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Assessing Pac-12 preseason media poll accuracy over past decade

Earlier this month, Dan Lanning and the Oregon Ducks were gifted a great big bulletin board of material going into the 2023 season when they were picked to finish fourth in the Pac-12 preseason media poll.

While there is a wealth of talent at the top of the league with the USC Trojans, Washington Huskies and Utah Utes vying for a spot in the Pac-12 Championship game, the Ducks should feel extremely confident they can end up in Las Vegas at the end of the year with a shot to get into the College Football Playoff. With quarterback Bo Nix hoping for a Heisman-worthy season, an experienced and improved offense, and a defense that is expected to be leagues better than it was a year ago, many think that Oregon could be in play for a special season.

Regardless of all that, the media poll doesn’t show the same level of confidence in the Ducks.

I wanted to take a look back through the archives and see how accurate the Pac-12 preseason media poll usually is. Every year it projects what the final rankings will be, but how often does it actually get things right?

Let’s take a look.

2023 Pac-12 Preseason Media Poll

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports


Analysis: It’s no surprise the USC Trojans are at the top of the preseason poll going into the 2023 season. With Caleb Williams and Lincoln Riley, they should be among the best teams in the nation this year. It’s also hard to argue with any of the top three teams on the list, but having Oregon four feels a bit low. I could easily see the Ducks finishing anywhere in the top three this season.

2022 Pac-12 Preseason Media Poll and Results

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Preseason Rank

Team Name

Final Ranking

1

Utah Utes

2

2

Oregon Ducks

4

3

USC Trojans

1

4

UCLA Bruins

6

5

Oregon State Beavers

5

6

Washington Huskies

3

7

Washington State Cougars

7

8

Stanford Cardinal

11

9

California Golden Bears

9

10

Arizona State Sun Devils

10

11

Arizona Wildcats

8

12

Colorado Buffaloes

12


Analysis: I understand the lack of confidence in USC going into the 2022 season with the newness on the roster and coaching staff, but nobody was surprised they finished at the top of the regular-season standings. It also doesn’t come as much of a surprise that the Utah Utes won the conference title after being ranked No. 1 preseason. Washington, of course, was the surprise of the year, being ranked No. 6 preseason and finishing No. 3.

2021 Pac-12 Preseason Media Poll and Results

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Preseason Rank

Team Name

Final Ranking

1

Oregon Ducks

2

2

USC Trojans

8

3

Washington Huskies

9

4

Utah Utes

1

5

Arizona State Sun Devils

4

6

California Golden Bears

7

7

Stanford Cardinal

11

8

UCLA Bruins

3

9

Colorado Buffaloes

10

10

Oregon State Beavers

6

11

Washington State Cougars

5

12

Arizona Wildcats

12


Analysis: The misses at the top in 2021 were pretty drastic. Both USC (No. 2 preseason) and Washington (No. 3 preseason) finished in the bottom half of the league, while Utah (No. 4 preseason) took the regular season title as well as the conference championship.

2020 Pac-12 Preseason Media Poll and Results

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Preseason Rank

Team Name

Final Ranking

1

Oregon Ducks

2

2

USC Trojans

1

3

Arizona State Sun Devils

7

4

California Goldens Bears

10

5

Utah Utes

6

6

Washington Huskies

5

7

UCLA Bruins

8

8

Stanford Cardinal

4

9

Oregon State Beavers

9

10

Colorado Buffaloes

3

11

Washington State Cougars

11

12

Arizona Wildcats

12


Analysis: The entire 2020 season was tough to predict due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the outcome was interesting as well. Some teams played six games; others played seven. Colorado finishing third was impressive with a No. 10 preseason ranking, while Arizona State (No. 3 preseason) and California (No. 4 preseason) were disappointments.

2019 Pac-12 Preseason Media Poll and Results

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Preseason Rank

Team Name

Final Ranking

1

Utah Utes

2

2

Oregon Ducks

1

3

Washington Huskies

4

4

USC Trojans

3

5

Stanford Cardinal

11

6

Arizona State Sun Devils

6

7

UCLA Bruins

8

8

Washington State Cougars

9

9

Arizona Wildcats

12

10

California Golden Bears

5

11

Colorado Buffaloes

10

12

Oregon State Beavers

7


Analysis: Over the last decade, this season is one of the years where the preseason poll was the most accurate. The top four teams in the preseason rankings all ended up in the top four of the final standings, just in a different order. Oregon’s championship and No. 1 ranking at the end of the year was well earned.

2018 Pac-12 Preseason Media Poll and Results

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Preseason Rank

Team Name

Final Ranking

1

Washington Huskies

1

2

USC Trojans

8

3

Utah Utes

3

4

Stanford Cardinal

4

5

Arizona Wildcats

7

6

Oregon Ducks

5

7

UCLA Bruins

10

8

California Golden Bears

9

9

Washington State Cougars

2

10

Colorado Buffaloes

11

11

Arizona State Sun Devils

6

12

Oregon State Beavers

12


Analysis: The preseason pick of Washington as No. 1 was solid by the media poll, but USC as the No. 2 team was a big miss. It ultimately finished eighth. Washington State No. 9 preseason) had an impressive year with the second-place finish, but Washington’s dominance in the north division ultimately earned it a spot in the conference title game.

2017 Pac-12 Preseason Media Poll and Results

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Preseason Rank

Team Name

Final Ranking

1

USC Trojans

1

2

Washington Huskies

2

3

Stanford Cardinal

3

4

Utah Utes

9

5

UCLA Bruins

8

6

Washington State Cougars

4

7

Colorado Buffaloes

11

8

Oregon Ducks

7

9

Arizona State Sun Devils

5

10

Oregon State Beavers

12

11

California Golden Bears

10

12

Arizona Wildcats

6


Analysis: You have to give credit where credit is due: The 2017 preseason media poll was pretty spot on, nailing the top three spots in the rankings. Both Utah (preseason No. 9) and UCLA (preseason No. 8) were impressive this year, while the two Arizona schools certainly disappointed.

2016 Pac-12 Preseason Media Poll and Results

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Preseason Rank

Team Name

Final Ranking

1

Stanford Cardinal

5

2

UCLA Bruins

11

3

USC Trojans

3

4

Washington Huskies

1

5

Oregon Ducks

10

6

Utah Utes

6

7

Washington State Cougars

4

8

Arizona Wildcats

12

9

Arizona State Sun Devils

9

10

California Golden Bears

7

11

Colorado Buffaloes

2

12

Oregon State Beavers

8


Analysis: The final results in 2016 were all over the place. You had a 10th-place team finish No. 2, the Colorado Buffaloes. A second-place team finished No. 11, the UCLA Bruins. Ultimate, the preseason No. 4 Washington Huskies finished first, and the No. 5 Oregon Ducks finished 10th. A weird year for predictions.

2015 Pac-12 Preseason Media Poll and Results

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Preseason Rank

Team Name

Final Ranking

1

Oregon Ducks

2

2

USC Trojans

5

3

Stanford Cardinal

1

4

Arizona State Sun Devils

9

5

UCLA Bruins

6

6

California Golden Bears

7

7

Arizona Wildcats

10

8

Washington Huskies

8

9

Utah Utes

3

10

Washington State Cougars

4

11

Oregon State Beavers

12

12

Colorado Buffaloes

11


Analysis: For the most part, these preseason predictions weren’t too far off at the top. However, there were several teams near the bottom — No. 10 WSU and No. 9 Utah — who finished among the top four.

2014 Pac-12 Preseason Media Poll and Results

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Preseason Rank

Team Name

Final Ranking

1

Oregon Ducks

1

2

UCLA Bruins

4

3

Stanford Cardinal

7

4

USC Trojans

5

5

Arizona State Sun Devils

3

6

Washington Huskies

8

7

Oregon State Beavers

10

8

Arizona Wildcats

2

9

Washington State Cougars

11

10

Utah Utes

6

11

Colorado Buffaloes

12

12

California Golden Bears

9


Analysis: The Ducks took care of business this season, being projected No. 1 and finishing at the top. However, a No. 2 finish from Arizona (preseason No. 8) was definitely not foreseen.

2013 Pac-12 Preseason Media Poll and Results

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Preseason Rank

Team Name

Final Ranking

1

Oregon Ducks

3

2

Stanford Cardinal

2

3

UCLA Bruins

4

4

Arizona State Sun Devils

1

5

USC Trojans

5

6

Oregon State Beavers

8

7

Washington Huskies

6

8

Arizona Wildcats

7

9

Utah Utes

10

10

California Golden Bears

12

11

Washington State Cougars

9

12

Colorado Buffaloes

11


Analysis: Again, the 2013 predictions weren’t too far off at the top, with the top five teams finishing in the top five, just a different order. Ultimately, Stanford’s win over Arizona State was not seen as too much of a shock once all was said and done.

Our Conclusion

Obviously, as you can see, it is necessary to take the preseason media poll with a grain of salt. Only once over the past decade have the top three teams in the preseason poll finished 1-2-3 at the end of the year. There were a couple of instances where the top four teams finished the year in the top four, but the orders were never as predicted. Often, there was a sleeper team — ranked seventh or lower in the preseason — who grabbed a spot in the top half of the league.

So for Oregon Duck fans who are frustrated with a No. 4 prediction going into the 2023 season, I would advise patience. In 2021 and 2016, Utah won the Pac-12 title as the No. 4 preseason team. In 2015, Stanford was No. 3 preseason when they won the conference.

In the end, it’s just a prediction, and with as much talent as there is at the top of the conference this year, anything can happen.

Story originally appeared on Ducks Wire