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Pac-12 Power Rankings, Week 13: The Southern champs get no respect

CGB’s perceptions of the Pac-12 teams show no respect for Utah or ASU.

NCAA Football: Brigham Young at Utah Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Leland Wong: With the regular season wrapped up (for most of the teams), we head into endgame for the Pac-12 Power Rankings. In this weekly endeavor, we rank the conference teams by a few factors—particularly on-field results and fanbase sentiment—over the course of the season overall, but with a particular emphasis on recent weeks.

Here are the games from Week 13:

  • Oregon def. Oregon State, 55–15
  • #16 Washington def. #8 Washington State, 28–15
  • Stanfurd def. UC Los Angeles, 49–42
  • Arizona State def. Arizona, 41–40
  • California def. Colorado, 33–21
  • #3 Notre Dame def. USC, 24–17
  • #17 Utah def. BYU, 35–27

Alex Ghenis: The conference seems to have a top three of Washington/WSU/Utah, then a second-tier of Furd/Oregon/Cal/ASU, then a jumble of USC/Zona/UC L.A., and a cellar of Colorado/OSU. Technically, given their record, the Bruins should be below USC, Arizona & Colorado, but they just seemed to end the season on a higher note with more potential for future years. Whoever wins the Big Game next week should cement #4, with Oregon at #5 and the Big Game loser #6. Is it Saturday yet?

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 (2/14), WSU (3/17), Stanfurd (4/20), Oregon (5/29), ASU (6/40), USC (7/43), Cal (8/48), Arizona (9/60), UC L.A. (10/67), Colorado (11/69), OSU (12/104).

S&P+ uses a different methodology than FPI does and has the conference order as: Washington (1/9), Utah (2/14), WSU (3/25), Stanfurd (4/27), USC (5/40), Oregon (6/48), ASU (7/53), Cal (8/64), Arizona (9/74), Colorado (10/88), UC L.A. (11/91), OSU (12/123)

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 (9–3, 7–2 Pac-12; nine first-place votes) ↗

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

Last week: 3

Berkelium97 (1): As good as Wazzu had been, this win felt inevitable before the opening kickoff. Just like UW’s win over Utah on Friday is inevitable.

Nik Jam (1): Jake Browning had some boneheaded plays, but you never felt like Washington was going to lose on Friday. After a disappointing season (thanks partly to us!!) the Huskies might make the Rose Bowl after all.

Leland Wong (1): Pretty damn close to a perfect win for a Power Ranking system. They got to beat out their rival—and spoil their magical season—to win the division. Kudos to the defense for shutting down Gardner Minshew II and the Air Raid even better than we did.

Alex Ghenis (1): Washington is the North champ—in the clearly more competitive half of the conference—and beat rival WSU in the rivalry game. Seems like a good reason to be at #1.

FPI #10 (+1), W 28-15 @ WSU (104/101). Next week: v Utah (14) 57.2% win chance

Nick Kranz (1): Washington’s defense just never really had an off day and although iffy offense cost them at various points this year, they always seem to save their best for Mike Leach and the Cougars

2. Washington State Cougars (10–2, 7–2 Pac-12) ↘

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

Last week: 1

Berkelium97 (2): The offense picked a terrible time to play its sloppiest game of the season.

Nik Jam (2): Would the game had gone differently if it wasn’t snowing? Perhaps. It really did seem to kill their passing game, but the defense let Washington do whatever they wanted to do. I think they’ll make it to the Fiesta Bowl anyway.

Leland Wong (3): Watching your dreams of a magical season slip away at the hands of your rival (who don’t even consider you to be their archrival) and having your offense be so impotent. It’s tough for the Cougs, but this type of loss gets extra attention in the Power Rankings.

Alex Ghenis (2): I’m convinced that this game would’ve been much closer—and maybe a WSU win—if the weather were better. But the Cougars’ reliance on the passing game exposes them to lower efficiency in heavy rain or snow, which is exactly what happened in the Apple Cup. The Cougars also stay above South champ Utah because of their better overall record and the early-season head-to-head win.

FPI #17 (-2), L 28-15 v Wash (11/10). Next week: none

Nick Kranz (2): For whatever it’s worth, Jake Browning threw the ball in the snow just fine, averaging nearly 15 yards per attempt. I’m guessing that if the game had been played in more normal weather both teams would’ve scored a bit more, but the final margin of victory wouldn’t have been much different.

3. Utah Utes (9–3, 6–3 Pac-12) ↘

Oregon v Utah Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images

Last week: 2

Berkelium97 (3): Not showing up for a rivalry game is not a good look. It took the Utes 40 minutes to break 100 yards, but they managed to avert disaster with a flurry of late TDs.

Nik Jam (3): Should have lost to BYU… but they didn’t, so. I’d give them a decent shot of avenging their earlier loss to Washington, but I wouldn’t put money on it.

Leland Wong (2): A come-from-behind victory over their hated rivals thanks to a 21–0 fourth quarter—the Power Rankings were built to reward these kinds of performances.

Alex Ghenis (3): Utah got a bit of a scare from BYU and will need to get things in order before Saturday’s championship game against Washington. I’m anticipating a defensive slugfest, but an entertaining game regardless.

FPI #14 (-1), W 35-27 v BYU (68/66). Next week: v Wash (10) 42.8% win chance

Nick Kranz (3): Really interested to see how Utah’s offense fares in their second shot at the UW defense considering how poorly their first attempt went.

4. Stanfurd Cardinal (7–4, 5–3 Pac-12) ↔

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

Last week: 4

Berkelium97 (4): After all these years of David Shaw’s stout defenses, it’s still hard to believe that the LSJU defense can be this bad this year.

Nik Jam (4): Beating two bad teams does not mask the disappointment from this season. I’d still consider them the favorites to win the Big Game, but this may be a prime chance to get a win that Cal cannot squander.

Alex Ghenis (4): Last week, I said that the game against the Bruins would be a challenge—and that turned out to be the case. The size and skill of Stanfurd’s receivers—including JJ Arcega-Whiteside’s ability to box out defenders in the end zone—seemed to be the deciding factor. It’ll be interesting to watch the matchup against Cal’s dominant DBs, who still aren’t the tallest group in the world.

FPI #20 (+1), W 49-42 @ UC L.A. (66/67). Next week: @ Cal (48), 67.0% win chance

Nick Kranz (4): They’re relatively healthy—and unlike early October, they know what their strengths are on offense now. For that reason, I’m not as optimistic about Big Game as I might have been otherwise.

5. Oregon Ducks (8–4, 5–4 Pac-12) ↔

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

Last week: 5

Berkelium97 (6): Justin Herbert’s injury may dampen optimism for the bowl game, but they didn’t need him against the second-worst run defense in the nation.

Nik Jam (5): Their rivalry game was a laugher. I’m sure they will bring a lot of fans to whatever bowl game they play, so they will get a good upper-tier bowl despite injuries and underachievement.

Alex Ghenis (5): A strong overall record and a complete shellacking of a rival put the Ducks high up.

FPI #29 (+9), W 55-15 @ OSU (101/104). Next week: none

Nick Kranz (5): Everything about Oregon’s season made plenty of sense except for their complete no-show in Tucson, which probably stands as the weirdest result of the conference season. Oh, yeah—they beat OSU. I guess that gets a shrug these days.

thedozen (4): Four rushing touchdowns and another through the air. Have a game, CJ Verdell.

6. California Golden Bears (7–4, 4–4 Pac-12) ↔

Oregon v California

Last week: 6

Piotr T Le (6): By god was it an ugly game. Cal offense remained terrible through the game, with Chase Garbers missing simple slant routes by putting the ball behind his WRs. Add the shuffle in the OL due to Patrick Mekari’s injury and I am very concerned about Cal’s ability to field an effective offense against any quality foe. It will be up to the defense to bail out the offense drive-in and drive-out.

Berkelium97 (5): More of the same from the Bears: solid defense produces several scoring opportunities, the offense doesn’t do much of anything, and the Bears suffocate the opponent’s hopes over the course of the fourth quarter.

Nik Jam (7): Due to the inept offense, I can’t put the Bears above the other bowl-eligible teams (and I honestly think, regardless of the Big Game results, that Cal will be the last team selected by the Pac-12 bowls). Cal defense may need a shutout next week.

Alex Ghenis (6): Cal has a disappointing offense considering what many were hoping would be a point of improvement given so much returning experience on the offensive line, decent receivers and a returning QB… But then the starting QB went down—as did a ton of our receivers—and the O-line just didn’t live up to expectations (but are still doing okay considering the group is made up of former walk-ons and three-stars). Still, the defense is downright amazing (#15 nationally per S&P+ and #8 per FPI) and special teams is also solid (#12 S&P+, #35 FPI). Both of those crews won the Colorado game and should make the Big Game one hell of a matchup.

FPI #48 (+3), W 33-21 v Colorado (69/69). Next week: v Stanfurd (20) 33.0% win chance

Nick Kranz (6): I’ll idly wonder how the Cal/Colorado game plays out if it weren’t 14–0 in the blink of an eye. Would the Cal offense have produced points in the first half if they actually needed to? Was the offense even more conservative than normal as a consequence? I kinda doubt it, but I can’t say for sure.

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

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

Last week: 7

Nik Jam (6): Who knows how Cal would have fared against them, but I’d give them the upper hand right now due to a better Pac-12 record. Cal can tie them next week.

Leland Wong (4): The second team to have a wild fourth quarter for a comeback rivalry-game victory. ASU took it one step further by blocking their archrivals from bowl eligibility. Once again, that kind of performance is exactly the kind that gets rewarded in Power Rankings. Kudos to the defense for contributing two takeaways.

Alex Ghenis (7): Won a close one against a rival and ended up #2 in the South. Seems like a respectable first season for Herm and it will be interesting to see what happens in their bowl game.

FPI #40 (+2), W 41-40 @ Arizona (58/60). Next Week: none

Nick Kranz (7): Weird to think that a seven-point loss to Colorado ended up costing ASU a spot in the Pac-12 title game. Still, ASU won more than their fair share of close games en route to a second-place South finish—I don’t think they can do much complaining.

8. UC Los Angeles Bruins (3–9, 3–6 Pac-12) ↔

UCLA v Utah Photo by George Frey/Getty Images

Last week: 8

Berkelium97 (9): It was a valiant effort, but is it enough to give the Bruins some optimism going into next season?

Nik Jam (10): So close to going 3–0 against their California rivals, which would have almost completely made up for their bad season. (Certainly something Cal fans would have liked during these lean years)

Alex Ghenis (8): The Baby Bears put up one hell of a fight against Furd, but just couldn’t pull it out. They are a better team than their record suggests and late-season competitiveness after a horrible start should give Bruins fans something to look forward to next year.

FPI #67 (-1), L 49-42 v Stanfurd (21/20). Next week: v Stanfurd (21) 21.5% win chance

Nick Kranz (8): Perhaps some early signs that Chip Kelly is starting to get his offense going, though Wilton Speight was responsible for most of that offense and it’s unclear what UCLA has returning at QB without him.

thedozen (8): Help, I attended one free game at the Rose Bowl this season and now they are trying to sell me Joe Bruin bobbleheads via email.

9T. Arizona Wildcats (5–7, 4–5 Pac-12) ↔

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

Last week: 9

Berkelium97 (8): Khalil Tate looked fantastic now that he’s seemingly fully healthy again. But blowing a 19-point fourth-quarter lead while battling a rival for bowl eligibility is an agonizing way to end the season.

Nik Jam (9): Brutal way to lose out on bowl eligibility. The offense looked like they found their way at the end. Could be a good thing we miss them the next two years.

Alex Ghenis (9): That was a tough end-of-season tumble for the Wildcats—and that much more painful when losing against a rival on a missed field goal to avoid making a bowl. Until next year…

FPI #60 (-2), L 41-40 v ASU (42/40). Next week: none

Nick Kranz (8): Turnovers and special teams cost Arizona the rivalry win and a bowl game and Khalil Tate may not be long for Tucson. I suspect there might be lots of turnover in the desert this off-season.

9T. USC Trojans (5–7, 4–5 Pac-12) ↗

USC v Arizona State Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Last week: 10

Berkelium97 (10): Once again, the Trojans allow the opponent to go on a game-changing run (24–0 this time) and suffer an embarrassing loss as a result.

Nik Jam (8): They choked away a bunch of leads to end the season, but I’d consider them the best losing team in the Pac-12. We’re all laughing at the team’s decision to bring back Clay Helton, but Lynn Swann did have a point when he mentioned that Helton has won a Pac-12 Championship and Notre Dame themselves kept their coach after a recent bad season and are now 12–0.

Alex Ghenis (10): Gave playoff-contender Notre Dame all they could, but still lost and now finish the season without a bowl game. It’s also interesting how close USC was to having a winning season or a much worse one—four of their seven losses were within one score and two of their five wins were four points or fewer. The late-season skid, as well as losing to all of their traditional rivals, keeps them pretty far down the Power Rankings.

FPI #43 (even), L 24-17 v Notre Dame (6/7). Next week: none

Nick Kranz (10): If USC’s players are willing to work for Clay Helton (an open question), then it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see USC bounce right back to a nine- or ten-win season with most of their offensive skill talent back.

thedozen (9): A week after blowing out Syracuse at Yankee Stadium, Notre Dame is still undefeated, but did not coast quite as easily against the Trojans.

11. Colorado Buffaloes (5–7, 2–7 Pac-12) ↔

Colorado v Colorado State Photo by Joe Mahoney/Getty Images

Last week: 11

Berkelium97 (11): From 5–0 to 5–7. What a disaster.

Nik Jam (11): You can’t just lose seven straight without major issue, and we saw the issues firsthand with baffling penalties that nullified third down stops and two pick-sixes to start the game. I wonder why it was even necessary to fire the HC before the last game—they did not look more inspired at all.

Alex Ghenis (11): My friend and I were laughing uncontrollably in the stands after the second pick-six in the first two minutes—and then spent the rest of the game just feeling anxious that somehow Cal would blow the lead. Colorado did everything they could to make the comeback, outdoing Cal in every statistical category outside of turnovers, but winning is a hard thing to do when the turnover battle is lost 5–0. The seven-game skid and home loss against OSU—plus organizational turmoil after McIntyre was fired—could make for an argument to put the Buffs at #12, but 11 it is.

FPI #69 (even), L 33-21 @ Cal (51/48). Next week: none

Nick Kranz (11): There’s just not enough talent on the roster. Steven Montez and Laviska Shenault Jr. are players most Pac-12 teams would love to have, but there are issues on the line and at most levels of the defense—and depth is a big issue generally.

thedozen (11): Early on, I joked about the Buffs being on pace to surrender 420 points, but later the game actually got interesting.

12. Oregon State Beavers (2–10, 1–8 Pac-12) ↔

Utah v Oregon State Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Last week: 12

Berkelium97 (12): The Beavers were feisty early in the season and a close game against the Ducks (especially following Herbert’s injury) could have ended the season on a fairly pleasant note. That obviously didn’t happen.

Nik Jam (12): If they had shown more signs of life at the end of the season, they would place above Colorado due to the head-to-head win, but getting blown out at home in the rivalry game is… not signs of life.

Alex Ghenis (12): Ouch.

FPI #104 (-3), L 55-15 v Oregon (38/29). Next week: none

Nick Kranz (12): Lost every Pac-12 game except one by at least 17 points. They were one insane second-half comeback and overtime win over Colorado from taking their place amongst the worst teams in conference history.

The data

How exactly did we come across the above rankings? We the nine writers sat down and came up with individual ballots, which are collected in Table 1.

Table 1. Individual ballots after Week 13

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

The numerical rankings that each team received were averaged and the standard deviation (i.e., a measure of how much variation there was in the responses for said team). The precise, average ranking for each team is graphed as columns and one standard deviation is depicted as the error bars in Figure 1. A look at Table 1 or Figure 1 will show you that there were three teams with unanimous scores: Washington, Colorado, and Oregon State. Another cool observation—but pretty much useless—is that Oregon’s score comes out to 5.000 and their standard deviation is 1.000. This adds no value to or analysis, but looks cool on Figure 1.

Figure 1. How exactly we perceived the teams after Week 13.

These precise rankings are tracked over the season in Figure 2. Despite winning the South and defeating their archrival—in a dramatic comeback—Utah’s precise score fell by a pretty large margin. This seems to be due to Joshua, who ranked five of the Pac-12 North teams over the Pac-12 South champion. I mean, I know the North turned out better than the South this yer, but that seems a bit extreme.

In other trends for the precise scores, I’ve been tracking the Bay Area teams since they’ve been so closely entangled in Week 10; they’re still pretty close this week, but we’re definitely growing further apart on the second eve of the Big Game. Another interesting finding (to me at least) is that the battle for the Territorial Cup benefited both teams—the Wildcats and the Sun Devils both saw increases in their averaged scores.

Figure 2. This year’s precise rankings.

We also graph the rounded rankings for the season (Fig. 3). It was a rather quiet week, with eight of the teams holding their same position as the past week.

Figure 3. CGB’s 2018 Power Rankings for the whole season.

With only four teams changing position—with only one of said teams moving more than one spot—makes Week 13 the least Mad week of the season. The second-least Mad week—Week 4—actually had more teams that held steady (nine teams), but those that did move made bigger moves. With so little time left in the season, I think we’re all pretty confident that Oregon State will close the year as the least Mad team by staying at the basement. On the other end of the spectrum, there are multiple teams who are within arm’s reach of being the Maddest team of the year.

Table 2. The season’s Madness rankings for the Pac-12—how much each team moved up or down the rankings.

Let’s wrap things up with an eye to the future.

I’m toying with some new ways to look at the data—including a recommendation for each team’s total Madness as the season ages at the request of RavenousUte—but since we’re so close to the end of the season, I’m just saving them for that final edition. Next year, they might become regular features.

You’ll note that Figures 2 & 3 and Table 2 stop at Week 13 until the final rankings despite there still being one week of action (involving—most notably—California). Typically, we pass on covering the week of the conference championship because it’s just not that interesting for the majority of the conference’s teams with only two teams playing. But, for a Cal blog, that interest level changes significantly when the number of active teams doubles and includes Cal. To be honest and fully transparent, I’m not sure what will happen next week. Because of the images in the main rankings, the formatting of the article gets really messed up if we as a collective are quiet about a team—and I’m afraid of that happening with the eight teams effectively on bye. So... maybe see you next week?