Pac-12 Power Rankings, Week 8: Bringing together rivals to sing Kumbaya
Bringing peace to the West Coast—one rivalry at a time
Leland: Week 8 of the college football season has come and passed, so let’s settle on in and recap another week of action out west.
Washington def. Arizona, 21–16
California def. Colorado, 26–3
#10 Oregon def. UCLA, 34–31
BYU def. Washington State, 21–19
Oregon State def. Utah, 42–34
#13 Notre Dame def. USC, 31–16
Bye: Arizona State, Stanfurd
By taking a look at this slate of games—and a bit of the season overall—we’ll be here ranking the teams by their performance and morale. Nobel season has come and passed (and recognized Cal), but I think WFC deserves some consideration for the Nobel Peace Prize with the work we’ve done to bring rivals together today.
Berkelium97: I was surprised by several outcomes this week, so my ballot is getting a shake-up. I expected Utah and UCLA to be victorious this weekend. While I expected Cal and UW to win and USC to lose, I was surprised by the margins in each of those games—I thought Cal would keep it typically close while the UW and USC games would be blowouts.
Last week: 4
Nick Kranz (1): I guess Oregon is just going to spend all season playing up to the good teams and down to the bad teams and mostly winning anyway. Also, DE Kayvon Thibodeaux covers a multitude of other weaknesses.
Berkelium97 (2): They’ve become the bizarro Cal—they will let every opponent hang around for most of the game, but ultimately find a way to close out the game with a win. The schedule eases considerably over the next three games, but they’ll undoubtedly be close games because Oregon gonna Oregon.
Christopher_h (4): Oregon has a defensive line capable of stopping the UCLA run, which spells big trouble for UCLA. If they could get their act together on offense, they might actually be a playoff-caliber team. It's just a matter of time before Oregon loses to another Stanford-type team (Wazzu?) and kills their own playoff hopes, however.
Alex Khalifa (1): From 1894–1928, the annual game between the Ducks and Beavers was known as the Oregon Classic. I am really looking forward to this year’s iteration on November 27th and will be referring to it as the Oregon Classic until someone forces me to stop.
Last week: 5
Nick Kranz (2): One day, you look up halfway through the season and you realize that Oregon State seriously might have the best offense in the Pac-12—and your mind is staggered at this strange new world you must contemplate and try to comprehend.
Berkelium97 (1): We’ve been doing these Pac-12 Power Rankings for the better part of a decade and this is the first time I’ve ranked OSU at the top. Welcome to #1, Beavs. They fell into a big hole against a tough Utah team, but blew up for nearly 300 second-half yards. Like Nick said, this is looking like the best offense in the Pac-12. If they don’t slip up in the next three games (@Cal, @Colorado, vs. LSJU), they will force the Civil War to become a battle for the Pac-12 North title.
Christopher_h (1): I also gave the Beavs the top spot, but why do I feel like this is a team that will have its Rose Bowl hopes dashed in the Civil War? Jonathan Smith is the clear Pac-12 Coach of the Year this season. If QB Chance Nolan plays sharp and the defense can bend and not break, they're a tough matchup for anyone. No one blocks better in the Pac-12 than OSU.
Last week: 1
Nick Kranz (3): Rare is the team that can just run the ball down Utah’s throat, but such is the status of Oregon State’s offense these days. Remind me whom we play next week?
Berkelium97 (3): Normally, that outing on offense would have been good enough for Utah to win, but the defense was surprisingly helpless against the Beavs. They’re still atop the Pac-12 South standings with a tiebreaker over ASU, but the Bruins’ visit to Salt Lake City will be critical for holding onto that first place position.
Christopher_h (2): Utah looked like the best team in the conference last week after beating ASU, but they weren't able to stop OSU this week. They didn't look bad either—they just couldn't keep pace with OSU.
Last week: T2
Christopher_h (3): They'll look to bounce back from the loss to Utah with a match-up against the Pac-12 wildcard Washington State.
Leland (5): A well-timed bye to give them space to recoup after their first conference loss of the year and a game against a surging Wazzu. Despite their struggles against the state of Utah, their track record is still strong and places them among the best.
Last week: T2
Nick Kranz (5): I don’t know how many teams in the conference can actually slow down UCLA’s running game, but Oregon did and the Bruins really struggled to move the ball without it, instead relying on special teams and short fields to even make it close against the Ducks.
Berkelium97 (5): Fresno State, ASU, and Oregon kept UCLA’s ground game under 200 yards—and all three games turned into UCLA losses. DTR has regressed a little bit this season compared to 2020 and it’s become quite clear that he alone cannot bail out the UCLA offense when the run game struggles. Can they bounce back next week against a tough Utah defense?
Christopher_h (5): I'm just glad that it's all downhill for UCLA after this season.
Alex Khalifa (5): The Bruins got off to a fast start with a 14–0 lead and I didn’t even have to change the channel from the Cal game to see the early highlights. This week, it was UCLA’s turn to think about what might have been after losing to Oregon by only three points.
Last week: 6
Nick Kranz (6): For reasons I cannot fathom, WSU went for two while trailing 21–13, then failed going for two on their next touchdown, (ed note: turns out it was just a botched snap, maybe Nick should WATCH THE GAMES NERD) thus pulling a Cal—losing a game in which you score precisely as many touchdowns as your opponent.
Christopher_h (7): Surprisingly competent for a team that lost almost the entire coaching staff. Still not sure how this team managed to upset Oregon State, though.
Last week: 7
Nick Kranz (7): Stanford’s entire season makes so much more sense if they had just lost to Oregon by 10 points or something. Probably would’ve been better for the conference, too.
Christopher_h (9): Stanford is up and down this season, but with no run game and a ton of wide receiver injuries, I think they're looking at a difficult game against UW.
Last week: 8
Nick Kranz (8): If you squint at the box score, you can imagine a scenario where USC gives Notre Dame a better game—but that would require USC to stop making the kinds of mistakes that have knee-capped them all season long.
Berkelium97 (8): This team would be so much better if it were competently coached. Dumb penalties, turnovers, and horrific clock management all doomed USC in a surprisingly winnable game.
Christopher_h (6): Haven't watched this game yet, but we'll be seeing Notre Dame next season, so I hope USC doesn't dominate us the way Notre Dame dominates USC. I need some hope for next year.
Last week: 10
Nick Kranz (10): Cal took care of business and while one win over a very, very bad Colorado team doesn’t change the calculus, it’s at least a starting point on salvaging the season.
Berkelium97 (9): A 23-point win is a colossal blowout for a Justin Wilcox team, so the Bears have to feel good about ending the losing streak. Some typical mistakes emerged (struggles to convert TDs and a big special teams miscue), but the defense played its most complete game of the year while K Dario Longhetto shined with a couple long field goals.
Christopher_h (8): Is it just me or did anyone else think the refs were making bogus calls in the second half to help keep Colorado in the game? Regardless, it felt good to see Cal finally play up to their potential for once this season.
Gustav (10): Every game on the schedule is winnable—the question is will it be too little too late for bowl contention.
Last week: 9
Nick Kranz (9): I seriously considered dropping UW below Cal for the crime of almost allowing Arizona to win a football game. And the performance was bad enough that UW fans may not be satisfied with just firing OC John Donovan—I suspect they want to see Jimmy Lake gone as well.
Berkelium97 (11): Falling behind by double digits to Arizona and then having to rally in the fourth to get the win? Not a good look.
Christopher_h (10): Washington looked completely incompetent for the entire first half. I don't understand how they could struggle to run the ball so much against Arizona. The passing game is still an issue and QB Dylan Morris finally connecting on some deep passes (mainly to Terrell Bynum) ended up being the difference between winning and losing… to Arizona. Five-star freshman Sam Huard came in for a series, but badly missed on the one throw he did attempt. I guess he's still not ready.
Last week: 11
Nick Kranz (11): Just a really, really, really sad offense to watch try to move the ball.
Berkelium97 (10): After dominating Arizona last week, the Buffs were lifeless in their best remaining chance to get another win this season. The schedule is brutal over the final five games so it’s tough to imagine anything better than a three-win season for Colorado.
Last week: 12
Nick Kranz (12): They already firmly held the title of worst team in the conference, but now they can add on “most cowardly coach” to the list. How can you be sitting at 0–6 and be afraid of attempting 4th and 1 with your running game cooking?!
Berkelium97 (12): Back to looking feisty after last week’s blowout loss to Colorado. The offense and defense were great in the first half, at least by the standards of an 0–6 team. And the punter was phenomenal all game to help out the struggling offense. But regression to the mean hit in the second half and UW was able to squeak by thanks to some big pass plays. A winless season still seems likely, but they could have a chance next week against a USC team that has been blown out in its last three home games.
Christopher_h (12): They're on their third-string quarterback and were rotating converted-WR Jamarye Joiner back in at QB. The current back-up QBs are both walk-ons. They remind me of the Detroit Lions this season—they're playing with a lot of heart, but just don't have enough talent to compete. I'm still a little concerned for an upset if they get everything clicking.
Alex Khalifa (12): The Wildcats offered a seat upgrade on Twitter and literally nobody took them up on the offer.
Evidently the Monopoly Man was born in the state of Oregon because they’ve got a stranglehold on the top of the conference. Six of our eight voters have the Ducks and the Beavers in their top two spaces (Table 1).
2021’s rankings are shown in Figure 1. You can see a shocking amount of stability in the bottom half—except for Cal and Washington flip-flopping—while the top five teams experienced massive upheaval.
In case you don’t feel like counting how many spots those top teams moved in that shuffle, then I (well, Excel) happen to have that information nice and convenient for you in Table 2. Despite five teams not moving (and two teams just moving one spot apiece), the big movement at the top of the conference still resulted in more Madness than last week.
When we take a look at each team’s cumulative Madness scores at this point in the season, we see that WFC has brough unity down to SoCal with the two Los Angeles schools tied with a Madness score of 14 for the season.
Compiling the ballots for our eight voters actually gives more information mathematically than what was shown above. The precise scores earned by each team (which is calculated by taking the average of scores from each writer) is shown in Figure 3; the error bar is a measure of how varied our responses were. No eye-catching, garrish standard deviations this week as we are all somewhat consistent.
The precise scores (Figs. 3 and 4) and the precise calculations tend to lend themselves to little clusters when we—as a collective—did not have unanimous distinction or separation. This week, we have the two schools from Oregon up top after big wins over leading contenders in the South division. They’re followed up by a trio of the Utes, Sun Devils, and Baby Bears—three teams doing well and likely shoe-ins for bowl eligibility. There’s a big gap followed by the next grouping of three teams with a reasonable shot at a winning season, but some flaws and bad losses in their record (Wazzu, Stanfurd, and USC). And then, the lonely basement—a quartet of teams who are likely to be sitting cold and alone this December.
Can we bring more unity to the Pac-12 next week? Will the Arizona schools go out for a cup of tea together? Maybe dogs and cats will go catch a movie?