I saw a couple people mention the tiers in another thread, so while I had some post-holiday free time I thought I’d do a quick scan & prediction for the upcoming season.
I kind of slacked off there at the end of the season...although with as low as I had Colorado, Utah probably finished the regular season in Tier 4, but with the bowl win, got back to Tier 3...I suppose I could chalk it up to my “rivalry” exception…but that would be a cop out.
…anyway, quick reminder of the “tier” definitions.
Tier 0 — Elite team. This team doesn’t lose a game, might have a "scare" from a Tier 2 team at worst…national championship material.
Tier 1 — Great teams. These are the teams who finish with 11 wins, go to a BCS game…finish in the top 10.
Tier 2 — Good teams. These are the teams who finish with 8-10 wins, finish ranked in the top 25 or just outside at worst.
Tier 3 — Above average teams. These are the teams that finish with 6-7 wins. Some will make a bowl game & possibly make it to 8 wins, but won’t be ranked.
Tier 4 — Average teams. These are the teams who will win 3-5 games.
Tier 5 — Below average teams. These are the teams who win 1-2 games. (Keep in mind that if they were in the MWC…these teams would likely finish with 4-7 wins)
Tier 6 -- Poor teams. A team that finishes with 0 wins in the Pac-12...(would finish with around 2-3 wins in the MWC)
Tier 7 -- Terrible teams. A team who finishes with 0-1 win in a non-AQ conference.
During "The Grind", a team from a tier up to two below your team's tier could beat you. That would be credited to "The Grind" (CLICK HERE to read more about "The Grind"). So a Tier 1 team might lose to a Tier 3 team…but never to a Tier 4 or 5.
A Tier 3 team might beat anyone or lose to anyone from Tier 1 to Tier 5…creating that "Middle" in the Pac-12 that is so hard to predict. Even a Tier 2, ranked in the top 25, team has the potential to lose to an average team.
…and with rivalry games, all bets are off. That is the nature of a rivalry.
My thoughts for this year...and this being predictive, not a power ranking...
Tier 0 -
USC - definite shot at the NC. OOC isn't too tough, but is strong enough that if they do go undefeated they should be lined up to play whatever SEC team that the corrupt BCS puts in there (assuming it's not just 2 SEC schools again).
Tier 1 -
Oregon - I only see them losing twice to USC (once in the Pac12 Championship)...mostly because of their horrendous OOC scheduling...not that I, as a Utah fan, have much room to talk...not sure if 10-2 with that OOC gets a BCS bid, so Alamo Bowl is my prediction. If they win their bowl game, that should put them at the back end of the top 10.
Tier 2 –
Utah - This might seem a bit bold, but an easy OOC should set them up for a possible ranked showdown with USC (I expect a win vs. ASU with the loss of Osweiller). The only "guaranteed" loss I see is USC, although I would chalk @ Washington into the L column. @UCLA concerns me, as does Wazzu. I think Utah finishes conference play @ no worse than 8-4...but my prediction is 10-2, and the Holiday Bowl representative, with an outside shot at an "at large" BCS game if they beat Washington & go 11-1. Ranking should be in the 10-20th range, depending on if they W/L their bowl game, with an upshot of top 5 if they make & win a BCS game.
Stanford - Losses to USC, Oregon, maybe ND...possibly another conference loss in there (Washington, Wazzu, Cal)...they seem fringy top 25. I could easily see them falling into tier 3, and being replaced by Washington or even possibly Wazzu. Sun Bowl, an easy victory & a top 20-25 ranking for the team that does finish here.
Tier 3 -
Washington - Tough schedule. Losses to LSU, USC, Oregon...maybe Stanford and/or Cal, and/or Utah. I could see them as a ranked 4 loss team if they win their bowl game next year.
Washington St. – Very interested to see what the Mad Pirate does with this team. Missing USC is huge. Also plays an OOC that should get them to 3-0 (Leach will eat Roscoe’s lunch). Losses to Oregon, Washington, maybe Cal and/or Utah.
Tier 4 –
UCLA – I really like the hiring of Jim Mora Jr…I just wish he had some good on camera rants like his old man. I think 2-1 in OOC, and they have some great misses in conference (Oregon, Washington). I’m predicting losses to USC, Stanford, and 2 out of 3 vs. Utah, Wazzu, Cal.
Cal – Another team with a tough OOC schedule, and they miss the easier teams in the South. I see losses to Ohio St., USC, Oregon, Utah maybe Stanford and/or Washington, and or UCLA.
Tier 5 -
ASU – Moderate OOC, but the loss of Osweiller puts them at 1-2 in OOC.
Colorado – Oh, my hated, hated rival. A weak OOC should set up for a 3-0 season start. I project a 2 wins somewhere in conference for a 5-7 finish.
Tier 6 -
Oregon St. – I think they go 1-2 in OOC, with losses to Wisc & BYU. I don’t see in conference getting much better, even though they do miss USC. 1-2 in-conference wins and the termination of Mike Riley.
Arizona – I think Rich Rod is a terrible coach. We’ll see if he proves me wrong. OOC looks like 2-1, but in conference I think there might be 1-2 wins max. Expect them to be the doormat of the league next year.
Tier 7 –