lLeland Wong: It feels good to finally have some on-field results that we can use to evaluate Cal and our Pac-12 brethren. Of course, it’s almost so little data that it can be misleading to over-interpret it—Colorado beat a Group of 5 team in Colorado State, but how good is Colorado State?
Our Power Rankings are an overall assessment of the Pac-12 teams in terms of factors like performance/strength and mood/fanbase sentiment. There’s typically a greater focus on recent results and the last game in particular. Here is the latest set of games—including the Week 0 game of Arizona vs. Hawaii.
- Hawaii def. Arizona, 45–38
- Cincinnati def. UC Los Angeles, 24–14
- Arizona State def. Kent State, 30–7
- #14 Utah def. BYU, 30–12
- Colorado def. Colorado State, 52–31
- OSU def. OSU, 52–36
- #13 Washington def. Eastern Washington, 47–14
- #25 Stanfurd def. Northwestern, 17–7
- California def. UC Davis, 27–13
- #16 Auburn def. #11 Oregon, 27–21
- #23 Washington State def. New Mexico State, 58–7
- USC def. Fresno State, 31–23
Alex Ghenis: I’m going to be relatively lazy and just go off whether a team won or lost. (The Pac-12 had four losses and eight wins.) Then, quality of opponent with [Power 5 > Group of 5 > FCS] and BYU considered equal to P5. So although Oregon is almost certainly a better team than ASU, the Ducks are 0–1 and the Sun Devils are 1–0, so ASU gets the nod. Also, S&P+ hasn’t been released yet, so each team’s note just goes with the FPI numbers—and running off the numbers as of Sunday afternoon, before the two Sunday/Monday games. Rankings for the Pac-12 are, in order: Washington (#12 national), Oregon (13), Utah (15), WSU (16), UC L.A. (25), USC (27), Stanfurd (31), ASU (39), Arizona (52), Colorado (54), Cal (58), and OSU (86).
Berkelium97: As usual with these Pac-12 power rankings, I try to evaluate teams solely by their resumes. P5 wins are better than G5 wins, which are better than FCS wins. And close losses to solid competition (Oregon) are better than middling wins over weak competition (Cal). Because it takes a while for teams to build the resumes, some of the rankings will look unusual for the first couple weeks (lol USC). But things should sort themselves out over the course of the season.
ragnarok: Although my preseason rankings were based on the previous season’s results and my impressions based on Spring and Fall practice reports (i.e., nothing but wishes and dreams), I am still taking them into account a little bit during Week 1 (and maybe even Week 2), as otherwise I’d be overreacting to one data point. This way, I have a highly-suspect second data point to overreact to!
Joshua.Morgan: Not too many big changes in my rankings here as most results went as expected in Week 1.
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 (1–0, four first-place votes) ↗
Last week: 2
Alex Ghenis (1): FPI (Nat’l/Pac12): 15/3. Won a rivalry game on the road in a pretty convincing fashion. BYU isn’t elite, but they aren’t a doormat either, so the win deserves some respect. The Utes are listed with the #3 national defensive efficiency rank and #7 overall; offense is still solid (#26 national) and special teams (#93) will need some work. Now, Utah has a couple easier games to prep for USC and WSU later this month. Next game: v. Northern Illinois, 95.5% win chance.
Berkelium97 (1): In traditional Utah fashion, the Utes didn’t look particularly flashy but they smothered the BYU offense and used run after run to churn yards and points against the BYU defense. The edges of the Utah defense looked vulnerable and a faster team may have more success against them.
Leland Wong (1): I always struggle to evaluate Utah because—like Bk97 said—they aren’t designed to blow out their opponents even in dominant wins. (As a general rule of thumb, it’s always in your best interest to follow what Bk97 says.) For my personal ballot, a big win against their archrival was the deciding factor that led to them edging out Oregon’s strong performance in a highly-publicized interconference battle.
Nick Kranz (2): There will be games where Utah will actually have to pass the ball a little bit and so this game didn’t really tell us much other than the obvious, which is that Utah is better than a still-rebuilding BYU.
Joshua.Morgan (2): Utah looked really good. I still don’t understand why they are a dark horse CFP team for some, but they are definitely the overwhelming favorite in the PAC-12 South.
2. Washington Huskies (1–0, seven first-place votes) ↘
Last week: 1
Alex Ghenis (7): FPI (Nat’l/Pac12): 12/1. The Huskies are undoubtedly one of the top-3 teams in the conference, but I’m just going to be true to the formula for now because Washington and Cal are the only conference teams who played FCS opponents this week. Still, UW beat the #3 FCS team in the country in a much more convincing fashion than Cal did against the 5th-ranked FCS team. The transfer QB looked like the real deal, assuaging most concerns about a rebuilding offense. Next game: v Cal, 89.4% win chance.
Berkelium97 (6): The offense was efficient and mostly mistake-free against a decent FCS team (but it’s still an FCS team, so the Huskies don’t get too much credit). Eason had an impressive debut, which should give UW fans some comfort as the conference’s best pass defense comes to town this week.
Nick Kranz (1): All of the areas you might be concerned about (secondary, QB) played quite well. Concerning, as I was hoping UW would struggle more early in the year for the sake of the Bears.
ragnarok (1): I had the Huskies #1 in the preseason poll and they didn’t do anything in Week 1 to lose that distinction (nor did any other team notch a victory good enough to snatch the top spot away from UW).
Joshua.Morgan (1): I also had them at #1 to enter the season and also see no reason for them to give up that top spot after this past week.
3. Washington State Cougars (1–0) ↗
Last week: 4
Alex Ghenis (4): FPI (Nat’l/Pac12): 16/4. I had to double check if New Mexico State was an FBS team—turns out they are an independent, in line with Group-of-5 quality (but with a 3–9 record last year). But come on, that was one hell of a shellacking, so it deserves a high rank. I actually considered putting the Cougars above the Trojans, but respect level for Fresno State held that off. Next game: v Northern Colorado, 99.6% win chance.
Berkelium97 (4): A balanced, efficient offense and a stout defense propel the Cougs to an impressive season-opening win against a woefully unimpressive New Mexico State team.
Nick Kranz (5): What’s that? A brand new WSU quarterback debuting against an awful team by throwing for a kerjillion yards? Well I never!
Joshua.Morgan (4): Leach’s offenses are always going to be good and Anthony Gordon proved he is capable of running the offense this season. This WSU team is going to be very similar to past years (which hopefully means a Cal win this season!).
4. Oregon Ducks (0–1) ↘
Last week: 3
Alex Ghenis (9): FPI (Nat’l/Pac12): 13/2. The Ducks are surely a top team in the conference, but they still lost (a one-score loss to a ranked foe keeps them at the top of the four 0–1 record teams). Hell, they also gave away one of the big opportunities to raise the conference respect level in a high-profile national game with Gameday on hand. The emotional hit from that is enough to drop some spots. Next game: v Nevada, 95.1% win chance.
Berkelium97 (7): Same ol’ Oregon as last year. The Ducks look great at times, but the offense goes into hibernation for long stretches of time. After taking a 21–6 lead with about 20 minutes to go, the Ducks went 3-and-out, 23 yards then a punt, 3-and-out, 3-and-out, 33 yards on 8 plays before turning it over on downs, 13 yards before punting, and finished with a well overthrown hail mary. Herbert had some issues with accuracy last season, but at least that looked better in this game.
Leland Wong (2): I’m far more forgiving of this loss than my colleagues are. The Ducks got a lot of publicity for their game and proved that they can hang with the SEC baddies. (Granted, I know the east-coast bias is strong enough to disregard this performance, but I won’t.) Oregon beautifully addressed one of their offseason concerns by demonstrating some playmakers at receiver and got out ahead early, but just can’t seem to execute in the final minutes against Auburn ever.
Nick Kranz (3): I had Oregon third last week and I didn’t really see a reason to move them. They played a good-not-great Auburn team to a virtual standstill on a neutral site. I suspect that, like last year, the Ducks are good enough to beat many (most?) teams, but fragile enough to lose head-scratchers and blow games.
Joshua.Morgan (3): I also had Oregon at third last week and am not going to change their ranking. I thought the PAC-12 was largely overrated by the polls this year and I never really thought Oregon was going to beat Auburn. They did, however, put up a really good fight that shows that they are definitely going to be a major threat in the PAC-12 this season.
thedozen (4): I docked the Ducks for the moment, but they could easily have won. This game came down to a late fourth-down play which Auburn was able to convert on their way to the winning touchdown. I learned that the Tigers have a defensive end named Big Kat Bryant and am still attempting to process his information.
5. Stanford Cardinal (1–0) ↔
Last week: 5
Alex Ghenis (2): FPI (Nat’l/Pac12): 31/7. The only conference team to win against a Power-5 opponent and it was a Northwestern team that went 9–5 last year. I considered putting Furd #1 using the “formula” of opponent strength… But Furd played at home (as opposed to Utah, on the road) and it was a closer game than Utah–BYU. The loss of QB KJ Costello is concerning for the Trees, but looks like something that might be a shorter-term injury for a few games, if any. Next game: @USC, 38.4% win chance
Berkelium97 (3): The passing offense started strong, continuing last year’s excellent aerial attack, but fizzled once Costello left the game with a head injury. We only have one game to judge so far, but the defense looked better than it did during last year’s unusual step back.
Nick Kranz (5): I’m ranking Stanford on the assumption that Costello isn’t out long term, but if he is, then Stanford is going to have to hope that Northwestern’s 7 points is more reflective of Stanford’s defense than Northwestern’s probably-busted offense.
Joshua.Morgan (5): They won, but they didn’t look amazing. Obviously Costello missed time, but Washington State’s win was definitely more impressive to me.
thedozen (3): Northwestern began life without Clayton Thorson by losing quarterback TJ Green to a foot ailment that could cost him the season. The Wildcats’ backup QB Hunter Johnson followed by throwing two interceptions. Just not a good day for the signal-callers overall when you consider the Costello injury.
6. USC Trojans (1–0) ↗
Last week: 7
Alex Ghenis (3): FPI (Nat’l/Pac12): 27/6. The Trojans won against a damn good Fresno State team coming off a 12–2 season—although with a lot of player turnover. USC’s blue-chip athletes were showing off their speed, shiftiness, and skills; both computers were high on the Trojans based on their talent alone, which seemed to play out on Saturday. The loss of JT Daniels is a potentially-huge problem, although the true-freshman back-up looked serviceable, especially considering USC has a strong running game to lean against. The big caveat: USC plays four ranked teams in the next five games, so they’ll need a balanced attack soon. Next game: v. #25 Stanfurd, 61.6% win chance
Berkelium97 (2): After losing eight starters on offense and five on defense, Fresno State was due to take a step back this season. Still, this is an impressive win for the Trojans.
Leland Wong (7): I’ll give credit to the Trojans for a win over a talented—though rebuilding—squad of Bulldogs, but I also had to ding them a bit for the fanbase anguish as a result of losing Daniels for the season.
Nick Kranz (6): Hard to place USC. On one hand, they beat a legitimately good MWC team. On the other hand, they barely won in part thanks to special teams. And on the other, other hand, they are now relying on a true freshman QB for the rest of the year. I suspect that this will be USC’s high water mark on the season.
ragnarok (9): Based on results on the field, I should rank USC higher, but I’m somewhat discounting their future results based on a) their QB situation, and b) the fact that Clay Helton is still their coach.
Joshua.Morgan (8): USC won against a pretty solid Fresno State team, but the loss of JT Daniels kills any hope they had for this season.
7. Arizona State Sun Devils (1–0) ↗
Last week: 8
Alex Ghenis (6): FPI (Nat’l/Pac12): 39/8. Beat what appears to be a mediocre G5 team, but did so handily. Daniels had a solid stat line and Kent State is a good warm-up contest for the true freshman. Next game: v Sac State, 98.8% win chance.
Berkelium97 (8): True freshman QB Jayden Daniels had an impressive debut, which should allay some of the fears about replacing Manny Wilkins. With next week’s game against Sacramento State, we still have a couple weeks before we learn anything meaningful about this team. Another upset over Michigan State would be quite impressive…
Leland Wong (8): I was skeptical of ASU’s season with a true-freshman quarterback, but you’d have to be quite the nitpicker to have complaints about this first start--granted, it was against poor opposition.
Nick Kranz (7): I moved ASU ahead of Cal since the Sun Devils did a better job beating their lower tier opponents, though it wouldn’t be a shock if UC Davis ended up being a better team than Kent State.
Joshua.Morgan (6): I definitely wasn’t too high on Arizona State coming into the season, but they did perform better than Cal did.
thedozen (8): I don’t think I’ve mentioned a punter before, but Michael Turk’s game average of 63 yards was an NCAA record according to Pac-12 Networks.
8. California Golden Bears (1–0) ↘
Last week: 6
Alex Ghenis (8): FPI (Nat’l/Pac12): 58/11.The defense was suffocating and the only UC Davis TD was off a short field. After the awful first quarter, the Bears seemed to have found their groove enough to cruise to victory. Comparing the stats shows a damn good contest that would have beat the spread well without the 4–1 turnover margin. The turnovers are concerning, but passing game is manageable and the emergence of a running game gives hope for the future. Next game: @UW, 10.6% win chance.
Berkelium97 (9): Being tied with an FCS team late in the third is not a good look. Furthermore, four turnovers and some inconsistency from Garbers suggest that some offensive woes should continue this year. But the running game looks like it might be improved thanks to Christopher Brown’s ability to steamroll opposing defenders. The defense looks like it might take a step forward thanks to some Deng Goode additions at linebacker. I’m not confident that the Bears will upset the Huskies next weekend, but they look like they can keep it close.
Leland Wong (9): I’d like to think that if Cal doesn’t fumble that opening kickoff, then they could be a bit higher on this list. But the teams above them didn’t embarrass themselves the same way and Cal wasn’t able to score against an FCS team until they were 5 minutes into the second quarter. Everyone’s offseason concern for the Bears was the offense—it’s early, but this game would give you little reason to hope that anything got fixed.
Nick Kranz (8): Meet the 2019 Bears, same as the 2018 Bears
ragnarok (8): The Bears’ offense should continue to concern anyone who enjoys watchable football games, but the defense not causing turnovers (despite an otherwise excellent outing) is the trend I’m most hoping is just a blip of small sample sizes.
Joshua.Morgan (7): I personally am going to give the offense one more week before giving up all hope once again. I think we were running a pretty vanilla offense early on and opened up the playbook when we had to, which resulted in a few solid drives. I want to see what how the gameplan and execution is different from this week to next week’s huge game against Washington. That will be the true test for this offense. Until then, I am going to hold onto a little bit of hope, but for now, the UC Davis game wasn’t very encouraging.
9. Colorado Buffaloes (1–0) ↗
Last week: 11
Alex Ghenis (5): FPI (Nat’l/Pac12): 54/10. Beat a so-so G5 team, but CSU is marginally better than Kent State, so the Buffs jump ASU in my rankings. Nebraska didn’t look good this week, so Colorado might be 2–0 after this coming Saturday. Next week: v #24 Nebraska, 51.2% win chance.
Berkelium97 (5): The Buffs defense had four takeaways, but still surrendered 500 yards. The era of stout defenses at Colorado appears to be over. No matter, the offense looks like it can pick up the slack.
Nick Kranz (9): Color me skeptical of the Buffs despite a solid win. For one, we’ve seen Colorado consistently take care of business against the Rams, then fall flat later in the year. For two, this was a very, very even game by yardage that swung on a -4 turnover margin in favor of the Buffs.
Joshua.Morgan (9): I also am not ready to label Colorado as a good team this year. They won a game that they were supposed to win. It was definitely a convincing win, but it was still not a shocking result.
10. UCLA Bruins (0–1) ↔
Last week: 10
Alex Ghenis (11): FPI (Nat’l/Pac12): 25/5. The Bruins didn’t do our conference any good by pulling an Arizona and losing on the road to a Group-of-5 team (granted, one that went 11–2 last year). The defense is nothing special and the offense is really underwhelming, with Dorain Thompson Robinson under-performing the hype that was given to him. Even though FPI somehow still has UC L.A. at #25 nationally (down from preseason #20), they show the Bruins’ efficiency as #80 offense, #47 defense, #72 special teams, and #58 overall nationally. Pretty sure things will keep moving downward, numbers-wise, as the season goes forward. Next game: v SDSU, 90.3% win chance.
Berkelium97 (11): The pass offense was abysmal, as DTR completed fewer than one-third of his passes. They had a couple explosive passing plays, but were unable to muster any sort of production otherwise. Somehow, the pass defense was even worse as Cincinnati was able to throw underneath their coverage all day. This looks like a long, long year in Westwood.
Leland Wong (12): The game never felt as close as the 10-point difference in score and was arguably the worst loss of the conference due to the combination of point difference and opponent perception. But the Bruins undoubtedly earn my vote for the worst team this week due to the hideous statline of DTR and for faceplanting after such illogically-high preseason expectations.
Nick Kranz (10): Cincinnati is a legit team with a legit defense, but the Bruins still looked ghastly on offense. Joshua Kelley is good, but losing him shouldn’t have such a drastic impact.
Joshua.Morgan (10): Oh my goodness. That offense looked horrific. I did not understand the UCLA hype coming into the year to begin with, but I surely don’t understand it now.
thedozen (10): I attended last year’s Bruins/Bearcats match-up and Cincinnati RB Michael Warren II was the star of that game too. Demetric Felton’s long touchdown reception was one of the few highlights for UCLA.
11T. Arizona Wildcats (0–1) ↘
Last week: 9
Alex Ghenis (12): FPI (Nat’l/Pac12): 52/9. Embarrassing. Hawaii is a middle-of-the-road G5 team, but Arizona couldn’t find a steady offense to capitalize on a ridiculous turnover margin. Last place. Next game: v Northern Arizona, 96.6% win chance
Berkelium97 (12): Hawaii turned the ball over SIX TIMES and still managed to put up 45 points and nearly 500 yards on the Arizona defense. Khalil Tate should still be a nightmare for opposing defensive coordinators, but Arizona’s defensive situation looks equally nightmarish.
Nick Kranz (12): There’s a decent chance that Hawaii will turn out to be an okay MWC team and Arizona still might end up with a dangerous offense, but there’s no way to paint this as anything other than a major letdown.
ragnarok (11): Arizona is a prime example of one data point perhaps causing an overreaction. Are they going to be good this year? No, but we knew that. Are the Wildcats the worst team in the conference? Until Oregon State proves otherwise, I don’t think so.
Joshua.Morgan (10): Yeah, that game was a pretty bad look.
11T. Oregon State Beavers (0–1) ↗
Last week: 12
Alex Ghenis (10): FPI (Nat’l/Pac12): 86/12. The Beavers lost, but against a somewhat-well-respected Power-5 Oklahoma State team and the offense actually looked reasonable in the process. That defense, though… It’ll be tough to win games giving up that many points and yards. Next game: @Hawaii, 26.5% win chance
Berkelium97 (10): Last year the Beavs have the second-worst run defense in the nation and after one game, they’re right back at second-worst in the nation. The offense looks reasonably competent, however. They’re good enough to upset someone in the Pac-12 this year.
Nick Kranz (11): I’m pretty confident that they’re still the worst team in the conference and their defense is definitely still have the single worst unit in the conference, but putting up some points against a real opponent earns them a one-week reprieve from the basement.
ragnarok (12): Unlike Nick, I’m not so generous. Losing to the other orange-and-black OSU isn’t the worst, but for me, the Beavers are last in the Power Rankings until they prove otherwise.
Leland Wong (11): This isn’t a belief that they aren’t the worst team in the conference, but more of a statement that losing badly when you’re expected to do so isn’t as impactful in power rankings. A classic example of how my votes here would differ from a pure strength-based scale.
Joshua.Morgan (12): They honestly did better than I thought they would against Oklahoma State, but I still think they will definitely be the worst team in the conference this season.
We’ll kick off the extended analysis with the foundation that brought us here—the individual votes from our 11 voters.
Table 1. How we voted after the Week 1 games
|10||OSU||OSU||UC L.A.||Arizona||Arizona||UC L.A.||UC L.A.||OSU||UC L.A.||Colorado||Arizona|
|11||UC L.A.||UC L.A.||OSU||UC L.A.||OSU||OSU||OSU||UC L.A.||Arizona||UC L.A.||UC L.A.|
We take all of the votes that each team gave (even those fools who didn’t vote UCLA to be 12th) and find the mathematical average. You may notice there’s a looooot of disagreement in the votes (Table 1) since there’s so little data and so much variability in what criteria we use to evaluate teams, so we’ll capture that using standard deviation. A small standard deviation means we were all in agreement—like Utah was in the top two for all of us. A large standard deviation means there was a wide range of responses—for example, Oregon’s votes were inconsistent because we weren’t in agreement on how to grade a singular loss when it’s at a neutral site, highly-publicized, and against a team that will probably be pretty tough. The averaged scores are ordered to give the main list above and shown in the columns of Figure 1; the standard deviations for each team are shown by the error bars.
One of the interesting aspects of this week’s data is that the team that earned the most first-place votes (Washington) was not the highest-ranked team mainly due to two voters (Alex and Bk97) whose strict criteria led them to penalize the Huskies for only massacring an FCS team—bad dogs!
There are also some pretty big standard deviations on the teams, indicating that we were very much inconsistent in grading the teams. Based on this measure, the teams that we were in most disagreement over were USC, Washington, Oregon, and Colorado. I’m not surprised to see three of those teams, but I didn’t expect Colorado; seems like we struggled on rewarding them for beating a Group of 5 team (that struggled last year, but has done all right under Mike Bobo) in a rivalry team vs. those who can’t shake their suspicions that Colorado just isn’t there yet.
And now that we have two weeks worth of rankings, we can start to add time as a dimension to our analysis—how are teams performing over the course of the season? Check Figure 2 for the answer—an answer that might surprise you!
Here, we see that Colorado had the biggest jump—nearly three points. On the flipside, three teams (Oregon, Cal, and Arizona) had big falls of roughly two points.
Another takeaway from Figure 2 is a look at how teams are starting to cluster based on their strength. This isn’t always perfect, but it can happen when we are unanimous in perceiving one team as opposed to us being conflicted about a group of other teams. In Figure 2, I would argue there are four tiers. The top tier—Utah and Washington—had solid wins to go along with high preseason expectations. Oregon dropped out of that group to join Wazzu and Stanfurd as teams with question marks or concerns—either a loss or some concerns about their ability to rebuild this year. Then, there’s a group of teams that will probably destroy each other for bowl-eligibility in classic Pac-12 fashion (USC, ASU, Cal, and Colorado). And after all of that, we’ve got the Pac-12 basement, consisting of three teams that struggled last year and managed to lose their opening games; will UC Los Angeles, Arizona, and Oregon State continue to occupy the basement in 2019?
We can tune out some of this high-resolution data by simply graphing the rounded rankings for each team (Fig. 3).
I’ll point out two observations that we’ve lost by turning down the resolution from Fig. 2 to Fig. 3. Firstly, the near-tie of WSU, Oregon, and Stanfurd is no longer evident as they appear to be happily settled in discrete places. Secondly, Colorado’s big ascent looks less impactful here as the gain of three points turns into a gain of two rounded points. Figure 3 certainly looks cleaner than Figure 2, but we’ve lost some of this information.
By audience suggestion, we’ve started tracking how much teams are moving up and down our rankings and terming it the Madness score (Fig. 4). Only time will tell which school will claim the title of Maddest team for 2019; to me, it seems like Cal and USC are typically contenders among this very biased group of voters.
There’s one last figure I’d like to leave you with, which I introduced in the final 2018 rankings. I have taken the precise rankings that each team received this year (Fig. 2) and averaging them to capture the average position that each team has held at this point in the season—averageception (Fig. 5). I guess we could take this insanity a step further and measure this average-average over time, but I think that would be too much...
I’m not sure if Figure 5 brings any value or is interesting, so let me know what you think.
Next week, should be helpful for this exercise because we’ll get some comparative evidence between teams. For one, we get an early treat of two conference games, so it’ll help a bit to have direct comparisons between teams. But perhaps of utmost excitement, Oregon State will play Hawaii, so having a shared foe between our two basement-dwellers may help decide who’s bringing up the rear.
Trying your best to be objective, how would you rank Cal after the UC Davis game?
This poll is closed