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Pac-12 Rankings and Review

Some shakeups in the final rankings and a review of how rankings and projections from the preseason look now.

NCAA Football: Texas Christian at Colorado Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Pac-12 Rankings

The Pac-12 continues to have 6 teams in the CFP rankings, including 1 in the top 4 and all 6 of them in the top 17. They also have 6 in the top-25 of the AP poll and the Coaches Poll.

A summary of those and many other different rankings for all FBS teams can be found here:

Here is the updated ‘Cool Chart’ which shows the Pac-12 teams in those rankings.

There continued to be shuffling among the top 6 teams. WSU is clearly the #7 team. The separation between them and Arizona has narrowed some (32 places), but it is still large. Arizona State and Stanford have separated themselves by continuing to drop. It shouldn’t be surprising which teams are getting new coaches.

Because there is so much going on among the top teams, here is a chart of the top 7 teams which shows the changes in the last three weeks.

USC leads the Pac-12. Only 6 spots separate the next 4 teams. This ranking differs from the polls which have UW as the next-highest Pac-12 team instead of Utah. Oregon continues to be above both UW and Oregon State-despite losing to both. WSU obviously dropped after their Apple Cup loss.

Here’s a comparison between the major polls and some of the computer rankings which looks just at the Pac-12 teams in the CFP.

Ranking Comparison Between Pac-12 Teams in the CFP

School CFP Rank AP Rank Coaches Rank Composite Rank SRS Rank
School CFP Rank AP Rank Coaches Rank Composite Rank SRS Rank
USC 4 4 4 8 12
Utah 11 12 12 12 11
Washington 12 9 9 16 18
Oregon State 15 16 16 17 16
Oregon 16 15 15 14 13
UCLA 17 17 17 21 22

The pollsters seem to value USC and Washington more than the computers; UCLA as well. The computer rankings for UW probably explains (at least partly) why the CFP has UW ranked below others (like Utah). It doesn’t appear to be bias by the CFP committee against UW.

UW Ranking

Viewing just the UW line on that chart is helpful to understand how UW’s ranking has changed over the season (if you can see it among all of the lines!). Here’s another way to look at UW’s rankings which gives a look at the variety of rankings for UW in the Composite Ranking over the course of the season.

UW is now ranked in the top-25 by 98% of the rankings that are tracked there. They are also in the top-10 in about 10% of the rankings.

Before the season, UW had a rank of 67 in the Composite Rankings. They are now at 16. That’s an improvement of 51 places. While that is one of the best improvements of all FBS teams, it isn’t the top. Here are the teams that improved the most.

Composite Ranking Improvement

Team Preseason Composite Rank Current Composite Rank Improvement
Team Preseason Composite Rank Current Composite Rank Improvement
Tulane 88 20 68
South Alabama 111 46 65
Duke 116 52 64
Kansas 108 49 59
Troy 95 37 58
TCU 55 4 51
Washington 67 16 51
Ohio 115 65 50
Illinois 72 24 48
FBS teams that improved the most since the preseason

That’s obviously not ‘the Ohio State University’ on that list; that is the Ohio University Bobcats (a MAC team).

UW is one of 4 teams that improved enough to make it into the top-25 of the Composite Ranking. (Illinois is in the top-25 in the Composite Rankings, but not in the top-25 in the polls).

The three teams that dropped the most are Miami (FL), Texas A&M, and Michigan State. None of those should be big surprise since all 3 had been ranked in the top-25 in both the AP and Coaches polls in the preseason and all finished the season at 5-7.


If you tracked ESPN’s FPI win projections since the preseason, you’d see that they have been good at projecting the Pac-12 games. First, here’s a comparison between their preseason win projections and the regular season win totals.

ESPN FPI Win Projection Comparison for Pac-12 Teams

Team Preseason Projected Wins Actual Wins Difference
Team Preseason Projected Wins Actual Wins Difference
Arizona 3.5 5 1.5
Arizona State 6.8 3 -3.8
California 5.6 4 -1.6
Colorado 3.5 1 -2.5
Oregon 8.6 9 0.4
Oregon State 6 9 3
Stanford 5 3 -2
UCLA 8.3 9 0.7
USC 8.1 11 2.9
Utah 9.4 9 -0.4
Washington 7.5 10 2.5
Washington State 5 7 2
A comparison between preseason win projections and the regular season win totals

Oregon State exceeded their win total the most, followed closely by USC and then UW. Arizona State and Colorado disappointed the most, followed by Stanford. Oregon, Utah, and UCLA were all very close.

The favored team in ESPN’s FPI win projections in the preseason won 78% of the games. As ESPN adjusted each week, they changed the favored team in some cases and they improved to 84%. Of the games where they were wrong, they can be divided into 3 categories: always wrong (preseason and the week of the game), wrong in the preseason (but right in the game week), right in the preseason (and wrong in the game week). Below there will also be a look at the games where they changed from the preseason and ended up being correct.

First, here are the games where they were wrong in the preseason and in the game week:

  • Arizona at San Diego State. ESPN’s FPI had San Diego State winning this, and based on the fact that it was a home game for San Diego State and with how the teams played last year, that would not be an unreasonable projection.
  • Boise State at Oregon State. They had this as a toss-up (Boise State with a 50.2% win percentage), so having the wrong winner isn’t a bad result. However, this was not a close game.
  • WSU at Wisconsin. The win percentage for Wisconsin was 92.1% the week of the game; it had moved up from 88.8% in the preseason. The way Wisconsin had been playing the previous few years, and being at home, would certainly point to a Wisconsin win. On top of that WSU did not look that good in their opening game, so it isn’t surprising that the win percentage moved in Wisconsin’s favor. However, Wisconsin was not nearly as good this year and WSU was able to do just enough to get the win.
  • Eastern Michigan at Arizona State. This was the biggest upset of the Pac-12 season in terms of projected win percentage compared to the result. (ESPN’s FPI had Arizona State with a 94.2% win percentage the week of the game.) This game signaled that Arizona State was not going to meet expectations this year and marked the end of Herm Edwards as their coach.
  • Michigan State at Washington. By game week, this was almost a toss-up with Michigan State’s win percentage at 53.4% (compared with 60.7% in the preseason). But as we’ve found out, UW is a much better team than expected and Michigan State isn’t nearly as good as they were last year.
  • Utah at UCLA. Utah was one of the favorites to win the Pac-12 (and still could). Their win percentage had been close in the preseason (Utah at 58.4%), but moved in Utah’s favor by game week (68.9%).
  • Stanford at Notre Dame. This was another big upset (Notre Dame’s win percentage was 90.3% the week of the game), especially considering how both teams have played since that game. (Stanford is 1-5 since that game while Notre Dame is 5-1.)
  • Washington at Oregon. Oregon’s win percentage in this game was high in the preseason and by game week, although for 4 or 5 weeks UW’s win percentage improved to make this a close to a ‘toss-up’ game. (UW’s win percentage was as high as 45.4%.)
  • Arizona at UCLA. UCLA was a heavy favorite in this game from the preseason on. Their win percentage was never below 79%. Given the win percentage and how late in the season this was, this could be considered the biggest upset in the Pac-12 this season.
  • Oregon at Oregon State. Oregon State had a higher win percentage after Oregon got smoked by Georgia, but then Oregon rebounded and stayed the favorite the rest of the way. However, it was always expected to be close and the win percentage for Oregon was only 57.4% by the week of the game.

Half of these occurred in the first three weeks of the season and can be attributed to not knowing enough about the teams. Of the remaining 5 games, 2 were surprises (Stanford over Notre Dame and Arizona over UCLA), 2 were close wins by the underdog (the wins over Oregon), and one was in between (UCLA over Utah).

There were 10 games where ESPN’s FPI changed which team was favored between the preseason and game week and that change proved correct. Those games were:

  • Oregon State at Fresno State (Oregon State won)
  • Oregon State at Stanford (Oregon State won)
  • Arizona State at Stanford (Stanford won)
  • WSU at Stanford (WSU won)
  • WSU at Arizona (WSU won)
  • Oregon State at Arizona State (Oregon State won)
  • USC at UCLA (USC won)
  • Arizona State at Arizona (Arizona won)
  • Notre Dame at USC (USC won)

What might not be obvious is that several of those games were VERY close. Oregon State got the game-winning TD on the last play of the game against Fresno State. Oregon State had a late comeback to beat Stanford. Stanford beat Arizona State by 1 without scoring a TD. USC beat UCLA by just 3 points in an exciting game. And Arizona beat Arizona State also by 3. Some of those games could have easily gone the other direction, so having the favored team change was likely indicative of it potentially being a close game.

But there were also some games that they changed where the result was that the preseason projection should have been kept and not changed. These games included:

  • UW at UCLA
  • UW at Arizona State
  • Utah at Oregon

All three games were won by 8 points or less (one score), so they were all close. Obviously it is unfortunate that 2 of those were games involving UW-especially the upset loss to Arizona State. Still, 10 right and 3 wrong when switching is not a bad result.

Talent Comparison

The team with more talent ( in games with Pac-12 teams won 73% of the the time. This is down from just a few weeks ago (it had been over 80%). It is still not a bad result, but obviously talent differential is not the only factor.

Pac-12 Review

If the Pac-12 gets a team (USC) into the playoffs, that along with having 6 ranked teams, has to qualify as a successful season-especially after the previous 5 years. Of course some may want to see how the teams do in their bowl games. A 0-7 result would obviously dampen the season quite a bit. So, we’ll have to see what the bowl matchups look like and how the Pac-12 teams do.

It shouldn’t be forgotten when looking at this season that 2 of the ranked teams will not be in the conference in 2 years. However, that still means that 4 teams will be.

Currently, here is how many teams there are in the CFP rankings from each conference:

  • ACC: 4
  • BigTen: 3
  • Big12: 3
  • Pac-12: 6
  • SEC: 6
  • G5: 2
  • Ind: 1

Here is what it would look like with the realignments that will be happening over the next couple of years:

  • ACC: 4
  • BigTen: 5 (add USC and UCLA)
  • Big12: 3 (lose Texas and add UCF)
  • Pac-12: 4 (lose USC and UCLA)
  • SEC: 7 (add Texas)
  • G5: 1 (lose UCF)
  • Ind: 1

The Pac-10 would still be positioned well relative to the conferences (other than the SEC and BigTen).


How would you grade the season for UW?

This poll is closed

  • 64%
    Outstanding (A)
    (286 votes)
  • 32%
    Exceeded Expectations (B)
    (144 votes)
  • 1%
    Met expectations (C)
    (7 votes)
  • 0%
    Should have been better (D)
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    A failure since they won’t make the CFP (F)
    (1 vote)
  • 1%
    It will depend on how they do in their bowl game (Incomplete)
    (6 votes)
445 votes total Vote Now