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Pac-12 Rankings and Projections After Week 8

How did UW’s closer-than-expected win impact its ranking? And how much did USC’s and WSU’s losses impact their ranking?

NCAA Football: Tulsa at Washington Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

There was an upset (although it would depend on who you asked, a Utah fan or a USC fan) and a near upset (Husky fans don’t need much of a reminder) last week. Despite those, the Pac-12 still has 6 teams in both the AP and Coaches polls, and one team (Arizona) getting votes in the Coaches poll. WSU did get votes in last week’s Coaches poll, but not this week after their loss.

Here is a look at the rankings for the Pac-12 teams in the Massey Composite Rankings.

UW did slip a little after their closer-than-expected win over Arizona State. They slipped from #5 to #6. In addition, of the 90 or so rankings that make up the Composite, UW dropped out of the top 10 in 14 of the rankings. (They had been in the top 10 in all but 2 of the rankings last week.) And 4 weeks ago there were 8 different rankings that had UW at #1 in the country; now there is only one (Wilson).

Not surprisingly, both USC and WSU dropped after their losses. WSU is on a 3 game losing streak. They had been as high as #14 in the Composite Rankings before that streak started. Now they are about where they started at the beginning of the season (#41 when they started at #49). USC is now just barely a top-25 team after 2 consecutive losses.

Despite beating one of the lowest ranked teams (Stanford), UCLA saw a big jump in the rankings (5 spots). Arizona State also got a bump up despite the loss; it was the biggest jump of the week among Pac-12 teams.

Advanced Stats

The advanced stats are now very predominantly (if not completely) based on the performances this year. Here’s a comparison between the Composite Rankings and some of the top advanced stats rankings.

Pac-12 Advanced Stats Rankings

School Composite SP+ F+ FEI FPI Beta Rank
School Composite SP+ F+ FEI FPI Beta Rank
Washington 5 7 6 7 12 12
Oregon 11 5 4 4 10 7
Oregon State 14 15 17 17 19 11
Utah 17 24 21 19 22 21
USC 19 13 15 20 17 25
UCLA 27 20 24 27 26 13
Washington State 35 40 41 46 54 46
Arizona 41 34 36 39 35 28
Colorado 54 80 76 75 74 78
California 68 75 66 60 49 60
Stanford 95 107 100 101 105 99
Arizona State 111 88 82 77 92 75

The top 6 teams in the Composite Rankings are the same top 6 teams in all of the advanced stats rankings-although the order is not the same.

While the bottom 6 teams are the same, the order is consistently different between the Composite Ranking and the advanced stats rankings. Arizona’s rank in all of the advanced stats is higher than WSU despite WSU being higher in the Composite Ranking. The same is true between California and Colorado and between Stanford and Arizona State. It’s probably a difference between just wins and losses and efficiencies on the field. For example, Arizona State has been playing well and had several close games, but they don’t have the wins to show for it. And, given their schedule, they may not get the wins. They play WSU, Utah, UCLA, Oregon, and then Arizona.

Husky fans should not be surprised to see UW drop a little in the advanced stats after the Arizona State game. And they should be giving some credit to Arizona State for their game-especially their defense. The advanced stats are probably closer to where ASU should be ranked compared to the Composite Ranking.

Last week I showed the separate offensive and defensive rankings from F+. For this week, here is a comparison between those rankings from this week and those from last week.

Pac-12 Offense and Defense F+ Rankings

School Offense (Wk 7) Offense (Wk 8) Offense Chng Defense (Wk 7) Defense (Wk 8) Defense Chng
School Offense (Wk 7) Offense (Wk 8) Offense Chng Defense (Wk 7) Defense (Wk 8) Defense Chng
Arizona 18 20 -2 60 67 -7
Arizona State 101 100 1 62 43 19
California 66 57 9 63 68 -5
Colorado 37 37 0 112 113 -1
Oregon 3 3 0 20 23 -3
Oregon State 11 8 3 48 45 3
Stanford 89 90 -1 104 109 -5
UCLA 36 30 6 16 12 4
USC 6 4 2 61 69 -8
Utah 55 51 4 7 7 0
Washington 1 5 -4 25 24 1
Washington State 44 46 -2 34 46 -12

You’ll see that there were changes to teams that didn’t even play last weekend. Usually that’s because of changes to the other teams that did play. Of the teams that did play, the biggest change was to Arizona State’s defense-which should not be too surprising. WSU’s defense changed in the opposite direction after giving up over 500 yards and 38 points to Oregon. USC’s defense wasn’t great before, and also moved down after their game against Utah. UW’s defense moved up one spot after keeping ASU to 7 points. It is a little tougher to move up a lot of spots with just one game when you are already in the top 25. On the flip side, it shouldn’t be surprising that UW’s offense dropped from the #1 spot to the #5 spot after not scoring an offensive touchdown.

UW Offense

It also shouldn’t be surprising that an offense like UW’s does better against poor defenses and worse against better defenses. Here’s a look at how UW’s scoring has been compared to the defenses that it has faced so far this season.

This is probably not enough data to be very accurate, but this should give us an idea about how UW’s offense is impacted by better defenses.

The two biggest differences from the trend line (dotted line) are the Cal game and the Arizona State game. For the Cal game, the difference can be attributed to the special teams score, the defensive score, as well as the other defensive turnovers which led to another 10 points for UW. The Arizona State game was the opposite in that UW turned the ball over 4 times which obviously impacted their ability to score. A fumble against Arizona close to the goal line definitely contributed to the scoring in that game being lower than it should.

This could be important for expectations in the remaining games. Here are the current F+ defensive ratings for UW’s remaining opponents:

  • Stanford: 109
  • USC: 69
  • Utah: 7
  • Oregon State: 45
  • WSU: 46

If we believe the graph, UW should be expected to score around 50 points against Stanford this weekend-as long as there are no significant turnovers. Against USC, UW should score around 40 points-again assuming no significant turnovers. UW may not score over 30 against Utah. And UW should score between 30 and 40 against both Oregon State and WSU. Again, there could be a lot of other factors, not just turnovers, that could impact scoring by UW, but those should give us an idea of what to expect.

Week 9 Projections

There is a full slate of Pac-12 games this weekend. Here are the matchups and the expected outcomes from ESPN’s FPI and Massey.

Win Percentages for Week 9 Games

Visitor FPI Win% Massey Win% Home FPI Win% Massey Win%
Visitor FPI Win% Massey Win% Home FPI Win% Massey Win%
Oregon 68.7% 51% Utah 31.3% 49%
USC 73.4% 62% California 26.5% 38%
Colorado 16.2% 17% UCLA 83.3% 83%
Oregon State 61.7% 70% Arizona 38.3% 30%
Washington 95.8% 90% Stanford 4.2% 10%
WSU 66.4% 65% Arizona State 33.6% 35%

The win percentages are very similar for most of the games. The biggest differences are with the Oregon-Utah and USC-Cal games. ESPN’s FPI gives Oregon a much better chance of winning that game than Massey which has it close to a toss-up. USC also has a better chance of beating Cal with ESPN’s FPI, although USC has a good chance in both-which should be expected.


UW’s rankings took a dip as a result of the game last weekend-despite it being a win-although not much. Fortunately we are far enough into the season that a single (bad) game doesn’t hurt UW much in the rankings. If UW takes care of business the rest of the season, then the game last weekend will be all but forgotten. But as we see with USC and WSU, continuing issues (like consecutive losses) can definitely hurt rankings.