Pac-12 Power Rankings, Week 10: Why laugh at ourselves when we can laugh at Stanfurd?
It's a race to the bottom!
Leland: It’s hard to give so much. Just constantly giving and helping others.
We give to those around us by sharing our best-public-university-in-the-world knowledge. We give to the world with our periodic elements and the work of our Nobel laureates. And we give to Arizona by elevating them and lifting them from their NCAA-leading losing streak—despite being a national punchline in the process. Oh, how gracious and giving we are.
But we might not even be the biggest laughing stock of the conference.
And that’s what we’re here to determine today with our Power Rankings—a subjective ranking of the Pac-12 conference for on-field performance and team morale. Those these rankings should reflect the entire season, they also focus a little more on recent results.
Here are the results from the Week 10 games, including Cal’s self-sacrifice to elevate our dear friends in Tucson.
Utah def. Stanfurd, 52–7
Arizona def. California, 10–3
Colorado def. Oregon State, 37–34 2OT
#4 Oregon def. Washington, 26–16
Arizona State def. USC, 31–16
Bye: UCLA, Washington State
Berkelium97: For much of the year, the conference had a lone entrant in its lowest tier—Arizona. Now, the Wildcats are joined by Cal and LSJU, while Colorado and Washington are knocking on the door. I didn’t expect this to be a banner year for the conference, but I didn’t expect many teams to be this bad.
Last week: 1
Berkelium97 (2): I say the same thing every week: the Ducks let some sub-par, overmatched team hang around for most of the game before finally managing to secure a win. The schedule gets much, much tougher over the next three weeks (vs. Wazzu, at Utah, vs. OSU) and I’d be surprised if the Ducks get through that slate unscathed.
Leland (1): An ugly win is still a win—and over their more academically prowess archrivals, to boot—and they have the best resume in the conference. Plus, Travis Dye is a beast.
Last week: 2
Berkelium97 (1): Number one in my ballot by a large margin. Except for a terrible second half against OSU, Utah’s dominance has been unmatched by anyone in the conference over the last month. Not only do I think they’re better than Oregon, I think they would beat Oregon by multiple TDs. November 20th is going to be fun.
Christopher_h (1): Their victory over Stanford was the single most dominant performances I have seen all season—and that includes a bunch of P5–FCS matchups. Utah had more points in the first half (38) than Stanford had yards (28). I know it felt like we were all watching offensive ineptitude on Saturday, but trust me—Stanford was worse. Stanford didn't even start to gain yards until Utah was so deep in their depth chart that I had to consult their full roster to figure out who was who.
Last week: 3
Leland (3): It was a tough decision between them and ASU, but I gave WSU the nod for the recent head-to-head win despite being on bye.
Christopher_h (3): Washington State is somehow within striking distance of the Pac-12 North with a very upsettable Oregon coming up next. Oregon is not the fourth-best team in the country and we all know it's a matter of time before the Pac-12 cannibalizes its own playoff hopes. Personally, I think it'll be Utah getting revenge on Oregon for keeping them out of the playoffs in 2019, but I wouldn't be surprised if Wazzu put it all together against Oregon.
Last week: 5
Berkelium97 (4): The Devils survived a scare from a depleted, inept USC team thanks to RB Rachaad White’s stellar performance. While ASU continues to force several turnovers, their own turnover issues remain a problem.
Leland (4): Despite QB Jayden Daniels’s struggles, the Sun Devils enjoyed a comfortable win over a struggling team. Their defense also handled QB Kedon Slovis and bottled up the USC rushing defense to under 100 yards combined. No real complaints as they rebound from a tough pair of losses against Utah and Washington State.
Last week: 6
Leland (5): My #5 spot is going to the better of either the Bruins or the Beavers, who have identical win–loss records overall and in conference and are both on two-game losing streaks. But Oregon State has lost to two bad teams (us and Colorado) while UCLA fell to the division leaders (Utah and Oregon).
Christopher_h (5): DTR is probably coming back, but I have to say that Ethan Garbers has some arm talent. I think he's going to be good.
Last week: 4
Berkelium97 (5): Two weeks ago they had Pac-12 title hopes and now they’re going to battle simply to achieve bowl eligibility. This is a pivotal moment for Jonathan Smith and the Beavs: will they wilt down the stretch or will they bounce back and earn a solid 7-win season?
Leland (6): Two weeks down and two losses to bad teams in the record books. To make matters worse, they went through the emotional wringer to end that game—missing a potential game-tying field goal late in the game, forcing a punt, nailing a 60-yard kick to tie the game, then falling in double overtime—but they won’t fall any further because there are so many bad teams in this conference.
Last week: 8
Berkelium97 (7): They put up a decent fight despite being unable to achieve anything on offense. Shockingly, they still have a decent chance at a bowl game.
Leland (7): You’d think they’d be lower since their only meaningful win is over Wazzu nearly two months ago, but the bottom of this conference is such a mess that they manage to stay right around the middle.
Last week: 9
Berkelium97 (9): Another horrific outing for the UW offense (don’t let the 16 points fool you—this was like watching Cal and Arizona all over again). The football team may be awful, but at least they can take solace in their academically prowess.
Leland (9): They get a little boost in my book because Jimmy Lake smacked and shoved one of his players to break up a fight—thus potentially graciously giving his administration an opportunity to fire him with cause and save themselves from his buyout. The fans have to be happy with that despite the rivalry loss, right? But ultimately, this team looks bad, seems to be regressing, and lost their rivalry game for the year—with a surrender punt turned into a safety, no less!
Last week: 11
Berkelium97 (8): Has the inept Colorado offense turned the corner? Scoring a season-high 37 points a week after scoring 29, the Buffs may yet salvage something from this season…
Leland (8): Winning during a tough season like this is always great, but let’s be clear—in what’s becoming a common theme for me—they’re only this high because there’s so much trash fighting for the bottom spot that some teams get propped up this week.
Last week: 7
Berkelium97 (12): The Tucson curse strikes again as the Bears have their worst offensive outing in recent memory. If that’s the state of the QB room behind Garbers, this team is in a world of trouble next year…
Leland (11): It was tempting to give us the bottom spot for losing to Arizona, but our history over the two games prior—and an even worse performance elsewhere in the conference—saves us from that disgrace.
Ruey Yen (8): Yes, I am willing to give the Bears a pass for the very unfortunate COVID situation. I also have not lost hope that Cal can still manage to win out and make a Bowl game—although this has as much to do with how all of the California Pac-12 rivals have had their own issues.
Christopher_h (9): This was probably the ugliest game I've ever seen. At least in the Cheez-It Bowl, I could appreciate that it was two stellar defenses with future NFL stars battling it out. This, on the other hand, was just two bad offenses struggling. I will say though that the defense did perform admirably—and the young stars do give me hope for our defenses in the future.
Last week: 12
Berkelium97 (10): I’ll probably drop them back to 12th next week, but they deserve a quick bump out of last place for finally ending the 20-game losing streak. And they did it with a backup QB too—WHAT A NOVEL CONCEPT.
Christopher_h (12): Sorry, but even against a heavily-depleted Cal roster, Arizona still looked awful.
Last week: 10
Berkelium97 (11): This season has the feel of Tedford’s last year at Cal. They’re two years removed from their first losing season in recent memory, one year removed from a decent bounce-back year, and they started this year with some impressive wins before falling into a death spiral. Are we finally seeing the decline of David Shaw?
Leland (12): They get the bottom spot for being humiliated on national TV, but I will reiterate that their schedule has been pretty tough and all but one of their losses have been at the hands of teams with winning records. Morale justifies twelfth place, but ability probably doesn’t.
Christopher_h (12): Like Cal's offense, Stanford is just one or two key players away from complete ineptitude.
Here’s the list of psychos still staying engaged in this absurd season of a stupid conference.
The responses for each team get averaged to finalize our aggregate rankings, which were listed above. Our WFC aggregate rankings for the season are graphed in Figure 1. Last week, we noticed we were three weeks strong with a clear distinction between the top and bottom halves of the conference—the top teams stayed up top and the bottom teams stayed down low. Despite two big upsets by the worst teams in the conference, the separation between the top and the bottom six teams continued for another week.
We sum up how much the teams climbed or fell in our Rankings—a metric deemed the Madness, which is collected in Table 2. The past four weeks have all been consistently and relatively unMad compared to the rest of the season. For the first time in six weeks, Arizona has moved in our rankings! We are truly so gracious for bestowing upon them such a gift. An alternate means of visualizing the Total Madness of each school as it has changed each week is graphed out in Figure 2. Stanfurd appears to have a fairly safe hold on their title of Maddest team of the conference—but not as secure as Arizona’s claim to the title of Least Mad team of 2021.
The precise rankings (the raw number that is obtained by calculating the average of each team’s scores) is graphed in Figure 3. The error bars represent the standard deviation, which is a quantification of how varied our assessments were for that team. For instance, California has a massive standard deviation because we received votes as low as #12 and—somehow—received a vote as high as #7.
The precise rankings for the season are shown in Figure 4. These precise values show that Utah is closing the gap on reclaiming the top spot after obliterating and humiliating Stanfurd. We also see there’s now an appreciable gap the top seven teams and the bottom five—five teams for whom bowl eligibility looks like it’ll come no sooner than 2022. Arizona is guaranteed to miss a bowl this year; Colorado, Cal, and Stanfurd would each have to win out to get to a bowl (which makes it impossible for both of the Bay Area schools to hit 0.500); and Washington has to win at least two of three games (which is a tough ask given Arizona State and Washington State coming up).
What’s next for this stupid, beautiful conference? I’ll be keeping an eye to see if we can continue the six-team split (Fig. 1). The two games that seem most likely to shatter this segregation would be Stanfurd–Oregon State (a team that’s struggled due to a tough schedule vs. a team on a losing streak) and Arizona State–Washington (maybe all the pool-chair shuffling on that Tacoma Titanic will be addition by subtraction?). Should I root for more insanity in the conference or the novelty of that streak splitting the conference extending out to five weeks? Or simply root for the South teams to win so Cal can try to rise in the North by default?