Leland Wong: Our Power Rankings is an endeavor to assess the conference by overall performance and fan sentiment, but with a keen emphasis on recent streaks on the latest results.
While we normally poll our group of twelve beautiful and brilliant Bear bloggers, this week I implemented a suggestion from reader GoBears49 to include a fan poll.
The games from this past week were pretty uninteresting. All of the favored teams won... so what does this mean for our rankings?
- #13 Oregon def. Colorado, 45–3
- #18 Arizona State def. Washington State, 38–34
- #9 Notre Dame def. USC, 30–27
- #15 Utah def. Oregon State, 52–7
- Washington def. Arizona, 51–27
- Bye: California, Stanfurd, UC Los Angeles
Christopher_h: I’m starting to sense some widening gaps in the Pac-12 tiers. Oregon and Utah are clearly in a class of their own at the top (the “complete” teams). ASU, Cal, Washington, and USC are all jumbled together a step down from there (the “good, but missing something” teams). Below that, you have Wazzu, Arizona, and Colorado (these are the teams I don’t like for some reason). Finally, you have the struggling dumpster fires, which are the teams that are so bad that a loss to one of them is a black mark against your entire season (Stanford, OSU, and UCLA). I think Washington, Wazzu, and Stanford are the only ones with the potential for upward mobility to a higher tier, but all of these teams are underperforming for one reason or another.
Berkelium97: This upcoming weekend will be pivotal for determining both division winners. After cruising to victory this past weekend, Oregon and Utah play their toughest contenders for the division title—Washington and ASU, respectively. This is going to be an exciting weekend.
Alex G: Per usual, each of my posts will start with the team’s rankings both nationally and in conference for SP+, FPI and their averages. Each will end with next week’s game and FPI’s win chance. As for main talking points—as Christopher said, there are widening gaps in the conference. I have to disagree with the groupings, though. Oregon and Utah are definitely in the top tier and likely will meet in the conference championship (with one having a long shot at the playoff). Below that are the trio of ASU/Washington/USC—good teams that have their problems, but appear to be gelling and getting important pieces back from injury (especially USC QBs). Cal/Arizona/Stanfurd are solid teams that can beat anyone or lose to anyone on any given Saturday—they also have concerns, question marks and/or inconsistency at certain positions (including Khalil Tate’s erratic performance and both Bay Area schools’ concerns at QB and OL). Washington State is kind of floating in the purgatory of close-and-painful losses—and finally, Colorado/OSU/UC L.A. are all dumpster-fires, albeit ones that could catch some teams off-guard. This coming weekend, with important competitions of division leaders as well as opportunities for mid- and lower-tier teams to prove their worth (or reinforce their awfulness), will be a fun one to watch.
Nick Kranz: I was at a family reunion this weekend and watched zero seconds of Pac-12 football, so my thoughts are entirely based on reading box scores and superficial highlights . . . which honestly isn’t that different from most weeks, if we’re being honest.
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. Oregon Ducks (5–1, 3–0 Pac-12; twelve first-place votes) ↔
Last week: 1
Christopher_h (1): Oregon blew its big chance in week 1 when Auburn WR Seth Williams beat DB Verone McKinley for the game-winning touchdown with 26 seconds left in the game. This week, McKinley was responsible for three of Montez’s four interceptions (catching two of them, and tipping a third up to a teammate for the INT) and played just about as well as a defensive back can play. Oregon’s complete annihilation of a good Colorado offense gives Cal another meaningless moral victory for playing Oregon so close. The announcers kept mentioning how Oregon has only given up one touchdown in the red zone in their past 60-something attempts, and I kept yelling at my TV “that was Cal! Cal did that!” Alas, the announcers did not mention this fact, nor did they give any credit to Cal’s defense when they kept showing the difference between the Oregon offense’s stats from this week compared to last week (“24 points at halftime this week compared to 0 last week!” and so on), so we Cal fans must sit there smugly in silence as no one will give Cal any credit for anything.
Berkelium97 (1): That’s the kind of performance you’d expect from the top team in the conference. And Travis Dye didn’t fumble!
Alex G (1): Rankings (Nat’l/Pac12): SP+ 9/1, FPI 9/1, Avg 9/1. Complete demolition of a mid-low-tier Colorado team at home is the kind of performance that Oregon needed to assert itself as the premier conference contender and a team to be considered for the playoffs (should they win out). The Ducks haven’t broken the top 10 in the coaches/AP polls, but they are #9 per both computers. The offense is good-but-not-great (#49 per SP+ and #28 per FPI), but the defense has been otherworldly (first nationally per SP+ and 6th per FPI). The Ducks are favored in all their remaining games—and this weekend in Seattle is the closest one, at least with regards to win likelihood, so it’ll be fun to track. Next week: @ Washington, 59.7% per FPI.
Nick Kranz (1): If they beat UW next week, you can all but hand them the North crown, but I have a suspicion that the Huskies will give them a hell of a game in Seattle with their season all but on the line.
2. Utah Utes (5–1, 2–1 Pac-12) ↔
Last week: 2
Christopher_h (2): After their surprise meltdown against USC, Utah has looked incredibly sharp in all facets of the game in dominating wins over Washington State and Oregon State. Some teams need to lose a game as a wake-up call, I guess. Utah simply looked like a better class of football team than OSU, like that time the OSU smashed OSU in 2018, or even when OSU beat OSU earlier this season in 2019. Basically, Utah looked more like the OSU than an OSU, if you know what I mean.
Berkelium97 (2): The OSU offense was averaging 500 yards and 37 points per game and the Utes absolutely smothered them. This was the Utes’ best performance of the year, just in time for a visit from the Sun Devils.
Alex G (2): Rankings (Nat’l/Pac12): SP+ 14/2, FPI 13/2, Avg 13.5/2. Utah was absolutely dominant and didn’t allow an OSU touchdown until 56 seconds left in the game. Utah is also an incredibly balanced team with an offense that’s much more potent than I expected preseason—FPI has them at #7 offense and #8 defense, while SP+ says #13 offense and #25 defense. Tyler Huntley all of a sudden has thrown for 75.6%, 1393 yards (10.6 average), 9 TDs and 0 INT—and has taken the fewest sacks in the conference (four all season, less than one per game—for the highest QBR in the conference, by far: 187.6, ahead of second-place Anthony Gordon (169.2) and Justin Herbert (166.3). Next week: v. ASU, 82.6% per FPI.
Nick Kranz (2): Really really interested to see what Utah’s wildly efficient offense does when they face actually good defenses over the next three weeks. The best defense they’ve played by yards/play allowed? Northern Illinois.
3. Arizona State Sun Devils (5–1, 2–1 Pac-12) ↔
Last week: 3
Christopher_h (3): ASU used some pretty interesting defensive formations to try and confuse Washington State and while QB Jayden Daniels didn’t always make very good throws, he was again able to win the game with his legs when he scrambled for the game-winning 17-yard touchdown. Why Washington State didn’t have a QB spy on Daniels when he beat Michigan State on the exact same play is beyond me. ASU plays teams close, but with one exception, finds a way to win these close games.
Berkelium97 (3): ASU continues to transform into its opponent each week. After beating Cal with stifling defense, a death-by-a-thousand-cuts rushing attack, and little help from the passing game, this week they hosted the Air Raid and its terrible pass defense. Result? ASU throws for almost 400 yards and gives up over 450 passing yards. I’m impressed that they continue to win these one-score games.
Alex G (4): Rankings (Nat’l/Pac12): SP+ 33/6, FPI 34/6, Avg 33.5/6. ASU is one of three one-loss teams in the conference—and also one of four five-win teams in the conference (Washington, at 5–2, is the only conference team yet to have a bye week). So the question is, when deciding between ASU and Washington as #3 and #4, should ASU be ranked #3 as the worst one-loss team, or #4 as the worst five-win team? Considering that the Huskies would more-than-likely beat the Sun Devils on a neutral field—in addition to the recent performances, margins-of-victory, and strength-of-record—I’ll go with the latter. Next week: @ Utah, 17.4% per FPI.
Nick Kranz (3): Maybe the best skill-position talent in the entire conference?
4. Washington Huskies (5–2, 2–2 Pac-12) ↗
Last week: 7
Christopher_h (5): After struggling in the first half to finish drives (e.g. 6 points off a blocked punt and muffed punt), they got their act together on offense in the second half. They also figured out the Arizona offense, as the Washington secondary completely blanketed the Arizona receivers, and continually got pressure on Khalil Tate without committing a lot of players to the pass rush. Washington finally restored some order to the Pac-12, knocking Arizona off their perch at the top of the Pac-12 South, as some hot takes were beginning to claim that the Pac-12 South might be better than the Pac-12 North this year. It was Washington’s first win when trailing at the half since 2015.
Berkelium97 (4): The offense didn’t score a TD in the first half (against that defense) and looked like it was still suffering a hangover from last week’s loss. Then they bounced back with a vengeance by scoring five TDs on seven possessions. After a disappointing first half of the season, UW can redeem themselves with a pair of wins against Oregon and Utah in the next two games (critically, both are at home).
Alex G (3): Rankings (Nat’l/Pac12): SP+ 18/3, FPI 14/3, Avg 16/3. The Huskies look like a good candidate for third-best in the conference, jumping ASU based on the strength of this week’s win and the recent performance of prior opponents (such as USC’s decent showing at Notre Dame and Colorado’s embarrassment in Eugene). Next week: v. Oregon, 40.3% per FPI
Nick Kranz (4): Oregon and Utah are both visiting Seattle in UW’s next two games, which means that UW at 7–2 with back-to-back top-25 wins and UW at 5–4 and hating their own existence are both entirely possible.
5. California Golden Bears (4–2, 1–2 Pac-12) ↘
Last week: 4
Christopher_h (4): It’d be nice to put an injury update here to see how Cal is faring against the bye week, but unfortunately that information is classified as top secret.
Berkelium97 (5): We didn’t lose any offensive linemen to injury on Saturday, so that’s a step forward.
Alex G (6): Rankings (Nat’l/Pac12): SP+ 55/8, FPI 41/8, Avg 48/7. Cal’s only losses are against two of the three remaining one-loss teams in the conference, by pretty-darn-close margins and while playing with a whole bunch of back-up players (especially QB and OL). The Bears also beat a solid Washington team (which the pollsters re-recognized and the computers still adore) in Seattle and that was no small feat. However, underwhelming performance of Cal’s OOC opponents (with records of 2–4, 3–4 and 3–4) combined with ongoing concerns around injuries and depth keep the Bears from jumping higher up the rankings. Next week: v. OSU, 81.1% per FPI.
thedozen (5): A homecoming game at 11:30 AM? At least there will be plenty of time for partying after the Bears face Oregon State.
6. USC Trojans (3–3, 2–1 Pac-12) ↘
Last week: 5
Christopher_h (6): Notre Dame is overrated, but this game wasn’t as close as the scoreboard may have appeared. Notre Dame was up 20–6 in the third quarter and basically played a form of prevent defense the rest of the way, as they played two deep safeties the entire game and focused most of their energy on preventing big plays by the USC wide receivers. Of course, prevent defenses don’t work all that well and Tyler Vaughns made a nice catch in the endzone to pull within 3, but USC lost after they failed to recover the onside kick. At the very least, USC didn’t have a complete meltdown, which is definitely an improvement for USC. Their secondary is still terrible, they couldn’t stop the run (surprising given how strong their defensive line is), and they continually gave up big plays to Notre Dame—which is also surprising because ND QB Ian Book is not very good at throwing the deep ball (i.e. they give up a lot of yards after the catch).
Berkelium97 (6): I love seeing these kinds of losses because it means Clay Helton has a better chance of sticking around for another year.
Alex G (5): Rankings (Nat’l/Pac12): SP+ 29/4, FPI 24/4, Avg 26.5/4. This would have been a 10-point game, except for a last-minute touchdown to make the scoreboard more respectable. Still, a close win at a top-10 Notre Dame team is nothing to sneeze at—and the Trojans should be feeling more comfortable now that they have a bit more health and depth at QB. Next week: v. Arizona, 82.4% per FPI.
Nick Kranz (5): I’m not going to kill them for a respectable loss to Notre Dame. But boy, how good would the Pac-12 look as a conference right now if USC is juuuust a little bit better and beats BYU and Notre Dame?
7. Arizona Wildcats (4–2, 2–1 Pac-12) ↘
Last week: 6
Christopher_h (8): Arizona had some pretty big special teams miscues (blocked punt, muffed punt, another punt almost blocked, etc), and Tate was under pressure all night, but Arizona’s defense played surprisingly well in the red zone in the first half. Lorenzo Burns is probably my favorite unheralded cornerback in the Pac-12 and he’s made huge improvements this year. However, Tate just doesn’t have what it takes to make tough throws against the Washington secondary. Tate is at his best when the outcome of a play is completely unscripted and improvised. If a play breaks down and Tate is scrambling around in the pocket, you can expect a big play, but Washington made sure not to give Tate that much time.
Berkelium97 (8): The defense played surprisingly well in the first half by forcing several 4- or 3-and-outs despite repeatedly giving UW great field position. And the offense had a flurry of success to end the first half. Then the second half happened. Despite the 4–1 record to start the year, Arizona is clearly not a serious player in the Pac-12.
Alex G (7): Rankings (Nat’l/Pac12): SP+ 45/7, FPI 52/9, Avg 48.5/8. The Wildcats gave Washington a scare for the first half of this week’s edition of #Pac12AfterDark. I only saw that first half (Arizona led 17–13 at halftime) and it looks like the Arizona offense can be powerful, but Khalil Tate is just making too many mental mistakes for the offense to be as consistently dangerous as it needs to be. Plus, whatever happened in that second half (where Washington outscored Arizona 38–10 en route to a 51–27 win), it couldn’t have been pretty. The defense—ranked #104 nationally per SP+ and #62 per FPI—will need to be shored up, especially since FPI has Arizona’s upcoming strength-of-schedule as the seventh-most-difficult in the country (#2 in the conference, behind OSU). Next week: @ USC, 17.6% per FPI.
8. Stanfurd Cardinal (3–3, 2–2 Pac-12) ↔
Last week: 8
Christopher_h (10): Stanford and UCLA have a bye this week as they prepare for their Thursday night matchup in a game absolutely no one cares about. Interestingly enough, the game was actually scheduled for a 3 PM kickoff, but they moved the kickoff time to avoid competition with daytime television shows like Jerry Springer and Maury. This was to make it easier for people interested in trash television shows to watch both.
Berkelium97 (10): Still no Stanfurdium.
Alex G (8): Rankings (Nat’l/Pac12): SP+ 63/9, FPI 39/7, Avg 51/9. It’s tough to judge a team during a bye week, especially because the performance of Furd’s prior opponents is a bit head-scratching. The close win in Corvallis looked less shameful after OSU’s win in Pasadena, but now OSU has gone back to being a doormat. The two-score win against Washington, on the other hand, looks even more respectable. Some health on a horribly-injured O line after the week off would be a huge boost, if it happens… Next week: v. UC L.A., 71.6% per FPI.
thedozen (8): Don’t look now, but they’re on a two-game winning streak with several winnable games ahead.
9. Colorado Buffaloes (3–3, 1–2 Pac-12) ↔
Last week: 9
Christopher_h (9): Yes, I know what the final score was, but this game demonstrates how just a few plays can completely change the course of the game. Down 17–3 shortly before the half, Colorado drove down the field on Oregon and QB Steven Montez made a pretty nice throw to the endzone for his tight end Brady Russell. Unfortunately, instead of making the score 17–10 going into halftime, Russell bobbled the ball multiple times and DB Verone McKinley made an incredible catch for an interception in the endzone. Oregon drove down the field and scored again to make the score 24–3 Oregon right before half. This started the downward spiral for Montez, as he ended up throwing three interceptions in the span of five passes—on the second one, Verone McKinley made a nice break on the ball to tip it up in the air for an interception by his teammate LB Bryson Young (resulting in another Oregon TD, 31–3) and the third was just a poor read (or possible frustration throw trying to force the ball when he shouldn’t) that was again intercepted by Verone McKinley (resulting in another Oregon TD, 38–3). Montez later had a fourth interception (his second in the endzone) on a desperation heave on fourth down. To recap, three Oregon touchdowns off interceptions (-21), and two potential TD passes intercepted in the endzone (+14). Flip the outcome on those plays, and suddenly it’s a 7-point game, 24–17 Oregon. Does Oregon still beat Colorado anyway? Yeah, probably. But by 42? Definitely a disaster of a night for Colorado.
Berkelium97 (7): I was surprised by the extent of the Colorado offense’s struggles, which resulted from a combination of the stifling Oregon defense, self-destruction, and penalties. Colorado has demonstrated that they clearly do not have the defense to slow down the Ducks, so the game was over as soon as the offense shut down.
Alex G (10): Rankings (Nat’l/Pac12): SP+ 65/10, FPI 70/11, Avg 67.5/11. The Buffaloes were one of two teams to get absolutely destroyed this weekend—but at least the Buffs did so on the road and the hostile environment that is Autzen. What’s amazing, though, is that the Colorado offense only scored 3 points (compared to Cal’s 7 two weeks ago), even though their offense was ranked pretty high heading into the game (#8 per SP+ and #28 per FPI). Next week: @ WSU, 20.3% per FPI.
thedozen (9): The Ducks boast an elite defense, but this game could not have been good for the draft stock of Steven Montez.
10. Washington State Cougars (3–3, 0–3 Pac-12) ↔
Last week: 10
Christopher_h (7): Washington State played pretty well on offense, but it was once again their defense that cost them the game against ASU. The Wazzu secondary, in particular, was absolutely terrible. When you’re getting picked apart by UCLA’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson and ASU’s Jayden Daniels through the air, you’re in big trouble. The back half of their schedule has a lot of talented QBs that pose serious concerns, e.g. Justin Herbert, Jacob Eason, KJ Costello, and maybe Steven Montez.
Berkelium97 (9): In their last game, they gave up 38 points and 526 yards, after which the defensive coordinator resigned. This week, they gave up 38 points and 532 yards. At least they’re consistent...
Alex G (9): Rankings (Nat’l/Pac12): SP+ 32/5, FPI 32/5, Avg 32/5. Computers still consider the Cougars to have the best offense in the conference (4th nationally per SP+ and 5th per FPI), but a combination of bad defense (90th per SP+ and 112th per FPI) and Coug’n It® keep WSU win-less in conference. FPI’s projections have WSU favored in three games (79.7% v. CU, 64.8% v. Furd, and 82.6% v. OSU) and this coming week is a good opportunity to support the algorithms. Next week: v. Colorado, 79.7% per FPI.
Nick Kranz (10): What I saw on the highlight tape was ASU WRs running really basic slants—untouched—for 50-yard touchdowns. WSU’s secondary is completely and totally broken and that’s a problem that evidently goes beyond their former DC.
11. Oregon State Beavers (2–4, 1–2 Pac-12) ↔
Last week: 11
Christopher_h (11): I must say, I’m very disappointed in QB Jake Luton, whose streak of completions without an interception came to an end (just a few away from the OSU record, I believe) against Utah… because I was pretty sure it was going to be Cal that would be responsible for ending that streak. OSU was missing star RB Jermar Jefferson, but the offensive line was simply no match for the ridiculous Utah defensive line. The backups did manage a last-minute touchdown against the Utah backups to avoid the 52–0 shutout.
Berkelium97 (11): This was the first time OSU was held to a single TD since Cal visited Corvallis in October of last year. I didn’t expect them to be competitive with Utah, but I expected a bit more from them this week. The defense was atrocious as Utah only punted twice in ten possessions, which should be encouraging for Cal fans who would like to see some semblance of an offense this weekend.
Alex G (11): Rankings (Nat’l/Pac12): SP+ 71/11, FPI 79/12, Avg 75/12. Losing at home in a complete obliteration, right after the first conference win in ages, is a huge hit to a Beavers team that was getting some stability in its prior couple games. Even worse news: FPI lists OSU with the hardest remaining schedule in the conference and #4 nationally. Next week: @ Cal, 18.9% per FPI.
Nick Kranz (11): Major bummer that their previously excellent offense was a no-show, even against a defense as good as Utah’s. But more importantly, an encouraging data point for Cal’s next game (let’s not talk about the game two weeks from now).
12. UC Los Angeles Bruins (1–5, 1–2 Pac-12) ↔
Last week: 12
Christopher_h (12): It might be tempting to lift UCLA out of the cellar after OSU’s destruction at the hands of Utah… but let’s not forget that it was just a week ago that OSU embarrassed UCLA 48–31 in Los Angeles. UCLA will continue to pray for opponent meltdowns in order to have a chance at winning.
Alex G (12): Rankings (Nat’l/Pac12): SP+ 72/12, FPI 62/10, Avg 67/10. An awful team didn’t get the opportunity to show how awful it is. A crying shame… Next week: @ Furd, 28.4% per FPI.
thedozen (12): Things actually did get worse during the bye week with receiver Theo Howard’s decision to enter the transfer portal.
Up first, we’ll track how our Power Rankings have changed this year (Fig. 1). Oregon has now held the top spot for more weeks in 2019 than any other team. With every game going as predicted, there wasn’t much room for surprise. The only moves over last week were a consequence of Washington’s dismantling of Arizona as a follow-up act after their faceplant against Stanfurd.
To arrive at our rankings, I poll the eleven other writers to rank the conference from first to worst. Those votes are collected in Table 1 below.
Table 1. Votes from the CGB writers after Week 7
|12||UC L.A.||UC L.A.||UC L.A.||UC L.A.||OSU||UC L.A.||UC L.A.||UC L.A.||UC L.A.||UC L.A.||UC L.A.||UC L.A.|
To summarize all of that data, I take the mathematical average of the numerical ranks that each team received. To simplify the numbers, those averaged values get sorted and then converted the to rounded rankings shown above. But you can have a glimpse at those precise rankings as the columns in Figure 2a; the error bars in Fig. 2a are the standard deviation (a measure of how varied vs. how consistent the votes are for each team).
Figure 2b graphs some of the data we’ve already taken a look at—the first two columns are the rounded rank (shown in the body of the text) and the precise rank (shown in Fig. 2a). As previously mentioned, we’re doing things a bit differently this week. Per the advice of GoBears49, I decided to put my finger on the pulse of the fans to see how you’re feeling. After fingering the fans, I came to the data in Figure 2b. With just over 50 votes, I decided to remove eight votes for being clear homer/troll votes. The curated list and the full list (which includes said outliers) are shown by the gray and yellow bars in Figure 2b. The good news is that these homer votes effectively get drowned out by the real votes. The better news is that the differences between the fan vote and the CGB vote aren’t major, so I never have to do this exercise ever again! The biggest difference is that the fans think very highly of Wazzu, beating Colorado and coming up just below Stanfurd. These higher votes for Leach’s team came before we shared the link with our friends at Coug Center, so I think it’s more than just their fans stuffing the ballot box.
Those precise CGB rankings are charted in Figure 3 to show how the teams have performed over the season. Based on our precise rankings, it looks like there’s a clear divide between the top and bottom halves of the Pac-12, with the bottom half having a clear distinction between the top four teams and the two in the basement.
How the teams move up and down the rankings is quantified and given the cutesy name of Madness (Fig. 4). The little change this week, is corroborated with this week being the least Mad in 2019—less than half the Madness of the second-Maddest week. A running score of cumulative Madness for each team in shown in Figure 4b. Washington’s three-spot jump gives them the title of Maddest Pac-12 team at Week 7. There must be something in the water up in the state of Oregon as our two least-Mad teams are the Ducks and the Beavers—models of consistency.
To sum up 2019 in a nutshell, we also take an average of each team’s ranking every week of the year (Fig. 5). We have two clear teams at the top and bottom of the conference
Next week, there’s potential for some movement at the top of the conference with Oregon–Washington and Utah–Arizona State and a(n unlikely) chance to reevaluate the bottom teams as UC L.A. challenges Stanfurd. Even the middle of the conference will be tested when the Buffaloes face the Cougars and the Trojans tackle the Wildcats. I’m not sure if next week will be as quiet as this week, but it will definitely full of tests and interesting match-ups.