What does an 8-conference game Pac-12 look like?

With the SEC yet again receiving preferential treatment in the CFP rankings it calls into question just how much of that is propped up by their joke of a conference schedule. In this post, the first of maaaaybe a series of 2 or 3, we're going to examine what the Pac-12 would look like this season if the teams played an 8-game conference schedule instead. This means that there could potentially be 6 losses removed from the conference as a whole and replaced with 6 additional wins.

I utilized a couple random generator sites to build out this data. First, going from the top of the standings to the bottom, I randomly removed one cross-division game from each team. Once a team had a game removed I no longer randomly selected them so that I could ensure each team only had one game removed. After each team had a random cross-division opponent removed I then randomly selected a team from either the MWC or the MAC to replace them. There weren't any duplicate matchup hits but if there were I would have randomly selected again (i.e. ASU would not play Fresno State twice if they were randomly matched).

As a final step I took the Sagarin net ratings of each team, added an ~2.5 home field advantage to all Pac-12 teams, and then calculated the projected point spread for each game. Once the spreads were calculated I matched that to a win percentage project chart from a handicapping website that was compiled using tens of thousands of non-conference college football games. I adjusted the 20+ bracket from 100% win chance for the favorite down to 98% to account for increased parity in CFB in the past couple decades. Then I used a random number generator to pick a number from 1 to 1,000 to determine if the underdog prevailed.

Current Records

This is the current Pac-12 standings right now before the final week of the season. Stanford plays Notre Dame, USC has already finished all its games, and everyone else plays a conference rival.

Washington 11-0

O****n 10-1

Arizona 9-2

Oregon State 8-3

USC 7-5

Utah 7-4

UCLA 7-4

California 5-6

Arizona State 3-8

WSU 5-6

Stanford 3-8

Colorado 4-7

Randomized Schedule Drops

The way it shook out we ended up with 2 major matchups being dropped with the OSU/Zona and Utah/O****n games going away. Plus the Cougars and Bears got a huge boost to their bowl chances.

Washington - Drop Arizona State (W)

O****n - Drop Utah (W)

Arizona - Drop Oregon State (W)

Oregon State - Drop Arizona (L)

USC - Drop California (W)

Utah - Drop O****n (L)

UCLA - Drop Washington State (W)

California - Drop USC (L)

Arizona State - Drop Washington (L)

Washington State - Drop UCLA (L)

Stanford - Drop Colorado (W)

Colorado - Drop Stanford (L)

Randomized Replacement Teams (from MWC and MAC)

Point spreads are utilizing Sagarin ratings with an ~2.5 home advantage. All games are assumed at home. Win percentage is based upon: ProCappers data but spreads above 20 have been changed to 98% (from 100%). Win/Loss is selected by picking a random number 1 through 1,000. Numbers for loss are calculated as 1,000 - (100 x Percentage) i.e. for Washington the formula is 1,000 - (1,000 x 0.98) = 20. Any number 20 or less is a loss.

This data was reached by replacing each team with a random MWC or MAC opponent, calculating the point spread, calculating the win percentage, and then utilizing that percentage to pick a winner. The lowest chance to win belonged to Arizona State against Ohio but they still pulled it off. Washington very nearly got upset rolling a 67 when anything 20 or less would have been a loss. Every other team rolled a pretty clear margin away from their loss chance. So the Pac-12 picked up 6 victories and removed 6 losses.

Washington -32.5 vs. Central Michigan (98%) - Win

O****n -31 vs. Wyoming (LMAO karma much?) (98%) - Win

Arizona -30.5 vs. Hawaii (98%) - Win

Oregon State -26.5 vs. Fresno State (98%) - Win

USC -29.5 vs. New Mexico (98%) - Win

Utah -22 vs. Utah State (guess it was meant to be!) (98%) - Win

UCLA -12 vs. Air Force (82%) - Win

California -16.5 vs. Buffalo (89%) - Win

Arizona State -5 vs. Ohio (64%) - Win

Washington State -22 vs. Eastern Michigan (98%) - Win

Stanford -21.5 vs. Kent State (98%) - Win

Colorado -22 vs. Akron (98%) - Win

New Records

With the new game results plugged in we see a shift in the standings. Utah and OSU get a significant boost to their record and this almost certainly brings Utah back into the CFP top 25. California and WSU become bowl eligible regardless of their week 13 results which leaves the conference with 9 bowl eligible teams for a 75% bowl rate. When we look at resumes now you can see Washington would have the strongest in college football having dropped the Pac-12's 2nd worst team and seeing 4 of its opponents improve. Projecting these new records into the CFP we would have O****n still at #6, Arizona at #16, Oregon State at #14, and Utah at #19. Washington would have a 4-0 record against CFP top 25 opponents and 6 wins over bowl teams.

Washington - 11-0

O****n - 10-1

Arizona - 8-3

Oregon State - 9-2

USC - 7-5

Utah - 8-3

UCLA - 7-4

California - 6-5

Arizona State - 4-7

Washington State - 6-5

Stanford - 3-8

Colorado - 5-6

Projected Finish

Finally we have the projected finishing records after the regular season is complete. For these I just gave the Pac-12 favorites a win and, obviously, slapped a loss to Notre Dame on Stanford's plate. Heading into the conference championship game we'd be looking at UW with a 4-0 record against the CFP top 20, wins over 7 bowl teams, and wins over 9 power 5 teams with no games against FCS opponents.

Washington: 12-0

O****n: 11-1

Arizona: 9-3

Oregon State: 9-3

USC: 7-5

Utah: 9-3

UCLA: 8-4

California: 6-6

Arizona State: 4-8

Washington State: 6-6

Stanford: 3-9

Colorado: 5-7

Final Thoughts

One last thing that I'd like to point out is that the SEC has 14 teams instead of 12 like the Pac-12. And while both conferences have their bottom feeders there is certainly a feeling that a few of the teams in the SEC exist solely to get 4 easy non-conference wins and then get smoked 8 times by the rest of the conference (sorry Vandy). If the Pac-12 had that many teams and added a couple middle of the road Power-5s into the mix you would probably see a stronger showing from the Pac-12 south than you currently (and usually) do. The north has clearly dominated the south since the expansion to 12 and, with the exception of Utah recently, it's not far fetched to envision USC and UCLA having a bit more success if they lose 2 Pac-12 north games off their schedule each season.