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Pac-12 Rankings

The final rankings of the regular season

NCAA Football: Southern California at California Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

The Pac-12 has 4 teams in the CFP rankings, including 2 of the top 5 teams. And those teams will be facing each other on Friday. Arizona (#15) and Oregon State (#20) are the other ranked teams.

Let’s look at where all of the teams ended up in the rankings after their last regular-season games (and their last games of the season for some of the teams).

There is little difference between the CFP rankings and the AP and Coaches polls. The one note on the polls is that Utah is getting votes (#28 in the Coaches poll and #29 in the AP poll).

Composite Rankings

The Massey Composite Rankings have all 133 FBS teams. Here’s how the Pac-12 teams have done this year in those rankings.

With just a couple of exceptions, there is a clear differentiation between all of the teams. One place where it is close is between Arizona and Oregon State-although, since Arizona beat Oregon State, and has one more loss, it is a bit surprising that it is that close. The other place where it is close is at the top. Oregon and Washington have been the top two teams in the conference since week 4; and UW had been the top team since week 3. But that has now changed; Oregon has edged above UW-despite the head-to-head result.

While you could quibble about the exact numbers (and Oregon being above UW), the current rankings order looks reasonable based on how each of the teams has performed this season.

Advanced Stats

Here are the updated advanced stats rankings for the Pac-12 teams.

Advanced Stat Rankings for Pac-12 Schools

School Composite SP+ F+ FEI FPI Beta Rank
School Composite SP+ F+ FEI FPI Beta Rank
Oregon 4 4 2 2 3 1
Washington 5 11 11 11 13 16
Arizona 17 21 18 17 23 11
Oregon State 18 17 16 15 18 15
Utah 23 37 29 25 25 26
USC 32 39 26 21 21 33
UCLA 41 41 39 39 36 38
California 47 64 52 43 47 41
Washington State 62 52 43 38 52 46
Colorado 79 85 77 66 75 69
Arizona State 91 123 103 91 96 88
Stanford 99 124 105 94 105 94

One note on the SP+ rankings is that it is based on all college football teams, not just FBS teams. This mostly impacts Arizona State and Stanford because there are 15 FCS schools ranked higher than them, including Idaho (#121) and Harvard (#120). There is one FCS school that is ranked above all but the top 3 Pac-12 schools-South Dakota State at #35. North Dakota State (#62) is above California and Colorado (as well as above Arizona State and Stanford).

There is more variation for Arizona than I would have expected, and less variation for UCLA. Cal is another school that has a lot of variation-from a low of 64 to a high of 43.

Points per Drive is a set of stats that I think are a better indication of how good an offense and defense is. It is better than just average points per game since it takes into account the pace of play (how many drives per game) and removes both ‘garbage time’ and games against FCS opponents. It does not, however, account for opponents. Here is how the Pac-12 teams rank in these stats.

Points Per Drive

School NPD NPD Rank OPD OPD Rank DPD DPD Rank
School NPD NPD Rank OPD OPD Rank DPD DPD Rank
Oregon 2.86 2 4.35 1 1.49 15
Washington 1.48 10 3.43 7 1.94 38
Arizona 1.31 13 3.17 9 1.87 33
Oregon State 0.92 22 3.11 11 2.18 61
UCLA 0.52 40 1.92 82 1.4 9
USC 0.5 42 3.22 8 2.73 111
Utah 0.17 58 2.01 78 1.84 29
Washington State -0.06 68 2.15 68 2.21 66
California -0.3 75 2.33 53 2.63 105
Colorado -0.57 94 2.21 63 2.78 117
Arizona State -1.54 131 1.4 123 2.95 123
Stanford -1.61 132 1.74 102 3.35 132

The Net Points per Drive (NPD) takes the Offensive Points per Drive (OPD) and subtracts the Defensive Points per Drive (DPD) allowed. Included are both the actual values as well as the ranks.

The first thing I noticed is that the Pac-12 still has 4 of the top 10 and 5 of the top 11 offenses in the country. Despite UW’s offensive struggles in the second half of the season, they are still at #7-although they were at #1 earlier in the season. But Oregon’s OPD is almost a full point ahead of UW’s (4.35 vs 3.43) despite being just 9 places; that indicates just how good Oregon’s offense has been this year. The only other team with better than 4.0 for OPD is LSU. You’ll also notice that there is a difference of almost 0.2 between UW and the #8 team (USC).

Only UCLA has a top 10 defense. And 5 of the Pac-12 teams have defenses worse than #100. Given Coach Wilcox’s reputation, it is surprising that Cal is one of those teams.

The next thing to notice is that these rankings are very similar to the advanced stats rankings. USC’s and Utah’s rankings are lower here. It shouldn’t be that surprising-and they are for different reasons. USC’s defense is BAD and is the reason their Net Points per Drive is so low. On the flip side, Utah’s offense has been holding back their NPD.

Here’s a comparison between the OPD and DPD to the offensive and defensive F+ rankings.

Points Per Drive/F+ Comparison

School OPD Rank OF+ DPD Rank DF+
School OPD Rank OF+ DPD Rank DF+
Arizona 9 10 33 39
Arizona State 123 104 123 90
California 53 40 105 60
Colorado 63 44 117 109
Oregon 1 1 15 13
Oregon State 11 12 61 36
Stanford 102 87 132 117
UCLA 82 62 9 12
USC 8 5 111 100
Utah 78 54 29 18
Washington 7 6 38 37
Washington State 68 42 66 49

The F+ rankings do take into account the opponent, which explains why there are some big differences between the F+ and the OPD/DPD. This is especially evident on the defensive side as teams like Arizona State, California, and Oregon State have all played multiple teams with top 10 offenses.

And finally, here’s a comparison between the CFP rankings and the Massey Composite and the NPD rankings.

CFP Comparison

Team Conference CFP Composite NPD
Team Conference CFP Composite NPD
Georgia SEC 1 2 3
Michigan BigTen 2 1 1
Washington Pac-12 3 5 10
Florida State ACC 4 7 7
Oregon Pac-12 5 4 2
Ohio State BigTen 6 3 5
Texas Big12 7 6 12
Alabama SEC 8 8 16
Missouri SEC 9 12 23
Penn State BigTen 10 9 6
Ole Miss SEC 11 13 27
Oklahoma Big12 12 10 8
LSU SEC 13 11 14
Louisville ACC 14 16 19
Arizona Pac-12 15 17 13
Iowa BigTen 16 20 48
Notre Dame Ind 17 14 11
Oklahoma State Big12 18 27 57
NC State ACC 19 24 52
Oregon State Pac-12 20 18 22
Tennessee SEC 21 25 35
Tulane AAC 22 30 24
Clemson ACC 23 21 30
Liberty C-USA 24 22 4
Kansas State Big12 25 15 18

It shouldn’t be too surprising to see the Composite rankings being similar to the CFP since the CFP ranking is included in the Composite (along with the AP and Coaches polls).

There are some stark differences between the CFP rankings and the NPD rankings.

The first one that Husky fans will notice is the UW’s NPD is lower than the other top 6 teams-although surprisingly above both Texas and Alabama.

Given how many close games Iowa has been in (4 games decided by 3 or fewer points), it shouldn’t be surprising that they are so low in NPD. It also hurts their ranking that they got blown out by Penn State (31-0) and have only two wins by more than 10 points (that’s even worse than UW!).

Of the top 30 teams in NPD, there are 9 that are not in the CFP rankings. All but one of those teams are Group-of-Five teams. Texas A&M is #21 in NPD but not in the CFP; but they also have a 7-5 record and a 0-4 record against teams ranked in the CFP. In other words, they beat up on a bunch of bad teams, but lost to the good teams they played.

Overall, while there may (or may not) be some bias by the CFP for specific placements in the rankings, the objective measures seem to indicate that they did a good job of identifying the top 25 teams. Specifically it looks like Missouri, Ole Miss, Iowa, Oklahoma State, NC State, and Tennessee (3 SEC teams) may be overrated, although a case could be made for each of them being in the top 30. For example, Iowa and Oklahoma State are both in the conference championship games; and NC State, Missouri, and Ole Miss have wins over top-25 teams. Tennessee is the one that appears the most questionable.

Final Thoughts

Early in the season the Pac-12 built up a good reputation with some of their non-conference wins like Colorado over TCU and Nebraska, WSU over Wisconsin, Oregon over Texas Tech, Utah over Florida and Baylor, and UW over Boise State and Michigan State. However, some of those wins look less impressive now-especially since none of those teams are ranked. And the two times a Pac-12 team did face a ranked team from another conference, they both lost by large margins (both USC and Stanford to Notre Dame). However, that shouldn’t diminish what the Pac-12 has accomplished in it final season-4 ranked teams, including two that are close to being in the CFP.