Berkelium97 (6): Wazzu’s 0 rushing yards indicate that we’re back to vintage Mike Leach where they’re not even going to pretend to have a ground game. It’s not particularly efficient, but the Air Raid reliably produces about 400 yards and 3 TDs per game. I am genuinely interested to see how much they elect to run this week against OSU’s alarmingly bad run defense.

Alex Ghenis (6): WSU could easily be above Cal in the rankings given both have one loss, but losing to Oregon feels more respectable than losing to USC. A close win at home against Utah keeps the Cougars in the “meh” camp for now, but still above most of the South teams.

FPI #32 (-2), W 28-24 v Utah (37/36). Next week: @ OSU (104) 88.9% win chance

Nick Kranz (6): 28 points isn’t exactly vintage Air Raid, but that level of production against Utah’s excellent defense should catch your attention a little bit.

7. Arizona State Sun Devils (3–2, 1–1 Pac-12) ↘

NCAA Football: Southern California at Arizona State Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Last week: 6

Alex Ghenis (8): I didn’t get to watch the game against OSU because, well, #Pac12AfterDark apparently applies to every team now. But soundly beating a bad opponent won’t do much to have ASU jump up the rankings, considering they are still sitting with a 3–2 record and 1–1 in conference.

FPI #37 (+1), W 52-24 v OSU (102/104). Next Week: @ Colorado (53) 56.4% win chance

thedozen (6): ASU’s Eno Benjamin had a field day on the way to averaging 10.4 yards per carry, but OSU’s Jermar Jefferson wasn’t far behind at an 8.2 yard clip.

Nick Kranz (8): Beating OSU with the current state of their run defense just isn’t something meaningful or insightful. It’s crazy in this day and age that Arizona and ASU could both run the ball about 70% of the time and just waltz to an easy win over a Pac-12 foe, but that’s exactly how bad the Beavers are right now.

Ruey Yen (5): Routing Oregon State while at home doesn’t really change my outlook of the Sun Devils.

8. USC Trojans (3–2, 2–1 Pac-12) ↘

USC v Arizona
I don’t intend to change these pictures every week, but how in the Tuscon hell was this picture deemed worthy of being published by Getty?
Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

Last week: 6T

Alex Ghenis (7): USC tried to shoot themselves in the foot with a bunch of penalties, but still came away with the win. If anything, I’m using this game as a barometer to compare USC against Cal, depending on how we fare in the desert next week. A winning conference record and the fact that both losses came against now-ranked teams keeps the Trojans above ASU—but even though they beat WSU, they are behind WSU because the Cougars only have one loss.

FPI #34 (-6), W 24-20 @ Arizona (55/57). Next week: bye

thedozen (8): The Trojans will take the road win, but allowing the last 20 points in a 24–20 victory meant it was a nervous affair.

Nick Kranz (4): I’m going to focus on the upside USC showed in dominating on a per-play basis, rather than the mistakes that kept what should’ve been an easy win competitive. Despite it all, USC has two conference wins and gets the main Pac-12 South contenders at home. They’re still my favorite to get squashed by Washington in the title game.

Ruey Yen (8): While I am enjoying putting USC this low in the rankings, I still think that they will continue to ascend as they get more experiences.

9. Utah Utes (2–2, 0–2 Pac-12) ↘

Oregon v Utah Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images

Last week: 8

Berkelium97 (9): Will the Utes ever have a functioning offense?

Alex Ghenis (9): 0–2 in the Pac-12 with a close loss at WSU keeps the Utes above 1–1 Arizona and its so-so win at OSU, but the battle for #9 is still a close one. Arizona is more likely to win this week than Utah is, so this may switch around pretty soon—and then they play each other on Friday 10/12.

FPI #36 (+1), L 28-24 @ WSU (30/32). Next week: @ Furd (16) 25.0% win chance

Nick Kranz (9): A brutal loss in a brutal stretch of games for the Utes, who are probably better than the 0–3 conference record they might be stuck with by next Saturday.

10. Arizona Wildcats (2–3, 1–1 Pac-12) ↔

NCAA Football: Arizona at California Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Last week: 10

Berkelium97 (10): Some garbage time TDs helped make this one look more respectable. Fun fact: Kevin Sumlin’s buyout is an absurd TEN MILLION DOLLARS until 2020, when it drops to $7.5m, and down to $5m in 2021. And Sumlin will have to pay those same amounts back to Arizona if he takes another job. Looks like Arizona is stuck with this mess for a while.

Alex Ghenis (10): Like Colorado, Arizona hasn’t beaten anybody with a pulse—and while two losses came against decent-quality teams, the one at Houston was no bueno. Hopefully they’ll find a way to keep losing this coming weekend, even though the computers give them a slight advantage against the Bears.

FPI #57 (-2), L 24-20 V USC (28/34). Next week: v Cal (52) 57.1% win chance

Nick Kranz (10): Yeah, it’s not typically a great sign if you have a +2 turnover margin at home and your opponent commits 18(!) penalties and you still lose. Unsurprisingly, Arizona wasn’t able to simply hand the ball off to their running back at will like they did against Oregon State and Khalil Tate simply isn’t a guy who’s going to beat a decent team with his arm.

Ruey Yen (10): I am mildly surprised by the lack of success in Kevin Sumlin’s first season in Tucson. I certainly welcome the Wildcats to struggle for another week.

11. Oregon State Beavers (1–4, 0–2 Pac-12) ↔

Utah v Oregon State Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Last week: 11

Berkelium97 (12): Here are step-by-step instructions for how to beat the Beavers: 1) run the ball, 2) run the ball, 3) run the ball, and 4) who cares if they know you’re going to run, run the ball anyway. Fun fact: Oregon State is surrendering 306 rushing yards per game. Remember our old friend Andy Buh? His eye-gougingly bad defense “only” gave up 188 rushing yards per game. This is futility on another level.

Alex Ghenis (11): The Beavers put up more points this week than Chip Kelly’s vaunted offensive mind could muster. They’ve also actually won a game, which keeps them above the Bruins.

FPI #104 (-2), L 52-24 @ ASU (38/37). Next week: v WSU (32) 11.1% win chance.

Nick Kranz (12): I am 100% on board for any excuse to put UCLA last in the Power Rankings, but good lord. You’ve got to be quite an optimist to see a win left on OSU’s schedule

12. UC Los Angeles Bruins (0–4, 0–1 Pac-12) ↔

UCLA v Utah Photo by George Frey/Getty Images

Last week: 12

Berkelium97 (11): It is a crime against humanity that we can’t see the ineptitude bowl between the Bruins and Beavers. UCLA looked vaguely competitive for awhile against a decent team, so they leapfrog the woeful Beavers this week.

Alex Ghenis (12): It’s a shame that UCLA and OSU don’t play each other this year because that would help sort out the basement of the conference. But until the Bruins win a game, they’ll stay in last place even if they are more likely to win on a neutral field.

FPI #74 (-4), L 38-16 @ Colorado (62/53). Next week: v Washington (8) 8.1% win chance

thedozen (12): I attended the first game at the Rose Bowl this season for free and now I am getting special ticket deals via email. I am sure the reduced prices have nothing to do with the Bruins’ record.

Nick Kranz (11): At least UCLA kept it close for a half before pretty clearly wilting at altitude. To the extent that there is anything interesting about this team (there isn’t), it’s amusing at how uniformly mediocre-to-bad UCLA is in every way. There’s no one area of extreme badness that stands out, nor some sort of relative strength to give them hope for the future. Just nondescript badness all the way.

The data

Hark, you say. Some of you might be wondering how exactly 11 writers came to the conclusion listed above. Well, we started out by having each writer come up with an individual ranking (collected in Table 1).

Table 1. Your voters’ votes

rk Alex Bk97 Joshua Leland Nick K. Nik Jam Piotr ragnarok Rob Ruey thedozen
rk Alex Bk97 Joshua Leland Nick K. Nik Jam Piotr ragnarok Rob Ruey thedozen
1 Wash Wash Wash Wash Wash Wash Wash Wash Stanfurd Wash Wash
2 Stanfurd Stanfurd Stanfurd Oregon Oregon Oregon Oregon Stanfurd Wash Stanfurd Stanfurd
3 Oregon Oregon Oregon Stanfurd Stanfurd Stanfurd Stanfurd Oregon Colorado Oregon Oregon
4 Colorado Colorado Colorado Colorado USC Colorado Colorado Colorado ASU Colorado Colorado
5 Cal Cal Cal ASU WSU USC WSU WSU Oregon ASU Cal
6 WSU WSU USC WSU Colorado WSU Cal Cal Cal Cal ASU
9 Utah Utah Utah Utah Utah Utah Utah Utah USC Utah Utah
10 Arizona Arizona Arizona Arizona Arizona Arizona Arizona Arizona OSU Arizona Arizona

From there, I task the CGB interns with manually calculating the average ranking that each team received; arranging those averages from smallest to largest gave the main rankings shown above. But we can also learn a bit more from the precise, averaged rankings, so we’ll take a look at them below.

Figure 1 is a bar graph reflecting on the precise ranking for each team; here we can see how far each team actually differs from the rounded rankings in the main list. For example, Cal and Wazzu are nearly tied at the value for 6th when rounded gives the (false) impression that Cal is fully 5th. Speaking of these two teams, we actually see a near four-way tie at six with these two teams, ASU, and USC. The error bars will tell you how varied the responses were. For example, consider two different ways for numbers to average out to 5. If we all voted that team fourth, fifth, and sixth, then we’d be in pretty good agreement and the standard deviation would be small. Alternatively, we could be split with half of us ranking them first and the other half grading them at ninth. In the second case, the average is still 5, but the standard deviation would be larger due to the greater discrepancy in perception.

Figure 1. This week’s precise rankings with standard deviation.

And just for funsies, we can also carry these precise rankings over the course of the season (Fig. 2). Here, we see Stanfurd has been slowly inching its way to a unanimous #1 ranking, getting closer and closer every week from the preseason to the rankings after Week 4... until their loss to Notre Dame brought them violently crashing down to second place. We also see that after two weeks of being tightly-packed in, there’s finally distinction between Oregon, Colorado, and Cal. (I’m also amused because those teams are ranked in reverse-alphabetical order.)

Figure 2 would suggest that we have three tiers of teams with each tier separated by roughly two full “points” or “precise ranks”. We have the top tier (Washington, Stanfurd, Oregon, and Colorado), the middle tier (Cal, WSU, ASU, and USC), and the bottom tier (Utah, Arizona, OSU, and UC L.A.). But while I typically like looking at these unofficial, naturally-arising tiers, I kind of issues with them this week. Does Colorado really belong in that top tier when they’re so untested? Their four opponents combine to one measly win (as Nick pointed out) to Arkansas, which is trying to recover from the stench of Bret Bielema and themselves only have one win over FCS’s Western Kansas. (Western Kansas isn’t even a real school, but I hope that for just one second, you believed that it was because that’s how insignificant Arkansas’s one win is.) On the flip-side of the questionable-tier spectrum is Colorado’s non-rival rival—Utah. The Utes have been relatively unimpressive, but aren’t anywhere near as bad as the other three teams and their two losses came against Washington and a four-point loss to Wazzu.

Figure 2. This season’s precise rankings.

For the sake of being an un-fun completionist, we also do track the season’s progression with the rounded rankings; this graph is a little more straightforward, but at the cost of losing some information. Here, we see it was a pretty bouncy week with every team moving up or down a few spots—except for the basement teams. This kind of contradicts Ruey’s statement that there were no real surprises other than Cal–Oregon.

Figure 3. This season’s rounded rankings

In addition to looking at all the weekly movements qualitatively, we can also analyze it quantitatively since I pretend to be a scientist and engineer and I got a great suggestion to do so from the comments a few years back. This quantified score is deemed the Madness and shown in Table 2. We now have two teams on the verge of double-digit Madness scores—Arizona and Washington State. Given the stability of the basement triad, the safer bet for which of these schools would be next to enter double digits is probably WSU. Of course, Cal and Colorado are also in striking distance while UC Los Angeles is a big upset away from also getting into this territory.

Table 2. How much each team has been bouncing around the rankings.

And next up on the Bruins’ schedule is the supreme champion of the West Coast—the Huskies—so maybe such an upset is right on the horizon...


At this arbitrary point in the season, which team do you think will end up with the highest Madness score?

This poll is closed

  • 2%
    (2 votes)
  • 12%
    (10 votes)
  • 16%
    (13 votes)
  • 2%
    (2 votes)
  • 3%
    (3 votes)
  • 1%
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    (0 votes)
  • 2%
    UC Los Angeles
    (2 votes)
  • 36%
    (29 votes)
  • 1%
    (1 vote)
  • 8%
    (7 votes)
  • 12%
    (10 votes)
80 votes total Vote Now