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Pac-12 Power Rankings, Week 12: Lowest of lows for the lowly Cardinal

Kicking off Big Game Week with Stanfurd struggling in the Pac-12.

NCAA Football: UCLA at Stanford
Did no photographers make it out to Pac-12 games this past weekend or something?
John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Leland Wong: Boy, is PG&E incompetent or what? Thanks to their scheduled work running long, I didn’t have the power to get this post together. Their maintenance in my building took twice as long as expected, keeping me out of power from 8 a.m. Monday morning to 1 a.m. Tuesday morning. Can you imagine taking twice as long to turn in your work to your professor or your boss and just everything being cool?

Thus, our weekly Power Rankings is running late. This is where we endeavor to rank the Pac-12 teams by performance and fanbase sentiment, with active encouragement for recency bias. Here’s the Week 12 slate of games:

  • #6 Oregon def. Arizona, 34–6
  • #7 Utah def. UC Los Angeles, 49–3
  • Washington State def. Stanfurd, 49–22
  • Oregon State def. Arizona State, 35–34
  • USC def. California, 41–17
  • Bye: Colorado and Washington

Berkelium97: One of the biggest questions of each week is whether to give Utah or Oregon the top vote. This week, Utah had a more dominant victory over a better opponent, so they climb to the top. Sorting out the bottom half of the ballot is increasingly difficult because half the conference is stuck in a death spiral—Cal and Colorado have lost five of their last six, Wazzu has lost five of its last seven, the Lobsterbacks have lost three of their last four, Arizona has lost five in a row, and ASU has lost four in a row. There is no shortage of bad football in the Pac-12 right now.

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, things are similar to the past several weeks with the top tier of Oregon/Utah, a second level of Washington/USC, and a cluster of mediocre-to-good teams thereafter. Four teams have overall losing records, another four are dead even at 5–5, and four have winning records. Within Pac-12 contests, five teams have winning records, nobody is dead-even, and a full five teams sit at 2–5 in conference play; the two other teams with losing records are Furd at 3–5 and Washington(!) at 3–4. Quite the jumble.

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. Utah Utes (9–1, 6–1 Pac-12) ↗

70th NFL Draft Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Last week: 2

Berkelium97 (1): They smothered a productive UCLA ground game and let Dorian Thompson-Robinson self-destruct with a couple interceptions and a fumble. Meanwhile, Tyler Huntley averaged an astonishing 18.6 yards per pass attempt.

Christopher_h (2): Utah vs. UCLA looked like a game of varsity vs. JV. At least Cal had a good excuse.

Piotr T Le (1): Utah will keep matriculating the ball down the field and prevent others from doing so. Simple, but when you do both at a top-flight elite level, it yields good results.

Alex G (1): (Nat’l/Pac12): SP+ 8/1, FPI 12/2, Avg 10/1. Utah simply looks like the most dominant team in the conference on both sides of the ball. The Week 4 loss at U$C no longer looks horrible—and is only slightly worse than Oregon’s Auburn loss—but the recent string of shellacking opponents (and a close win in Seattle) makes Utah my #1. Next week: @ Arizona, 90.5% per FPI.

2. Oregon Ducks (9–1, 7–0 Pac-12) ↘

NFL: APR 30 National Football League Draft Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Last week: 1

Berkelium97 (2): I thought the ground game would be more efficient against the woeful Arizona defense. Nevertheless, Justin Herbert picked up the slack with a remarkably efficient game (11.9 yards per attempt!).

Christopher_h (1): Not really surprising that Justin Herbert completely torched a bad Arizona secondary. Their receivers are playing well and—barring the weird Oregon-in-Arizona curse—they should throw it all over ASU next week as well. I still think they’d be slightly favored over Utah, hence they retain the top spot in my rankings. Mycah Pittman breaking his arm will be a big loss, though.

Piotr T Le (2): I think they can compete in the CFB, with the Auburn loss being an outlier for them. They need to prepare for a hard match-up against the presumptive Pac-12 South champion Utah in the Pac-12 Championship game.

Alex G (2): (Nat’l/Pac12): SP+ 15/3, FPI 7/1, Avg 11/2. Ducks are holding their own and are still the only undefeated team in conference play. However, I’ve put them below Utah simply because Utah has looked more dominant in recent games while the Ducks look great (but possibly not “elite”). Utah’s sole loss against USC also feels relatively equivalent to Oregon’s close loss against Auburn—and both were early in the season. Next week: @ ASU, 85.1% per FPI.

3. USC Trojans (7–4, 6–2 Pac-12) ↗

NCAA Football - Reggie Bush Declares His Eligibility for the NFL Draft - January 12, 2006 Photo by Kirby Lee/Getty Images

Last week: 4

Berkelium97 (5): A truly classless organization.

Christopher_h (4): You know, I never understood the whole uproar about the USC bribing scandal. Lying, cheating, and bribing your way into a mediocre university is exactly how you prove that you’re qualified to attend USC. It’s an alternative entrance exam, really. As for football—besides all the cheap shots to injure Cal players—USC basically played up to their potential and we know that they have the talent to compete with any team in the nation if they were to ever get their act together. Unfortunately, USC had their act together last night, and the Cal defense had their worst performance under the Wilcox era.

Alex G (3): (Nat’l/Pac12): SP+ 24/4, FPI 22/4, Avg 23/4. Must be nice to have ridiculous depth at QB and WR to the point of tossing it 30 yards downfield and just know the receivers will come down with the ball—even against a solid secondary. If U$C wins on Saturday (likely) and in a bowl game, they’ll finish 9–4 and 7–2 in conference, will possibly be ranked—and the fans will still be calling for their coach to be fired. Next week: v. UCLA, 81.9% per FPI.

4. Washington Huskies (6–4, 3–4 Pac-12) ↘

2018 NFL Draft Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Last week: 3

thedozen (4): The Huskies visit Colorado on Saturday as something as a tune-up for the Apple Cup the following week. Salvon Ahmed will try to set a new career high for rushing yards after ending with 174 yards against Oregon State.

Christopher_h (3): Probably a controversial opinion, but I’m keeping Washington above USC. Both Washington and USC have the ability to beat anyone in the conference—it helps to have super talented players all over the field. But when it comes down to it, Washington is still a much better-coached program. Let’s not forget that Washington beat USC, either. Sure, Matt Fink was the quarterback back then, but he pretty faithfully executed the “throw it up to anyone” game plan that worked so well against Utah and Cal. At least Washington knew how to stop it.

Alex G (4): (Nat’l/Pac12): SP+ 12/2, FPI 18/3, Avg 15/3. Washington is one of the best teams in the conference, but has a couple head-scratching losses and a worse record (overall and in-conference) than my #3, U$C. Tough luck getting bumped down one spot after a bye week, but that’s how it goes sometimes. Next week: @ Colorado, 82.9% per FPI.

5. Oregon State Beavers (5–5, 4–3 Pac-12) ↗

NFL: MAY 08 National Football League Draft Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon SMI/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Last week: 8

Berkelium97 (4): The Beavs keep rising in my ballot. Incredibly, they’re one win away from locking up second place in the Pac-12 North and, more importantly, bowl eligibility.

Christopher_h (5): OSU completely outschemed ASU. They’d run the same play over and over, only to then run a variation of that same play for a huge gain (think of the way that running the ball well sets up a big play-action pass). They looked great on offense in the first half and they looked good-ish on defense in the second half. Linebacker Hamilcar Rashed Jr. set the single-season record at OSU for sacks. OSU’s run defense has significantly improved and ASU was forced to throw the ball for the majority of the game. A team that was second-worst in the FBS in rush defense in 2018 (the worst, Connecticut, is considering a move down to FCS) managed to hold ASU to less than 100 rushing yards. ASU was the team that looked like the scrappy underdog in this game.

Alex G (5): (Nat’l/Pac12): SP+ 66/8, FPI 64/10, Avg 65/8. The Beavers sit at 5–5 overall and have a winning conference record at 4–3. The teams they’ve beaten are bad-to-average (Cal Poly, UC L.A., Cal, Arizona and ASU) while the losses are against mixed-quality teams (OkSt, Hawaii, Furd, Utah and UW). Making a bowl game will be tough (next two weeks are against WSU & UO), but for now OSU fans should be riding high with a much more competitive squad compared to recent years. Next week: @ WSU, 17.1% per FPI.

6. Arizona State Sun Devils (5–5, 2–5 Pac-12) ↘

NFL Draft Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Last week: 5

Berkelium97 (7): A five-game losing streak has dropped ASU into the collection of miserable 2–5 teams in conference play. They’ll probably earn bowl eligibility with a Territorial Cup win, but this has been a hard fall from a 5–1 start.

thedozen (8): Herm Edwards rolled the dice by going for two following a late touchdown and they came up snake eyes. That decision ended up wasting a 63-yard punt return touchdown by Brandon Aiyuk earlier in the game.

Christopher_h (6): Honestly, I don’t understand the 3-3-5 defense. I watched a lot of Big 12 games last year before the Cheez-It Bowl, and a few teams (like TCU) run a 4-2-5 defense to shut down the high-powered aerial attacks (typically Air Raid style offenses) many teams run. Perhaps ASU just doesn’t have the personnel needed to run it to perfection, because it does take a lot of talented defensive backs to work well—and while TCU definitely did, I don’t feel that ASU does. Opposing offenses consistently find the soft spots in their zone defense for easy passes and having so many defensive backs on the field leaves them vulnerable to power-running attacks (like UCLA’s Joshua Kelley) as they find themselves on the wrong end of highlight plays.

Alex G (7): (Nat’l/Pac12): SP+ 42/6, FPI 45/6, Avg 43.5/6. The two-point attempt at the end of regulation was a gutsy call but ended up backfiring on ASU in what was predicted to be a pretty close game. The Sun Devils will probably end up 6–6 with a mediocre bowl game and a lot of questions going into the off-season. Next week: v. Oregon, 14.9% per FPI.

7. UC Los Angeles Bruins (4–5, 4–3 Pac-12) ↘

NFL Draft at AT&T Stadium Max Faulkner/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Last week: 6

Berkelium97 (6): UCLA has spent most of the last month and a half regularly dropping 500 yards and 35 points on the dregs of the Pac-12. Saturday was a critical test to see how they would fare against a real defense, and they failed spectacularly. Still, they’ve won three of their last four and are feeling much better than the teams in the bottom half of my ballot.

Christopher_h (8): I hope this complete demolition at the hands of Utah can put to rest those premature calls of “Chip Kelly is back.” UCLA looked competent for the first drive of the game—and proceeded to get completely dominated in all facets of the game from there on. A much more prestigious University of California school was embarrassed by Utah too, but that team was playing with a third-string QB, a back-up offensive line—and more importantly—they didn’t turn the ball over five times.

Alex G (8): (Nat’l/Pac12): SP+ 63/7, FPI 55/7, Avg 59/7. Absolutely no idea what to make of this team, but the slaughter in SLC has to hurt. It would take a near-miracle for the Bruins to win this coming week and the finale against Cal looks like a toss-up, so it’ll likely be a bowl-less season, potentially with a winning conference record if the Bruins split their next couple games (ending up 5–7 overall, 5–4 in conference). Next week: @ USC, 18.1% per FPI.

8. Washington State Cougars (5–5, 2–5 Pac-12) ↗

NFL Draft

Last week: 9

Berkelium97 (9): They gave up a ton of yards, but a decent job of forcing the Lobsterback offense into several self-inflicted wounds—including interceptions and a couple of punts just outside field goal range.

thedozen (9): Anthony Gordon had a fine game at Memorial Stadium, but at least Cal didn’t allow 520 yards and 5 touchdowns.

Christopher_h (9): The team we beat last week smashed the team we’re going to beat next week (knock on wood). It’s not really a surprise that Stanford’s defense can’t do what Cal’s did, but it is surprising that Washington State’s defense held Stanford to a Cal-like 22 points. Washington State had just dismissed a couple more defensive backs for violating Leach “team rules”, but I was impressed with how well CB Derrick Langford played for the most part. Washington State pointed their bat to the fences after the victory, with Max Borghi guaranteeing a win next week against Oregon State. Hopefully he knows what he signed up for.

Alex G (6): (Nat’l/Pac12): SP+ 26/5, FPI 24/5, Avg 25/5. Kudos to these guys for destroying Furd. The computers are fond of the Cougars, but WSU’s even overall record and 2–5 conference record has them at #6. They are slightly above ASU because they actually have some recent wins and looked darned competitive against Oregon in Week 9. Next week: v. OSU, 82.9% per FPI.

9. California Golden Bears (5–5, 2–5 Pac-12) ↘

NFL Draft Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images

Last week: 7

Berkelium97 (8): No matter who was quarterbacking, the pass offense was abysmal on Saturday. Receivers dropped several crucial balls on third down (including a would-be TD). Shockingly, the pass defense was equally abysmal as USC seemed to turn every third-and-forever into a 40-yard gain thanks to the Bears’ inability to pressure Kedon Slovis.

thedozen (7): I’ve learned to be fairly stoic about Cal football over the years, but this game was not much fun between the Evan Tattersall injury and the USC band’s shenanigans. I am just glad that Tattersall has been released from the hospital.

Christopher_h (7): Just a terrible game to watch. I was excited for about the first quarter and a half, but it slowly got worse and worse.This is one of those “burn the tape and move on” games.

Piotr T Le (9): In finance, volatility is not desirable for low-risk consumers as highly volatile stocks mean high highs and really low lows. In this case however, the usually-reliable defense joined in Mr. Beau Baldwin’s wild ride all the way down the drain. There was so much going the wrong way for the defense: Slovis always found his guy a split second before getting sacked on a roll-out and the physically-outmatched DBs would lose their assignments or just be boxed out. On offense… I for one, welcome our Chase Garbers overlords. I think we win or lose the next two games based on the health of him, Christopher Brown Jr., and Mike Saffell. College of Engineering, please give them bubble wrap.

Alex G (9): (Nat’l/Pac12): SP+ 82/10, FPI 56/8, Avg 69/10. Saturday was awful. Luckily, the next couple weeks look winnable and we may yet make a bowl game, potentially closing the season out with a winning record. Next week: @ Furd, 44.0% per FPI.

T10. Arizona Wildcats (4–6, 2–5 Pac-12) ↗

California v Arizona Photo by David Madison/Getty Images

Last week: 12

Berkelium97 (11): After starting 4–1, this team is going to get knocked out of bowl contention this week when Utah visits. They might be able to salvage some satisfaction against an ASU team caught in a similar death spiral, but this season was a supreme waste of Khalil Tate’s talent.

thedozen (10): Not only have the Wildcats lost five straight, they can’t decide on which quarterback to leave in the game. Grant Gunnell and Khalil Tate are in some kind of weird platoon right now.

Christopher_h (12): There are a couple teams in the Pac-12 with really bad secondaries, but think Arizona is making their case to have the worst. Is it a surprise that Justin Herbert embarrassed them? No. Is it a surprise that Justin Herbert embarrassed them because of how frequently Arizona blew assignments on coverages? Also no. Probably not coincidentally, the other team at the bottom of my defensive rankings is Washington State, who also fired their defensive coordinator mid-season. Arizona and Washington State fans probably assumed firing their coordinator would help, but both teams look just as rudderless as before. This should probably tell you how I feel about many of the reactionary posts I see here on CGB.

Piotr T Le (12): Man, remember when the Zona and ASU hires were announced (deleting my tweets from that moment as we speak). The Arizona team doesn’t seem able to find an identity on offense after the initial 4–1 start. The defense was worse allowing Herbert to make 7-on-7 throws all day long.

Alex G (11): (Nat’l/Pac12): SP+ 83/11, FPI 69/11, Avg 76/11. Arizona is on a five-game skid and Utah next week will almost certainly make it six. (The Wildcats are also underdogs in the final week at ASU.) Plus, there’s a QB controversy and a recent loss. Painful set of circumstances. Next week: v. Utah, 9.5% per FPI.

T10. Colorado Buffaloes (4–6, 2–5 Pac-12) ↔

(KO) FBCCU08_KSO_11_8_08367 - CU’s Jimmy Smith (3) celebrates his defensive play as the University of Colorado Buffaloes football take on the Iowa State Cyclones at Folsom Field in Boulder in the second quarter. Kathryn Scott Osler, The Denver Post Photo By Kathryn Scott Osler/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Last week: 10

Berkelium97 (12): They didn’t drop any further in my ballot this week, so that’s a moral victory.

Christopher_h (10): Colorado can still make a bowl, they just need to pull off some easy wins against (checks notes)... Washington and Utah. So I suppose they’re only technically still eligible. They’ll be 14-point underdogs to Washington and 30-point underdogs to Utah. I’m not sure how to convert a 30-point spread to a probability, but the online calculator I found said that Utah has a 123.86% chance of winning. It’s definitely less than a 1% chance, so let’s be generous and use that figure instead. The 14.9% chance to beat Washington and 1% chance to beat Utah puts them at about a 1 in 670 chance to make a bowl.

Alex G (10): (Nat’l/Pac12): SP+ 85/12, FPI 74/12, Avg 79.5/12. The Buffaloes sit tied with Arizona for worst overall records in the South and are joined by both Arizona schools with a 2–5 conference record. Arizona and Colorado are my clear #10/11—and Colorado won more recently with their Week 11 victory over Stanford yet lost the head-to-head with Arizona in Week 6. I’m just going with the most recent victory as the measure for the higher-ranked team, so Colorado is #10. Next week: v. Wash, 17.1% per FPI.

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

(EDITORS NOTE: This is a file photo) Indianapolis Colts... Photo by Keith Mayhew/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Last week: 11

Berkelium97 (10): David Mills was dropping 40- and 50-yard bombs all over the place, but it didn’t matter because they couldn’t turn all that yardage into points and they let Wazzu pile up 624 yards. I contemplated dropped them an extra couple spots for punting at the Wazzu 34 and then punting at the Wazzu 44 on the next drive.

Christopher_h (11): Washington State completely embarrassed Stanford, who was playing without their best corner (Paulson Adebo). Still, Wazzu has about 17 wide receivers you need to cover, so this was more of a failing of the entire secondary rather than a single player’s absence. And yes, KJ Costello was injured, but I happen to think that Davis Mills is a fine quarterback—you may remember him as the QB that inexplicably led Stanford to an upset victory over Washington, for instance. Stanford only managed 22 points against Washington State’s defense, so how many points do you think they’ll manage against Cal’s?

Alex G (12): (Nat’l/Pac12): SP+ 76/9, FPI 58/9, Avg 67/9. Furd likely isn’t the worst team in the conference (neither computer thinks so), but they are one of three teams with an overall losing record (all are 4–6) and have a losing conference record at 3–5—slightly better than the five teams going 2–5. What makes the Cardinal last-place is what seems like a late-season skid and the complete collapse from this past decade’s status quo of ranked teams, winning records, and good-to-great bowl games. Injuries abound as well, which can only hurt. Next week: v. Cal, 56.0% per FPI.

The data

Some shortened data analysis this week!

Let’s first chart out our power rankings over the course of the season (Fig. 1). Former bottom-feeder Oregon State earned their highest ranking of the season while Stanfurd hit the bottom spot right before the Big Game—for the second time this season. To further rub some glass into the wound, this is also the first time this season that we didn’t have an eleventh-place team—due to the tie at tenth—so Stanfurd is basically in the super-basement!

Figure 1. Our power rankings over the 2019 season.

Table 1 shows how we voted this week.

Table 1. Week 12’s individual votes.

rk Alex Bk97 christopher_h Joshua Leland Nick NikJam Piotr Rob Ruey thedozen
rk Alex Bk97 christopher_h Joshua Leland Nick NikJam Piotr Rob Ruey thedozen
1 Utah Utah Oregon Utah Utah Oregon Oregon Utah Oregon Utah Oregon
2 Oregon Oregon Utah Oregon Oregon Utah Utah Oregon Utah Oregon Utah
4 Wash OSU USC Wash Wash USC Wash USC OSU Wash Wash
8 UC L.A. Cal UC L.A. Cal Colorado UC L.A. UC L.A. WSU Cal WSU ASU
10 Colorado Stanfurd Colorado Stanfurd Arizona Arizona Colorado Colorado Arizona Arizona Arizona
11 Arizona Arizona Stanfurd Arizona UC L.A. Colorado Stanfurd Stanfurd Stanfurd Stanfurd Stanfurd
12 Stanfurd Colorado Arizona Colorado Stanfurd Stanfurd Arizona Arizona Colorado Colorado Colorado

From those votes, we average out the rank that each school received to determine the main results. The precise averages as they are calculated are shown as bars in Figure 2; the error bars are the standard deviation, to measure how consistent or inconsistent our votes were.

Figure 2. The precise votes for Week 12.

Figure 3 also graphs the precise votes, but now also includes time to show how they have changed each week. Figures 2 and 3 show just how close Utah and Oregon were—separated by one vote! For the past three weeks, Ragnarok has been voting Oregon at #1, so if he had voted this week, then we would have quite possibly seen a tie for the top spot. Beyond those two, we also have near ties for WSU–Cal and Arizona–Colorado–Stanfurd. That’s right, despite the rounded votes suggesting that Stanfurd has a stranglehold for last place, they were actually effectively tied for tenth.

Figure 3. The precise ranks for this season.

Figure 4 captures how much the teams move up and down the rankings, which we call the Madness.

Figure 4a. The Madness for teams this year.
Figure 4b. Cumulative Madness for the Pac-12 teams.

The final data piece is the average rank that each team has held in 2019 overall to date (Fig. 5a); this data for each week is collected in Figure 5b.

Figure 5a. The average position that each team has held through Week 12.
Figure 5b. The average position that each team has held every week.

The Californian schools will play their archrivals next week, so there’s always some potential for some crazy things happening. There should also be a monumental game in the Pac-12 North in which the victor of the Beavers–Cougars game will earn bowl-eligibility while the loser will likely end the year with five wins (unless the loser can upset their heavily-favored in-state rival in the final week of the season).