The 2022 Fun Index: ranking every team in the Pac-12 by entertainment factor
Let’s start a new tradition. Other folks have done something similar for a number of other leagues and sports so we’re not breaking ground, but we’ve never done it here and that’s what matters. Power rankings are what they are, and this isn’t that. Not best. Most fun.
I cooked up a quick little cheat sheet with things like explosive play rate, points per play (PPP), havoc rate, etc., tallied up the five-year recruiting averages for each of the Pac-12 clubs and weighted them to be more leaning toward recent success, and settled on a watchability score. Each team is scored 1-12 in all categories:
- The Reggie Bush Rating: Do you do fun, exciting things on a football field? Big plays? Splash plays on defense? Basically don’t be Iowa.
- The Murtaugh Rating: Lots of us are old. We need sleep. Whether it’s a post-lunch nap or 10 p.m. at night, if you’re in a blowout, I’m not staying up to watch. How often were you in close games?
- The Saban-Smart Rating: What does your recruiting look like recently? Are you bringing in players fans are excited about? Do you have stars that make spectacular plays?
- The Duck Rating: Do you look good? This is purely aesthetic. Uniforms, helmets, full crowds, stadium atmospheres, all of it. You’re lying to yourself if you said you didn’t pick teams to play with in NCAA 14 by their potential uniform combinations.
- The Peter Parker Rating: Does the larger college football viewing public know about you and care about you?
The following will be the definitive, completely objective, and inarguable ranking of the Pac-12 from least potential for entertainment to the most as we approach the 2022 season.
No. 12: Colorado (8 total points)
Someone has to be last. Apologies to Colorado. The Buffs have one of the lowest five-year recruiting scores, one of the 15 worst explosive play rates among Power Five teams (plus Notre Dame), the eighth-worst PPP mark, one of the lowest havoc rates, and one of the lowest chance creation rates when it comes to takeaways. They lost young talent to the portal and the margin across all games played last season was the largest of any team in the conference.
This is a deep rebuild for head coach Karl Dorrell as the Buffs were really hammered this offseason by the effects of Mel Tucker’s quick drive-by coaching stint. I wonder if folks outside the Pac-12 footprint could name three current players on the roster. All that being said, wideout RJ Sneed II and running back Ramon Jefferson are potential Sickos Committee All-Americans for next season. If you can put up with all that CU football, those guys will be fun to watch.
No. 11: Stanford (20 total points)
There’s a lot of engrained boredom with Stanford as a football program, which is to say nothing negative about the program, just that they’re kind of pigeon-holed into a stylistic stereotype. Boredom in college football can be awfully stable and successful. Tanner McKee is super intriguing as a young quarterback, but given the lack of any real kind of drama over there in Palo Alto, there’s just not a ton of razzle.
David Shaw signed an excellent 2022 class and the Cardinal had one of the four best weighted recruiting averages in the conference. But, they had the third-worst havoc rate in the P5 ranks last season, the sixth-lowest chance creation rate on defense (again P5), and were bottom-10 in explosive play rate. It’s a big shoulder shrug.
McKee should be fun. As should David Bailey.
No. 10: California (26 total points)
The only team in tighter contests more often than Cal last season was Washington, but that was the only category in which the Golden Bears scored above a six. Cal ranked 10th in the Pac-12 and 76th nationally in Bill Connelly’s early 2022 SP+ projections released this week, and that’s a pretty decent indicator of the general mood around the team. Using the returning production numbers that help build out SP+, Cal is going to have an awful lot of new faces in new spots next season, so until we know more of what we’re going to get, it’s hard to label them must-watch.
Still, Justin Wilcox has recruited some interesting pieces to Berkeley and the Bears posted one of the highest rates of chance creation in the P5 ranks last season. Jack Plummer gives some oomph to the passing attack and we might get to see some expanded roles for blue-chip 2021 wideout signees J.Michael Sturdivant and Mavin Anderson.
No. 9: Arizona (26 total points)
Arizona scores well in The Saban-Smart Rating purely for the 2022 class. The additions of quarterback Jayden de Laura, wideouts Jacob Cowing and Tetairoa McMillan, and running back Rayshon Luke should make for a fun offense in Year 2 under head coach Jedd Fisch.
Do they move the needle from a national relevancy perspective? Maybe not yet. And Arizona was one of the more cumbersome offenses to watch last season, posting a PPP clip only better than Vanderbilt among P5 teams. But the Wildcats have all the hallmarks of a classic fun-bad team. Even in a one-win season, the Cats were pretty competitive for stretches at a time.
Watch them play a ton of one-score games in which they come up on the short side. If we get to see a ton of gadget plays to try and put young playmakers in advantageous spots, all the better. #Pac12AfterDark was made for this team.
No. 8: Oregon State (28 total points)
The Beavers had the best explosive pass play rate last season of any Pac-12 squad and the quarterback who made that possible is back for 2022. Chance Nolan is the quarterback equivalent to the sneaker sneakerheads ask you about to know if you’re actually a sneakerhead or just chasing hype. In his last six games of 2021, Nolan threw for 1,416 yards, and that included a 90-yard game against Arizona State in which the Beavers won 24-10 with 46 rushing attempts.
The Beavers lose their top two receivers, but Zeriah Benson and a healthy Tyjon Lindsey, if healthy, make an exciting combo in terms of ceiling.
Oregon State had the lowest recruiting score and the third-lowest “does anyone care” score, which puts them firmly in the “sleeper” category in the Pac-12 North.
Those throwback unis were absolutely wonderful.
No. 7: Washington State (29 total points)
In a ton of close games? Check. Defense that created chances at the highest rate in the Pac-12? Check. Moderately fun offensive production last season with a new offense boasting both the best nickname for an offense anywhere and a quarterback everyone is just dying to see? Check and check.
The Coug Raid/Cameron Ward combo has the potential for fireworks. To the degree Bailey Zappe was Bailey Zappe in 2021, Ward isn’t going to throw for 6,000 yards and 62 touchdowns, but he could be 2022’s version of Zappe, which is to say a quarterback who came from out of nowhere to be one of the guys anyone in the country would stop what they’re doing and watch regardless of stakes or time of day.
Will I stay up until midnight to watch a 47-43 Washington State-Arizona game? Absolutely I will. This was a nice breakdown of all the goods in the Eric Morris offensive package. With newbies needed on the offensive line and at running back, there could be a ton placed on Ward’s shoulders immediately, which makes his newfound existence in an Air Raid-RPO blend ecosystem on the Palouse all the more wonderful.
Just please no more grey. The all-white look is one of the 10 best in the Pac-12.
No. 6: UCLA (35 total points)
Dorian Thompson-Robinson is good. Zach Charbonnet is good. I’m here to tell you right now that Darius Muasau is going to be good. The Bruin baby blue is great. Chip Kelly’s offense is still good and it helped UCLA to the second-best PPP clip in the Pac-12 last season (11th-best among P5 teams).
Can we just get some people into the Rose Bowl, please? It makes sense why there aren’t; this tenure has been marred by slow starts and poor defense. Hopefully an offseason staff shakeup is the change agent needed to inject some life into the defensive side.
No. 5: Arizona State (38 total points)
Count me among those who have no issue with the fork replacing Sparky on the helmet. Keep bringing it with the uni combos; the more the merrier.
Now add in a dash of Jayden Daniels as a runner, a little mix of some Tevin White and Xazavian Valladay, and another step from LV Bunkley-Shelton out wide and you have an offensive drink that should be pretty smooth sipping. We’ll see what Glenn Thomas can do for Daniels and the ASU passing game, but in spite of the turnover problems last year the Sun Devils still produced one of the most explosive offenses in the P5 ranks (fourth in explosive play rate). We’re talking about entertainment here, so if you’re following up 20-yard gains with ridiculous interceptions I’m still enjoying myself.
Everyone will be watching the Sun Devils in 2022, in part because of Daniels—one of the Pac-12’s most veteran returning quarterbacks—but also because of the Herm Edwards element. So much drama. That makes for good TV. Dare we say ASU is the Kardashian of the Pac-12? (Sorry.)
No. 4: Washington (39 total points)
Washington played in a Pac-12-leading eight games decided by seven points or less last season. The defense was strong against the pass and the offense was a mess, which made points a major premium. There’s a new coach in town, which ups the intrigue factor with the Huskies, who have had no trouble recruiting until this most recent cycle. Washington feels like a prime candidate for a bounceback team once the national publications get to writing about them, but a lot will depend on what happens at the quarterback spot.
It might seem weird to have a team that was so tough to watch so high on a watchability list, but combine the elements in Seattle with the gorgeous uniforms the Huskies consistently roll out and the fact they’ll probably once again be playing tight right to the final horn and they feel like the kind of bad TV show you can’t turn off because you just have to see how it ends, even if you know generally how it’ll end.
No. 3: USC (42 total points)
What does Caleb Williams have in store for his sophomore season? What does Lincoln Riley have in store for his second act as a head coach? What does all that skill talent USC accumulated via the transfer portal do for the Trojan offense? Does Korey Foreman start to live up to his hype as a high school prospect? Does USC regain its footing as one of the powers in the West sooner rather than later? *rogue @Sooner8767529 Twitter user appears out of nowhere to whine about the coach he says he’s over*
USC couldn’t generate big plays on offense or splash plays on defense last season. But the talent for playmaking is all over this roster when you look at it on paper. The tough part for USC in years past has been translating the paper potential to on-field results. Everyone in the country will be tuning in to see if Riley can fix that. They’ll be in primetime TV spots all the time. It might be a disjointed first season or it could be an unmitigated success. We’ll watch every week either way.
This is absolutely a situation where anticipation transcends reality in the present. USC is fun to love again if you’re a Trojan fan and fun to hate again if you’re anyone else. Everyone wins.
The gameday atmosphere should get a huge bump with the addition of Riley and Williams. And a rocking LA Coliseum with games that feature real stakes is one of the best scenes in college football. USC’s visual look is a masterpiece.
No. 2: Utah (49 total points)
Utah’s scores in our five categories: first in The Reggie Bush Rating, second in The Peter Parker Rating (behind only USC because… ya know), second in The Duck Rating (behind only Oregon because… ya know), third in The Saban-Smart Rating, and eighth in The Murtaugh Rating.
If they played in more close games they’d overtake Oregon. Oh well.
The atmosphere in Rice-Eccles Stadium was incredible last season. The vibes in the Rose Bowl were impeccable. The throwback alternates that Utah has for both road and home games are some of the best uniform combos in college football, and the rose sitting in the interlocking Us on the Rose Bowl helmet elevated the all-white kit to one of the best uniforms I’ve ever seen. The all-black look combined with Utah’s brand of running it down your throat and beating the snot out of you on defense is menace-like.
Utah ranked sixth among P5 teams in PPP. It ranked eighth in explosive play rate. It ranked third in havoc rate on defense. It was top-15 in chance creation. The 2022 recruiting class—transfers and high-schoolers—features potential future stars. Cam Rising and Tavion Thomas and Brant Kuithe and Clark Phillips III are already stars.
The Utes are a fun football team to watch. They’re a run-based offense that scores a boatload of points. They’re an easy group to root for. They play hard, they play fast, they’re coached well, and the program is generally about the right things. Not the national contender our SEC-dominated sport deserves, but the one it needs.
No. 1: Oregon (50 total points)
There’s just something about Oregon. Everything is a vibe. All the coolest, most aesthetic parts of the game in excess. Best uniforms in football. Best facilities in football. Crazy atmosphere when the stakes are high. Tinker Hatfield and Jordan Brand giving the Ducks the best and most unobtainable sneaker PEs to flex to the world.
Puddles The Duck is the best mascot in sports.
The Pac-12 enters into a new football season with the North perhaps as close as it has been in quite some time. The Oregon we’ve known and loved might be coming back with Dan Lanning and Kenny Dillingham putting a speed-based, matchup-hungry, pro-style offense on the field, but a new breed of Duck defense is probably coming, too.
Oregon needs an infusion of offensive explosiveness and Dillingham seems to be hitting all the right notes when talking about what the Ducks are going to try to do. Who plays quarterback? Is it Ty Thompson time? Or did Bo Nix just need to escape the absolute horror house of Auburn football?
The Ducks have huge games on the schedule in 2022, headlined by Georgia and Utah. They could be all over the place. They could run away with the North. After all, no one has recruited better than Oregon in the Pac-12 in recent years. Young skill talent looking to break out offers intrigue, a new quarterback taking the reins captures everyone’s attention, and a new head coach with a national championship pedigree from the Kirby Smart coaching tree means everyone from all over will be paying attention very closely.
Oregon was the only team that scored an eight or higher in all five ratings categories here. All gas, no brakes; give me all the Ducks, all the time.