We are nearly half-way through the season and the Pac-12 is back up to having 7 teams in the top-25 (both AP and Coaches polls) with UCLA moving back in after their win over WSU. That’s more top-25 teams than the SEC (6), the ACC (5), the BigTen (3), and the Big12 (3).
Composite Rankings and Updated “New Cool Chart”
The Massey Composite Rankings have the same 7 Pac-12 teams in the top-25, and in much the same order. (It is the same order as the AP poll. The Coaches poll still has WSU above UCLA.)
(No labels for the top 7 teams since they are so close. See below.)
The stratification of the Pac-12 continues. The top 7 teams continue to be the same each week. Colorado, California, and Arizona now make up the middle while Arizona State and Stanford continue at the bottom. Arizona overtaking California makes some sense given how well Arizona has done in their last 2 games-despite being losses.
There continues to be some movement among the top 7 teams. UCLA’s win over WSU obviously moved UCLA up and WSU down. USC also dropped after having to go to OT to beat Arizona. UW’s and Oregon’s drops appear more related to other teams (like Oklahoma) moving up since, obviously, neither team played. With 3 games featuring Pac-12 teams when both are ranked (Oregon-Washington, UCLA-Oregon State, and USC-Notre Dame), we should expect more movement after this weekend.
Some of the advanced stats are included in the Composite Rankings. But here is a comparison between the Composite Rankings and some of the advanced stats rankings.
Pac-12 Advanced Stats Comparison
There are some minor differences among the order for the top 7 teams, but it is the same top 7 teams in all of the rankings. The big differences are with Colorado, Arizona, and Arizona State. Part of it is likely that those teams have shown flashes of some good play, but have not been consistent.
ESPN’s Game Projections
This is also a good time to look at ESPN’s preseason projections. They have been decent so far this season. They have been correct in 40 of the 50 games so far this season. Their weekly projections have been better, missing on just 6 of the 50 games. The ones that they’ve missed were:
- Colorado over TCU
- Colorado over Nebraska
- WSU over Wisconsin
- Auburn over California
- Sacramento State over Stanford
- WSU over Oregon State
Missing the Colorado wins and the Stanford loss are somewhat understandable. And 3 of the 6 games were decided by 4 points or less (Colorado over TCU, Auburn over Cal, and WSU over Oregon State).
Their preseason misses include those same 6 games plus
- Michigan State over UW
- Arizona State over Fresno State
- Utah over Oregon State
- Arizona State over Colorado
At least 3 of the 4 appear to be a case of really not knowing how bad some of those teams would be this year-specifically Michigan State and Arizona State. The Michigan State prediction looks worse as the season goes on. (Michigan State is favored in just 2 of their remaining games.) Utah over Oregon State would have likely made more sense if Utah had been completely healthy (including having Cam Rising back) for that game-although playing in Corvallis was always going to give Oregon State an edge.
ESPN Win Projections for Pac-12 Teams
Colorado, UW, Oregon, and WSU are the teams that have improved the most-all adding 2 or more projected wins since the preseason. Not surprisingly, Stanford and Arizona State have dropped the most; neither are expected to win more than 2 games. The other 6 teams haven’t changed by more than 1 win up or down.
Looking at the rest of the games this season, there are some tough games ahead for some teams. All but 3 teams are scheduled to play at least 4 (currently) ranked teams. Here’s a look at the remaining schedule for the Pac-12 teams.
- Arizona has played well against the last two ranked teams that it played, but their schedule doesn’t get much easier since they play 3 more (currently) ranked teams in their next 3 games. Plus, they play Utah and have to play at Colorado and at Arizona State. They are currently only favored in those 2 road games.
- Arizona State is not favored in any of their remaining games. Their home game against Arizona is their best chance for a win at 25.6% because 5 of their remaining 6 games are against (currently) ranked teams.
- California is another team facing a difficult schedule. Their next four games are against (currently) ranked opponents. Then they get Stanford before finishing at UCLA. ESPN’s FPI has them favored against Stanford and at home against WSU.
- Colorado has exceeded expectations so far, but ESPN’s FPI has them favored in only one of their remaining games-this weekend against Stanford. Part of that is that they will be facing 4 (currently) ranked teams in their final 6 games.
- Oregon is favored in all of their remaining games despite playing 5 (currently) ranked teams-with two of them on the road.
- Oregon State is favored in their next 4 games, but not against UW or Oregon.
- Stanford is not favored in any of their remaining games. ESPN’s FPI doesn’t give them better than a 20% win percentage in any of the games. They play 5 (currently) ranked teams in their final 7 games.
- UCLA only plays 2 (currently) ranked teams in their final 7 games: Oregon State (this weekend) and USC.
- USC is undefeated, but their schedule gets a lot more difficult. They will face 5 (currently) ranked teams in their final 7 games (with no byes). They are favored in all but 2: this weekend against Notre Dame and at Oregon.
- Utah is 4-1 despite their injuries and their poor offense. But their remaining schedule is relatively favorable, playing only 3 (currently) ranked teams. They are underdogs in those, but favored in the rest.
- UW has the tough matchup this weekend, and finishes with 4 (currently) ranked teams. They are currently favored in 5 of their remaining games-underdogs to Oregon and USC, although both are close to toss-ups.
- WSU has been one of the surprise teams in the Pac-12. They have one of the easiest remaining schedules; they only face 2 (currently) ranked teams: Oregon and Washington. (They miss Utah and USC.) They are underdogs in those 2 games plus (surprisingly) against Cal.
Here is a look at how UW’s win projections from ESPN’s FPI have changed since the preseason.
UW Win Percentages for Remaining Games
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The game this weekend against Oregon continues to be projected as a close game. The games against Arizona State and Stanford were considered strong possibilities for wins before the season, and now are even stronger. The encouraging one for UW fans is the improvement against USC. USC’s failure to improve their defense much is now making this close to a toss-up game. And UW is now favored against both Utah and Oregon State when they weren’t in the preseason. For Utah, it will likely depend on if Cam Rising and some of their other injured players are back by then. Husky fans could still be a bit nervous playing at Oregon State. I would have thought that the Apple Cup would be closer the way WSU has looked this season. I would still have expected UW to be favored at home, but I wouldn’t have been surprised if the win percentage was below 70% instead of almost 90%.
Here are the current win percentages from Massey.
- Oregon: 50%
- Arizona State: 92%
- Stanford: 90%
- USC: 53%
- Utah: 61%
- Oregon State: 53%
- WSU: 73%
These are similar to the ESPN FPI projections, although this has UW favored against USC and the game this weekend as a toss-up. This has UW with lower win projections against their last 3 opponents although they seem reasonable for now. UW as the (current) favorite in their road games is encouraging.
We should be far enough into the year that rankings are going to be primarily (if not completely) based on the performances this year. While there is stratification within the conference, there are still a lot of games to be played that can shake up the ranking within the conference as well as where the Pac-12 teams are in the national rankings. Upsets happen all of the time in the Pac-12. Will some of the top teams get upset by one or more of the mid-to-bottom teams? It almost happened last weekend and there are plenty of opportunities for it to happen in the remaining games this season.