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Pac-12 Power Rankings, Week 4: Stanfurd can’t fathom this collapse

Cal’s the last remaining undefeated team. Stanfurd is the Pac-12 team that lost by the biggest margin. Might this be the perfect Power Ranking?

Oregon v Stanford Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Leland Wong: We’re finally entering conference play.

Here at the Power Rankings, your beloved and bewildered CGB writers convene in a five-hour meeting at the NHook compound and rank the Pac-12 teams by their track record, performance, strength, and fanbase sentiment over the course of the 2019 season, but with an increased focus on the latest week. Thus, there’s a lot of guesswork in the preseason evalutions and (arguably) more guesswork when we only have a handful of games early in the season—especially when they’re non-conference and over FCS teams, which offer little in terms of comparison.

Thus, it’s pretty nice to get into conference play and have some head-to-head results.

And in perfect karmic—and Pac-12—fashion, half of our games ended in upsets, making the grading difficult again, just when we were hoping for things to go well. Because nothing is nice in life.

  • USC def. #10 Utah, 30–23
  • #23 California def. Mississippi, 28–20
  • #22 Washington def. BYU, 45–19
  • #16 Oregon def. Stanfurd, 21–6
  • Colorado def. #24 Arizona State, 34–31
  • UC Los Angeles def. #19 Washington State, 67–63
  • Bye: Arizona, Oregon State

Berkelium97: Welcome to the wild, wacky, circular firing squad that is the Pac-12. We continue to demonstrate that anyone can beat anyone on any given day. Who would have thought that a third-string QB would torch a vaunted Utah defense? Who could have possibly predicted that the putrid UCLA offense would put up more points in the second half than they had in the previous three games combined? Who could have anticipated a 373-yard explosion from the anemic Cal passing game to propel the Bears into the position as the last remaining undefeated Pac-12 team?

Rob Hwang: I am going to plug my own tweet.

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. Oregon Ducks (3–1, 1–0 Pac-12, seven first-place votes) ↗

Arizona V Oregon

Last week: 2

Christopher_h (1): Beating Stanford has been downgraded from “notable victory” to “participation trophy.” Oregon is still firing on all cylinders—and they’ll have an extra week to prepare for the Pac-12’s best defense.

Berkelium97 (3): I’m surprised they only scored three TDs against a Lobsterback defense that has been eviscerated by freshman QBs over the last two weeks. As much attention as Herbert gets, the defense has been sneaky good this season. If the Ducks had a better resume, I’d bump them into second ahead of the Huskies.

Nick Kranz (1): Right now it appears that the Oregon defense is miles ahead of an offense that’s competent, but far from spectacular. Still, Oregon is one of the few teams that appears to have some semblance of balance between offense and defense.

Rob Hwang (1): Would love to put Cal ahead of the Ducks, but the Ducks are easily the most complete team in the conference. Spectacular recruited talent helps them mask some of their Xs and Os deficiencies.

2. California Golden Bears (4–0, 1–0 Pac-12, three first-place votes) ↗

California v Stanford Photo by David Madison/Getty Images

Last week: 3

Christopher_h (2): Cal games are always closer than they should be and I could swear I saw a hold go uncalled on that big QB run from John Rhys Plumlee, so I’m of the opinion the score made the game appear closer than it really was. But the real story was—who had any idea that Chase Garbers would throw for career-highs of 357 yards and 4 TDs? I can’t figure Garbers out at all and the game did not go at all the way I expected. I’m a little concerned with how the defense played, but ecstatic that our offense might not be as one-dimensional as I thought.

Berkelium97 (1): Off in the Bizarro World, Cal unleashed a lethal passing game against a pretty good Ole Miss defense. Meanwhile, the defense gave up loads of yards in the first and fourth quarters—although they tightened up in the red zone. Injuries can explain some of the drop-off for the defense this week, but Cal fans will spend all week wondering if we will see another passing performance like that again. Cal may be poised to take advantage of some serious deficiencies in pass defense shown by Wazzu, LSJU, UCLA, and Utah. If so, a Pac-12 North title run is in the future.

Nick Kranz (2): Am I comfortable with Cal at 2 in this ranking? Not really, no. Has anybody else earned a higher spot? Also no. Here we are!

thedozen (2): I’m sure that Evan Weaver strikes some people as overconfident, but his play has been nothing short of spectacular. After hearing his postgame comments, I resolved to be a little more self-assured in my own daily life.

Nik Jam (2): The No. 2 ranking is deserved but it says a lot about how other teams have underachieved so far this young season.

Rob Hwang (2): Bears in 4.

Leland Wong (1): Cal gets a bonus bump for being the last undefeated team in the conference and all the press that has brought us.

3. Washington Huskies (3–1, 0–1 Pac-12) ↗

Cary Conklin

Last week: 6

Christopher_h (3): BYU is a solid team. They were about even with Utah before some costly turnovers, they beat Tennessee, and they beat USC. Washington blew them out of the water—and Cal’s narrow victory over them is look more and more impressive. The Washington offense showed up to this game.

Berkelium97 (2): Like Chris said above, BYU is a tough, physical team (especially at home). And UW manhandled them. Inside and outside the Pac-12, people may be underrating UW for losing to Cal (who is looking like a pretty good football team). But this is looking like a good team.

Nick Kranz (3): Has blown out everybody except Cal, which tickles me to no end.

4. USC Trojans (3–1, 2–0 Pac-12) ↗

University Of Southern California Trojans Football Mascot

Last week: 7

Christopher_h (5): As (not) surprising as it was that the super talented USC team was able to upset Utah with their third-string QB, I didn’t really learn anything new about them from this game. USC is exactly the team I thought they were. They still had over 100 yards of penalties—the vast majority of them completely unnecessary and totally USC-like (unsportsmanlike conduct, late hits out of bounds, unnecessary roughness, taunting, etc). USC won’t outcoach anyone, but they have enough talent to win if another coach wants to out-coach himself. Still, they now hold the Pac-12 South tiebreaker with their biggest competition in the division.

Berkelium97 (3): I was feeling pretty salty as I watched a third-string freshman QB slice up the Utah defense. At least, until Chase Garbers played out of his mind in Oxford. As long as Clay Helton is the coach, I’ll remain skeptical of USC. But a win over Washington may change my mind...

Nick Kranz (4): This team has a ton of offensive talent and a great offensive coordinator—and that alone is enough to beat most teams in this conference on the right night . . . and has them at pole position in the Pac-12 South.

5. Utah Utes (3–1, 0–1 Pac-12) ↘

Omar Bacon #24...

Last week: 1

Christopher_h (4): Yes, USC has super talented receivers and Michael Pittman had 232 yards receiving. Why then, did Utah insist on matching up with them in man-to-man coverage, as USC beat their DBs again and again for huge plays? Just last week, BYU showed that you can beat USC by dropping defenders into zone coverage and forcing their young QB(s) into making difficult decisions. This was the sloppiest game I can remember seeing from Utah. Utah somehow managed more penalties (with whistle-happy refs) than even USC, which says a lot. That was 120 yards of penalties, just to be clear, and many of them were very un-Utah-like procedural penalties. QB Tyler Huntley looked good and I think Utah has the depth at RB to survive to Zack Moss injury.

Berkelium97 (5): Utah did many things I expect to see from them on a regular basis: pass the ball well enough, dominate the clock by grinding their way to a couple hundred rushing yards, and shut down the opposing running game. I did not, however, expect to see their DBs get beaten over and over and over and over.

Nick Kranz (5): The obvious question here is whether or not USC exposed a fatal flaw in Utah’s secondary or if this was just a one-off. I wonder if Utah will be facing a team next week that might also test their passing defense? HI MIKE LEACH!

Nik Jam: (5) Friday night Pac-12 road game strikes again!

6. Washington State Cougars (3–1, 0–1 Pac-12) ↘

DeJuan Gimore Washington St

Last week: 4

Christopher_h (6): Imagine setting a Pac-12 record with nine passing touchdowns—with every fifth completion you threw going for a touchdown—and still losing to UCLA. Washington State had six turnovers, mainly by the wide receivers (e.g. Dezmon Patmon bobbling the ball into the hands of a defensive back for an interception and constant fumbles from all the receivers), and played absolutely no defense whatsoever. I knew the defense was going to be a concern for Washington State, but I would never have guessed it would be this bad. I’m not ready to anoint Dorian Thompson-Robinson as some sort of offensive wizard. This game was like an uglier version of the 2014 Cal–WSU game that ended 60–59… at least that game didn’t have any turnovers.

Berkelium97 (9): Wazzu isn’t as bad as their ninth-place finish in my ballot this week, but they deserve a serious drop for surrendering 50 points in 19 minutes (Andy Buh would be proud), turning the ball over six times, giving up two special teams TDs, and letting a woeful UCLA offense pile up about a thousand yards. Oh right, all that happened despite an utterly absurd offensive performance in which Aaron Gordon tossed NINE TOUCHDOWNS. I’m surprised Mike Leach didn’t have an aneurysm in the post-game press conference.

thedozen (7): Maybe this game was cosmic payback for Mike Leach’s strong stance against NCAA student-athletes profiting in any way from the sports they pour so much time and effort into playing. It’s also hard to imagine allowing 29 points in a single quarter after watching the Cal defense every week.

Nick Kranz (6): Mike Leach has had an awful defense pretty much always except when he managed to bring in Alex Grinch in 2015. Methinks that Grinch’s influence is starting to wear off.

7. Colorado Buffaloes (3–1, 1–0 Pac-12) ↗

Getty Images Archive Photo by Bernstein Associates/Getty Images

Last week: 8

Christopher_h (8): Colorado beat ASU without Laviska Shenault and bounced back from their embarrassing loss last week to Air Force. Steven Montez looked more like himself and the defense kept both RB Eno Benjamin and QB Jayden Daniels bottled up for the most part. Colorado runs hot and cold—and it’s hard to tell which team is going to show up.

Nick Kranz (7): Laviska Shenault had one catch for 23 yards . . . and Steven Montez still threw for 300+ while averaging 11.2 yards/attempt. Colorado’s offense appears to be legitimately excellent, and the advanced stats agree. I think we can all agree that Colorado is going to screw up somebody’s season later this year.

Nik Jam (7): I think Colorado is legitimately good. I’m glad we don’t have to play them.

Leland Wong (6): A nice one-score win over a hot ASU team, but it was so evenly-match that it’s tough to justify bringing Colorado out of the muck of the conference’s middle.

8. Arizona State Sun Devils (3–1, 0–1 Pac-12) ↘

Nebraska Cornhuskers vs Arizona State Sun Devils Photo by Mike Powell/Allsport/Getty Images

Last week: 5

Christopher_h (7): I’ve been a bit annoyed at all the attention ASU was getting over Cal, as they struck me as overrated—they beat Michigan State (big whoop), but they also struggled to score on an FCS team. QB Jayden Daniels is looking better every game and I think they’re going to continue to get better, but I don’t think they were quite ready to be ranked yet.

Berkelium97 (7): For whatever reason, ASU continues to transform into its opponent week after week. One week after imitating Michigan State in an all-defense/no-offense brickfight, ASU starts slinging 20+ yard bombs all over the field while allowing Steven Montez to carve up their fairly strong pass defense.

Nick Kranz (8): After three lights-out defensive performances, ASU’s secondary had a real bad time trying to hold down Steven Montez. But on the bright side, their win over Sparty looks a bit better and Jayden Daniels took another step forward as a QB despite another game with zero running-game support.

Nik Jam (8): The loss to Colorado does not make this game any less meaningful for the Bears. This will be a tough challenge and the Sun Devils are still a good team. Remember that Michigan State looked pretty good on Saturday.

Rob Hwang (6): They are still my pick to come out of the South by season’s end. Jayden Daniels continues to get better and I have no doubt a loss like this will only help him improve. Some questionable play calls towards the end of the game from ASU—will be interesting to see how they come out against Cal

9. Arizona Wildcats (2–1) ↘

Ronald Veal

Last week: 8T

Christopher_h (9): Arizona emerges from their bye week unscathed. Up next is Colorado, so the middle of the Pac-12 South should be beginning to take shape.

Nick Kranz (9): Since they had a bye and there’s not much to say, how about noting that SP+ loooooves Arizona’s offense. I’m personally not nearly so enthused, but I think we can all agree that Arizona is going to screw up somebody’s season later this year.

thedozen (9): While Wildcat football had a bye week, the Arizona soccer program was set to host a petting zoo over the weekend before the animals involved escaped for a brief period of time. It’s up to Khalil Tate and company to put the focus back on the gridiron when the Bruins visit on Saturday.

Leland Wong (9): Unfortunately, we still don’t know too much about Arizona as their sole FBS victory came over Texas Tech—who hasn’t had a particularly strong schedule and were also on bye this week.

10. UC Los Angeles Bruins (1–3, 1–0 Pac-12) ↗

Ohio State Buckeyes v UCLA Bruins Set Number: X8760

Last week: 12

Christopher_h (10): I don’t even have words for what I just witnessed. UCLA scored exactly 14 points in each of their first three games—and here they exploded for 67 points, with 50 of those points in the second half and those 50 points coming in the span of about 18 minutes. This was a complete meltdown by Washington State. It seems like UCLA has one game each year where everything goes right and they beat a team they have no business of beating (cough). Hopefully this was the last we see of this UCLA.

Berkelium97 (8): lolwut. This was even more shocking than their 37–7 victory over Cal last year. I’m not surprised that they allowed over 500 passing yards (in fact, in last week’s Power Rankings I wondered aloud if Wazzu would break 500 against that awful defense), but throwing for over 500? I never would have expected that after watching this offense do absolutely nothing in the previous three games. I suppose they have the opportunity to have another offensive explosion this week against Arizona’s terrible defense, but they seem just as likely to score 13 points.

Nick Kranz (10): I’m not going to overreact to UCLA winning an absurd game that had five fumbles—all recovered by UCLA. This is still a busted team . . . with just enough offensive stirrings that I’m going to have nightmares about them anyway.

Nik Jam (10): String together another victory or two in the next month with some losses by other South “favorites” and suddenly its not unreasonable to think about them as a Pac-12 South contender.

Rob Hwang (10): Slightly upset that this week’s game has now usurped Jared’s game in Pullman in 2015 as the craziest Pac-12 After Dark moment in the state of Washington.

11. Stanfurd Cardinal (1–3, 0–2 Pac-12) ↘

Stanford Cardinals Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Last week: 10

Christopher_h (12): I’m going to be honest, this game was so boring that I fell asleep during the third quarter. Stanford was pretty ineffective in all aspects of the game, so it’s hard to find positives here. I guess the one nice thing I can say is that their pass rush, particularly LB Casey Toohill, looks pretty good. It’s nice to see how far Stanford has fallen.

Berkelium97 (11): Last year, the Lobsterbacks developed a very effective passing game that led them to nine wins despite regression on defense. Now that passing game is seriously broken and the team is completely lost. Good.

Nick Kranz (11): Vaguely staying close to Oregon keeps them out of the basement, but I’ll repeat what I said last week—what exactly does this team do well?!

Rob Hwang (11): Cackling.

Leland Wong (12): They aren’t the worst team in the conference, but they do earn a bonus drop with all media focusing on their fall from grace.

12. Oregon State Beavers (1–2) ↗

Oregon State Beavers v USC Trojans Photo by James Flores/Getty Images

Last week: 11

Christopher_h (11): Oregon State will take on Stanford next week to establish who really wants that #12 ranking more—Oregon State is only a three-point underdog to Stanford. Let that sink in. Oregon State is (according to early lines) a 23-point underdog to Washington and a 21-point underdog to Oregon and Washington State. They’re now three-point underdogs to Stanford. Stanford!

Nick Kranz (12): I think you, honest to God, could make an argument that Oregon State should be favored at home over Stanford . . . and I think that says more about how far Stanford has fallen than it does about OSU’s recovery from a pit.

thedozen (12): The Beavers haven’t played a very tough schedule yet, but they have averaged eight tackles for a loss per game, which is among the top 20 FBS teams so far.

The data

Unfortunately, we didn’t get our perfect ranking of Cal at the top and Stanfurd at the bottom. It sucks and it’s wrong and life is awful—I know. But if you look at how the voters voted (Table 1), then you’ll see which writer made the right choice to have the Bay Area teams bookend his ranking and is smart and good-looking and so damn disarmingly charming.

Table 1. Individual votes after Week 4

rk Bk97 christopher_h Joshua Leland Nick NikJam ragnarok Rob Ruey thedozen
rk Bk97 christopher_h Joshua Leland Nick NikJam ragnarok Rob Ruey thedozen
1 Cal Oregon Oregon Cal Oregon Oregon Oregon Oregon Cal Oregon
2 Wash Cal Cal Wash Cal Cal Cal Cal Oregon Cal
3 USC Wash Wash Oregon Wash Wash Wash Wash USC Wash
4 Oregon Utah USC USC USC USC USC Utah Utah USC
5 Utah USC Utah Utah Utah Utah Utah WSU Wash Utah
6 Colorado WSU Colorado Colorado WSU WSU WSU ASU WSU Colorado
7 ASU ASU WSU ASU Colorado Colorado Colorado Colorado Colorado WSU
9 WSU Arizona Arizona Arizona Arizona Arizona Arizona Arizona Arizona Arizona
10 Arizona UC L.A. UC L.A. UC L.A. UC L.A. UC L.A. UC L.A. UC L.A. UC L.A. UC L.A.
11 Stanfurd OSU OSU OSU Stanfurd Stanfurd Stanfurd Stanfurd Stanfurd Stanfurd
12 OSU Stanfurd Stanfurd Stanfurd OSU OSU OSU OSU OSU OSU

The individual numerical ranks that each team receives is averaged to determine the order of the teams as listed in the main body of the article. And for all of you who love your high-def, 4K, 8K, K-9, we’ll gain a little more resolution into the data by taking a quick look at the precise averaged scores as well as the standard deviation for each team. The standard deviation tells you how much deviation exists between the data points, standardly; a high standard deviation means there is a lot of disagreement in the data and a small standard deviation indicates consistency in the data, such as all of us putting Cal in our top two. Figure 1 graphs the precise ranks as columns and standard deviations as error bars.

Figure 1. The precise ranks for each team after Week 4.

Cal is so deliciously close to first.

But alas, another week we must wait.

Speaking of weekly progression, let’s take a look at how the precise rankings have evolved each week for 2019 (Fig. 2). Some weeks, we can see that the numbers end up clustering the teams into tiers that correlate with their quality, but that isn’t too apparent with this week’s results.

Figure 2. The precise rankings for the 2019 season.

We’ll repeat this time-based analysis for the main, rounded rankings as well, shown in Figure 3. Thanks to half of our conference games resulting in upsets, we have a lot of volatility this week—not a single team stayed in the same spot they held last week.

Figure 3. Your 2019 Power Rankings.

For a quick summary of this kind of movement, check out Figure 4a below. Utah’s four-place fall is the biggest change this week, but only the second-biggest move of the season—second to Cal jumping five spaces for beating Washington. After that, we have three teams that moved three spaces in the Sun Devils, the Trojans, and the Huskies. Despite all the movement this week, this is still just the second-Maddest week of the season. The right-most column of Figure 4a is the Total Madness for each team this year—how much they moved up and down every week; the Total Madness every week is graphed in Figure 4b. By moving three places after their loss, Arizona State is now in sole possession of the top spot as Maddest team in the conference.

Figure 4a. The Madness of each team this year—how much they have moved up and down every week.
Figure 4b. The total Madness for the teams every week.

The last image I have for you is an attempt to distill the entire season into one graph (Fig. 5). For each team, we take every single rank they earned this year and find the average; this gives us an idea of their average Pac-12 rank over the whole season. The only notable change over last week—especially to a Cal audience—is that Cal edged past Wazzu for fourth-place after this week’s game. Stanfurd has the largest standard deviation because they’ve been ranked as high as fifth and as low as eleventh—as well as several spots in between.

Figure 5. The average 2019 rank for every team through Week 4.

At long last, that is the final graph for this week. Next week will be the first time that all games will be in-conference. Plus, the #1 team will be on bye—will they be able to hold onto their top spot while sitting idle?