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Final Pac-12 Power Rankings: RIP to the 2019 season and to this series on CGB

Pour one out for the Power Rankings.

Medieval Fantasy Spectaculum Photo by Peter Steffen/picture alliance via Getty Images

Leland Wong: This is the end. A line that reminds me of a song that I loved, but I can’t really listen to in the wake of #MeToo.

But this is the final edition of our Pac-12 Power Rankings for the 2019 season, recapping the bowl season and the season overall. In this series, your Pac-12 writers are here to evaluate the conference by performance and fanbase sentiment—though we typically focus on the latest week, we tend to be a bit more holistic in the year-end ranking.

  • Las Vegas Bowl: Washington def. #19 Boise State, 38–7
  • Holiday Bowl: #16 Iowa def. #22 USC, 49–24
  • Cheez-It Bowl: Air Force def. Washington State, 31–21
  • Redbox Bowl: California def. Illinois, 35–20
  • Sun Bowl: Arizona State def. Florida State, 20–14
  • Alamo Bowl: Texas def. #11 Utah, 38–10
  • Rose Bowl: #6 Oregon def. #8 Wisconsin, 28–27
  • No bowl: Arizona, Colorado, Oregon State, Stanfurd, and UC Los Angeles.

As I went through my personal rankings, I realized that there was no better way to recognize and honor how volatile the 2019 rankings were than to continue to focus more heavily on the weekly result. My votes are going to be a little funny this week because of that, but it’ll all get washed out by the other votes, so don’t get too rustled.

Alex G: Per usual, each of my posts will start with the team’s computer rankings both nationally and in conference (I’m only doing FPI and using the rankings on January 5 because that’s what’s available as of me writing this post). As for main talking points: the conference has a clear leader of Oregon while Utah still deserves to be second despite losing the Alamo Bowl, considering double-digit wins and an 8–2 conference record (albeit with a mediocre schedule). Four teams are in the next tier at 8–5, including three bowl winners that went 4–5 in conference and one bowl loser that went 7–2 in conference—so that’s a fun jumble to straighten out. Finally, a full six teams had overall losing records (including 6–7 WSU after its bowl loss, two 5–7 teams, and three 4–8 teams), but that collection’s a bit easier to sort out. I also think that the trajectory of a program and off-season sentiments (good, bad, or otherwise) should fit into post-season power rankings—so at the end of each write up, I’ll explain how those fit into the bigger picture. Finally, thanks for following the Power Rankings this year and thanks to all the other writers who contributed to it!

Christopher_h: My rankings are based on a final judgment of the team’s season. I was very tempted to include early NFL declarations on a team’s ranking, but felt that I can just wait until next preseason to update these rankings.

ragnarok: We should all be up-front and acknowledge that the bowl game results, while generally meaningless in the grand scheme of things and being just one of ~13 games on the schedule, will have an outsized impact on both our perception of the success/failure of this season, as well as our collective optimism/pessimism heading into 2020.

Berkelium97: While my rankings all season have accounted for what a team has accomplished on its resume (especially in more recent games), this final ranking also looks ahead to how each team/fanbase should be feeling heading into the offseason. So teams with more uncertainty (e.g., UW’s attrition on the staff and on the roster) will fare worse than their peers with more stability.

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 (12–2, 8–1 Pac-12, eleven first-place votes) ↗

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 01 Rose Bowl - Oregon v Wisconsin Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Last week: 2

Alex G (1): FPI: 6/1 (Nat’l/Pac12). Oregon finished with the best overall and in-conference records in the Pac 12, earning a conference championship and a Rose Bowl win over eighth-ranked Wisconsin to close things out. They also looked like a more impressive team than the 12–1 Oklahoma squad that got destroyed by LSU in the Playoff semifinal. Of course, Oregon will need to figure out how to replace a decorated quarterback and other departures to graduation and the NFL, but recent recruiting successes (and becoming a draw for talented transfers) will make that at least a bit easier. The overall records, successes and apparent stability make the Ducks a clear #1.

Leland Wong (1): Conference champions who lost merely two games by a combined nine points. They struggled to get the passing game going in the Rose Bowl, but won thanks to three rushing touchdowns by the hometown hero Justin Herbert—for a sickeningly feel-good story.

Christopher_h (1): Oregon managed to pull out a gutsy upset win late in the fourth quarter against a team that was dominating them physically. QB Justin Herbert is leaving, but Oregon is stockpiling 5-star talent at an alarming rate—and will have a really scary defense next year.

ragnarok (1): The clear conference leader—and the Early Signing Day results just pile it on. Oregon should be the Pac-12 team to beat in 2020, even having to replace talent lost to the NFL.

Berkelium97 (1): They looked shaky at times during the Rose Bowl and likely would have lost if Wisconsin had some semblance of ball security, but Oregon was the only top-tier Pac-12 team to finish the season on a high note. With the graduation of Herbert and his entire O-line, the offense will take a step back, but the defense should be enough to make Oregon a Pac-12 title contender.

Piotr T Le (1): Winner winner, not Duck for dinner. With most of their defense returning with a massive influx of defensive talent coming in (two 5* LBs?!) they are poised to become a grind-out-win team. With the Rose Bowl being a CFP bowl, all roses go through Oregon.

2. Utah Utes (11–3, 8–1 Pac-12) ↘

NCAA Football: Alamo Bowl-Utah vs Texas Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

Last week: 1

Alex G (2): FPI: 14/2 (Nat’l/Pac12). Utah got exposed in its final two games against good competition—especially for the touted defensive front-seven and offensive line that were supposed to be key pieces to their stout defense and power-running schemes. The early loss at USC looks even worse after the Trojans’ Holiday Bowl flop. Still, the Utes made it to the Pac-12 Championship, had a double-digit-win season, and were just behind Oregon with a second-best conference record of 8–2. They beat all three teams I put third through fifth, as well. The biggest off-season concerns in Utah are the makeup of the future offensive staff and how to replace several key players, including conference-rushing-leader Zach Moss.

Leland Wong (5): I’m punishing them excessively harshly, but I have to recognize their late-season slip and their lack that many quality wins—although they were absolutely destructive in dismantling their inferior opponents. But the Power Rankings recognize latest results and they got crushed in their last two games—including being held scoreless in both first halves.

Christopher_h (2): Definitely a disappointing end to the season for Utah, but they still have a bevy of talented transfer QBs and I’m sure they’ll keep pumping out stars along that defensive line. It seems unlikely that anyone will be able to challenge them for the Pac-12 South crown any time soon.

thedozen (2): Power Rankings sometimes heavily emphasize the most recent games, but ultimately it felt wrong to punish what had been the #11 team in the nation even after their loss to Texas.

Berkelium97 (3): What an absolutely brutal way to end the season. I’d expect USC to put in a let-down performance like that, but a Whittingham-coached team? Mystifying.

3. California Golden Bears (8–5, 4–5 Pac-12) ↗

NCAA Football: Redbox Bowl-California vs Illinois Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Last week: 4

Alex G (3): FPI: 52/7 (Nat’l/Pac12). My #3–5 are the trio of teams that finished 8–5 and with a bowl win (Cal, Washington, & ASU). Just with head-to-head matchups, it should go ASU –> Cal –> Washington, but a few things bumped the Bears up for me. First, there is major optimism around the program—in general and for the upcoming season. Cal would likely have double-digit wins if Chase Garbers had stayed healthy the whole year. The Bears seem on a major upward trajectory with a bevy of returning starters and good roster depth, with a favorable 2020 schedule that places many tough games at home. On the other hand, ASU looked good in a weaker division with a good outlook toward 2020 and the Huskies might encounter some turbulence with coaching and roster turnover. Homerism might also play a factor in putting Cal #3, but that’s how life goes sometimes. (Fun fact: FPI’s adjusted win-loss, described as a “Team’s W-L adjusted for chance an average FBS team would have team’s record or better, given the schedule,” is 10–3, which is 28th nationally and 4th in the conference).

Leland Wong (3): Another team that outperformed expectations to earn eight wins this year, the team was able to win four of the last five—including the Redbox Bowl—when they were collectively healthier, including some stunning offensive efficiency that came out of nowhere. Other factors contributing to their ranking include the hiring of Bill Musgrave at OC and splitting the games against ASU and Washington.

Christopher_h (4): A healthy Chase Garbers completely reversed the narrative on Cal’s offensive ineptitude. I’m sure we’ll still hear more of the same next year, even though our offense is likely to improve while our defense is likely to regress without our NFL-bound seniors on the defense.

thedozen (3): As I watched the Redbox Bowl, I thought it was fantastic to see the passing game so effective even if it didn’t result in a victory. As it turns out, you can have your cake and eat it too. Also, I can confirm that a few Illinois fans are still booing as I write this.

ragnarok (3): The Bears can haz a functional offense? We’re going to read too much into one game against an Illinois team that finished 6–7, but the comfortable 15-point margin of victory was the largest of the season and the fourth-largest of Wilcox’s tenure and leads one to dream of bigger things in 2020. Cal has been gritty and won a lot of close games, but if the Bears want to ever get past the 7–8 win barrier, they’re going to have to start putting points on the board and stop getting into coin-flip rock-fights every week. While I ranked the Bears third this time, there’s a large gap between them and Oregon/Utah at the top and not much of a gap at all between them and Washington/ASU for fourth and fifth.

Berkelium97 (4): As the announcers were eager to remind us all evening, this was a team that was undefeated when Garbers started and finished games. It’s hard not to wonder what could have been if Chase had stayed healthy—the ASU and OSU games probably turn into wins and an upset in Eugene would have been possible. The replacement of Baldwin should bode well for an offense that struggled throughout most of his tenure. And although the defense has to replace its heart and soul following Evan Weaver’s graduation, this coaching staff should still field a great, but probably not elite, defense next season. The future is as bright in Berkeley as it has been since the first half of Tedford’s tenure.

Piotr T Le (4): In LA, we had (and probably still do) had a radio commercial where the announcer said “would’a could’a, east would’a”. In the case of Cal, the “would’a could’a” applies—if Chase never went down against ASU for an extended time, do we get the ASU and OSU (and hell, even Oregon) wins?

4. Arizona State Sun Devils (8–5, 4–5 Pac-12) ↗

NCAA Football: Sun Bowl-Arizona State vs Florida State Ivan Pierre Aguirre-USA TODAY Sports

Last week: 5

Alex G (5): FPI: 44/6 (Nat’l/Pac12). ASU had one of the most roller coaster–like seasons I can remember, including close losses against Colorado, UCLA, USC and OSU, plus a statement win against Oregon to (almost) close out the season. They did their best to turn the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl into the 2018 Interception-Bowl-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named, but got the conference a win this time against a so-so Florida State team. The growth of a skinny-yet-talented true freshman quarterback near the end of the season was promising and Jayden Daniels with another full off-season will build optimism for the Sun Devils for 2020.

Leland Wong (2): They finished the season on quite the hot streak—breaking a four-game losing streak with an upset win over the Pac-12 champs, a win over their archrival for the Territorial Cup, and a bowl win (in which their defense nabbed three picks). The future looks as bright as the Tempe sun for Herm Edwards despite riding a true-freshman quarterback.

Christopher_h (5): Do you give credit to the ASU defense for the ridiculous six turnovers that FSU coughed up? ASU’s defense is one of those that looks much better on paper. Credit to them for pulling out a win without their two best players on offense, RB Eno Benjamin and WR Brandon Aiyuk, but they did so with about half as many yards on offense as FSU. We all know that ridiculous turnover numbers aren’t sustainable and a lot of ASU’s turnovers are the fluky kind. There will be a lot more pressure on QB Jayden Daniels to continue growing as a quarterback if they hope to improve their record next year.

Berkelium97 (6): Outgained 470–282 and failing to score an offensive TD, the Devils squeaked past the Seminoles thanks to FSU’s astonishing six turnovers. I’d be more optimistic about the team if they had retained their offensive staff, but apparently Herm has other ideas. Nevertheless, the offense should be in good shape next year thanks to the return of Jayden Daniels.

5. Washington Huskies (8–5, 4–5 Pac-12) ↗

NCAA Football: Las Vegas Bowl-Boise State vs Washington Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Last week: 6

Alex G (4): FPI: 16/3 (Nat’l/Pac12). Washington could easily be ahead of Cal, as both finished with identical records and the Huskies were more dominant against a better team in their bowl game. Both computers I’ve tracked (SP+ and FPI) also think Washington is a much better team and I’m pretty sure UW would beat Cal on a neutral field more often than not. There are a couple things holding them back, though—mainly the head-to-head loss against Cal plus several question marks on coaching and roster turnover heading into 2020. It’ll be interesting to follow the Huskies in the off-season.

Leland Wong (4): On the one hand, their final record belies how utterly dominant they were in their wins, which on its own should result in a better ranking. However, they have two questionable losses and came into the season with quite a glut of hype, so I penalize them for that. They easily handled an overwhelmed Boise State (see above about dominant wins), but losing Chris Petersen leaves the Huskies with uncertainty looming over them like a rain cloud.

Christopher_h (6): Washington played up to their potential in handling Boise State, but the loss of QB Jacob Eason next year is going to hurt. This is a team with a lot of uncertainty for next year with Chris Petersen stepping away from coaching and UW in need of improvement after a disappointing season (remember, they opened as the favorites to win the Pac-12 this year).

ragnarok (4): With its talent level, Washington really should have finished better than 8–5 and with all the big wins and close losses (five by a total of 26 points), they weren’t that far off from something like 10–2. The Huskies continue to recruit well and should be favored behind Oregon in the Pac-12 North next year.

Berkelium97 (5): Petersen ends his career on a high note, but 2020 looks murky for the Huskies. I’m expecting a regression from their borderline-elite status over the last few years to merely good.

6. USC Trojans (8–5, 7–2 Pac-12) ↘

NCAA Football: Holiday Bowl-Southern California vs Iowa Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Last week: 3

Alex G (6): FPI: 23/4 (Nat’l/Pac12). USC finished with the same overall record (8–5) as three teams I ranked ahead of them (Cal, Washington and ASU) and had the best conference record at 7–2 (the other trio were all 4–5). Yet, the other trio won their bowl games while USC lost in a pretty embarrassing fashion to close things out—and that counts in Power Rankings. The biggest reason for being sixth, though, is an angry fan base for USC retaining Clay Helton; there were already grumbles before the Holiday Bowl despite a second-place finish in the South, but getting demolished by Iowa made those cries louder (of course, they are moot because the AD had already committed to keeping Helton). A tiny recruiting class doesn’t help off-season concerns, either.

Leland Wong (6): Typical disclaimer that this is not an indication that they’re the sixth-best team in the conference as their losses—except for BYU—were all at the hands of ranked teams and are the only eight-win team with a winning Pac-12 record. But on the other hand, they were the only eight-win team to lose their bowl game (getting blown out, in fact), they’re in the midst o signing their worst recruiting class in ages, and the fanbase is generally pretty distraught over the return of Clay Helton rather than securing Urban Meyer.

Christopher_h (3): To be clear, Iowa QB Nate Stanley is a very talented quarterback, but this is no excuse for how badly USC’s defense was shredded. Iowa posted a season-high 49 points in a season that included such luminaries as Middle Tennessee, Rutgers, and Miami (OH). Iowa only managed 19 points in a win against Illinois, whereas Cal just put up 35 on them. Therefore, I can only surmise that Cal and a healthy Garbers will put up 90.26 points against USC next year.

thedozen (6): Just when you thought Trojan fans disliked Clay Helton enough, the Holiday Bowl happened. The injury to Kedon Slovis didn’t help their cause, either.

Berkelium97 (2): Yeah, they were blown out of the Holiday Bowl but the future is pretty bright for this offense (especially if they aren’t down to their eighth-string QB by halftime of the season opener). If they can upgrade the D-coordinator, this team will have a good shot at winning the Pac-12.

Piotr T Le (6): USC is #6 solely because of one thing: HC Helton. With an abysmal recruiting class (65th per Rivals—for comparison, they are right above Bowling Green and under Arizona) and a team bailed out by the hire of OC Graham Harrell and emergence of QB Kedon Slovis, how could one describe the SC Trojans as anything but a middling team akin to Troy after the death of Hector?

7. Washington State Cougars (6–7, 3–6 Pac-12) ↔

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 27 Cheez-It Bowl - Air Force v Washington State Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Last week: 7T

Alex G (8): FPI: 31/5 (Nat’l/Pac12). WSU had a massive collapse this year from 2018’s 11–2 campaign that ended with the Cougars ranked tenth nationally. The Cougars finished at fifth in the North, tying Furd at 3–6 in conference play and ended with a closer-than-it-looked loss to a 10-win Air Force team en route to an overall losing record. What blew me away about the Cheez-It Bowl was how Air Force was set up perfectly to defeat a Mike Leach team—be a run-first team, eat up the clock as much as possible, use 10-plus-minute drives if you can, and do your darndest to shut down the WSU passing game. It was an entertaining match-up of the most lopsided offenses in the country (Air Force toward the run, and WSU toward the pass), but it was also kind of painful to watch. Either way, WSU’s mediocre record, their weak OOC strength-of-schedule, and ending with a bowl loss doesn’t scream greatness.

Leland Wong (7): At least they managed to go bowling?

Christopher_h (8): My Pac-12 betting strategy this bowl season: bet on every Pac-12 team except USC (since they’re always overrated/overvalued). I realized I was in trouble in the WSU–Air Force game during the opening drive—Wazzu went for it on fourth down and failed and Air Force easily ran the ball down their throat. I thought Wazzu’s weak secondary wouldn’t matter against a team that rarely throws the ball, but Wazzu struggled to stop anything on defense. As if that wasn’t enough, Air Force stopped Wazzu on fourth down two more times, with one of those stops again in the red zone. Wazzu will still have good receivers and I’m sure they’ll again find a good quarterback out of nowhere, but this team was so bad defensively that not even the best offense could have carried them.

Berkelium97 (8): I bet they took one look at the name “Air Force” and figured they wouldn’t run the ball.

8. Oregon State Beavers (5–7, 4–5 Pac-12) ↘

Washington v Oregon State Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Last week: 7T

Alex G (7): FPI: 60/10 (Nat’l/Pac12). OSU (5–7) and WSU (6–7) battled it out for seventh and eighth on my rankings, but OSU gets the nod because of the better conference record (4–5 vs. 3–6) and because they are going in a more upward trajectory, whereas WSU had a huge drop-off from last year. As far as I know, the staffing situation in Corvallis is pretty stable and any turnover might make a positive difference. I certainly don’t mind rooting for the Beavers in general against any team but Cal, just because they have the feel of an under-the-radar underdog (even if they are favored in a given game).

Leland Wong (8): I considered going even higher than the Beavs, as they were the team that most exceeded preseason expectations and have the brightest future. Ultimately, they’re the best bowl-ineligible team and should continue moving upward.

Christopher_h (7): Oregon State should have been in the bowl game over Washington State. They’ll need to find someone to replace QB Jake Luton, but they still have a solid run game with RB Jermar Jefferson and a defense clearly on the upswing. Look for OSU to be a solid middle-of-the-PAC team next year.

ragnarok (8): The Beavs are headed in the right direction and this has to be one of the more feel-good 5–7 teams in recent memory. After just one conference win over the previous two seasons, the Beavs improved to 4–5 in Pac-12 play—their best showing since 2013.

Berkelium97 (7): The loss to Wazzu probably still stings, but this program is clearly moving in the right direction. Retaining OC Brian Lindgren was a major win for the program. I will not at all be surprised if the Beavs are bowling next season.

9. Colorado Buffaloes (5–7, 3–6 Pac-12) ↔

Colorado V Utah Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images

Last week: 9

Alex G (9): FPI: 71/11 (Nat’l/Pac12). The Buffaloes weathered many injuries on their way to a losing season—overall and in conference play—and a fifth-place finish in the South. They also had decent-to-impressive wins against Nebraska, ASU, and Washington. I honestly don’t know too much about what is going on in Boulder now that the season’s ended, except that senior QB Steven Montez is leaving and they are mid-rebuild in general. As far as rankings go, though, the overall record fits pretty well at ninth place.

Leland Wong (9): Huge kudos to the Buffaloes for an impressively (and for other Pac-12 teams, terrifyingly) smooth transition into the Mel Tucker era, featuring wins over rival Colorado State, rival and then-ranked Nebraska, ranked Arizona State, and Pac-12 stalwarts (Stanfurd and Washington). I actually wish I could rank them higher for this, but there’s only so much they can achieve without bowl eligibility this year.

Christopher_h (9): This feels pretty high for this team, but it’s crowded at the bottom. Colorado showed flashes of promise on defense at various points of the season under new coach Mel Tucker, but they struggled overall. With their offense likely go take a huge step back without WR Laviska Shenault and QB Steven Montez, I’d be shocked if Colorado wasn’t at or near the bottom of the Pac-12 next year.

Berkelium97 (9): Like Christopher_h, I feel this ranking is too high for the Buffs. But the Buffs deserve to sit just above the trash heap that is the bottom of the Pac-12.

10. UC Los Angeles Bruins (4–8, 4–5 Pac-12) ↔

NCAA Football: Cactus Bowl-Kansas State vs UCLA Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Last week: 10

Alex G (10): FPI: 58/8 (Nat’l/Pac12). The Bruins are tied with the Cardinal and Wildcats for worst overall records at 4–8, but UC L.A. was much better in conference play at 4–5 (they also lost the head-to-head game at Arizona and won at the Farm). A competitive home win against ASU showed that the Bruins had potential and four of their eight losses came against teams with double-digit wins (including every out-of-conference opponent). There’s plenty of unhappy fans in Pasadena—and Chip still has a huge buyout—but this same team with a different schedule and/or better roster depth easily could have been bowling.

Leland Wong (10): The UC L.A. nation continues to be in anguish over the seemingly bad hire of Chip Kelly outweighs the admirable in-conference record. Their season could have been regarded so starkly differently had their non-conference slate not featured opponents that each won at least ten games.

Christopher_h (10): UCLA is lucky to be in the same division as Arizona, as Chip Kelly’s squandering of talent and line-up mismanagement is much less conspicuous as a result. Expect UCLA to post a slightly improved record next year against a softer schedule, before early-season optimism gives way to reality and UCLA again fails to reach a bowl.

ragnarok (11): I’m kind of mystified by how bad UCLA is. I know Chip Kelly wasn’t exactly a success in the NFL, but the difference in his results between Eugene and Westwood is stark.

Berkelium97 (10): So I guess they’re going to keep trying this Chip Kelly thing.

Piotr T Le (11): Chip Kelly has probably 6-7 games left of UCLA’s patience before he’s dropped off on the section of the Walk of Stars that no one knows about. DTR’s development seemed to have come to a stand-still and not much else going for them (if Cal’s hallmark in 2019 was the defense what was UCLA’s?).

11. Stanfurd Cardinal (4–8, 3–6 Pac-12) ↔

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 17 UCLA at Stanford Photo by Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Last week: 11

Alex G (12): FPI: 59/9 (Nat’l/Pac12). Furd and Arizona battle it out for twelfth in my rankings—they are both 4–8 overall, while Arizona is 2–7 in conference play and Stanfurd is 3–6. Why are the Cardinal twelfth, if they have the better conference record? Well, while Arizona is trying to figure out a rebuild from the conference gutter, Stanfurd is in freefall from being a conference contender. There’s apparently discord in the locker room, over one dozen players have entered the transfer portal, and this is the first bowl-less season in over a decade. That just feels like failure to me.

Leland Wong (11): I came so close to giving them the bottom spot because they had the biggest fall from preseason expectations, but they have a one-game advantage (and head-to-head) over Arizona and finished the season with a mere four-game losing streak (compared to the apocalyptical six-game fall in Tucson). Still, there’s a damn compelling argument that Stanfurd deserves the bottom as the team is bleeding players to the transfer portal and leaking optimism and faith in David Shaw for the first time in his career.

Christopher_h (12): Without players like RB Christian McCaffrey and a ridiculous offensive line, Stanford lacks the personnel to continue playing their Boring-Ball offense. Stanford fans are optimistic about QB Davis Mills, which makes sense given how little else this team has to be optimistic about.

ragnarok (10): I think the Stanfurd program is still in better shape than several of the other Pac-12 teams that missed bowl games, but boy was 2019 a dud of a season for David Shaw’s crew. Of their eight losses, six were not close and only one of their wins (vs. Washington) was over a team with a winning record.

Berkelium97 (12): The Lobsterbacks ended the season with four consecutive losses and then half the program transferred out. I hope they’re nowhere close to rock bottom.

Piotr T Le (10): A rebuilding year for the Cardinal. However, is there much to build on? They will keep getting high-level recruits (25th in NCAA, 18 recruits with one 5*, and seven 4*); however, will Shaw find a way to use them? 2020 doesn’t look like a good season with Mills struggling throughout the season.

12. Arizona Wildcats (4–8, 2–6 Pac-12) ↔

NCAA Football: Arizona at Arizona State Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Last week: 12

Alex G (11): FPI: 72/12 (Nat’l/Pac12). Three teams finished at 4–8 overall, but Arizona had the worst record in conference play at 2–7 and finished last in the South. Arizona has also been on a slide since about 2014, when they finished ranked #19 in the country, were first place in the South and held a 10–4 overall record. Since then, they’ve reached bowls just twice (both seasons ending 7–6) and had a rock-bottom 2016 season at 3–9 overall and 1–8 in conference play. The struggle to arise from mediocrity is pretty darn tough and this season was surely on the lower-end of mediocrity. That’s the very reason I have the Wildcats at #11 and not #12, though—Arizona is a bad team that’s used to being bad and is hoping for improvement, while my #12 (Stanfurd, also 4–8 overall, but 3–6 in conference) is in freefall from regular conference contender to division bottom-dweller. A fan base of a mediocre team is disappointed, but not destroyed by a mediocre year—but a fan base used to winning thinks a bad season is the end of the world, possibly enough to jump ship. Arizona is better off in that regard, which earns an eleventh-place ranking.

Leland Wong (12): Tied for the worst overall record, but the proud sole possessor of the worst Pac-12 record—this has to leave them questioning if they made the right hire in Kevin Sumlin. That’s the kind of anguish that Pac-12 basements are made of.

Christopher_h (11): No matter how you look at it, going 4–8 when it’s not a rebuilding year has to be considered a failure. With an experienced (and extremely athletic) senior quarterback and senior running back, Kevin Sumlin managed to post an even worse record than the year before and players look to have regressed more and more each year.

Berkelium97 (11): The good news is that the coaching staff will not waste Khalil Tate’s supreme talent next season. The bad news—everything else.

Piotr T Le (12): They bad.

The data

With the final season of the 2010s in the books, let’s look at the final votes that we submitted.

Table 1. Our final votes of the 2019 season. And (probably) our final votes on SBN.

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

From here, we taking the numerical ranks that each team received and calculate the mathematical mean to summarize how we as a group perceived each team, which gives the above rankings in the main body of this post. We can also chart out the season’s entire rankings to see how the teams grew and fell (Fig. 1).

Figure 1. The teams’ performances in 2019.

We see that bowl season was not friendly for USC. Despite having the best in-conference record of four teams tied at 8–5 overall, they plummeted to the bottom of this cohort. A comparison of these final rankings to our preseason assessments is shown in Table 2. If we sum up those little changes, we have a total change in position of 32... which is mostly meaningless because we don’t really have a reference to evaluate that number.

Table 2. The change in rank from the preseason to today.

Team Final change
Team Final change
Arizona -3
Cal 3
Colorado 2
Oregon 2
Stanfurd -6
UC L.A. 0
Utah 0
Washington -4
WSU -3

However, the mathematical mean actually has a little more precision than the rounded rankings in the post and in Figure 1. These precise rankings are graphed as columns in Figure 2; the error bars represent the standard deviation and show how varied our responses were for each team. The three largest standard deviations belong to three of the four teams in the aforementioned 8–5 group—USC, Arizona State, and California.

Figure 2. The final precise votes of the Pac-12 conference.

These precise, mean ranks can also be graphed across time (Fig. 3).

Figure 3. The precise rankings for 2019.

The precise ranks show a clear division down the middle of the conference. The top half of the conference all ended the season with winning records, while the bottom half lost more games than they won—including the bowl-eligible Cougars. The gap bifurcating these two halves increased since last week by over 10%.

We can also take a look at how much the teams moved up and down the rankings—the Madness of the season (Fig. 4a). It was a relatively quiet week with the only big mover being USC’s drop, resulting in just the third week with a single-digit Madness. Speaking of single digits, there’s only one school with a single-digit Madness score for the season and that would be the Ducks. That they managed to be so consistent at the top of the conference and so early in Mario Cristobal’s tenure is pretty impressive. Figure 4b shows how each school’s total Madness grew over time and that California will end the season an absurd lead over all other schools. And while I think we are a volatile, reactionary fanbase, I also think there’s some justification behind this due to our hot-cold-hot streak and injury woes making us question what our true team is.

Figure 4a. The Madness of 2019.
Figure 4b. The Total Madness as it accumulated over 2019.

Our misfit feature in this series is to take a look at the average position that each team has held across the whole season; Figure 5a shows this column graph for the season up to this point while Figure 5b shows how that average changed with each passing week. Here we have three clear tiers—the two division winners, the remaining bowl-eligible teams, and the bowl-ineligible teams.

Figure 5a. The average rank that each team held for 2019.
Figure 5b. How each team’s average rank changed over time.

As I sit here listening to Explosions in the Sky, it’s pretty heavy to realize that I’ve been writing for CGB since 2013 and doing the Power Rankings since the 2014 season—and it’s (probably probably) coming to an end or at least being heavily changed. I started that year to add my personal style from my science and engineering background by simply graphing the data (a la Figures and 3). To be honest, I’m still not perfectly happy with those graphs as they can get muddled and tough to read when teams start jumping around, but I guess it was cool enough for other sites to steal take inspiration from without giving me any damn credit. From there, we added the Madness (hi BTown85) and tested a Fan Vote component (hi GoBears49) and the season-long average (which I’m still tinkering with). And as I clearly can’t help but add things to this massive post—clearly not abiding by the rule that “just because we can doesn’t mean we should”—I have one more addition. I came up with this idea in the middle of the season, but now that our time to SBN seems to be coming to a close, the timing is as perfect as my smile.

I present to you the 2014–2019 retrospective. Using four laptops/tablets and scouring two external storage drives, I was able to scrape up every ranking I was in charge of and threw it all together into an unholy and hideously complex image.

But before we get to that, let’s gussy it up and simplify things for the sake of your sanity. We distilled six seasons of graphs into one image by simply finding the average rank that each team held from the 2014 preseason to the 2019 postseason—introducing Figure 6.

Figure 6. The average rank that every Pac-12 team held every since the 2014 preseason.

Figure 6 shows us how much parity there’s been in the Pac-12 during this span. (I really wish we had similar data from other conferences like the SEC just to confirm that the parity has been captured here.) The standard deviations are pretty large, but we do see that Oregon State has a pretty sizable gap separating them from eleventh-place Colorado. Washington has a narrow lead as the top-ranked team in this era, but good God look at that score—their average position is lower than 4.0. Sadly, California finishes in the bottom half of the conference at eighth; I shudder to imagine how much lower we’d be if I had data from 2013 when we went 1–11.

But, as my friends would say whenever they introduce me, it’s time to bring out the ugly. I graphed every single team for every single week from 2014 to today (Fig. 7a). It is such a jumbled mess that I cannot even fathom how you could possibly learn anything from this image; even the full-sized version has its drawbacks as you’re subjected to so much scrolling. As Cal fans, I tried to make it a little more us-centric by making the other teams quite a bit more transparent (Fig. 7b) or making them disappear completely (Fig. 7c), but it’s still quite the doozy.

Figure 7a. An unholy monstrosity depicting EVERY team EVERY week since 2014. Full size here.
Figure 7b. But let’s focus in on Cal. Full size here.
Figure 7c. No—let’s really focus in on Cal. Full size here.

And... that’s it. I usually try to leave you with a season-long cliffhanger (by saying “wow, come back next year for things!”), but this will just end in a whisper.

Thank you for reading and commenting on this silly series for all these years. The Power Rankings is one of our more popular series no matter what day or time it gets put into the schedule and I appreciate that you were all willing to read my inane drivel (or at least gloss over it on your way to Nick’s insights or to the pictures).