clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Pac-12 Bowl Game Team Comparison and Projection (Part 2)

Just one more Pac-12 team will be competing in a bowl game before Christmas-the Utah Utes. And then USC plays a couple of days after Christmas.

NCAA Football: Colorado at Utah Christopher Creveling-USA TODAY Sports

This is the second part of a series which will look at the bowl games for the Pac-12. Next week I hope to look at the remaining Pac-12 bowl games prior to the New Year’s day games. And the final part will look at the two NY6 games featuring Pac-12 teams.

The Pac-12 is in action again this Saturday with one team playing in a bowl game: Utah in the Las Vegas Bowl. This will look at both games to compare the teams in that bowl game using advanced stats and show who is favored in the games.

Las Vegas Bowl: Utah vs Northwestern

Colorado v Utah Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images

Northwestern fired their head coach back in July and many assumed that Northwestern would struggle. But interim coach David Braun (who later had the interim title removed and is now the head coach) got Northwestern to a 7-5 record.

Most Husky fans are very familiar with Utah since UW played them in November.

In the Massey Composite Rankings, Utah is #24 while Northwestern is #55.

Here is how both teams look in some of the advanced stats.

Advanced Stats Ranking Comparison-Utah vs Northwestern

School FEI F+ SP+ Beta Rank FPI
School FEI F+ SP+ Beta Rank FPI
Utah 26 30 36 26 25
Northwestern 55 63 71 57 64

The advanced stats rankings look similar to the Composite Rankings. They all show Utah with a significant advantage.

Here’s what the advanced stats look like for both sides of the ball for each team.

Off/Def Stat Comparison-Utah vs Northwestern

Team/Side FEI F+ SP+ Beta Rank
Team/Side FEI F+ SP+ Beta Rank
Utah Off. 53 54 60 45
Northwestern Def. 44 35 30 50
Northwestern Off. 76 93 105 67
Utah Def. 12 18 28 19

Northwestern doesn’t have a great offense while Utah’s defense is one of the top in the country. This would normally indicate Northwestern should struggle to score points. On the other side, Utah’s offense is better than Northwestern’s, but still not great. And Northwestern’s defense, while not as good as Utah’s, is still good. Utah could still struggle to score, but the stats appear to indicate that it should be easier for them to score.

Several sites are projecting which team will have the advantage in the game.

  • ESPN’s FPI has Utah with a 77.2% win percentage.
  • Beta Rank has Utah with a 79% win percentage.
  • Massey has Utah with a 92% win percentage.
  • SP+ has Utah with a 71% win percentage.

So, all of these sites see Utah with a significant advantage in the game. As with a lot of bowl games, the outcome could come down to which team has the most motivation and the least impact from opt-outs.

Holiday Bowl: Louisville vs USC

Because this game is so close after Christmas, I’m including it now (along with there being only one other game before then).

USC vs UCLA in Los Angeles, CA

A lot has already been written about the disappointing season for USC. Despite having the returning Heisman winner and doing well in the Transfer Portal between 2022 and 2023, they did worse. A large part of that was due to a defense that was bad in 2022 and then even worse in 2023-again, despite some significant transfer additions. It was bad enough that it got their DC fired after USC gave up 52 points to UW (and all but snuffed out any hope for winning the Pac-12).

Louisville was one of the surprise teams this season-finishing 10-3 under first-year coach Jeff Brohm. They were ranked as high as #10 in the 3rd-to-last CFP rankings. But then they lost to Kentucky and then to Florida State in the ACC Championship Game-the first time they had ever reached the ACC championship game.

In the Massey Composite Rankings, Louisville is #17 and USC is #37.

Here is how both teams look in some of the advanced stats.

Advanced Stats Ranking Comparison-USC vs Louisville

School FEI F+ SP+ Beta Rank FPI
School FEI F+ SP+ Beta Rank FPI
Louisville 18 20 23 20 23
USC 21 27 38 35 21

Louisville is ranked ahead of USC in all but one, but the teams are close in most of the rankings.

Here’s what the advanced stats look like for both sides of the ball for each team.

Off/Def Stat Comparison-USC vs Louisville

Team/Side FEI F+ SP+ Beta Rank
Team/Side FEI F+ SP+ Beta Rank
Louisville Off. 30 33 32 38
USC Def. 91 100 111 93
USC Off. 9 6 3 8
Louisville Def. 13 17 31 10

Nobody who paid any attention to USC should be surprised by the huge discrepancy between how their offense and defense ranks. Their offense was great (as long as they weren’t turning the ball over) while their defense couldn’t stop anyone. The only teams that didn’t score at least 28 were Nevada and Stanford. And they allowed at least 34 in each of their last 8 games.

Louisville’s offense did well in almost all of their games-with a big exception against Florida State, which has one of the best defenses in the country. Fortunately, Louisville will not be facing that kind of defense in the bowl game. Their defense is good, but it will be a tough test versus USC’s offense.

Several sites are projecting which team will have the advantage in the game.

  • ESPN’s FPI has USC with a 54% win percentage.
  • Beta Rank has Louisville with a 71% win percentage.
  • Massey has USC with a 54% win percentage.
  • SP+ has Louisville with a 57% win percentage.

Obviously not as much agreement compared to the Las Vegas Bowl.

As with a lot of bowl games, the outcome could come down to which team has the most motivation and the least impact from opt-outs. That’s particularly true with this game as USC has about 20 opt-outs including QB Caleb Williams. Louisville has just 10-and none of them are opting-out to prepare for the NFL draft like Williams and WR Brendan Rice.

Poll

What will the record be for the Pac-12 teams in these two bowl games (Utah vs Northwestern and USC vs Louisville)?

This poll is closed

  • 18%
    2-0 (Both teams will win)
    (45 votes)
  • 74%
    1-1
    (179 votes)
  • 6%
    0-2 (Both teams will lose)
    (16 votes)
240 votes total Vote Now