clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Pac-12 Power Rankings, Week 11: Maybe USC should throttle back on the overenthusiastic excitement

How far can the Trojan-besting Golden Bears jump up our rankings?

California v USC
Time for an important life lesson, USC—life ends in disappointment. Always.
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Leland Wong: There’s a non-zero chance you’ve noticed that after every set of Pac-12 games, we like to sit around and waste our time by ranking out the conference teams for performance and fanbase sentiment—over the course of the season, but particularly for the past few weeks. And there was a bit of a notable game for the Golden Bears. You may have heard about it.

  • Arizona State def. UC Los Angeles, 31–28
  • #8 Washington State def. Colorado, 31–7
  • Utah def. Oregon, 32–25
  • Stanfurd def. Oregon State, 48–17
  • California def. USC, 15–14
  • Bye: Arizona, #25 Washington

Berkelium97: Ranking the Pac-12 South’s top three is largely an exercise in futility. Three teams have legitimate shots at the title and I’m ranking them based on the likelihood that I think each will win the division.

Alex Ghenis: Go Bears. That’s all that matters.

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 (1/10), Utah (2/13), WSU (3/18), Stanfurd (4/21), Oregon (5/39), ASU (6/42), USC (7/43), Cal (8/49), Arizona (9/55), Colorado (10/61), UC L.A. (11/68), OSU (12/104).

S&P+ uses a different methodology than FPI does and has the conference order as: Washington (1/11), Utah (2/15), WSU (3/16), Stanfurd (4/25), USC (5/36), ASU (6/52), Oregon (7/54), Cal (8/63), Arizona (9/68), Colorado (10/79), UC L.A. (11/94), OSU (12/124)

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 (9–1, 6–1 Pac-12; nine first-place votes) ↔

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

Last week: 1

Berkelium97 (1): It’s a testament to this offense’s amazing competence that the Cougs can pile up 500 yards and 31 points even though Minshew only averaged 5.8 yards per passing attempt. (By contrast, only five teams in the nation average fewer yards per attempt.) That demoralizing ruthlessness combined with Wazzu’s 42 minutes of possession must have been a nightmare for the Colorado defense.

Alex Ghenis (1): Congrats to WSU for showing that their offense can still be high-scoring… And also continuing a trend that lets Cal be the team that held them to the lowest score of the season.

FPI #18 (+4), W 19-13 v Cal (56/61). Next week: v Arizona (54) 80.2% win chance

Leland Wong (1): A dominant performance that is worthy of the top slot. The passing offense was good and yadda yadda yadda… But the defense looked phenomenal, holding Colorado to just 12 first downs and securing three takeaways.

thedozen (1): Gardner Minshew had 58 passing attempts against the Buffs. I need an ice pack just thinking about it.

2. Utah Utes (7–3, 5–3 Pac-12) ↗

Oregon v Utah Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images

Last week: 7

Berkelium97 (3): I thought their season was over when Tyler Huntley broke his collarbone. Clearly, I was wrong. One win against the hapless Buffs separates the Utes from FINALLY making a trip to the Pac-12 Championship Game.

Alex Ghenis (3): Utah is back to showing its strength after a tough loss last week. The win over Oregon is that much more impressive given the Utes were playing their backup QB.

FPI #13 (+1), W 32-25 v Oregon (41/39). Next week: @ Colorado (61) 77.5% win chance

Leland Wong (2): Well. Looks like we were all idiots for thinking they would be in trouble behind the arm of back-up quarterback Jason Shelley. He wasn’t a game-changer, but they moved the ball effectively. This was a quality win for the Utes to reaffirm their status at the top of the South division.

thedozen (3): Armand Shyne had a really pretty 42-yard run as he stayed in bounds along the sideline. He definitely stepped up after Utah’s recent spate of injuries,

3. Washington Huskies (7–3, 5–2 Pac-12) ↘

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

Last week: 2

Alex Ghenis (2): Washington and Utah have the same overall record, but Washington has the better conference record plus a head-to-head win—so they are #2 after WSU, even with the bye week.

FPI #10 (-1), bye. Next week: v OSU (104) 98.1% win chance

Leland Wong (3): Still dangerous, but they fall behind since they were stuck sitting around idly while two other top teams showed off with some nice wins.

4. California Golden Bears (6–4, 3–4 Pac-12; one first-place homer vote) ↗

Oregon v California

Last week: 5

Piotr T Le (1): I don’t care whether this makes sense or not. Cal won against SC in their house. We’re #1 and SC is #12. Go Bears!

Berkelium97 (5): Once again, the Bears clinch an upset with a 5-minute drive to ice the game (although it was aided by one of the most boneheaded penalties you will ever see). This offense may underwhelming, but it has an impressive ability to control the clock in critical situations. If the Bears could find some way to score four touchdowns per game, they’d be atop the North standings.

Alex Ghenis (4): Hell yeah, Bears. The offense of course is questionable and increasingly damaged by injuries at the skill positions, but the defense is elite (#17 S&P+/#7 FPI). Combine that with three wins in the past four games—including a very close loss at top-tier WSU—and wins over two conference powerhouses (plus snapping a 14-year losing streak over a rival) and the Bears stay high up the Power Rankings.

FPI #49 (+3), W 15-14 @ USC (42/42). Next week: v Stanfurd (21) 33.2% win chance

Leland Wong (4): On the one hand, Cal continues to win games that they statistically should have no shot in. On the other hand, snapping that streak of futility gave a boost of spirit to the Cal community—and that fluffy kind of emotional nonsense is what these rankings are all about.

5. Stanfurd Cardinal (6–4, 4–3 Pac-12) ↘

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

Last week: 4

Alex Ghenis (5): A home win over OSU, even if it’s a blowout, doesn’t provide much insight to a team’s strengths or weaknesses. Hopefully the Cardinal offense gets exposed next week.

FPI #22 (+2), W 48-17 v OSU (102/104). Next week: @ Cal (49), 66.8% win chance

Leland Wong (5): With JJ Arcega-Whiteside out (due to what Wilcox would call a “lower-body injury”), Stanfurd said “lol don’t worry about it” as a new pass-catching option emerged in TE Colby Parkinson, who tied a school record for touchdown catches. Stanfurd secured bowl-eligibility with this win, but it was over a worse opponent than Cal, so they don’t rise as much as Cal did.

thedozen (4): Do I have the Palo Altos one place ahead of Cal so as not to seem overconfident prior to Big Game? You decide.

6. Arizona State Sun Devils (6–4, 4–3 Pac-12) ↔

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

Last week: 6

Berkelium97 (6): ASU is two wins away from the Pac-12 Championship Game. That entails two road wins against Oregon and Arizona. That seems like a feasible task, but the Devils have been pretty poor on the road this year.

Leland Wong (8): We know that their opponent (UC Los Angeles) has some fight to them, but ASU still drops for playing them pretty evenly with the margin of victory coming down to a field goal.

Alex Ghenis (6): Last week, I said “It would be hilarious if an 8–4 ASU ran the table and made it to the championship game.” That’s still a possibility and would make for one hell of a Pac-12 South storyline. Still, a close home loss against bottom-dweller UCLA shouldn’t get a whole bunch of congratulations-points.

FPI #42 (-4), W 31-28 v. UC L.A. (68/68). Next Week: @ Oregon (39) 37.1% win chance

7. Oregon Ducks (6–4, 3–4 Pac-12) ↘

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

Last week: 3

Alex Ghenis (7): The Ducks fall down the Power Rankings after a deflating loss at Utah, who was looking to rebound after last week’s mishap (with their backup QB, no less). At least Justin Herbert went back to putting up strong numbers.

FPI #41 (+1), L 32-25 @ Utah (14/13). Next week: v ASU (42) 62.9% win chance

Leland Wong (6): A one-score loss to a good Utah team isn’t something to scoff at, but Oregon is the victim of other mid-level Pac-12 teams having good weeks. Still, the defense should have been able to stack the box against a first-time starter at quarterback, but the Ducks allowed 232 yards on the ground with 174 of them coming from Armand Shyne.

8. Arizona Wildcats (5–5, 4–3 Pac-12) ↔

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

Last week: 8

Berkelium97 (7): The Wildcats are two wins away from the Pac-12 Championship Game. But one of those wins must come against Washington State and that isn’t happening this year.

Leland Wong (7): Big drop relative to where I had them last week, but that speaks more to big wins by other teams and the muddled middle of the conference (i.e., the teams are so sardinely-packed that one idle week can result in a bit of a drop).

Alex Ghenis (8): Not losing (or winning) on a bye week—plus the performances of other teams—gives Arizona a bump up one spot in my Power Rankings.

FPI #54 (-4), Bye. Next week: @ WSU (18), 19.8% win chance.

9. USC Trojans (5–5, 4–4 Pac-12) ↔

USC v Arizona State Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Last week: 9

Berkelium97 (9): I can’t wait to see which mediocre coach they find to replace Clay Helton.

Alex Ghenis (9): BOOM.

FPI #43 (-1), L 15-14 v Cal (52/49). Next week: @ UC L.A. (68) 62.3% win chance

Leland Wong (9): The offense was severely lacking thanks to a wealth of injuries at wide receiver. A particularly rough week given the falling confidence among fans for the coaches worsened by self-inflicted errors--unsportsmanlike conduct and bad snaps—that led to their defeat.

10. Colorado Buffaloes (5–5, 2–5 Pac-12) ↔

Colorado v Colorado State Photo by Joe Mahoney/Getty Images

Last week: 10

Berkelium97 (10): And I’m freeeeeee, freeee fallin’

Leland Wong (11): If not for a first-quarter 64-yard run by Travon McMillan, I doubt Colorado would have even been able to get on the scoreboard yesterday. It was a stunningly bad performance but at least their win–loss record is better than the two-win teams.

Alex Ghenis (10): Getting destroyed at home hurts, but at least it was against the best team in the conference (as far as win–loss records go).

FPI #61 (-5), L 31-7 v WSU (25/18). Next week: v Utah (15) 22.5% win chance

11. UC Los Angeles Bruins (2–8, 2–5 Pac-12) ↔

UCLA v Utah Photo by George Frey/Getty Images

Last week: 11

Leland Wong (10): The baby bears put up a commendable effort and nearly pulled off the upset. Chip Kelly’s second-choice quarterback (Wilton Speight) put up some pretty good numbers, but the team had no answer for the ASU run game.

Alex Ghenis (11): Kept things respectable against a pretty good ASU team, on the road. Still, the Bruins’ win-loss record puts them at #11.

FPI #68 (-3), L 31-28 @ ASU (38/42). Next week: v USC (43) 37.7% win chance

12. Oregon State Beavers (2–8, 1–6 Pac-12) ↔

Utah v Oregon State Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Last week: 12

Berkelium97 (12): Can we borrow their offense? It’s obvious that they don’t have any need for it as long as that defense continues to be the second-worst in the nation.

Leland Wong (12): The Beavers continue to be outclassed on the scoreboard… but the offense actually put up pretty good numbers. It was the defense that somehow made a David Shaw quarterback look like a Sonny Dykes quarterback.

Alex Ghenis (12): At least they still have a conference win over Colorado.

FPI #104 (-2), L 48-17 @ Stanfurd (22/21). Next week: @ Wash (10), 1.9% win chance.

thedozen (12): Only UConn allows more yards per game among FBS teams—a whopping 623 per game compared to Oregon State’s 542.

The data

Let’s kick things off with the full votes this week, so you can behold Piotr’s homer ballot in all its... glory?

Table 1. The ballots following Week 11

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

The ten responses for each team are averaged out to settle on the discrete, rounded rankings that were listed above. But since we’ve got all of this data (compared to just one writer toiling away all by her lonesome), we can peek into the gritty details of the data. The true, precise rankings are charted below in Figure 1; the standard deviation (i.e., how much disagreement we have on each team) is pictured in the error bars. For example, you’ll notice the largest error bar belongs to California, coming as a result of Piotr bestowing upon them the almighty first-place ranking in the immediate hype-filled aftermath of the glorious streak-breaking win. And what a perfect way to build to the Big Game than with California and Stanfurd so painfully close to one another. We also see that Wazzu is definitively above the rest in our eyes with nearly two full spots separating them from second-place Utah.

Figure 1. This week’s precise rankings (columns) with standard deviation (error bars).

We compare the precise rankings across the 2018 season in Figure 2. Right up from the top, we see Wazzu take a baby drop from being the unanimous #1 last week. Utah has recovered from an embarrassing one-week drop—embarrassing for us since we needlessly doubted them.

Figure 2. Extending our precise rankings one more week this year.

Similar to the above image, the discrete rankings are also charted across the season (Fig. 3). This look makes it pretty clear how foolish we were about Utah with them rebounding to exactly where they were before we doubted their future with their back-up quarterback. The other fascinating takeaway is all the stability now that we as voters are beginning to settle in with sufficient data. A whopping seven teams held steady this week, including the whole bottom five. For the past two weeks (i.e., dating back to Week 9), we have five teams who haven’t budged.

Figure 3. Summarizing the discrete rankings for the 2018 season.

With five teams remaining unchanged, it follows quite reasonably for the Madness score (quantifying how much each team is moving up and down our rankings) to be quite low this week. And although it was (Table 2), it was actually more Mad than I expected due to the big moves from Utah and Oregon. Again, if we didn’t overreact so much to Utah’s loss of Huntley, then this would probably be an unprecedentedly un-Mad week. And to once again harp upon the Utah leap, they have now edged out Colorado for the Maddest team at this point in the season.

Table 2. The madness over the season.

And with the end of the season racing towards us faster than Traveon Beck runs to the ball, we have our first set of conference rivalry games upon us. The Big Game, the USC–UC L.A. game, and the tepid Rumble in the Rockies. The Colorado–Utah game features two games on opposite ends of the ranking spectrum, so an upset could result in big changes. The two Californian rivalry games feature teams who are close on the list, so lest there’s some insane blowout, there shouldn’t be any big shake-ups—unless California reclaims the Axe and we all homer-vote Cal to the top.