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Power Rankings and Bowl Projections

Headed into the championship game, the power rankings look a lot like the do every year; Stanford, USC, Oregon, and UCLA are all near the top. Utah’s presence in the top third is an anomaly that Ute fans hope becomes a trend.

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Power Rankings

1. Stanford (+1)- Stanford defeated one of the best teams in the country, has the best record in the PAC 12, and is headed to the PAC 12 championship game. Hard to put them anywhere else but on top.

2. USC (-1)- USC knocked off the Bruins in convincing fashion to lock up the PAC 12 South, and FPI favors them just slightly to beat the Cardinal and win the whole enchilada and head to the Rose Bowl. That would be a convoluted path to a very predictable result.

3. Oregon (+2)- WSU’s rotten performance at the Apple Cup leaves room for this traditional PAC 12 power to slide into place. The loss to the Utes is too long ago to let Utah get ahead of them.

4. Utah (no change)- There’s nothing going on here, as the Utes beat Colorado ugly, but beat them all the same. Utah sits quietly and waits for their bowl matchup.

5. UCLA (+1)- UCLA’s loss to the Trojans didn’t drag them down, as they looked competent throughout. They’ll have a chance to get to nine wins this year, but they have to find out who they are facing in their bowl first.

6. WSU (-3)- So much for the Cougar’s surprising defense. So much for their consistent offense. WSU looked totally lost and completely outmatched against a Washington team that has squeaked into bowl eligibility.

7. Cal (no change)- A classic PAC 12 After Dark performance from the Bears, who overcame a huge deficit to topple the Sun Devils. No question it’s been a disappointing second half of the season, but this win takes some of the heartache out of it.

8. ASU (+1)- ASU’s defense has totally fallen apart. Curiously, it can be traced to back to an exact moment- the moment at halftime Kyle Whittingham said ‘they’re stealing our signals’.  Since then, they’ve looked entirely mortal on both sides of the ball.

9. Washington (+1)- Washington’s continued improvement is showing. They figure to be a tough out next year as what’s clearly a talented team gains more experience. After a mammoth win over the Cougars, they’ve got an extra few weeks of practice to work on things.

10. Arizona (-2)- Arizona was done last week, and fell out of voters’ favor this week by virtue of not playing anyone. Sometimes the Bye is your toughest opponent.

11. Colorado (no change)- The Buffs lost to the Utes, and it was once again closer than it should have been. Are we absolutely SURE this isn’t a rivalry?

12. OSU (no change)- The ten point final deficit looks large, but the way this game was going at the end it was anybody’s to win. Oregon State put together a complete offensive performance, but the offense had no answers for the Ducks, and so the Beavers stay right here at 12.

Bowl Projections

Less than usual to talk about this week, as there are no projections left. The press services are in lockstep on the Utes’ bowl position, but the BlockU model disagrees for two reasons: first, FPI gives USC the slight edge over Stanford, which results in two PAC 12 teams in NY6 bowls. Second, my model uses head-to-head matchups to break ties, and the Utes’ blowout of the Ducks means they get to go first among the 9-3 teams.

Advanced metrics favor the Trojans in this matchup. Stanford has managed to retain its reputation as a defensive powerhouse, but the numbers don’t back that up. The Cardinal has been riding an elite offense through some wild shootouts this season, while the Trojans have put together a team that plays very well on both sides of the ball. Look for the Trojans to slow down the Cardinal a bit and for Stanford to be unable to find a way to stop USC.

This is the best result for the Utes; it would take a lot of crazy games for Stanford to get into the playoff, and the Trojans winning the PAC 12 is the best way to add an extra bowl game at the front end. Regardless, Utah has won enough games that there’s no real chance of a lousy matchup. The Utes’ opponent is likely to have 9 or more wins and a CFP ranking. Despite the could-have-beens, it's been a pretty darn good season.