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Pac-12 Power Rankings, Week 10: Shhh.... everything will be okay, ASU

A picture too perfect not to use even though it has no relevance.

NCAA Football: Utah at Arizona State Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Leland Wong: Welcome to your second-favorite part of the second day of the work week—the Pac-12 Power Rankings. Here, we take on the totes easy task of ranking the conference with the most parity in the nation by overall performance and fanbase sentiment, with a particular emphasis on more-recent results. Here’s a debrief on what went down in Week 10:

  • Arizona def. Colorado, 42–34
  • Arizona State def. #15 Utah, 38–20
  • Oregon def. UC Los Angeles, 42–21
  • Washington def. Stanford, 27–23
  • USC def. Oregon State, 38–21
  • #8 Washington State def. California, 19–13

Berkelium97: The Pac-12 South is an incomprehensible mess and I love every second of it.

Alex Ghenis: I wish I could give more in-depth reviews of each team, but life is busy this week so things will be brief. Still, each post will include the usual FPI reference.

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 (1/9), Utah (2/14), Stanfurd (3/22), WSU (4/25), ASU (5/38), Oregon (6/41), USC (7/42), Arizona (8/51), Cal (9/52), Colorado (10/56), UC L.A. (11/68), OSU (12/102).

S&P+ uses a different methodology than FPI does and has the conference order as: Washington (1/10), WSU (2/17), Utah (3/19), Stanfurd (4/35), USC (5/43), ASU (6/52), Oregon (7/54), Cal (8/63), Arizona (9/66), Colorado (10/73), UC L.A. (11/96), OSU (12/120)

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 (8–1, 5–1 Pac-12; ten first-place votes) ↔

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

Last week: 1

Berkelium97 (1): I long for the day when we get pass protection like that.

Alex Ghenis (1): The Pac-12’s best chance at making the Playoff, although it’s one hell of a long shot. If anything, this game showed that a good defensive gameplan and coaching by the Cougars’ opponents could somewhat keep the high-flying offense in check.

FPI #22 (-3), W 19-13 v Cal (54/52). Next week: @ Colorado (56) 67.2% win chance

Leland Wong (1): Any other year, I’d probably drop the Cougs for being unable to pull away from a middling Cal team, but the conference has so much parity and there’s just no team pulling away from the rest of the conference this year.

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

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

Last week: 4

Alex Ghenis (2): When I switched away from this game at halftime, Washington was up 21–0. Then Furd staged an almost-comeback but couldn’t quite make it—so good job to the Huskies for holding off the Trees. On a scheduling note, UW is lucky to get a bye week, then a home game against the conference bottom-dweller before the Apple Cup, so they should be well-rested going into one of the biggest games of the year.

FPI #9 (even), W 27-23 v Stanfurd (24/22). Next week: bye

Leland Wong (2): An uncharacteristically poor defensive performance that would probably drop them if the Pac-12 were stronger this year. They let a David Shaw offense somehow move the ball through the air, but they did nab two first-half interceptions (and a third, which was a high-risk end-of-game Hail Mary).

thedozen (2): Ben Burr-Kirven is just a terror at linebacker. He has double-digit tackles in all but two games played this season including 12 of them and a forced fumble on Saturday.

3. Oregon Ducks (6–3, 3–3 Pac-12) ↗

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

Last week: 6

Berkelium97 (3): Another week when Justin Herbert has a completion rate around 50%. Why couldn’t this have happened against Cal?

Alex Ghenis (3): Oregon is tied with Utah for the third-best overall record and is coming off a win instead of a loss. Well done, Ducks.

FPI #41 (+1), W 42-21 v UC L.A. (65/68). Next week: @ Utah (14), 24.1% win chance

thedozen (3): Don’t look now, but that was Dillon Mitchell’s fourth game with over 100 receiving yards this season and only his incredible 239-yard performance on September 22 was better. It is hard to believe that Mitchell was battling concussion symptoms earlier in the week.

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

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

Last week: 3

Berkelium97 (4): Another game in which K.J. Costello throws a bunch of yards and the Lobsterbacks still fall short. Good.

Alex Ghenis (4): Stanfurd is now past the toughest stretch of their schedule and will likely finish the season either 8–4 or 7–5. Fingers crossed it’s 7–5 with a loss at Cal in a couple weeks.

FPI #22 (+2), L 27-23 @ Wash (9/9). Next week: v OSU (102), 96.4% win chance

Leland Wong (6): They do get credit for giving Washington a scare, but I have them below Cal because (who had a similar one-score loss to a top team) because Stanfurd was down 21–0 at halftime and because Stanfurd is falling short of preseason expectations whereas Cal is outperforming ours—which is perfect grading criteria for something like power rankings.

5. California Golden Bears (5–4, 2–4 Pac-12) ↔

Oregon v California

Last week: 5

Berkelium97 (5): We’ve seen this script before: defense puts forth a heroic effort that is undone by the offense’s turnovers and inability to convert touchdowns in the red zone. Still, I’m giving the Bears a favorable ranking for hanging with the Pac-12’s two best teams in consecutive weeks.

Alex Ghenis (5): We should have a better record than 5–4, except for the failed coaching experiment that should have ended a while ago. But oh boy, is that defense dominant—and the next three games should all be winnable. 7–5 and a bowl game looks like the most realistic possibility, in my eyes, and we’ll likely finish the season 8–5 or 7–6 (although 9–4 would be awesome, of course). We are this high in the Power Rankings because of recent strong showings against the top teams in the conference, including over Washington just a week ago.

FPI #52 (+2), L 19-13 @ WSU (22/25). Next week: @ USC (42) 31.0% win chance

thedozen (6): I gave the Bears very little shot to win and they actually came close. I am now irrationally angry about what might have been.

Leland Wong (5): Perhaps this is subconsciously a homer vote, but I have to give them credit for hanging tough with two of the top conference teams in back-to-back weeks (and splitting them 1–1) and for exceeding expectations.

6. Arizona State Sun Devils (5–4, 3–3 Pac-12) ↗

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

Last week: 7

Berkelium97 (6): After nine games of data, I still have no idea what to make of this team.

Alex Ghenis (7): It would be hilarious if an 8–4 ASU ran the table and made it to the championship game (doubly so if they then finished the season 10–4). They are starting to look good enough that the Championship Game is actually a possibility, especially with the mess that is the South standings.

FPI #38 (+6), W 38-20 v Utah (11/14). Next Week: v UC L.A. (68) 80.5% win chance

Leland Wong (7): Huge accomplishment to put up over 500 yards on one of the top defenses in the Pac-12, but note that ASU outscored Utah 17–3 only after Utah lost QB Tyler Huntley to a broken collarbone.

7. Utah Utes (6–3, 4–3 Pac-12) ↘

Oregon v Utah Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images

Last week: 2

Berkelium97 (8): Dropping the Utes this far may seem harsh, but I am not optimistic about their future without QB Tyler Huntley.

Alex Ghenis (6): Utah is still a strong #2 in both computer rankings, but tumble pretty far in my Power Rankings due to their demoralizing loss that’s thrown the South standings into chaos. A win against Oregon this week would bring them back up the ladder, though.

FPI #14 (-3), L 38-20 @ ASU (44/38). Next week: v Oregon (41) 75.9% win chance

Leland Wong (8): This feels like a massive drop from last week’s ranking at #2, but this is mainly to reflect the gut punch from losing their starting quarterback for the season.

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

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

Last week: 8

Berkelium97 (9): I cannot believe that the same team that I and many others (rightfully) ranked in the Pac-12 basement is now on the precipice of bowl eligibility. Now I’m left wondering if this vintage 2017 Khalil Tate performance is an outlier or if it’s the new normal. I’m disappointed we’ll have to wait a couple weeks to find out, as Arizona has an ill-timed bye week.

Alex Ghenis (9): Arizona sure is better when Khalil Tate is healthy.

FPI #51 (even), W 42-34 v Colorado (58/56). Next week: bye

Leland Wong (4): Looks like I’m downing the Arizona Kool-Aid this week relative to the rest of the writers. It wasn’t up against the toughest opposition, but Khalil Tate finally put up Khalil Tate numbers through the air, J.J. Taylor had a great game on the ground, and the defense held Colorado scoreless in the fourth quarter. The recency of their clubbering of Oregon and their head-to-head win over Cal gives them a further boost.

9. USC Trojans (5–4, 4–3 Pac-12) ↔

USC v Arizona State Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Last week: 9

Berkelium97 (7): After two weeks of awful defense, the Trojans finally had a pretty good week. JT Daniels didn’t look particularly sharp in his return, however.

Alex Ghenis (8): Congratulations for beating the Beavers, I guess? The Trojans still look weak with one of the closer scores that OSU has had at home, which hopefully bodes well for the Bears next week.

FPI #42 (-1), W 38-21 @ OSU (103/102). Next week: v Cal (52) 69.0% win chance

10. Colorado Buffaloes (5–4, 2–4 Pac-12) ↔

Colorado v Colorado State Photo by Joe Mahoney/Getty Images

Last week: 10

Berkelium97 (10): A seven-game losing streak is a very real possibility, although Huntley’s injury gives the Buffs’ bowl hopes a slight boost.

Alex Ghenis (10): Womp womp. At least Steven Montez still looks like a legit QB.

FPI #56 (+2), L 42-34 @ Arizona (51/51). Next week: v WSU (25) 32.8% win chance

Leland Wong (10): We were all wary to rank the Buffaloes too high when they were 5–0 given the opposition, but I didn’t expect a four-game slide. The passing game wasn’t too bad despite the loss of Laviska Shenault Jr., but the run game was struggling.

11. UC Los Angeles Bruins (2–7, 2–4 Pac-12) ↔

UCLA v Utah Photo by George Frey/Getty Images

Last week: 11T

Alex Ghenis (11): Just can’t give up that many big plays and expect to win games… The Bruins’ defense just got gashed by the Ducks.

FPI #68 (-3), L 42-21 @ Oregon (42/41). Next week: @ ASU (38) 19.5% win chance

thedozen (10): Joshua Kelly totaled close to 200 all-purpose yards and Oregon still doubled up the Bruins.

Leland Wong (12): The Bruins fell behind 21–0 and never came close after that. That deserves the basement for me.

12. Oregon State Beavers (2–7, 1–5 Pac-12) ↘

Utah v Oregon State Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Last week: 11T

Berkelium97 (12): USC’s running backs outgained the entire OSU offense. How can a run defense be this bad?

Alex Ghenis (12): The worst record in-conference still keeps the Beavers in the basement at #12.

FPI #102 (+1), L 38-21 v USC (41/42). Next week: @ Stanfurd (22), 3.6% win chance.

Leland Wong (11): The Beavers at least managed to pull within one score at two points in the game (not counting when USC started the game 7–0), so I’m willing to give them credit

The data

Let’s start off our deep dive into the data with a look at how we voted as individuals. Because voting’s important and junk.

Table 1. The ballots from each writer this week.

rk Alex atoms Bk97 Joshua Leland Nick K. Nik Jam Rob Ruey thedozen
rk Alex atoms Bk97 Joshua Leland Nick K. Nik Jam Rob Ruey thedozen
2 Wash Wash Wash Wash Wash Wash Wash Oregon Wash Wash
3 Oregon Oregon Oregon Oregon Oregon Utah Arizona Cal Oregon Oregon
4 Stanfurd Utah Stanfurd Stanfurd Arizona Stanfurd Oregon Wash Cal Stanfurd
5 Cal ASU Cal Cal Cal ASU ASU Stanfurd Stanfurd ASU
6 Utah Cal ASU Utah Stanfurd Arizona Cal Colorado ASU Cal
7 ASU USC USC ASU ASU Oregon Stanfurd ASU Colorado Utah
8 USC Arizona Utah Arizona Utah Cal USC Utah Utah USC
9 Arizona Stanfurd Arizona USC USC USC Utah USC USC Arizona
10 Colorado Colorado Colorado Colorado Colorado Colorado Colorado UC L.A. Arizona UC L.A.
11 UC L.A. UC L.A. UC L.A. UC L.A. OSU UC L.A. UC L.A. Arizona UC L.A. Colorado
Something something about the importance of voting today. Vote left, vote right, or even write in “David Shaw” for everything—just vote. Mathematically, one single vote means nothing, but you should still do it.

Once the ballots are in, the scores for each team are taken and the mathematical average is found. (There will be no recount.) We arrange said precise averages in order (Figure 1) and add in standard deviations (a measure of how much we disagreed in our perceptions of these teams) as error bars. Half of the conference has a standard deviation greater than 1.0 (with one team above 0.9 and another above 0.8), indicating how conflicted we were on several of these teams. Arizona has the largest standard deviation at a whopping 2.584—thanks to outlying high votes (from Nick Kranz [to a lesser extent], Nik Jam, and me). Another interesting development is that the top five teams are all from the Pac-12 North. We’ve known for quite some time that the North would be stronger than the South (and perhaps homerism helped boost Cal), but this is ludicrous.

Figure 1. The precise rankings for the conference this week. Error bars represent one standard deviation; if you’re into old-school nerd culture, then know that Cal’s standard deviation is 1.337.

We also track these precise rankings over the course of the season (Figure 2). For one thing, looking at the progress is (confusing, but) fun and enlightening. Secondly, it stacks the teams vertically, making it a bit easier to compare teams (as opposed to Figure 1, where this week’s ranks are spread vertically and horizontally). It’s not perfect, but Figure 2 kind of shows that there isn’t too much of a difference between the precise ranks and the discrete ranks—especially compared to past weeks. Stanfurd is lower than 5.0 despite earning the discrete ranking of 4th and there’s some differences in the bottom half of the conference, but it’s nothing compared to previous weeks.

Figure 2. The season’s precise rankings.

And for good measure, we do also chart out the discrete rankings in Figure 3. It was a fairly steady week with the big exceptions being Oregon jumping three spots and Utah plummeting five.

Figure 3. The discrete rankings for the 2018 season to date.

Table 2 collects this kind of rising and falling in the conference (known super-officially as Madness). Last week, we had three teams with Madness scores of 19 or 20 and they... held steady. With so little time left in the season, most teams are still in the running to be the Maddest team of the year—and the crazy parity and upsets this year are only going to help keep teams in the running.

Table 2. The movement among the conference for this year.

For next week, I could see Cal–USC and UC L.A.–ASU having the potential to shake up the rankings a bit. And after staying in the basement despite a not-terrible showing, is Oregon State resigned to the basement for the rest of the season? And how long until a comment forces a connection to complain about Brandon McIlwain?