Posted on November 20, 2023
The Pac-12 established itself as the top conference in America this season only for the East Coast-heavy committee to completely ignore what it accomplished.
Now, after Washington secured yet another Top 25 victory, there are no longer any excuses.
No matter what happens, a team from the Conference of Champions deserves to be in the Playoff. Anything less would amount to an atrocious display of East Coast bias.
Here is how I view the 12 teams in the league as the season enters the final week of the regular season.
1. Washington (11-0, 8-0) ▲1There isn’t a team in the country with a better resume than Washington. There are now zero reasons to justify the College Football Playoff Committee keeping the Huskies outside of the Top 4.
Throughout the nonconference season, the Pac-12 posted victory after victory which established itself as the top conference in America this season.
The Dawgs are now one win away from going undefeated in the league and would arguably deserve a spot in the CFP regardless of the result in the Pac-12 Championship Game.
2. Oregon (10-1, 7-1) ▼1The Ducks continued to look like a Playoff-caliber team after a resounding victory over Arizona State. There’s no question that Oregon passes the eye test. But there are only four Playoff spots up for grabs and resumes matter.
Dan Lanning’s team has just three victories over teams above .500 (Texas Tech, Utah, and USC) and has zero wins against teams currently ranked in the AP Top 25.
Still, the winner of the Pac-12 is highly likely to receive an invitation to the Playoff and the Ducks control their destiny.
3. Arizona (8-3, 6-2) ◄►Jedd Fisch delivered a statement victory with a blowout over Utah. There isn’t another team in the country on a steeper upward trajectory than the Arizona Wildcats.
After almost a decade of irrelevancy, Arizona Football is back. With an elite combination of recruiting and player development, Fisch and his staff have built the Cats into a force.
Boasting elite line play on both sides of the ball and depth at every position group, UA is within striking distance of a 10-win season.
4. Oregon State (8-3, 5-3) ◄►Jonathan Smith and the Beavers may have hit their ceiling. With the traditional Pac-12 collapsing and Oregon State’s future conference alignment muddied, this was the year that OSU had to burst through.
But after losing to Washington State, Arizona, and now Washington, it appears that the program is reaching its maximum.
Smith is in his sixth year in Corvallis and is a proven winner. Plenty of schools around the country would love to hire him away and there might be some openings with mutual interest.
5. Utah (7-4, 4-4) ◄►The Utes’ 2023 season will be remembered as a season of “what if.” The number of injuries the program has dealt with is uncanny and must be addressed over the offseason.
In many ways, this year marks the end of Utah’s dominant run in the Pac-12. Regardless of the disappointing final record, the program has a strong foundation for its transition to the Big 12. Player development remains elite and the coaching staff is among the top in the nation.
6. UCLA (7-4, 4-4) ▲1Chip Kelly may have saved his job with a convincing upset victory over USC.
If he does end up remaining in Westwood, the primary focus of the offseason will be upgrading his offensive line and getting the quarterback situation resolved.
If Ethan Garbers is going to be his guy, then he should make that clear both internally and publicly. The three-quarterback dynamic this year held the program back and can’t be repeated moving forward.
7. USC (7-5, 5-4) ▼1What’s wrong with USC Football? With all the NIL resources in the world, one of the best brands in College Football, and the allure of living in Los Angeles, there are zero reasons for the Trojans to be this bad.
Ending the regular season at 7-5, describing USC’s season as an abject failure is a complete understatement.
There isn’t a program in America that does less with more and the Trojans are the laughingstock of the College Football world.
8. California (5-6, 3-5) ◄►Of all the teams in the perceived middle of the Pac-12, California arguably has the most momentum. Fernando Mendoza has transformed the Bears’ season and put them in a position to make a bowl game.
After securing a third-straight win in the Big Game, Cal is in a solid position for its transition to the ACC. Clearly, changes need to be made to the defensive staff. And a massive NIL deal must be secured for Jaydn Ott.
But the pieces are there to maintain a respectable program entering a new conference.
9. Washington State (5-6, 2-6) ▲3Why did it take a matchup against Colorado for Washington State to get its swag back? Where was this version of the Cougars against Stanford and Arizona State?
Whatever. The six-game losing streak was snapped and the depressed Cougar alumni can start to regain hope. Ben Arbuckle’s system is back in full swing and Jake Dickert’s defense has regained its confidence.
The battles in court are starting to go Wazzu’s way and a five-year dear for the Apple Cup has been secured. Rejoice.
10. Colorado (4-7, 1-7) ▼1Culture has been an issue at Colorado ever since the end of the Nebraska game. After the team overlooked Colorado State and needed double overtime to beat the Rams, the wheels fell off.
It’s all fine and dandy when the wins are coming quick and fast. But adversity is where true character comes out. And Colorado has failed miserably.
The Oregon game broke the program and it has yet to recover. With too much focus on “me” and not enough on the team’s success, Coach Prime may once again clean house over the offseason.
11. Stanford (3-8, 2-7) ◄►Rome wasn’t built in a day. The rebuild of Stanford Football is a multi-year project that requires patience.
David Shaw had so much success due to elite player development with a heavy emphasis on the trenches. But in his latter years, the system broke down and sent the Cardinal back to Square One.
For Troy Taylor to jumpstart the process, he has to be active in the transfer portal. Stanford isn’t the only school in the nation with high academic standards and there are players to be swiped from similar programs.
12. Arizona State (3-8. 2-6) ▼2Brian Ward was humbled by Oregon and Will Stein. It was 42-0 at halftime and the Arizona State defensive coordinator had no answers.
This season was always a throwaway year after the self-imposed postseason ban was announced. The mounting injuries made it worse, but there never was anything truly to play for to begin.
That makes this year’s Territorial Cup the defining game. An upset win over Arizona would make all of this year’s struggles irrelevant.
—More from Dane Miller—
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