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Dane Miller’s 2023 Week 1 Pac-12 Football Power Rankings

With opening games just a few days away, it's time for a first look at how the teams stack up

Posted on August 28, 2023

  By Dane Miller, SuperWest Sports

The new season is upon us.

Pac-12College Football’s offseason seems to last forever and drags on month after month. With so much time for talking, cases can be made for each team to surprise to the upside.

But the pedal hits the floor this week and the time for talking is done.

Week One features several key matchups that could give a peak into the ceiling of each team in the Pac-12.

And with opening games just a few days away, the time for the first Power Ranking of the year is now.

Below are my Week One Power Rankings with a summary for each team. The rankings will be updated weekly through the end of the season.

1. USC (1-0, 0-0)
The Trojan defense did not do much to allay the concerns surrounding it during the preseason.

usc logoUSC allowed 198 yards rushing to a San Jose State team that struggled to run the ball last year. (See their other numbers on our 2023 Pac-12 Team Stats Page)

Alex Grinch’s defense did hold primary SJSU running back Kairee Robinson to 3.1 yards per carry, but quarterback Chevan Cordeiro averaged 5.2 yards per rush on 10 attempts.

Yet, Lincoln Riley’s offense showed why it is one of the best in the country.

Four different receivers scored touchdowns and true freshman Zachariah Branch burst onto the scene with a productive game.

2. Washington (0-0, 0-0)
Facing a tough Boise State team in Week One, Washington enters the year with hopes of reaching the College Football Playoff.

Washington football pac-12Similar to USC, everyone knows the Huskies have an elite offense. The questions, though, all surround the defense.

Whether it was injuries or schemes, the Dawgs’ secondary last year was a liability. For UW to reach its full potential, those issues must be shored up in 2023.

At the same time, the Huskies are breaking in new pieces along the offensive line after three starters are gone from last season’s dominant unit.

[Listen to our Nick Bartlett’s interview with Boise State beat writer Jordan Kaye]

3. Utah (0-0, 0-0)
The health of Cam Rising is the primary storyline surrounding Utah heading into the opener with Florida.

If he is unable to go, reports out of Salt Lake City indicate that Bryson Barnes will get the nod.

The junior played in the Rose Bowl against Penn State back in January after Rising left the game with an injury.

Barnes also led the team to a victory over Washington State earlier that season.

But with less mobility than Rising, the Ute offense is less effective with him running the show. Facing Baylor in Week Two, Utah needs Rising back as soon as possible.

4. Oregon (0-0, 0-0)
Similar to Washington and USC, the Ducks are rebuilding their offensive line for the 2023 season.

Thanks to the portal, the Ducks could actually field more experience—in terms of career snaps—but cohesion remains an issue until proven otherwise.

Oregon Ducks Logo Pac-12And just like the Huskies and Trojans, Oregon enters the season with questions on defense.

UO finished last year 75th nationally in scoring defense, 102nd in passing defense, and 123rd in Third Down defense.

All eyes will be on South Carolina defensive line transfer Jordan Burch along with Ole Miss safety Tysheem Johnson.

The two SEC players are among many defensive transfers that were brought in to make immediate impacts and improve the Duck “D.”

5. Oregon State (0-0, 0-0)
Out of the top teams in the Pac-12, the Beavers arguably enter the season with the strongest offensive line.

Four of the five starters return and Clemson quarterback DJ Uiagalelei has been brought in to lead the offense.

With more mobility and accuracy than any quarterback OSU has had in many years, the Beavers are legitimate contenders to challenge for a Pac-12 title.

One of the few concerns, however, is the linebackers. Jonathan Smith lost his top two players from the group and must quickly replace their production.

6. UCLA (0-0, 0-0)
It’s game week and there’s finally some clarity on UCLA’s quarterback situation.

Chip Kelly named Ethan Garbers the starting quarterback for the Bruins on Monday morning. A former four-star recruit who began his career at Washington, Garbers has thrown four touchdowns and four interceptions for a combined college QB rating of 127.9.

Garbers will have a strong backfield to hand the ball off to.

Carson Steele was rated the No. 1 running back transfer of the class, per 247Sports, and backups Keegan Jones and T.J. Harden return, too.

But, the Bruins return just two starters along the offensive line and could be reliant on transfers to step in and play right away.

UCLA’s ceiling, however, arguably rides on the proficiency of new defensive coordinator D’Anton Lynn.

7. Washington State (0-0, 0-0)
If you don’t know Ben Arbuckle’s name by now, you will by the end of the season.

Washington State’s new offensive coordinator comes to Pullman with expectations of revamping the WSU offense.

Operating a pass-heavy scheme that puts up points, the Cougs should run one of the most exciting offenses in the Pac-12.

Yet, the elephant in the room is improving the offensive line.

The unit was the worst in the Conference in the key metrics (sacks per game and tackles for loss per game) and returns four starters.

At the same time, Jake Dickert has to replace his top three linebackers, a vital position group for his 4-2-5 scheme.

8. Arizona (0-0, 0-0)
The Wildcats quietly have one of the better offensive lines in the Pac-12.

Jordan Morgan is one of the top O-Linemen in the Conference and the Cats return three primary starters who have combined for 55 career starts.

Arizona football Pac-12Jedd Fisch did lose Dorian Singer to the transfer portal and his production is sure to be missed.

But, Jacob Cowing and Tetairoa McMillan return to form one of the top WR duos in the nation.

The key to reaching bowl eligibility, however, is improvement on defense.

Oregon linebacker transfer Justin Flowe figures to have the most noticeable impact, yet the depth along the defensive line brought in via the portal should prove to be the difference.

9. Arizona State (0-0, 0-0)
Entering the year with a self-imposed postseason ban, the shine around the rebuilt program has been dulled.

The Sun Devils still figure to have a better team than some expect, however.

Jaden Rashada will get the starting nod in the opener and new defensive coordinator Brian Ward should take advantage of the weapons added on defense.

Arizona State had a Top 15 transfer class, per 247Sports, and will essentially have an entirely new team.

A few stalwarts return in the secondary and defensive line, though.

On offense, star Wide Receiver Elijah Badger and star Tight End Jalin Conyers return to give Rashada weapons to pass to.

10. California (0-0, 0-0)
Sam Jackson V leads the team in the opener on the road to North Texas.

The offensive scheme will look different for the Bears this season with new offensive coordinator Jake Spavital running the show.

Running back Jaydn Ott is one of the top backs in the Pac-12 and the offense figures to flow through him.

Depth was added to both sides of the ball via the portal.

The group is highlighted by San Diego State cornerback Patrick McMorris, running back Isaiah Ifanse from Montana State, and wide receivers Taj Davis from Washington and Brian Hightower from Illinois.

Winning on the road is never easy, though, and the showdown with the Mean Green won’t be a cakewalk.

11. Colorado (0-0, 0-0)
Many people around the country will tune in for Colorado’s opener against TCU on Saturday.

Deion Sanders completely revamped the Buffs’ roster via the portal and this year’s team will look nothing like last season’s 1-11 squad.

The offense is managed by coordinator Sean Lewis, who prefers to run a spread-based RPO that favors the run.

It’s the type of system that will create big plays through the air, but most of its bread and butter is efficient plays on the ground.

The modern Pac-12 is all about high-scoring offenses and elite line play on both sides of the ball. Whether or not Colorado has any of those characteristics remains to be seen.

12. Stanford (0-0, 0-0)
Most of the talk surrounding Stanford Football has been their 2024 recruiting class.

Troy Taylor has jumpstarted recruiting on The Farm and set the Tree back on a path to relevancy.

But it’s a steep climb to rebuild the program and Year One is mostly a bridge season.

Opening the year on the road to Hawaii, a loss to the Warriors wouldn’t be much of a shock.

The Cardinal’s starting quarterback has yet to be announced and the writing appears to be on the wall to play multiple players at the position.

—More from Dane Miller—