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Pac-12 Rankings and Projections After Week 2

The Pac-12 dominates the major polls, but what will that mean for the conference this year?

Pac-12 Football Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Pac-12 set a conference record this week with 8 teams in the AP poll at the same time-beating the previous record of 6, which they tied last week. (The SEC has had at least 8 teams ranked at the same time on several occasions, and they have had as many as 10 teams ranked at the same time.)

Rankings

Here is a summary of where the Pac-12 teams are ranked in the major polls along with some other rankings that include all 133 teams.

Pac-12 Teams in the Rankings

School Composite Rank CBS College Football News AP Coaches
School Composite Rank CBS College Football News AP Coaches
USC 7 6 4 5 5
Washington 9 7 8 8 8
Utah 14 13 17 12 12
Oregon 12 10 12 13 13
Oregon State 15 16 20 16 17
Colorado 59 17 21 18 21
Washington State 30 26 22 23 26
UCLA 19 24 19 24 25
California 54 59 47
Arizona 67 62 52
Arizona State 89 85 70
Stanford 90 93 74

The rankings for the Pac-12 teams in the top-25 are pretty consistent-with the glaring exception of Colorado. (We’ll look at that later.)

Here is the “New Cool Chart” showing where the Pac-12 teams are ranked (out of all 133 teams) based on the Massey Composite Rankings. (Currently these are based on a composite of 51 different rankings. A few more may get added to the Composite in the next day or two, but the rankings of the Pac-12 teams should not change much.) The chart includes the rankings from the preseason through the ‘week 2’ games.

The labels were intentionally left off of the top 6 teams because they would be so close together. Here is a look at just the top 6 teams (according to the Massey Composite Rankings).

Obviously Colorado isn’t on this yet, but given the trend in the previous picture, they could be soon. The other observation from this is the drop by Utah. The Utes needing a late rally to beat Baylor was likely the reason for the drop. Oregon won, but being a close game meant that they not only didn’t move up, but dropped slightly. UCLA moved up into the top 20 with a couple of convincing wins.

Team-Based Advanced Stats

This early in the season, many of the rankings use data from the previous season. The following is a comparison between one of the advanced stats that appears to use data from the previous season and one that uses just the performance this year.

Advanced Stats Comparison After Week 2

School F+ NPD
School F+ NPD
Arizona 65 72
Arizona State 75 93
California 51 38
Colorado 74 33
Oregon 16 51
Oregon State 19 10
Stanford 96 95
UCLA 22 22
USC 6 2
Utah 14 41
Washington 10 6
Washington State 36 25
Comparison between some advanced stats for Pac-12 teams

The “F+” ratings are a combination of the FEI ratings and the SP+ ratings. (They can be found here.) “NPD” stands for Net Points per Drive. It is a combination of the points per drive for the offense minus the points per drive allowed by the defense. This stat is only for games between FBS teams, so games against FCS teams are excluded; and it is only for games this year. (You can find these rankings here.)

Since the NPD is only based on one or two games, it isn’t necessarily a good indicator of how good or bad a team is this season. The current rankings are more about who teams have played. But where there is a big difference between F+ and NPD it shows how one is using data from a previous season and the other isn’t.

Colorado has the biggest difference. It can be argued whether Colorado should be a top 25 team or not. But based on their play so far, it is clear that they are closer to a top 25 team, like #33 in NPD, than they are the #74 team in F+. On the flip side are Oregon and Utah. Both are top 25 teams in F+ but not close to that in NPD. Teams like UCLA, Stanford, USC, and UW which appear (so far) to be picking up where they left off after last season.

Whether teams like Colorado, Oregon, and Utah can get to be in the top 25 in both rankings is something to watch. Expect that it may take a few more weeks to get that sorted and the two rankings more in alignment. With Colorado and Utah, the games in weeks 4 and 5 should clarify their rankings. Colorado plays Oregon and USC in those weeks while Utah plays UCLA and Oregon State.

Again, the NPD rankings are only based on one or two games, so they shouldn’t be considered a good measure this early in the season. But then again, rankings which use data from last season aren’t necessarily a good measure, either. Teams that are about the same in both are probably ranked about right, but it will likely take several more weeks before we get a more clear picture of where teams should be ranked.

ESPN FPI

I know that a lot of fans, especially Pac-12 fans, do not think highly of ESPN’s FPI. And this week there is good reason to be skeptical since they have Alabama as their number 1 team despite losing to Texas at home by double-digits. They had Alabama with a 79% chance to beat Texas, but Alabama obviously lost. Despite misses like that, they are a fairly reliable predictor of games-correct on 70-80% of the games.

Here is the updated ESPN FPI information for the Pac-12 teams including their current ranking and a comparison between their preseason and current win projections.

ESPN FPI Win Projections for Pac-12 Teams

School FPI Rank Win (proj) Preseason Wins Change
School FPI Rank Win (proj) Preseason Wins Change
USC 4 10.6 10 0.6
Oregon 11 9.7 8.9 0.8
Washington 14 8.7 7.7 1
Utah 16 8.7 8.5 0.2
Oregon State 17 8.9 8.6 0.3
UCLA 30 8 7.5 0.5
California 33 5.9 5.7 0.2
WSU 45 7.2 5.6 1.6
Arizona 52 5.4 5.6 -0.2
Colorado 58 6 2.8 3.2
Stanford 81 3.4 4.3 -0.9
Arizona State 94 2.7 5 -2.3

ESPN’s FPI has been updating their game-by-game projections as well. Here are some highlights (and lowlights) from each of the game projections for each of the other Pac-12 teams. (A look at UW is included below.)

  • Arizona is favored in their opening conference game, against Stanford. After that it gets tough as they are underdogs in all but their last game against Arizona State.
  • Arizona State was favored in 4 of their remaining games according to ESPN’s FPI before the season started (Fresno State, Colorado, WSU, and Arizona); but now they aren’t favored in any more games.
  • California is favored against Arizona State, Stanford, and (surprisingly) WSU.
  • Colorado is now favored in 4 of their remaining games (Colorado State, Arizona State, Stanford, and Arizona). But ESPN’s FPI didn’t give them much of a chance in either of their first two games (which they won), so we shouldn’t be surprised if they win more than 6 (the two that they’ve already won and the 4 where they are favored).
  • Oregon is favored in all but one of their remaining games (against USC).
  • Oregon State is favored in all but one of their remaining games (against Oregon).
  • Stanford is favored against Sacramento State this weekend, but not in any of their remaining games.
  • UCLA is favored in all of the same games that they were before the season started. They are still underdogs in their 3 road games against ranked teams (Utah, Oregon State, and USC).
  • USC is an underdog on the road against Notre Dame, but favored in all of their other games.
  • Utah was favored in all but one of their remaining games (at USC) before the season started. But now they are favored in just 6 of their remaining games. They moved from favorite to underdog against Oregon State, Oregon, and UW.
  • WSU improved their win percentage in all but one game (against Colorado), although they are favored in just one more game now than the preseason (against Arizona State).

If you take the one conference game so far (USC-Stanford) and use ESPN’s FPI projections for the remaining games, here is what they think the final conference standings would look like as of now:

  • USC (9-0)
  • Oregon (8-1) * wins tie-breaker based on head-to-head matchup
  • Oregon State (8-1)
  • UW (6-3)
  • UCLA (6-3)
  • Utah (5-4)
  • WSU (4-5)
  • Colorado (3-6)
  • California (3-6)
  • Arizona (2-7)
  • Stanford (0-9)
  • Arizona State (0-9)

The 3 games that they are projecting UW to lose are the games against Oregon, USC, and Oregon State. They have Oregon State as the underdog in just one game (Oregon), which is why they would lose the tie-breaker. They have 2 other close games: Utah and UW. Both of those games are at home, which is what likely gives them the slight edge in those games. The one game when Oregon is the underdog is obviously against USC. They have a couple of close games-against UW and Utah. Despite the fact that both of those games are road games for Oregon, they are a slight favorite in both. Curious.

This week’s Pac-12 games feature games against a number of FCS or weak FBS opponents. As a result, the Pac-12 teams are heavy favorites (greater that 85% win percentage) in all but two games. One of those games is UW’s game against Michigan State. UW is favored, but not by as much as most of the other teams. They have a 66% win percentage. The one game where the Pac-12 team is not favored is Arizona State vs Fresno State. Arizona State has a win percentage of just 40.2%.

UW’s Remaining Games

In ESPN’s FPI, UW’s win percentage improved in almost every game since the preseason-in some games by double-digits. The exception is against WSU where it dropped slightly from 81.6% to 80.5% (but still considered a heavy favorite). UW has gone from underdog to favorite against both Michigan State (45% to 66%) and Utah (48.2% to 58.4%).

One other place that has win percentages for remaining games is the Massey ratings. Here is a comparison between ESPN’s FPI win percentage and the Massey Ratings projections for UW.

UW Win Percentages For Remaining Games

Visitor Home Massey Win % ESPN Win %
Visitor Home Massey Win % ESPN Win %
Washington Michigan State 68% 66.0%
California Washington 78% 76.1%
Washington Arizona 76% 74.8%
Oregon Washington 53% 48.8%
Arizona State Washington 84% 95.0%
Washington Stanford 82% 89.2%
Washington USC 44% 23.1%
Utah Washington 48% 58.4%
Washington Oregon State 47% 48.5%
Washington State Washington 70% 80.5%

There are arguably only a few games where there is a meaningful difference. The first is the game against USC where Massey gives UW a reasonable chance while ESPN’s FPI doesn’t. Next is the game against Oregon where favored by ESPN’s FPI but UW is favored by Massey. The other is the game against Utah where ESPN has UW as the favorite and Massey has Utah as the favorite.

Conclusions

I don’t think that most UW fans would argue with UW being heavily favored in their games against all but Oregon, USC, Utah, and Oregon State. And while there may be some disagreement about those 4 games, I think most would agree that those would likely be close-based on what we know now. Whether any of that changes will likely depend on what happens in the games before those games (by both teams). And for now, UW is clearly being recognized as one of the top teams in the country-but it will still have to prove it with each game, especially those 3 critical games in November.

The Pac-12 may indeed have 8 of the best teams in the country. Unfortunately, those 8 teams will be playing many games against each other-resulting in many losses. How those losses are distributed will likely determine how many Pac-12 teams are ranked by the end of the season. By my count there are 22 games featuring two (currently) ranked Pac-12 teams; and that doesn’t include USC’s game against Notre Dame. That means at least 22 combined losses for those 8 teams-and that doesn’t include any potential upsets or the Pac-12 Championship Game. If divided evenly, most Pac-12 teams could have 3 losses by the end of the season.

Last year the lowest ranked 3-loss team in the final CFP rankings was UCLA at #18. And in 2021, it was Kentucky at #22. So if the losses are evenly distributed, the Pac-12 could still have 8 teams ranked. But if that happens, they will not likely have a team in the CFP because no team would have just 1 loss. If a Pac-12 team does make the CFP (with 0 or 1 loss), then there are probably less than 8 Pac-12 ranked in the final CFP poll because some of the (currently) ranked teams will likely have 4 or more losses. It may still be possible for them to be ranked in the top 25 in the final CFP poll with 4 losses since there were 6 4-loss teams in the final CFP ranking last year, but it may depend on who the teams have lost to, and how they looked in those losses and their other games.

Finally, with 8 (out of 12) ranked teams, not only will they be playing each other, but there are so many ranked teams that just about every conference game is currently scheduled to include at least one ranked team. Of the 55 games scheduled starting in week 4 (when conference play starts for most teams), only 4 games do not feature at least one ranked team: Arizona at Stanford (week 4), Arizona State at California (week 5), California at Stanford (week 12), and Arizona at Arizona State (week 13). That’s potentially a lot of interest among the TV networks and TV viewers.

Poll

How many Pac-12 teams will be ranked in the final CFP poll?

This poll is closed

  • 26%
    Less than 5
    (51 votes)
  • 43%
    5
    (82 votes)
  • 23%
    6
    (45 votes)
  • 4%
    7
    (9 votes)
  • 1%
    More than 7
    (3 votes)
190 votes total Vote Now