Compu-Picks 2012 Preview - Pac-12

Originally posted on CFN.

Projected ranking and expected results

Expected Wins Projected League Results
Team 2012 Rank 2011 Rank All Games League Games SOS Div Finish Division Odds
Oregon 1 4 11.36 8.38 62 1 78.6%
Stanford 13 6 9.07 6.57 33 2 13.2%
Washington 29 44 7.22 5.18 28 3 5.1%
Oregon State 42 72 6.10 4.40 22 4 2.2%
Washington State 83 77 4.38 2.57 38 5 0.3%
California 57 39 4.33 2.51 8 6 0.6%
Utah 19 40 9.35 6.91 61 1 45.9%
Southern California 14 10 8.75 6.13 30 2 25.9%
UCLA 28 68 8.33 6.07 45 3 27.0%
Arizona 90 67 3.64 2.15 10 4 0.4%
Arizona State 102 36 3.34 1.97 36 5 0.6%
Colorado 108 99 2.59 1.16 34 6 0.1%

Some notes and comments about the Pac-12 and its teams:

1) The Pac-12 North sure looks like Oregon's to lose. Not so much because they have an easy league draw (missing Utah and UCLA is fortunate but they still play USC), but because they simply look like a juggernaut. They've been a national elite for years, and while they lose a lot of offensive production, they return a decent amount on the defensive side, they return a huge amount of lettermen, and their recruiting numbers have been fantastic, both in absolute terms and especially trend. Of course, the fact that Stanford takes a step back and no one else in the North looks close to elite helps a lot too.
Also, with an absolute joke of a non-conference slate (though it's worth noting that thanks to the Pac-12's 9 game schedule, there's only three of them), they end up with a regular season (not counting potential CCG) schedule strength rated as the easiest of anyone rated in the Compu-Picks top ten (though Florida St's is close). With a #1 power-rated team and a very easy schedule, 12-0 and a potential national title berth are very much on the table.

2) Stanford has a bunch of indicators pointing in each direction. On the good side, their recruting is great and the trend is fantastic, they return a decent amount of defensive production and a huge amount of lettermen, they aren't breaking in a new coach this year, and they've been good enough for long enough that it's starting to register as at least close to normal (though a huge chunk of that was their ridiculous 2010 campaign). On the flip side, the offense was gutted, and they lost a massive amount to the draft. A decline is likely, but Compu-Picks doesn't project a huge one.

3) Washington continues to look like an improving program, and with solid (and strongly improving) recruiting, a good amount of production returning, and no real negative indicators, seems likely to continue to move upward. There's a way to go before they're competitive with Oregon, but they seem to be heading in the right direction.

4) An interesting surprise team in the Pac-12 could be Oregon St. Missing USC helps (though missing Colorado hurts), but mainly it just looks like 2011 was an aberration, especially given their awful injury numbers. This has beena consistently quality program, and with big chunks of production returning, and turnover improvement likely (though it's worth noting that they actually had outlier good fumble luck last year), they should be much better in 2012. Not good enough to be a division challenger, but this ought to be a bowl team and should be a tough out for everyone not named Oregon. Expect the week two game against Wisconsin to be interesting, and don't be at all surprised to see the upset.

5) Cal has been a popular pick for middle of the pack, with most putting them 3rd or 4th. In power rating, Compu-Picks puts them 5th, but closer to 4th place Oregon St than 6th place Wazzu. However, their league draw is just nasty, as they miss two of the projected three worst league teams in Arizona and Colorado. And a trip to Columbus doesn't help at all either.
Their recruiting numbers are pretty solid, but they lose a lot on defense, they lose the third most talent to the draft in the Pac-12, and they had extraordinary injury luck last year, only losing three starts due to injury. They project as a mid-range 1-A team with a utterly brutal schedule, which means that a bowl isn't very likely.

6) Wazzu is projected to show some nice signs of life, but coaching transitions are usually tough, and they lose a big chunk of offensive production, though if Tuel is healthy he ought to be better than Lobbestael. Mainly, though, they've just been so bad for so long (their 2007-2010 rank was 110 out of 120, well below a number of MAC and Sun Belt programs) that it's tough to project a big immediate change. Leach should do good work in Pullman, but fixing things will likely take time.

7) The Pac-12 South looks like an interesting three-way race. While plenty of prognosticators have USC taking the South in a walk, Compu-Picks actually pegs them at 2nd, with Utah the projected division champ. While USC is projected as the best team in the division (though not by as much as most would think - see here for more), they play Oregon and Stanford, the two best North teams, while Utah misses them both. That's a huge difference, and is the ultimate source of the projection of USC falling behind Utah in the South. Of course, with Oregon stuck on Utah's schedule each of the following six seasons, this is a break that isn't going to happen again anytime soon.

8) It's also worth noting, however, that Utah is projected to be pretty good on their own merits. They've been a consistently strong program for a while, and all indications are that there should be a solid improvement from a rough 2011. Their recruiting has rapidly picked up, they return a lot of production (especially on offense), they lost very little to the draft, and of course the schedule is pretty forgiving. Their +10 turnover margin is likely to decline, and their absolute talent level isn't that great (only 47th in recruiting nationally) but there's definitely more positive than negative here.

9) UCLA has really struggled the last five years, but they're projected for a major improvement in 2012. As always, there's a lot of recruted talent in Westwood (though unlike a few other league teams, it's not been rapidly improving). They also return a solid amount of production, lost nothing to the draft, and are likely to rebound from some rough injury and turnover luck. That said, they've been very mediocre for a while, and are still breaking in a new coach. It'll be interesting to see whether Compu-Picks is accurate here, or if it's a bit too optimistic about the Bruins in year one of the Mora era.

10) The two Arizona schools and Colorado simply don't look good. All three of these teams have really been declining in recruiting, and lose a lot of offensive production, never good signs. Colorado has been consistently bad for a while, both Arizona schools are breaking in new coaches and lose a lot of offense, and ASU, the best of the three in 2010, also loses a lot on defense. Add it all up, and it looks like a rough season ahead for each of these three.

Additional tables of data available in linked article.

There are a few important notes and caveats I need to make about this model:

1) Compu-Picks does not endorse implicitly or explicitly any form of illegal gambling. Compu-Picks is intended to be used for entertainment purposes only.

2) No guarantee or warranty is offered or implied by Compu-Picks for any information provided and/or predictions made.

3) This preseason model is primarily based on the main compu-picks model. Essentially, it attempts to predict how well a team will rate given its rating history, as well as a number of other data points, such as returning starters, draft talent lost, turnovers, recruiting, etc. This means, among other things, that the rankings are power rankings based on how good a team projects to be, as opposed to a more cynical (though accurate) model that attempts to project how the BCS will rank a team by making adjustments to favor those with easy schedules and punish those with tough schedules.

I have provided adjusted division (or league) odds in a couple of instances. For the Big Ten Leaders, it shows the odds of each team winning adjusting for the fact that Ohio St and Penn St will both be ineligible. The same is true for the ACC Coastal and North Carolina.

5) There is a substantial amount of noise in these projections, which is to be expected given the large number of unknowns (who will have good and bad luck with injuries, which young players will improve and which won't, how specific matchups will come into play, etc.). Right now the standard error is a bit over 0.2 on a scale of about -1 to +1. It's important to look at the projections with this in mind to get a sense of how material the projected differences are. Given a standard error around 0.2, it is safe to project Alabama to be a much better team than Mississippi St, but it is not safe to project Mississippi St to be any better than Arkansas, much less a lot better.

6) At this point, there are a number of model features that need to be investigated further. Chief among these is the distribution of extreme events. It appears that the model may be overstating the probabilities of extreme events, such as 12-0 or 0-12 records, or major underdogs winning their division/league. This overstatement has been reduced compared to last year's projections, but still likely exists to some degree. Please keep this in mind when looking at the distribution of win probabilities.

7) Since there is much less data available for the four 1-A newcomers, the power rating methodology has been more manual and arbitrary. As a consequence, I am somewhat less confident of the projections for those four teams than I am for the other 120 1-A members. Please keep this in mind when looking at the newcomers' projections.

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