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Pac-12 Power Rankings, Week 8: Anti-Oregon slogans are old, but the top of the conference is new!

Oregon rises, then Oregon falls.

NCAA Football: Oregon at Washington State
We get it. Ducks are animals that can be hunted and that was the name of a classic video game.
James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Leland Wong: Trying to rank the Pac-12 teams with such parity is an unenviable, foolish task. And yet, here we are trying in vain to determine if A is better than B is better than C when all the teams have beaten each other. And yet, here we are trying to rank the Pac-12 teams by their overall performance this year, particularly skewing towards the more recent developments.

Recapping the Week 8 games, we saw all 12 teams in action with not a bye in sight.

  • Stanfurd def. Arizona State, 20–13
  • #15 Washington def. Colorado, 27–13
  • California def. Oregon State, 49–7
  • #25 Washington State def. #12 Oregon, 34–20
  • Utah def. USC, 41–28
  • UC Los Angeles def. Arizona, 31–30

Alex Ghenis: Not too much to say here except that the Power Rankings are incorporating both overall record and recent streaks/trajectories (which is also a reflection of coaching acumen/player development with so many new staff combinations in the Pac 12 this year). For example, UCLA continues to skip upward with a close home win over an admittedly-bad Arizona team and the two-game streak might point toward Chip bringing things together in Westwood. A note of importance for our Sturdy Golden Bears: Washington is still a top-10 team as far as statistics are concerned and both FPI and S&P+ place Cal in the 50s. Next Saturday will be one hell of the test, but fingers crossed.

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), Utah (2/14), Stanfurd (3/22), WSU (4/27), Oregon (5/29), USC (6/38), ASU (7/45), Colorado (8/49), Cal (9/58), UC L.A. (10/59), Arizona (11/62), OSU (12/114).

S&P+ uses a different methodology than FPI does and has the conference order as: Washington (1/6), Utah (2/19), WSU (3/24), Oregon (4/41), Stanfurd (5/43), USC (6/48), Cal (7/55), ASU (8/58), Colorado (9/62), Arizona (10/85), UC L.A. (11/86), OSU (12/119)

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 State Cougars (6–1, 3–1 Pac-12) ↗

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

Last week: 3

Berkelium97 (1): The King in the North!

Alex Ghenis (1): The Cougars are the only one-loss team in the conference and thus sit soundly at the top of the Power Rankings. Wins at home against Utah and Oregon also boost WSU’s resume. Mike Leach’s team might be underdogs on the Farm next week, but much of that will likely depend on Bryce Love’s health.

FPI #27 (+2), W 34-20 v Oregon (28/29). Next week: @ Stanfurd (22) 36.0% win chance

Ruey Yen (2): Huge win for Wazzu on the field, not to mention off the field with a great showing of fans in front of College Gameday.

Nick Kranz (1): It’s looking increasingly likely that Wazzu can score on anybody this year thanks to the first Leach QB in Pullman who basically never takes sacks. I’m legit terrified.

2. Washington Huskies (6–2, 4–1 Pac-12) ↔

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

Last week: 2

Alex Ghenis (2): Washington continues to be a scary team and top-eight in the country per the computers. The game against Colorado was in question for a few quarters, but the Huskies were solid enough to pull away and win by a two-score margin. Hopefully they’ll have a hiccup against Cal next week… But that’s probably still a pipe dream.

FPI #8 (even), W 27-13 v Colorado (50/49). Next week: @ Cal (58) 83.7% win chance

Ruey Yen (1): Washington recaptures the top spot in my ranking by beating a pretty solid Colorado team. Yes, it was a close game for the most part, but the Huskies remain my pick to win the Pac-12 this year.

Nick Kranz (2): One seemingly manageable road game, then hold serve against two beatable teams at home, and Washington gets their Apple-Cup-for-all-the-marbles game as the Huskies once again control their own Pac-12 destiny.

3. Oregon Ducks (5–2, 2–2 Pac-12) ↘

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

Last week: 1

Berkelium97 (2): 39 yards in the first half? This offense can be maddeningly inconsistent.

Alex Ghenis (4): The Ducks just seemed to Coug’ it in Pullman and the defense couldn’t tackle to save their lives. The only concerning future game seems to be November 10 at Utah, so a 9–3 record or so looks about right. Not too shabby for the first-year head coach whom everybody was questioning preseason.

FPI #29 (-1), L 34-20 @ WSU (29/27). Next week: @ Arizona (62), 64.8% win chance

Ruey Yen (3): It was a special atmosphere in Pullman on Saturday night and I think the relatively-inexperienced Ducks were rattled.

Nick Kranz (4): I find it really hard to believe that Oregon was shut out by anybody for a half—let alone Washington State. What exactly happened in those first 30 minutes?!

4. Utah Utes (5–2, 3–2 Pac-12) ↔

Oregon v Utah Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images

Last week: 4

Berkelium97 (4): After some inconsistency issues on offense early in the season, the Utes seem to have figured things out. They have scored 40+ in three consecutive games for the first time since joining the Pac-12. And that defense! USC had 12 possessions and a whopping seven of them immediately ended in a 3-and-out or a turnover on the first set of downs.

Alex Ghenis (3): Both computers have Utah at #2 in the conference behind Washington… But WSU’s one-loss record keeps them ahead of the Huskies and Utes, bumping Utah down to #3. They should be favored in pretty much the rest of the games, including a visit from Oregon in mid-November. A 10–2 overall record and trip to the conference championship isn’t out of the question.

FPI #14 (+3), W 41-28 v USC (40/38). Next week: @ UC L.A. (59) 75.6% win chance

Ruey Yen (5): A dominant showing against USC, but I am not crediting them as much since I don’t think the Trojans played that well in this one. Nonetheless, Utes are my top team in the Pac-12 South.

Nick Kranz (3): I’m just gonna copy Bk97—Utah had the defense to win a Pac-12 South title, but if they really have managed to legit find an offense, they might actually be Pac-12 title game favorites rather than just South favorites. Heady days!

5. Stanfurd Cardinal (5–2, 3–1 Pac-12) ↗

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

Last week: 6

Berkelium97 (6): The Lobsterbacks get a nice, feel-good win to snap their two-game losing streak. Just in time for the next two-game losing streak!

Alex Ghenis (5): The Trees of the South Bay survived in the Desert despite a lot of turnovers and sit with a 3–1 conference record and strong standing in the Pac 12 North race. Continued ankle injuries for Bryce Love are a concern… I’m still surprised he came back for this year when he could’ve been a second- or third-round pick if he had entered the draft—who knows what’ll happen for his career now. The variation between Furd’s FPI and S&P+ rankings (22 vs. 43) show that this is good team that could still lose on any given Saturday (unless they’re playing OSU).

FPI #22 (even), W 20-13 @ ASU (43/45). Next week: v WSU (27), 64.0% win chance

6. Colorado Buffaloes (5–2, 2–2 Pac-12) ↗

Colorado v Colorado State Photo by Joe Mahoney/Getty Images

Last week: 7

Berkelium97 (5): The Colorado passing offense had been spectacular through the first five games, but it has folded in the past two weeks against the defenses of USC and UW. Shenault’s absence hurt this week, but the passing game still struggled in his presence last week.

Alex Ghenis (6): Colorado stays above USC despite the head-to-head loss last week because the defeat at Washington feels a bit more respectable than USC’s loss at Utah; plus, the Buffs have a better overall record. USC is favored in quite a few upcoming games, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see them switch around pretty soon.

FPI #49 (+1), L 27-13 @ Wash (8/8). Next week: v OSU (14) 98.3% win chance

Nick Kranz (6): Colorado hasn’t exactly looked bad in losing to Washington and USC, but neither were they particularly close to winning either game. Which means that the Buffs probably were what they thought they were all along—just another decent, middle-of-the-Pac team.

7. USC Trojans (4–3, 3–2 Pac-12) ↘

USC v Arizona State Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Last week: 5

Berkelium97 (7): This team seems to struggle mightily against good defenses, especially on the road.

Alex Ghenis (7): That sure was a painful loss, but USC still has an earlier-season win over the Cougars that is holding things together (though that was a close one at home). The rest of the schedule is looking good for the Spoiled Children, who will probably sit with a 7–5 or 8–4 record at the end of the year (unless they can pull off a miracle against Notre Dame on November 24).

FPI #38 (+2), L 41-28 @ Utah (17/14). Next week: v ASU (45) 63.2% win chance

Nick Kranz (5): Injuries are screwing with USC’s chances at another South title, but the rest of their opponents are bottom-half teams, so one Utah slip-up might hand the division right back to the Trojans.

thedozen (6): The Trojans had the sort of passing game Montgomery Burns probably remembers from his days at Yale (Class of 1914).

8T. Arizona State Sun Devils (3–4, 1–3 Pac-12) ↔

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

Last week: 8

Berkelium97 (8): With as many weapons as this team has on offense, I’m amazed that they have scored three or fewer TDs in five of their seven games.

Alex Ghenis (10): The battle between ASU and Arizona for 10th/11th place was a tough one and actually, ASU sits at the bottom of the South division standings while Arizona is second-from-last. Still, all of ASU’s scores (including against darn-good teams) were by exactly 7 points and they had the solid early-season win against Michigan State. If I were placing early bets on the Territorial Cup, my money would go to the Sun Devils.

FPI #45 (-2), L 20-13 v Stanfurd (22/22). Next Week: @ USC (38) 36.8% win chance

Nick Kranz (8): It seems like ASU’s offense should be producing more points than it actually is and I’m not sure if it’s a stylistic thing, a play-calling thing, an offensive-line thing, or what. Against Stanford specifically, it was red-zone conversions and turnovers that doomed ASU, but the Sun Devils haven’t converted yards into points all year long.

thedozen (10): The Sun Devil football team missed a chance to make a statement at home against a Stanford team that had looked shaky of late.

8T. UC Los Angeles Bruins (2–5, 2–2 Pac-12) ↗

UCLA v Utah Photo by George Frey/Getty Images

Last week: 9

Alex Ghenis (8): UCLA barely beat a shorthanded Arizona team at home with a banged-up roster of their own. Still, the people saying “watch out for the Bruins” after their first five losses against top-tier teams had a good point. The upcoming schedule certainly isn’t kind, though (eighth-hardest remaining SOS per FPI).

FPI #59 (+1), W 31-30 v Arizona (63/62). Next week: v Utah (14) 24.4% win chance

Nick Kranz (9): UCLA won this game thanks to turnovers and an awful game-theory decision from Kevin Sumlin, which should (but won’t) damper the “UCLA has figured things out” momentum.

thedozen (8): Wilton Speight’s first action in weeks led to a second-straight win for Chip Kelly, who now gets to return to his old stomping grounds in Eugene.

10. California Golden Bears (4–3, 1–3 Pac-12) ↗

Oregon v California

Last week: 11

Berkelium97 (10): The Bears have an offense again!

Alex Ghenis (9): Cal finally showed that it can put together a solid offensive performance, albeit against one of the worst defenses in the country. But luckily, the defense also stood up and held (an admittedly shorthanded) OSU to its lowest scoring total of the year by far. That side of scrimmage is now ranked #16 nationally per FPI and #18 per S&P+. Unfortunately, the Bears are facing the seventh-hardest remaining schedule in the country and are only favored slightly against Colorado, while win likelihoods for the other four games are all under 30%. The offense will really need to come together to pull an upset and make a bowl game… Fingers crossed that switching back to QB Chase Garbers (and the development of RB Christopher Brown Jr.) will contribute to more progress.

FPI #58 (+9), W 49-7 @ OSU (102/114). Next week: v Wash (8) 16.3% win chance

Ruey Yen (10): Bears averted disaster by ending their three-game losing streak. As much as the big win is due to an offensively-shorthanded Oregon State team being no match, Cal at least avoided the self-destructive mistakes of the past few weeks. That’s something.

Nick Kranz (10): Cal will have five chances to both ruin somebody else’s season and salvage their own and I think they’ll do it at least once—and I suspect it will be really fun when it happens.

thedozen (9): Regardless of the opponent, I will gladly accept the conference road victory.

11. Arizona Wildcats (3–5, 2–3 Pac-12) ↘

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

Last week: 10

Alex Ghenis (11): The Wildcats are near the bottom of the Power Rankings (and behind Cal) because recent performance also plays a factor in addition to overall record and head-to-head matchups. A two-game slide—including against recently-one-win UCLA—drops the team. Both groups of stats also place Arizona either 10th or 11th.

FPI #62 (+1), L 31-30 @ UC L.A. (60/59). Next week: v Oregon (29) 35.2% win chance

Ruey Yen (11): I dropped the Wildcats a spot because I wanted to move Cal up, but the Wildcats actually played quite well despite missing their preseason Heisman trophy candidate in QB Khalil Tate in the one-point loss to the enigma that is UCLA.

Nick Kranz (11): Arizona probably should’ve beaten UCLA, as they looked significantly better on offense now that they have finally turned over the reins to a QB who isn’t hampered by injury. Still—too little, too late. Also, Kevin Sumlin kicked the dumbest field goal of the year, consigning Arizona to defeat.

12. Oregon State Beavers (1–6, 0–4 Pac-12) ↔

Utah v Oregon State Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Last week: 12

Berkelium97 (12): Despite OSU’s struggles this season, the offense has consistently been a bright spot. Not this week.

Alex Ghenis (12): The Beavers cemented their last-place bona fides in the loss against Cal, as they are now the only winless team in conference play (and against FBS competition in general). Injuries adding up and a lack of depth certainly won’t help. Strange that it’s so tough to recruit enough good players to Corvallis…

FPI #114 (-12), L 49-7 v Cal (67/58). Next week: @ Colorado (49), 6.2% win chance.

Ruey Yen (12): Rebuilding season is not fun for the fans, especially when you are completely dominated by an opponent that you thought you could possibly beat.

Nick Kranz (12): With an average margin of defeat in conference games currently at 27.5, the Beavers are on a path to be remembered alongside some of the worst teams in conference history.

The data

We’ll open up with the totality of our votes, breaking down how the ten writers voted this week (Table 1).

Table 1. Our individual votes

rk Alex atoms Bk97 Joshua Leland Nick K. ragnarok Rob Ruey thedozen
rk Alex atoms Bk97 Joshua Leland Nick K. ragnarok Rob Ruey thedozen
2 Wash Wash Oregon Wash Wash Wash Oregon Oregon WSU Wash
3 Utah Stanfurd Wash Utah Utah Utah Wash Wash Oregon Oregon
4 Oregon Utah Utah Oregon Oregon Oregon Utah Utah Stanfurd Utah
5 Stanfurd Oregon Colorado Stanfurd Stanfurd USC Colorado Stanfurd Utah Stanfurd
6 Colorado Colorado Stanfurd Colorado USC Colorado Stanfurd Colorado Colorado USC
7 USC UC L.A. USC USC Colorado Stanfurd USC USC ASU Colorado
9 Cal USC UC L.A. UC L.A. Cal UC L.A. UC L.A. ASU UC L.A. Cal
10 ASU ASU Cal ASU UC L.A. Cal Arizona UC L.A. Cal ASU
11 Arizona Arizona Arizona Arizona Arizona Arizona Cal Arizona Arizona Arizona

We combine all of the Table 1 data by averaging the scores that each school received, arranging those precise scores in ascending order to arrive at the discrete rankings listed above. But why throw away all of the information of Table 1? Instead, we’ll take a closer look into the information-rich averaged rankings in Figure 1; the error bars in this figure capture how varied all of our responses were for each team.

Figure 1. The precise rankings following the Week 8 games.

Comparing the precise rankings to the discrete levels, we see little difference between the top seven teams; there is a large discrepancy around the teams tied for eighth—ASU and UC L.A.—actually have a score closer to 9th. Enjoy your little bump!

We track these precise scores over the course of the season in Figure 2; this view also makes it a bit easier to compare precise rankings because they’re vertically-stacked.

Figure 2. The precise rankings over the course of the season.

I disagree with the three groupings that arose from our precise rankings this week. The conference has split itself into the top half (Wazzu to USC), a high basement (ASU, UC L.A., and Cal), and a low basement (Arizona and Oregon State) based on gaps that are as large as approximately two of the discrete levels (i.e., the gap between USC and the UC L.A./ASU tie or the gap between Cal and Arizona). I don’t really think the basement deserves a distinction into two classes yet and it’s unfortunate that the top half didn’t shake out with strong tiers. But alas, we can’t always rely on our data to always manifest in the form of tiers.

Another observation from the season-long ranking shows that Wazzu is the fourth team to reach the pinnacle spot this season. Generally, the top spot is monopolized by two teams or so; the only season that has seen this many teams at the top was 2015 with five teams (Oregon, UC L.A., Utah, Stanfurd, and Wazzu).

For the curious, we do also track the discrete rankings for the season (Fig. 3).

Figure 3. How the teams have evolved this year.

Comparing Figures 2 and 3, one of the cool takeaways is in the fate of Utah. The discrete rankings (and Figure 3) would have you believe that they moved nowhere for a big win over USC; however, the progression of their precise rankings (Fig. 2) shows that they actually did get a little bump, but not enough to get a full discrete bump.

One of the most frustrating takeaways is in the fate of California. We received a reasonable one-spot bump in the discrete rankings (Fig. 3) for a big win over a bad team; the precise rankings show that Cal was the beneficiary of a bigger bump and for what? For beating up on the bottom-dwellers? Is this just homerism at play?

Taking a look at how much the Pac-12 teams have migrated up and down the list, we see that Week 8 was relatively quiet. I guess that’s somewhat fair considering the only upsets were WSU over Oregon and UC Los Angeles over Arizona.

Table 2. Through the Week 8 games, we’ve got some Mad Pac-12 teams.

We’ll see if Week 9 holds any upsets that introduce more Madness to our rankings. I know we’re all hoping for one particular upset, but let’s see if anything else can happen.