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Pac-12 Power Rankings, Week 12: Cal gets screwed by math

All that bad-mouthing of Evans Hall finally comes back to get us

Behind The Scenes At CERN The European Organisation For Nuclear Research
Of course we get screwed by someone in a red shirt.
Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Leland Wong: While this football week has been unpredictable in the Bay Area, it soldiered on for the rest of the Pac-12. We still have a slate of five games that took place this past week and we’ll be using them—along with the overall season—to rank the Pac-12.

  • #19 Utah def. Colorado, 30–7
  • UC Los Angeles def. USC, 34–27
  • #18 Washington def. Oregon State, 42–23
  • Oregon def. Arizona State, 31–29
  • #8 Washington State def. Arizona, 69–28
  • Imromptu bye: California, Stanfurd

Alex Ghenis: The usual deal:

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 (1/11), Utah (2/13), WSU (3/15), Stanfurd (4/21), Oregon (5/38), ASU (6/42), USC (7/43), Cal (8/51), Arizona (9/58), UC L.A. (10/66), Colorado (11/69), OSU (12/101).

S&P+ uses a different methodology than FPI does and has the conference order as: Washington (1/10), Utah (2/12), WSU (3/20), Stanfurd (4/28), USC (5/41), Oregon (6/50), Cal (7/59), ASU (8/64), Arizona (9/73), Colorado (10/91), UC L.A. (11/92), OSU (12/121)

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 (10–1, 7–1 Pac-12; twelve first-place votes) ↔

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

Last week: 1

Berkelium97 (1): Nice.

Leland Wong (1): The Cougars end up with an obscene 69 points (including seven passing touchdowns for Gardner Minshew II). Everyone’s gonna be citing those 69 points (because it’s the final score and because the sense of humor of us as a society has apparently regressed to middle-school level), but let’s not overlook the fact that Wazzu was up an absurd 55–14 by halftime.

Piotr T Le (1): The Cougars scored a nice amount of points. Since the Cal game, the Cougar offense has been moving along like a well-led and well-manned pirate ship ready to make some ruckus in the CFP.

Nick Kranz (1): IF (big if) WSU wins out, they probably just need a few things to go their way. A Notre Dame loss to USC, an Oklahoma loss to West Virginia, or a Northwestern win in the Big-10 title game—one of those might be enough and two of them would make it pretty darn likely. Heady days!

Alex Ghenis (1): That was just a brutal beatdown. Well done.

FPI #15 (+3), W 69-28 v Arizona (55/58). Next week: v Wash (11) 54.5% win chance

2. Utah Utes (8–3, 6–3 Pac-12) ↔

Oregon v Utah Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images

Last week: 2

Berkelium97 (3): After falling short year after year, the Utes have finally won the South!

Nick Kranz (3): Utah fans will not care in the slightest that they won against the weakest collection of South rivals ever. Per Sagarin, ESPN FPI and S&P+ rankings, Utah is the only Pac-12 South team in the top 40 of the nation. Woof.

thedozen (3): I wouldn’t call this a dominant Utes team, but they are still nearly 90% favorites to beat BYU next weekend.

Alex Ghenis (3): Utah has secured its spot in the title game against the winner of the Apple Cup. Thanks to the Utes for throwing our next opponent into turmoil, as well. Dilly Dilly!

FPI #13 (even), W 30-7 @ Colorado (61/69). Next week: v BYU (68) 89.0% win chance

3. Washington Huskies (8–3, 6–2 Pac-12) ↔

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

Last week: 3

Berkelium97 (2): The defense has had trouble closing out games recently. That is problematic as UW prepares to visit the best offense, by far, in the Pac-12.

Nick Kranz (2): Were I a UW fan, I would be absolutely tickled at the idea that an Apple Cup win would send the Cougars plummeting from the doorstep of the playoffs to not even winning the Pac-12 North.

Alex Ghenis (2): As I said last week, “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…” Still, the win against OSU should have been larger considering the Beavers’ trajectory of late, so that second spot could go either way.

FPI #11 (-1), W 42-23 v OSU (104/101). Next week: @ WSU (15) 45.5% win chance

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

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

Last week: 5

Leland Wong (6): Of the two teams that got impromptu bye weeks, I think Stanfurd needed it a bit more. Getting their injured players back seems more likely to have a positive impact for them than it will for Cal.

thedozen (4): Not much to say about the football this week, but it was nice to see Cal women’s basketball beat Pacific on Sunday in a game moved from Haas to Maples.

Alex Ghenis (4): It always pains me to say that the Trees are still one of the stronger teams in the conference, but it’s the truth. I have a feeling that Saturday’s game at UCLA will be a challenge (and more so than Cal’s against Colorado), so we’ll see where things are after this week.

FPI #21 (+1), Postponed. Next week: @ UC L.A. (66), 78.5% win chance

5. Oregon Ducks (7–4, 4–4 Pac-12) ↗

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

Last week: 7

Berkelium97 (6): Once again, the Oregon offense only played one half. But it was enough to hold off a mistake-prone ASU.

Nick Kranz (5): A game that shouldn’t have been close, but a win’s a win. Beat OSU and Oregon will be looking at an eight- or nine-win season with a top-10 recruiting class coming in. Not a bad first year for Mario Cristobal.

Alex Ghenis (6): The Ducks usually have a huge home-field advantage, but barely squeaked out a close one over ASU. They have a strong overall record, but drop just below Cal because they seem to be simply holding on rather than moving up.

FPI #38 (+1), W 31-29 v ASU (42/42). Next week: @ OSU (101) 88.8% win chance

6. California Golden Bears (6–4, 3–4 Pac-12) ↘

Oregon v California

Last week: 4

Berkelium97 (5): Every time Wazzu scores 70 or Washington scores 40+, the Cal defense looks that much better.

Leland Wong (5): Not a terrible time for an impromptu bye week as some offensive players could use time to heal (or for us to test the rumors of converting every player—particularly Brandon McIlwain—to wide receiver).

Alex Ghenis (5): The athletic department did the right thing for postponing the game, but it’s tough to get hyped for a rivalry match-up and then be told to wait a couple of weeks. I have a good feeling that the unexpected bye week will be rejuvenating, especially for some injured wide receivers—and that gives an extra plus of actually putting the Big Game as the last one on the schedule.

FPI #51 (-2), Postponed. Next week: v Colorado (69) 73.8% win chance

7. Arizona State Sun Devils (6–5, 4–4 Pac-12) ↘

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

Last week: 6

Leland Wong (7): Kudos to Arizona State for winning the turnover margin, which kept them in the game. The defense stole the ball four times while their offense fumbled it five times—only losing it once. They’re still having a pretty good year, but the middle of the conference is just so competitive and muddled—and ASU is stuck as the victims of this.

Nick Kranz (7): It would have been the greatest and funniest travesties if this ASU team beat out a much better Utah team on the strength of one great head-to-head performance because ASU has been pretty pedestrian when they’re not playing Utah.

Alex Ghenis (7): Kept things close on the road at Oregon, which is commendable. They seem to be the second-strongest team in the South behind Utah… And that’s just kind of weird, all things considered.

FPI #42 (even), L 31-29 @ Oregon (39/38). Next Week: @ Arizona (58) 58.3% win chance

8. UC Los Angeles Bruins (3–8, 3–5 Pac-12) ↗

UCLA v Utah Photo by George Frey/Getty Images

Last week: 11

Nick Kranz (8): The concept of a 4-–8 UCLA team with a 3–0 record against California schools amuses me in a dark kind of way and UCLA has looked frisky enough in Pac-12 play that I can’t dismiss the possibility of an upset win over Stanford.

thedozen (8): This is still not the season that Chip Kelly envisioned, but beating a crosstown rival has to feel good and the Bruins’ loss to Cincinnati looks totally excusable with the Bearcats sitting at 9–2. Joshua Kelley nearly hit 300 yards on the ground which is crazy.

Alex Ghenis (8): It’s got to be fulfilling to beat rival USC and, for all practical purposes, keep them out of a bowl game. They jump all the way up to #8 because of what seems like positive momentum, plus a rivalry win.

FPI #66 (+2), W 34-27 v USC (43/43). Next week: v Stanfurd (21) 21.5% win chance

9. Arizona Wildcats (5–6, 4–4 Pac-12) ↘

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

Last week: 8

Berkelium97 (9): After looking feisty the past couple weeks, Arizona looked terrible at Wazzu. Surrendering five second-quarter TDs and coughing up the ball four times is a recipe for disaster against anyone.

Leland Wong (10): The Wildcats were the unfortunate victims of Mike Leach and the Cougars trying to gussy themselves up for the College Football Playoff committee. I don’t know how the committee will view things, but I personally dropped Arizona by one additional spot after looking at the absurdity of the score. The sole potential silver lining is that Khalil Tate is continuing to string together 2017-caliber performances.

Nick Kranz (10): I deliberately try to avoid “rewarding” or “punishing” a team for outlying performances that are pretty clearly not representative of a team’s true talent or general year-long performance . . . but if it were ever the time, it would be after allowing WSU to drop 50 in the first half.

Alex Ghenis (9): Giving up 55 points in one half!!!! That hurts.

FPI #58 (-3), L 69-28 @ WSU (18/15). Next week: v ASU (42), 41.7% win chance.

10. USC Trojans (5–6, 4–5 Pac-12) ↘

USC v Arizona State Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Last week: 9

Berkelium97 (10): Please sign Clay Helton to a lifetime contract extension.

Nick Kranz (9): Am I insane for thinking that Clay Helton isn’t he primary culprit for USC’s woes? When you combine a true freshman QB with an injury-ravaged offensive line, you can’t be surprised with a struggling offense. With that being said . . . USC could clearly do better if they are willing to pay up, which should probably go without saying.

thedozen (9): I happened to drive by the Coliseum over the weekend and after the Trojans’ last two games, I did so with a rare smirk on my face. Also, Amon-Ra St. Brown might be the coolest name in the Pac-12.

Alex Ghenis (10): Oh, this is a sweet year to watch USC.

FPI #43 (even), L 34-27 @ UC L.A. (68/66). Next week: v Notre Dame (6) 23.9% win chance

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

Colorado v Colorado State Photo by Joe Mahoney/Getty Images

Last week: 10

Berkelium97 (11): 1 yard per rush, 4.9 yards per passing attempt, 3 turnovers, and an injured Montez—the Buffs were utterly inept on offense.

Piotr T Le (11): “We fired our head coach a game early” levels of bad. Per S&P+, they have been one of the worst Pac-12 teams and have been on six-game slide where—besides Oregon State—they have had a sub-12% win expectancy.

Nick Kranz (11): Yeah, part of the ugliness of the losing streak is that most of them weren’t even close—and the games that were close were against particularly bad teams. Colorado only has one win over a bowl team—by 7 points at home over ASU.

Alex Ghenis (11): Well, the six-game skid was enough to get their coach fired with just one game left. Fingers crossed it’s deflating rather than motivating and leads to a solid loss in Berkeley on Saturday.

FPI #69 (-8), L 30-7 v Utah (15/13). Next week: @ Cal (51) 26.2% win chance

12. Oregon State Beavers (2–9 1–7 Pac-12) ↔

Utah v Oregon State Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Last week: 12

Berkelium97 (12): We’re 11 games in and I still can’t believe their run defense can be this bad.

Nick Kranz (12): When not playing Colorado, OSU’s average margin of defeat in Pac-12 play has been 25 points.

Alex Ghenis (12): Kept things surprisingly close against Washington—in Seattle—as it should have been much more of a blowout considering their respective places in the conference. Still, 2–9 with a 1–7 conference record—plus a solely “moral victory”—keeps them at 12th-place.

FPI #101 (+3), L 42-23 @ Wash (10/11). Next week: v Oregon (38), 11.2% win chance.

The data

Here are the twelve ballots following the games of Week 12. We each have different criteria, but we do generally evaluate based on on-field performance and program sentiment wit a particular emphasis on the past few weeks.

Table 1. The post–Week 12 ballots

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

By compiling the responses for each team, we calculate the mathematical average for the ranking they received and the standard deviation—a measure of how widely-varied the responses were. In Figure 1, the precise rankings are shown in the columns and the standard deviation is illustrated in the error bars.

Figure 1. Taking a look at the precise ranks that we collectively came up with this week (columns). A measure of our disagreement for each team is represented with the standard deviation (error bars).

The precise rankings (Figures 1 or 2) once again highlight why I prefer taking a look at these values rather than the discrete placements. At the bottom of the conference, USC and Colorado are nearly tied at 10th. Utah and Washington have been nearly tied at second for the second-straight week. We basically have a threeway tie at fourth with Stanfurd, Oregon, and Cal—not to mention Cal and Stanfurd having been bitterly locked in a close-quarters duel for three weeks running now. The rounded rankings lose all of this resolution; Cal’s discrete ranking is sixth, when in all reality we’re still neck-and-neck with the fourth-place Stanfurd.

Figure 2. Tracking the precise rankings for the season.

But on the subject of those information-light discrete rankings, let’s take a look at those discrete rankings with Figure 3. Again, in this graph it looks like Cal takes a mighty plummet for being on bye, whereas Stanfurd jumped up a spot for taking a breather. Typical Stanfurd grade inflation, am I right?

Figure 3. Check out this year’s rounded rankings. They’re all discrete and junk.

So, Cal getting screwed by the rounding and dropping two spots (despite barely dipping in the precise rankings) means we have a Madness score of –2. On the flip side, UC L.A.’s big rivalry win results in a Madness score of 3. The Madness scores are captured in Table 2.

Table 2. The Madness scores of the season—recording how much each team has moved up or down the ranking this year.

Rivalry week will continue next week; as you can see from the above figures and tables, that might be our final regular-season update. That was the original plan because covering just the Pac-12 Championship is pretty uneventful for the ten other teams (and the formatting gets wonky if teams don’t have sizable chunks of text written about them). However, with our own Golden Bears playing on that date, I’m not sure if we’ll make an exception to cover that week or not.