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PAC-12 POWER RANKINGS: No likely Playoff contender, but a 5-way title race is fun!

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Embrace some West Coast wildness.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

At the end of each conference run-through, I take a look at how I perceive the conference's balance of power heading into the season. This is in no way based on schedules, so they are not predictions. This is just how I would rank the teams after writing thousands of words about each of them.

When I finished all of the Group of Five conferences, I compiled a full mid-major power rankings list. Now we're into the power conferences; here's the ACC.

I typically envision four tiers in a given conference. The Pac-12 has only three.

Tier 1

1. Stanford
2. Oregon
3. Washington
4. USC
5. UCLA

I have hemmed and hawed and flipped teams multiple times, but these lists basically come down to comfort level, and I'm most comfortable with the thought of Stanford being the best team in the conference.

But these five schools are nearly interchangeable; all of them could end up somewhere between about fifth and 25th overall, I think. This is the Pac-12's greatest selling point this year.

There's no slam-dunk Playoff contender. Stanford and USC have brutal schedules, run defense is a massive concern for Oregon and UCLA, and while I assume Washington will be very good, I need to see the Huskies beating good teams before I truly believe the top-10 hype. Still, there is a ton of intra-tier battles here, and every one of them should be fun to watch.

Tier 2

6. Utah
7. Washington State
8. Arizona State
9. Arizona
10. Cal

I would be surprised if any of these teams make a serious conference title run, but I put Utah at the top of this tier because the Utes have the most trustworthy single unit of any of these teams. Their offense could be pretty subpar, but that isn't necessarily a new development. Their defense is used to carrying a major load and might again.

I assumed I would be putting Cal in Tier 3 when these previews began, but I've talked myself into the Golden Bears having quite a bit of potential. The defense won't be worse, and while turnover on offense is massive, I still like the upside in the passing game. And a Sonny Dykes passing game is only going to fall so far.

Tier 3

11. Colorado
12. Oregon State

Colorado now has to make up for lost time after a disappointing third year, and Gary Andersen's team was so young in 2015 that it's still probably too young to succeed.

Confused? Check out the advanced-stats glossary here.

Pac-12 North

Team 2015 Record (Conf.) 2015 S&P+ Rk Proj. 2016 S&P+ Rk Proj. 2016 Wins (Conf.) 5-Yr Rec. Rk Ret. Experience (Off. / Def.)
Stanford 12-2 (8-1) 10 16 7.9 (5.7) 18 36% (20% / 52%)
Oregon 9-4 (7-2) 25 18 8.2 (5.8) 19 64% (49% / 79%)
UW 7-6 (4-5) 12 10 9.0 (6.1) 29 76% (72% / 79%)
Wazzu 9-4 (6-3) 63 48 6.2 (4.0) 57 79% (87% / 71%)
Cal 8-5 (4-5) 34 49 5.2 (3.5) 36 39% (15% / 62%)
OSU 2-10 (0-9) 102 86 4.0 (2.5) 54 75% (72% / 78%)

Pac-12 South

Team 2015 Record (Conf.) 2015 S&P+ Rk Proj. 2016 S&P+ Rk Proj. 2016 Wins (Conf.) 5-Yr Rec. Rk Ret. Experience (Off. / Def.)
USC 8-6 (6-3) 17 8 7.7 (5.9) 2 66% (54% / 77%)
UCLA 8-5 (5-4) 23 12 8.6 (6.6) 13 75% (61% / 88%)
Utah 10-3 (6-3) 27 39 6.6 (4.4) 46 55% (35% / 76%)
ASU 6-7 (4-5) 57 57 5.6 (3.4) 28 35% (27% / 43%)
Arizona 7-6 (3-6) 77 64 5.7 (3.5) 44 63% (61% / 65%)
CU 4-9 (1-8) 98 82 4.3 (2.6) 56 80% (81% / 78%)