Posted on November 29, 2022
With Playoff hopes on the line, the game is one of the most meaningful Conference Championship bouts of the CFP era.
It was a tumultuous journey to get here and one that came down to the final game of the regular season.
Just before the title game kicks off, our writers and broadcasters reconvened to produce a new Power Ranking.
The list below is a composite of each voter’s lists, while the individual rankings appear at the bottom.
1. USC (11-1, 8-1) ◄►Inching one step closer to the College Football Playoff, USC secured its first win over Notre Dame since 2016.
Caleb Williams may have convinced enough voters to win the Heisman, too, with three rushing touchdowns and a handful of highlight plays.
Facing Utah on a neutral field, Lincoln Riley must like his chances.
Often criticized as overrated due to a soft schedule and questionable defense, the Trojans have continued to prove the doubters wrong.
2. Washington (10-2, 7-2) ▲2
Despite having the same conference record as Utah and more overall wins, the Huskies were kept out of the Pac-12 Championship Game due to a three-way tie-breaker.
Ultimately, the loss to Arizona State in Tempe proved costly. Even so, the Dawgs have blown their preseason expectations out of the water.
Kalen DeBoer has a strong case to win the Conference’s Coach of the Year honor while Michael Penix Jr. might get invited to the Heisman ceremony.
The 10-win season could be enough to secure a Rose Bowl invitation, too, if USC makes the Playoff.
3. Utah (9-3, 7-2) ◄►
The consistent run has been accomplished through player development rather than high-level recruiting, a philosophy that is relatively rare in modern College Football.
With two-straight wins over USC and a 5-4 mark against the Trojans since 2014, the Utes will enter Allegiant Stadium full of confidence.
Many aren’t giving Whittingham’s team much of a shot, which may give Utah an extra layer of motivation to get the job done.
4. Oregon (9-3, 7-2) ▼2There’s no sugar-coating it: Dan Lanning’s coaching decisions cost Oregon the game.
Similar circumstances led to the Washington loss, too, arguably putting two of the Ducks’ three defeats solely on the head coach.
But even considering the aggressive decisions, the Oregon defense has been unacceptable. Changes should be made to the staff and scheme after the group finished 76th in the FBS in scoring defense.
And with Kenny Dillingham leaving to be the head coach at Arizona State, Lanning arguably faces the most pivotal decision of his young career to find a replacement.
5. Oregon State (9-3, 6-3) ▲1Without attempting a pass over the final quarter and a half of the game, the Beavers scored 28 points to come from behind against the Ducks.
The numbers from the game are shocking: Oregon State threw for just 60 yards passing, committed three turnovers, and was 3-for-9 on third down.
Yet, Jonathan Smith’s team forced Oregon to go 0-for-5 on fourth down and took advantage of all of UO’s coaching mistakes.
There probably won’t be another OSU-UO rivalry game like it and it easily falls under the Instant Classic label. As the cherry on top, the nine wins are the Beavers’ most since 2012.
6. UCLA (9-3, 6-3) ▼1Somewhat lost in the mix during Rivalry Week, UCLA outlasted California in a seven-point win.
The victory secured a nine-win season and the highest win total of the Chip Kelly era. But the absence of defensive coordinator Bill McGovern over the final part of the season was arguably devastating.
Had the experienced coach been available, there’s a strong chance the Bruins would have beat both USC and Arizona.
Still, the nine wins are the most since 2014, and Dorian Thompson-Robinson left a legacy to be proud of.
7. Washington State (7-5, 4-5) ◄►
The Cougars gave up a shocking 703 yards of total offense to Washington in the Apple Cup. Putting the Coug Raid’s consistent second-half struggles aside, the defensive performance against the Huskies can’t be swept under the rug.
UW was 11-for-13 on third down and made the Wazzu defense look like an FCS school. The 51 points allowed were the most given up by Washington State since 2019.
Jake Dickert doesn’t tolerate that type of outcome and some heads might roll over the offseason.
But even still, the struggles along the Cougar offensive line must be fixed for the 2023 season.
8. Arizona (5-7, 3-6) ◄►It took six years, but Arizona finally won back the Territorial Cup.
The five wins in Jedd Fisch’s second season equal the cumulative win total the Wildcats posted over the 2019, 2020, and 2021 seasons combined. If not for the head-scratching loss to California, Fisch’s team would be bowl eligible.
The rebuild continues, though, with the focus shifting to keeping the productive offensive players on the roster.
Wide receiver Dorian Singer and running back Jonah Coleman might need NIL deals to stick around and Arizona’s various collectives know it.
Look for Fisch to be aggressive in the transfer portal, too, as some substantial roster turnover could occur.
9. Cal (4-8, 2-7) ◄►Failing to reach bowl eligibility for the eighth time since the Pac-12 expanded in 2011, California appears to be at a crossroads.
Justin Wilcox is 10-18 over the last three years and appears to be trending in the wrong direction.
With an open offensive coordinator position to fill, it’s fair to say the hire will make or break his tenure in Berkeley.
If another mistake is made and the offense remains ineffective, the patience of the California administration might run out.
10. Arizona State (3-9, 2-7) ◄►Kenny Dillingham takes over as a first-time head coach in what appears to be a strong hire. The creative offensive guru should invigorate Arizona State’s traditional recruiting and hit the transfer portal with success.
Building the staff will be crucial, yet there’s a palpable buzz around the program that seems to have negated one of the worst seasons in program history.
The impending NCAA sanctions remain, though, and it might be wise for the ASU administration to self-impose some penalties to get ahead of what’s coming.
11. Stanford (3-9, 1-8) ◄►David Shaw resigned after leading the Cardinal to their third losing season over the last four years. The somewhat unexpected departure presents a pivotal decision for the Stanford administration.
Finding the right person to take over and begin the rebuild process could prove challenging.
Still, with academics to attract top talent, the right person could turn it around relatively quickly.
Embracing NIL will probably be needed and the Tree might bring in someone comparatively young to embrace the new landscape.
12. Colorado (1-11, 1-8) ◄►Plenty of smoke is billowing around Colorado and Deion Sanders.
Sanders has reportedly been offered the position and the Jackson State coach confirmed it himself.
Whether or not he accepts the job remains to be seen, but his hiring would be a calculated risk. Most college football programs are stepping-stone jobs and CU is no exception.
If Sanders finds success over a year or two he will likely jump at a better offer.
Still, the Buffs would gladly take it considering the downtrodden state of the program.
How our Senior Football Writers and Broadcasters Voted
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