The Pac-12 preseason media poll projects the Arizona Wildcats will finish third in the Pac-12 South this year, but if history is any indication, they have a good chance of outperforming those expectations.
A study by SB Nation’s Richard Johnson discovered that Arizona has been the most underrated team in the Pac-12 from 2008-2017.
Here is Johnson’s methodology:
Each spot in the conference standings gets a point value, both in the preseason poll and in the final standings.
For leagues with divisions, for example, the predicted champ in a seven-team division gets seven points, second place gets six, etc.
And I’ll compare those expected finishes with what happened in real life.
Here are Johnson’s entire results:
USC and UCLA are notorious underachievers, while ASU and Washington State join the Wildcats as overachievers.
Just last year, Arizona was picked to finish last in the Pac-12, but it wound up finishing third. In 2014, the Wildcats were projected to finish fourth in the South, but they ended up winning the whole dang thing.
For the most part, though, the Pac-12 generally shakes out pretty close to how the media projects it will.
“I was surprised with how relatively static the league is,” Johnson wrote. “The Los Angeles schools being consistently overrated isn’t shocking, but it seems like the media gets the beat of the rest of the conference right more often than not.”
Still, one thing is clear: the voters need to start putting some respeck on Arizona’s name.