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Grading the Hotline: How accurate were our Pac-12 football projections?


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Estimated read time: 6-7 minutes

The Hotline spent three months critiquing Pac-12 teams, coaches and players. Now, it's time to grade ourselves.

Each August, we predict the results of each game and the records for every team in the conference.

The record predictions have been published below, along with the actual records, in the interest of transparency, accountability and, in some cases, your entertainment.

Both records matter, but we care more about the accuracy of our predictions for conference play.

(The original picks, with commentary, can be found here.)

Arizona

Our prediction: 4-8, 2-7

Actual record: 5-7, 3-6

What we got right/wrong: Jedd Fisch acquired too much talent last offseason for the Wildcats to flounder for another year. Whether they won three, four or five games was secondary to the inevitability of improvement. The difference between our predicted and actual record was the stunning November victory at UCLA. That result highlights the uncertainty of such endeavors, because unexpected outcomes are, like Arizona's uptick, inevitable.

Arizona State

Our prediction: 5-7, 3-6

Actual record: 3-9, 2-7

What we got right/wrong: The Sun Devils figured to be one of the most difficult teams to assess because of the uncertainties with the NCAA investigation and Herm Edwards' job security. The former never materialized; the latter resulted in the need for an interim coach (Shaun Aguano). We didn't foresee the Eastern Michigan loss, which accounts for half the two-game miss in overall record. Given where ASU's outlook could have ended, we'll take it.

Cal

Our prediction: 6-6, 4-5

Actual record: 4-8, 2-7

What we got right/wrong: Our worst high-side miss of the season. And while it's tempting to point to the (awful, horrendous) Colorado loss as the unexpected development, this was more about a conceptual whiff than any game results. We should have taken a prove-it-to-us stance with an offense that proved far worse than even our modest expectations. Had playcaller Bill Musgrave been dismissed earlier, perhaps a bowl berth could have been salvaged.

Colorado

Our prediction: 3-9, 2-7

Actual record: 1-11, 1-8

What we got right/wrong: Just being honest: Picking a team to finish 1-11 isn't the easiest endeavor for the Hotline, no matter how barren the roster. Something about it just feels wrong. So we gave the Buffaloes the benefit of the doubt — and far too much credit, as it turned out. They were the worst team in the Power Five — Karl Dorrell was dismissed in early October — and one of the worst in the Pac-12's expansion era.

Oregon

Our prediction: 9-3, 8-1

Actual record: 9-3, 7-2

What we got right/wrong: We would have been on target with the Ducks if not for the meltdown against Oregon State, which is no excuse — that's part of the projection business. All in all, the offense was better than we expected, largely because of Bo Nix's efficiency, but the defense wasn't nearly as stout as we had envisioned. The Ducks knew what was coming from Washington and OSU, and they were helpless to stop it.

Oregon State

Our prediction: 6-6, 4-5

Actual record: 9-3, 6-3

What we got right/wrong: Essentially, we failed to place complete and total faith in Jonathan Smith and his staff. In fact, had you told us prior to the season that the quarterback play would be below average, our response might have been to forecast a sub-.500 season, not a nine-win breakthrough. But the other pieces fit perfectly, were coached brilliantly and produced weekly. (Note to self: Next summer, calculate a reasonable win total for the Beavers, then add two for the coaching.)

Stanford

Our prediction: 4-8, 2-7

Actual record: 3-9, 1-8

What we got right/wrong: At one point, the Hotline seriously considered Stanford as an upside-surprise candidate. Thankfully, that course of action was dismissed prior to publishing the predictions (following a close look at the roster). And that 3-9 mark could have been worse, folks, because Stanford somehow managed to beat Notre Dame and ASU in back-to-back weeks despite scoring 16 and 15 points, respectively.

UCLA

Our prediction: 9-3, 6-3

Actual record: 9-3, 6-3

What we got right/wrong: The Bruins were set for success with eight home games and road trips to two of the bottom-feeders (Colorado and ASU). In our view, anything short of eight wins would have been a major disappointment. And frankly, the Bruins should have won 10: The Arizona loss was a major stumble. The offense was fantastic, the defense an ongoing issue — much like a certain team across town, just without an unholy turnover margin.

USC

Our prediction: 9-3, 7-2

Actual record: 11-1, 8-1

What we got right/wrong: USC's season unfolded exactly as the Free World projected: awesome offense; rickety defense. What pushed the success to a level we failed to foresee? The incredible turnover margin: The Trojans had six giveaways and 27 takeaways. They were +4 against Oregon State and +3 against UCLA — and won each game by three points. Credit the Trojans for their ball security and opportunism. Who knew?

Utah

Our prediction: 10-2, 7-2

Actual record: 9-3, 7-2

What we got right/wrong: Welp, we got the Florida game wrong. And frankly, that loss made less sense as the season unfolded and the Gators staggered to a losing conference record. (Granted, the SEC East was tougher than expected.) Utah had all the necessary ingredients to repeat as Pac-12 champions: staff continuity, veterans at key positions and, above all, an unmatched culture of success, discipline and accountability.

Washington

Our prediction: 8-4, 5-4

Actual record: 10-2, 7-2

What we got right/wrong: A significant miss on our part — not because of the disparity in predicted vs. actual record but because we failed to identify a serious contender for the conference title. The offense was better than expected as quarterback Michael Penix, injured so often at Indiana, remained healthy throughout. That's a credit to the offensive line, which emerged as the best in the conference — something else we didn't foresee.

Washington State

Our prediction: 6-6, 4-5

Actual record: 7-5, 4-5

What we got right/wrong: We nailed WSU's season with the exception of the Wisconsin upset. That said, the analysis underpinning our prediction proved flawed. The Hotline assumed more production from the offense — tailback Nakia Watson's injury played a major role in the mid-season stagnation — and did not expect the defense to carry the Cougars as often as it did. It appears that side of scrimmage will be WSU's identity under coach Jake Dickert.

Pac-12 championship game

Our prediction: Utah over Oregon

Actual result: Utah over USC

What we got right/wrong: Picking the conference winner is certainly an important piece of the exercise, perhaps the most important. But the Hotline's overall performance was hardly the equal of Utah's showing last week in Las Vegas.

Overall grade: B

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Jon Wilner
Jon Wilner's Pac-12 Hotline is brought to KSL.com through a partnership with the Bay Area News Group.

Jon Wilner has been covering college sports for decades and is an AP Top 25 football and basketball voter as well as a Heisman Trophy voter. He was named Beat Writer of the Year in 2013 by the Football Writers Association of America for his coverage of the Pac-12, won first place for feature writing in 2016 in the Associated Press Sports Editors writing contest and is a five-time APSE honoree. You can follow him on Twitter @WilnerHotline or send an email at jwilner@bayareanewsgroup.com.

Pac-12 Hotline: Subscribe to the Pac-12 Hotline Newsletter. Pac-12 Hotline is not endorsed or sponsored by the Pac-12 Conference, and the views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the views of the Conference.

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