clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Pac-12 Power Rankings: Because the preseason is made for baseless speculation

Because we’re basically working blindfolded right now.

Jonny Bairstow - Kings Heath Cricket Club Photo by Darren Staples/PA Images via Getty Images

Leland Wong: College football is finally back! Which means regular writing from me is back, which means your lives are enriched once more.

Pac-12 football returns this week with one whole game—the Arizona Wildcats vs. Melquise Stovall and the Hawaii Warriors. Thus, it is time to unveil our preseason Power Rankings as they must be devoid of all actual football knowledge from this season, thus devoid of almost all meaning and significance.

We say this every year, but as a symptom of the intraconference competition that the Pac-12 is known for, it was such a challenge to rank the teams in the middle of the conference (teams 5–10 on my personal list). These teams will be competitive and could knock off the higher teams—it feels like an inadvertent and undeserved insult to place those teams down at ninth and tenth.

Nick Kranz: Agreed. This is a conference that has rarely been stratified in the middle and you can be fairly confident that, say, the ninth-best team in the conference would probably be favored over the fifth-best team in the conference at home.

Christopher_h: I would be surprised if any other P5 conference has as much parity as the Pac-12 does. There’s the obvious contenders for the title (Washington, Oregon, Utah), the likely cellar-dwellers (sorry, OSU and Colorado), and the rest of the conference games being a virtual toss-up when they play each other in any given week. For what it’s worth, though, UCLA is currently a 1-point underdog at home to USC.

Ruey Yen: I see basically three tiers in the Pac-12 this year. Washington, Utah, and Oregon at the top, but unfortunately not elite enough to be serious College Football Playoffs contenders. Oregon State is alone in the third and worst tier. Then everyone else is in that middle. There are some projections that there will not be enough bowl berths for everyone, so the hope is that Cal finishes toward the top of that big middle-of-the-Pac.

Alex G: The preseason power rankings are tough to do before we even see teams in action, especially for those of us who can’t attend every conference team’s practice. Right now, I’m going to go with a mix of ESPN’s FPI, S&P+, gut feelings from what I’ve heard and read—and a little tweak noting that the strength and pecking order of the divisions influences a team’s standing overall. That’s why Utah is my preseason #1—Washington or Oregon might be better football teams, but Utah is clearly best in the South and has the more direct route to the conference championship than any of the North’s top teams.

Berkelium97: I have a hard time forecasting the conference this season because there’s so much parity. I had trouble making an exact ordering, but I do see several tiers in the conference: the legitimate conference title contenders (Utah, UW), good teams that have to overcome turnover or persistent problems from last year (Oregon, WSU, ASU, LSJU), teams with potentially serious flaws somewhere (Cal, Arizona, USC, UCLA), and the basement dwellers (OSU, Colorado).

The rankings

In the event of a tie, those teams are listed alphabetically. The parenthetical number next to each voter’s name is where that voter ranked that team.

1. Washington Huskies (six first-place votes)

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

Final 2018 ranking: 1

Nick Kranz (1): A great test of the power of talent and coaching continuity. They lost a ton of talent, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. But they’ve also been recruiting at a playoff-contender level and have great coaches. How much will they struggle, if at all, blending in that new talent?

Christopher_h (1): Washington is favored in all of their conference games and is fortunate to face all of the tough Pac-12 teams at home (5-point favorites over Utah, 6.5-point favorites over Oregon, 8-point favorites over WSU, 8.5-point favorites over USC, and 13-point favorites over Cal). Personally, I think Oregon is the team to beat this year and it’s a bit shocking to me that Washington will be in a complete rebuild (replacing 9 or 10 starters out of 11 on the defense, losing both their all-time leading passing and rushing leaders in school history, and yet is still favored to come out on top. That’s really a testament to the machine Chris Petersen has built up there in Washington. I’m glad Cal gets them early in the season, when it’s at least plausible that they don’t have their act together yet. There’s too much uncertainty here for me to confidently predict them winning the Pac-12, but everyone knows they will be contending for it regardless of how many starters they have to replace.

Leland Wong (3): I certainly expect great things out of this non-great university thanks to a phenomenal coaching staff that’s among the nation’s best, but they have to replace their offensive backfield (with the offseason indicating that no one has run away with the starting QB role either) and a few positions on defense—including Ben Burr-Kirven.

Alex G (3): S&P+: 15/1, FPI: 17/2, average: 16/2. Chris Peterson has built a juggernaut that consistently posts great records and ends up ranked, but the defense is replacing a whole bunch of starters that has left pundits rightfully questioning where they sit in the North and the conference overall. I’m leaning towards the Ducks as #1 in the North and, just based on coaching and recent performance, have UW and WSU right next to each other—but I’m giving the Huskies the higher ranking because of a bit more stability, recent success, and national recognition. Next week & win chance: v. EWU, 94.7% (FPI) and 98% (S&P+)

2. Utah Utes (three first-place votes)

Oregon v Utah Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images

Final 2018 ranking: 3

Nick Kranz (2): I still have some questions about the offense, but the defense is unimpeachable and the schedule sets up pretty well to win the South... though a trip to the Coliseum in late September looms large...

Christopher_h (2): There really isn’t that much separating #1 through #3 here. Tyler Huntley looks seriously impressive and Utah has one of the best defensive lines in the country. This is a well-coached, well-rounded team and you need to do everything right if you hope to beat them.

Leland Wong (2): As mentioned they have a few questions of the offensive side of the ball. Not just because their defense looks to be stellar—as usual—but because it remains to be seen how they will transition from one former Cal figure at OC to another former Cal figure at OC. But Andy Ludwig could be in worse situations as he’ll at least be working with experienced and talented weapons in Huntley and RB Zach Moss.

Alex G (1): S&P+: 17/2, FPI: 22/4, average: 19.5/3. The Utes have one of the most experienced teams in the conference and are coming off a 9–5 season after reaching the conference championship. They play in what is arguably the weaker division (bad) and have the more direct path to the championship (good), so I’m just choosing to focus on the good side of that equation to give them a boost upward. Next week & win chance: @ BYU, 60.5% (FPI) and 66% (S&P+)

Berkelium97 (1): A stacked team that should benefit from a fortunate schedule (five home games, no Oregon, no LSJU), the Utes are my favorite to win the conference title this year.

3. Oregon Ducks (three first-place votes)

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

Final 2018 ranking: 5

Leland Wong (1): The Ducks return a pretty sizable number of players on both sides of the ball along with quite-possibly the nation’s top quarterback. (Although how many times in recent Pac-12 history has an NFL-coveted quarterback returned to have a down season?) This continuity will help them immensely despite having to learn a new defensive system under new-DC Andy Avalos—enough continuity that should keep them at the top of the conference.

Nick Kranz (3): So basically everybody is back... from a team that caught our attention by beating Washington and then never really impressed the rest of the season. Would it shock me if Oregon combined their returning talent with their recent excellent recruiting to have a break-through year? No. Would it shock me if Oregon disappointed by having a 2019 largely the same as their 2018? Also no. I split the difference by placing the Ducks third.

Christopher_h (3): The Ducks are incredibly deep this year, to the point that Cal could injure Herbert again (sorry Ducks) and it probably wouldn’t matter. Their Achilles heel has been (and will continue to be) drops by the wide receivers, but Penn State transfer WR Juwan Johnson will fill the hole left by Dillon Mitchell and Mycah Pittman (brother of USC star WR Michael Pittman Jr.) also figures to be a sure-handed receiver. Consistency has been an issue with Justin Herbert, but this team will go as far as Herbert can take them.

Alex G (2): S&P+: 20/3, FPI: 10/1, average: 15/1 Oregon is pulling in a ton of hype and has recruited damn well the past several years. If Herbert and other key players stay healthy, the Ducks are a good favorite in the North—although Washington (and even WSU) are solid challengers. The only reason Oregon isn’t ahead of Utah is that they seem to have some question marks (as evidenced in the difference between FPI and S&P+), they’ll have a tougher time getting to the conference championship, and just a less comfortable road ahead… And Utah is a damn good team with more certainty in their top-of-the-South placement. Now, if Oregon beats Auburn in week one—with what sounds like some building injuries in the receiver crew—I’ll probably push them ahead of a Utes team that beats a less-impressive Independent (even though BYU isn’t a pushover). Next week & win chance: Auburn (neutral-site), 46.6% (FPI) and 31% (S&P+)

Berkelium97 (4): This team had a serious problem with going into hibernation mid-game last year. On several occasions they would go up to two quarters without doing much of anything on offense. If they fix that issue, they’ll challenge for the conference crown. If not, they’ll still be pretty good.

thedozen (2): Posing questions to Camryn Bynum and Evan Weaver at the Pac-12 Media Day was a lot of fun, but I also enjoyed having a short conversation with Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert at the tail end of his session. Herbert acknowledged that preparing for the Cal defense is one of his toughest tasks. He is clearly one of the Pac-12’s biggest NFL prospects, and I respect his decision to return to Oregon even though that’s not a fun thing to consider as a fan of the Bears.

4. Washington State Cougars

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

Final 2018 ranking: 2

Nick Kranz (6): Will this be the season that Washington State’s offense finally fails to seemlessly transition to a brand new quarterback? No, almost certainly not.

Christopher_h (4): Can we borrow some wide receivers? I don’t think you need 17 of them. Their offense is still their offense, but their defense is taking a step back this year. I expect opponents to slow the pace of the game down to a crawl to minimize offensive possessions, which will put a lot of pressure on their defensive unit, so it would not surprise me to see them slide down this board a bit. Also: Max Borghi is a beast.

Leland Wong (4): They get my fourth-place vote, but there’s quite a gap between them and the top of the conference. I have no doubt about their ability to reset on offense, but they have lost depth on the defense; last time I doubted them on defense, however, Tracy Claeys proved me wrong by seamlessly taking over as DC.

Alex G (4): S&P+: 36/6, FPI: 30/6, average: 33/6. The Cougars ended up ranked #10 last year after an 11-win season and big bowl victory. Just based on Leach’s track record, they’ll likely have an awesome offense if the new QB and other pieces fit—although preseason S&P+ ranks their defense 71st in the country and 10th in the conference. They still deserve to be right by UW but lost their rivalry game last year, so they sit just behind the Huskies. Next week & win chance: v. New Mexico St., 97.4% (FPI) and 95% (S&P+).

Berkelium97 (3): I doubted the Cougs during last year’s preseason and I was proven wrong. I’m sure Mike Leach will craft another magic elixir that transforms some no-name QB into a Heisman contender.

5. Stanfurd Cardinal

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

Final 2018 ranking: 4

Nick Kranz (5): Part of me is itching to predict a massive backslide for a team that’s been slipping already over the last few years and just lost a ton of production on both sides of the ball. But they have been recruiting consistently well for a decade and have great foundational pieces on both sides of the ball with Costello and Adebo, so predicting a true fall is likely premature. Another 8-4 regular season? Probably.

Christopher_h (6): I know this gets said every year, but I really believe this is the year they take a step back. They’ve got a brutal out of conference slate— Northwestern (beat Utah in their bowl game last year), UCF (near undefeated last year), and Notre Dame (who made the playoffs). Their win total over/under is 6.5 games, which means they’ll probably still finish with a positive record in conference. KJ Costello is a superb quarterback, and Cameron Scarlett has the makings of a star. However, I just don’t think they can replace their losses in the receiving game (WR JJ Arcega-Whiteside, TE Kaden Smith, and WR Trenton Irwin accounted for 67% of their receiving yards last year). Most tellingly, David Shaw said they would adapt the offense to its strengths (the way they moved away from the run game last year because the offensive line was better at pass protection, they adapted routes suited to their WRs, etc)... but they didn’t know what those strengths were yet.

Alex G (5): S&P+: 32/5, FPI: 33/7, 32.5/5. It’s annoying when your rival is the kind of team that can be disappointed with a 9–4 season, but that’s just the Trees these days. I’m beginning to think that Shaw is a good-but-not-elite coach that has been kind of riding the momentum of the juggernaut that Harbaugh built—and it’s starting to slow down. But for now, they are still a well-known program that has posted winning records in a tough division and preseason pundit/fan expectations deserve some play in the Power Rankings. Next week & win chance: v. Northwestern, 74.6% (FPI) and 68% (S&P+)

Berkelium97 (6): I’ve resigned myself to another 9-win season from Shaw.

thedozen (4): Linebacker Casey Toohill knows that Big Game is important to students on both sides of the bay, but he admits that Stanford does not prepare to face Cal much differently than other Pac-12 opponents. It’s going to be interesting to see how the offense fares without Bryce Love and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, but Toohill has been a steadying defensive influence. It will be an immediate non-conference test when Northwestern visits on August 31.

6. California Golden Bears

Oregon v California

Final 2018 ranking: 6

Nick Kranz (7): I really, really can’t wait for week 2, when we find out whether or not the new-look Washington offense can score on the best defense they’ll face all season.

Christopher_h (8): Honestly, 8 feels far too low to me, but with the Cheez-It Offensestill fresh on everyone’s minds, it’s hard to confidently bet on Cal in any given game. Sure, defense will win Cal some games against tough opponents, but without a functioning offense, Cal can still lose to teams like UCLA. If Cal gets its act together on offense, they’re rocketing up my board.

Ruey Yen (4): With a lot of optimism, I think this is a realistic placement for the Cal Bears IF they have a mediocre offense to go with that elite defense from last year.

Leland Wong (6): Contrasting Christopher, I think I personally have the Bears too high. They’re in a tier of conference teams with question marks, but all of our question marks are on the same side of the ball. I think I’m giving the nod to the Bears here because they need just the smallest improvement (on offense) to win more games thanks to that elite defense.

Alex G (6): S&P+: 60/9, FPI: 55/10, average: 57.5/10. The stats machines and their overlord programmers are somewhat right to keep the Bears lower on the totem pole, given our offense’s struggles last year and some notable turnover. But it’s pretty drastic—the only reason the Bears are so low in S&P+ is because their 5th-ranked defense (#1 in the conference) is offset by a #125 offense (last in the conference). From what I’ve seen in camp and read so far following the team, the offense is really going to surprise people and our biggest weakness last year—explosive plays—are going to happen much more frequently. Though the Bears are probably in the “wait and see” or ”prove me wrong” side of most other fans’ rankings, I give them a bump because my confidence is that we’ll have a functional, at-least-middle-third-of-the-Pac offense that will bump our average to fifth or higher. But I’m taking off at least one notch, because, well… “prove me right.” Next week & win chance: v. UC Davis, 92% (FPI) and 93% (S&P+)

Berkelium97 (7): I want to believe that the offense will have improved over the offseason, but the wounds from the Cheez It Bowl are still too fresh. The defense should be otherworldly, however.

7. USC Trojans

USC v Arizona State Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Final 2018 ranking: 10

Nick Kranz (4): They have the second-best collection of talent in the conference and coaching/team culture that pretty impressively sabotaged that talent last year. Anything is on the table—from a surprise division title to an implosion that can be seen from space.

Christopher_h (5): Honestly, I hope they never get their act together, and their fans are doomed to a lifetime of Clay Helton mediocrity. I don’t think the new Air Raid scheme is going to make too much difference for an offense already loaded with talent (Michael Pittman Jr., Amon-Ra St. Brown, Tyler Vaughns, etc), but their defense took a step back this year. Their secondary looks abysmal and I am fairly confident they are going to get torched by the first pass-heavy team they play. It’s too bad that doesn’t describe us.

Leland Wong (8): USC always recruits well enough that they can stumble upon a few wins and should always be considered a threat to some degree. But I’m also ranking them a bit lower for a tumultuous offseason for retaining a head coach who has lost the support of the fans, the embarrassment over trying to force Kliff Kingsbury to stay, and watching nearly all of their receivers test the waters in the transfer portal. At least they finally got Bru McCoy—or did he just transfer back to Texas?

Alex G (7): S&P+: 29/4, FPI: 25/5, average: 27/4. The Trojans are coming off a losing season and Helton is on the hot seat. Still, they are loaded with blue-chip recruits and have good returning production. The first half of the year is brutal, FPI gives the Trojans the second-hardest schedule in the country, and both stats barely project a winning record (6.5 wins for S&P+ and 6.6 for FPI). We’ll see what happens in a few weeks. Next week & win chance: v. Fresno State, 86% (FPI) and 67% (S&P+)

Berkelium97 (10): As always, they have a ton of talent and…*checks notes* oh nevermind, Helton is still the coach so it will be a dumpster fire of a season.

8. Arizona State Sun Devils

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

Final 2018 ranking: 7

Leland Wong (10): An unspectacular defense will have another year to grow in their Tillman-based defense and their offense will rely on a stellar Eno Benjamin for a run-first assault, but I’m not sure how far former–Cal coach Rob Likens can take their offense with a true-freshman quarterback. I’m not a fan of placing them this low, but it was tough to rank given the other competitive teams in the conference.

Nick Kranz (8): I (gulp) liked a lot of the things that Herm did in year one and their conference schedule is about as favorable as you can hope for, but I’m guessing that they just don’t have enough defense to really give Utah a run for the South title.

Christopher_h (7): ASU is one of the bigger unknowns this year after replacing multi-year starter Manny Wilkins and NFL first-rounder WR N’Keal Harry. They’ve got a solid running game with RB Eno Benjamin and true-freshman dual-threat QB Jayden Daniels, but it’s hard to say how much Daniels will develop in the passing game as the season goes on.

Alex G (8): S&P+: 49/7, FPI: 36/8, average: 42.5/8. ASU pulled off a 7–6 record with a losing record in-conference (the same as Cal) in a weaker South division despite having a senior QB and a first-round-pick receiver. Now, they will be starting a true freshman in their season opener for the first time in school history (albeit a blue-chip recruit, but still…) and other positions are in flux. The switchover will take some time to run smoothly and virtually all true freshman QBs struggle the first few games, if not the whole first season. Like Arizona, I’ll give them some time to prove me wrong, but for now they are in the bottom half of the conference. Next week & win chance: v. Kent State, 95.6% (FPI) and 90% (S&P+)

Berkelium97 (5): I had grave doubts about this team last year. In fact, I think I had them at 11th or 12th in my preseason poll. But I was impressed by how competitive the Fightin’ Herms were. Nearly every game seemed to be decided by one score, whether it was against the top teams or the bottom-feeders. If the offense can overcome the loss of Wilkins and Harry, this team could earn another 7-win season thanks to the Pac-12 South’s overall weakness.

9. Arizona Wildcats

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

Final 2018 ranking: 8

Leland Wong (7): I’m going out on a limb giving them the benefit of the doubt that they can figure out Khalil Tate’s fall from glory. At the very least, they should have some consistency and enough time to grow since they didn’t have to replace any coordinators from last year.

Nick Kranz (10): Leland hit on the obvious question—was Khalil Tate mediocre last year because the new coaching staff neutered his talent or because he was too beat up to make everybody look awful. There’s not a lot of upside here unless Tate is a world-destroyer again.

Christopher_h (9): Arizona has issues on defense and the coaching staff seemingly wants to continue the “Khalil Tate as a pocket passer” experiment. What a waste of talent. Arizona could be a lot higher on this list.

Alex G (9): First, the rankings with “Nat’l/Pac12” ranks: S&P+: 52/8, FPI: 51/9, Average: 51.5/9. Arizona sits right around 50th in the nation and 9th in the conference, per both preseason ranks. They Wildcats were promising last year when Tate was healthy, but then struggled late when he went down, ultimately leading to a bowl-less 5–7 season (4–5 in conference). If Tate is healthy, they could do well, but the fact that the rest of the team couldn’t hold things together last year makes me wait and see. Next week & win chance: @ Hawaii, 61.6% (FPI) and 69% (S&P+)

thedozen (9): Running back J.J. Taylor attended Centennial High School in Corona with Camryn Bynum and told me that he knew Bynum would be a special college player even back then due to his work ethic. As for Taylor, I wouldn’t bet against him finishing his career with a bang. The 1,434 rushing yards he compiled in 2018 ranked fourth on Arizona’s all-time single season list.

10. UC Los Angeles Bruins

UCLA v Utah Photo by George Frey/Getty Images

Final 2018 ranking: 9

Nick Kranz (9): You can see some of the hints of a 2nd year burst under Chip, UCLA’s growth in the 2nd half of 2018 being the most obvious example. But you just don’t feel like the talent is on hand on either side of the ball yet for UCLA to be more than a flawed-but-dangerous type of team.

Christopher_h (10): Chip Kelly, more like… Chip Smelly.

Leland Wong (9): The second LA team looking to bounce-back with a second-year quarterback after a weak 2018, I expect worse for the Bruins at this stage just because they haven’t been as successful on the recruiting trail. Still, Chip Smelly with a stellar running back is something to fear.

Alex G (10): S&P+: 63/10, FPI: 20/3, average: 41.5/7. The Bruins had a really bad year in 2018, but started to show good improvement near the end of the season that allows for some hope in Westwood. But where the baby bears will fall in the pecking order is up in the air, as shown by the vast discrepancy in S&P+ and FPI (43… More than double the next-closest-team in the conference, OSU at 21 – and more than double UCLA’s FPI rank). I’ll leave them down low until they show some good improvement. Wins at a couple good upcoming Group-of-5 teams could bump them in the coming weeks, especially if/how other teams lose games or if they don’t look great in wins. A week-three win over Oklahoma at home (which FPI gives UCLA a full 38% chance of winning!!!) would definitely shake things up. Next week & win chance: @ Cincinnati, 53.5% (FPI) and 35% (S&P+).

11. Colorado Buffaloes

Colorado v Colorado State Photo by Joe Mahoney/Getty Images

Final 2018 ranking: 11

Nick Kranz (11): At least they still have Laviska Shenault to get excited about—and if he stays healthy maybe Colorado plays more like the team that started last year 5–0. But a general lack of talent plus a coaching transition makes me think that bowl eligibility is the best the Buffs can hope for.

Christopher_h (11): After Steven Montez’s juvenile actions in the game against Cal last year, I almost don’t pity the struggles they’re going to have this season. Colorado has as solid of a passing attack as any team in the Pac-12 this year, but I expect their run game and defense to struggle this year.

Leland Wong (11): They’ve got a good foundation of talent, but I think having to rebuild with a first-time head coach while in a pretty competitive Pac-12 hurts them.

Alex G (11): S&P+: 69/11, FPI: 63/11, average: 66/11. Honestly, I have no clue what to think about Colorado. They lose some key players off a last-in-the-South 2018 team, and switched over to a new coach. That’s certainly a recipe for uncertainty and pessimism for the Buff’s place in the pecking order. Next week & win chance: v. Colorado State, 75.7% (FPI) and 80% (S&P+)

Berkelium97 (11): They’ve been a decent team for the last several years, but last year’s collapse and the coaching change have given me extremely low expectations for the Buffs this year. As in 3-or-4-wins expectations.

12. Oregon State Beavers

Utah v Oregon State Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Final 2018 ranking: 12

Nick Kranz (12): Intriguing offensive skill talent will maybe hold Beaver fan interests as they try to recover from the worst defensive season this side of UConn.

Christopher_h (12): This team is basically the inverse of Cal: a deep, talented offense, and a baffingly incompetent run defense.Their run defense was basically our passing offense. They’re also seemingly cursed, which also reminds me a lot of us, and so they have my sympathy.

Leland Wong (12): Rome wasn’t built in a day, so Beavs shouldn’t expect the Corvalis rebuild to be done yet either.

Alex G (12): S&P+: 105/12, FPI: 84/12, average: 94.5/12. Pretty well everyone agrees that OSU is last in the conference, given recent performance and uncertainty overall. They’ve shown some spunk and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them upset a couple teams. For now, though, it’s last place. Next week & win chance: v. Oklahoma St., 27.8% (FPI) and 13% (S&P+)

Berkelium97 (12): Last year they reminded me of a bargain-brand version of Sonny Dykes teams: all offense, no defense. Except the offense wasn’t nearly as good as the Bear Raid. As long as they keep doing weird stuff like fake kickoff returns and oddball offensive formations, I’ll keep watching. They’re deeply flawed but fun to watch.

thedozen (12): Running back Jermar Jefferson grew up in Los Angeles and actually received a late offer to attend USC, but he believed that a change of scenery would help lead to personal success. Jefferson had to make adjustments to the speed of the college game but broke out in a big way as a freshman. After posting 254 rushing yards on September 29 against Arizona State, he thought to himself, “I’m really doing this right now.” Oregon State is expected to struggle again defensively, but Jefferson at his best is a human highlight reel.

The data

Let’s kick things off with helping you get to know this year’s voters with the best way to get to know a human—looking at our voting record.

Table 1

rk Alex Bk97 christopher_h Joshua Leland Nick NikJam Piotr ragnarok Rob Ruey thedozen
rk Alex Bk97 christopher_h Joshua Leland Nick NikJam Piotr ragnarok Rob Ruey thedozen
1 Utah Utah Wash Wash Oregon Wash Oregon Utah Wash Oregon Wash Wash
2 Oregon Wash Utah Utah Utah Utah Utah Oregon Oregon Utah Utah Oregon
3 Wash WSU Oregon Oregon Wash Oregon Wash Wash WSU Wash Oregon Utah
4 WSU Oregon WSU WSU WSU USC WSU WSU Utah Cal Cal Stanfurd
5 Stanfurd ASU USC Stanfurd Stanfurd Stanfurd Stanfurd Stanfurd Stanfurd Stanfurd WSU USC
6 Cal Stanfurd Stanfurd USC Cal WSU ASU Cal USC WSU USC WSU
7 USC Cal ASU Cal Arizona Cal Cal USC ASU ASU Stanfurd Cal
8 ASU Arizona Cal ASU USC ASU USC ASU Cal Arizona ASU ASU
9 Arizona UC L.A. Arizona Arizona UC L.A. UC L.A. Arizona Arizona UC L.A. USC Arizona Arizona
10 UC L.A. USC UC L.A. UC L.A. ASU Arizona UC L.A. Colorado Arizona Colorado UC L.A. UC L.A.
11 Colorado Colorado Colorado Colorado Colorado Colorado Colorado UC L.A. Colorado UC L.A. Colorado Colorado
Table 1. The individual preseason votes. 2019 football is finally upon us...

I Excel Google Spreadsheets takes the votes for each team and calculates the mathematical average; the team with the lowest average gets awarded first place, then second, third, etc. all the way to Oregon Stateth place.

But I failed enough math classes at Berkeley to know there’s some value in the higher resolution, so we’re going to take a look at both the precise average as well as the standard deviation. As a refresher, when you take the standard deviation of a data set (that is, all the different votes for any given team), the the standard deviation is a measure of how varied those responses are; the larger the standard deviation, the more variety in that data set. In Figure 1, the average value is graphed in each bar and the standard deviation is the error bar.

Figure 1. The precise rankings that we evaluated for each team based on our preseason perceptions.

Figure 1 shows how tightly packed the top triad tier was—there’s barely any room to breate between Washington, Utah, and Oregon. In fact, the average ranking that we bestowed upon the first-place team was a 1.9—they basically earned a ranking of 2, but that was just enough to help them edge out Oregon and Utah.


Which team earns your first-place preseason rank?

This poll is closed

  • 19%
    (22 votes)
  • 25%
    (28 votes)
  • 22%
    (25 votes)
  • 25%
    Cal (because I’m an obsessive homer)
    (28 votes)
  • 8%
    (9 votes)
112 votes total Vote Now

After those three, we see a precipitous drop between third-place Oregon and fourth-place Washington State, demonstrating what nearly all of the voters agreed on—there’s a clear distinction between the three teams at the top and the rest of the conference.

Another comparison I like to make is between each team’s final 2018 ranking and this week’s preseason ranking; you can see them listed for each team in the main text up above, bit I also collected it all in Table 2 for ease of comparison.

Table 2

Team 2018 final 2019 preseason Offseason change
Team 2018 final 2019 preseason Offseason change
Arizona 8 9 -1
ASU 7 8 -1
Cal 6 6 0
Colorado 11 11 0
Oregon 5 3 2
OSU 12 12 0
Stanfurd 4 5 -1
UC L.A. 9 10 -1
USC 10 7 3
Utah 3 2 1
Washington 1 1 0
WSU 2 4 -2
Table 2. Has anything changed since the end of the 2018 season?

Table 2 shows us... very little. Most teams barely moved; is that because we can’t pay enough attention to eleven other teams during the offseason or is there just no reason to expect massive changes? The only teams that moved two spots or more are Oregon, USC, and Wazzu. My personal guess is that Oregon retained a lot of talent and recruited like hell while enjoying the benefit of some time away from the Redbox Bowl, resulting in a small raise of two spaces. The Cougars may have dropped for having to break in a new quarterback after enjoying the one-year miracle of Garner Minshew II, leaving our voters to expect a regression to the mean by two spots. As for USC and their three-spot jump? Is this an indication of their ability to recruit thanks to their brand? A reflex after years of getting pummeled by them? Were we just too hard on them last year when we could relish in their misery? You tell me because I’m not quite sure.

That about does it for our preseason rankings. We’ll be back in two weeks after the Week 0 and Week 1 games, thus allowing us to collect more data than just how the Wildcats do this weekend.


How do you preseasonly powerly rank Cal in 2019?

This poll is closed

  • 17%
    1 (Again, homer right here)
    (20 votes)
  • 0%
    (1 vote)
  • 5%
    (6 votes)
  • 15%
    (17 votes)
  • 15%
    (17 votes)
  • 18%
    6 (You CGB writers are so smart and good-looking and debonair.)
    (21 votes)
  • 11%
    (13 votes)
  • 9%
    (11 votes)
  • 0%
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    (1 vote)
  • 3%
    (4 votes)
113 votes total Vote Now