Posted on November 27, 2023
From Colorado taking the College Football world by storm to USC falling on its face, the compelling storylines abound.
For the first time in nearly a decade, the Pac-12 seems all but guaranteed a spot in the College Football Playoff.
The matchup in Las Vegas is arguably the most meaningful championship game in the league’s history.
With all the historical context and conference realignment in mind, the below Power Ranking is how I see the teams at the end of the regular season.
1. Oregon (11-1, 8-1) ▲1There isn’t a hotter team in the country than Oregon.
The Ducks rolled over Oregon State in the Civil War and enter the Pac-12 Championship Game on the brink of the Playoff.
Bo Nix is the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy and UO is almost a double-digit favorite to beat Washington in Las Vegas.
Still, the knock on Oregon Football is that it isn’t able to win the “big games.” A loss on Friday would only further cement that reputation.
2. Washington (12-0, 9-0) ▼1The Huskies only have themselves to blame.
Going undefeated in the deepest conference in America should normally get a team into the Playoff, no matter what happens in the league’s championship game.
But after struggling once again versus an unranked team, the Committee probably isn’t seriously considering putting the Dawgs in if they lose in Las Vegas.
If Washington does lose, the close games against Arizona State, Stanford, and Washington State will be pointed to as reasons for keeping them out.
3. Arizona (9-3, 7-2) ◄►Jedd Fisch has built Arizona into a monster.
In his third season in Tucson, Fisch has developed an elite offensive line, quality depth at running back, NFL-caliber wide receivers, and a strong defense.
Using a mixture of high-level recruiting and professional player development, the third-year head coach has catapulted Arizona Football to the upper echelon of the Pac-12.
With enough NIL support in place and a track record of success, the Cats should excel in the portal this offseason for the first year in the Big 12.
4. Oregon State (8-4, 5-4) ◄►Three weeks. That’s all it took for Oregon State to go from being one of the darling stories in College Football to an absolute dumpster fire.
Jonathan Smith has bolted for Michigan State and took half of his coaching staff with him. The loss of offensive lineman coach Jim Michalczik is a particularly devastating blow that can’t be overstated.
Oregon State’s rise was almost entirely due to its offensive line and Michalczik was the reason why.
If freshman quarterback Aidan Chiles decides to enter the transfer portal, the program will officially be crippled.
5. Utah (8-4, 5-4) ◄►It wasn’t the season Utah was hoping for. Cam Rising never played a snap and the injury issues permeated the entire program.
Still, the fact that an eight-win season is considered a failure demonstrates how far the Utes have come. When they joined the Pac-12, the matchup against Utah was penciled in as a win by most teams.
At the end of the era, the Utes have two Rose Bowl appearances and have become the standard for how to build a program.
6. California (6-6, 4-5) ▲2Fernando Mendoza is the savior of California Football.
Before the redshirt freshman won the starting role, the Bears were on the brink of a three-win season. His emergence has changed the trajectory of the program and arguably saved Justin Wilcox’s job.
The blowout victory over rival UCLA was the exclamation point on one of the most underrated stories in College Football.
Keeping the momentum going will depend on effectively mining the transfer portal and making changes to the defensive staff.
7. UCLA (7-5, 4-5) ▼1Enough is enough.
Chip Kelly has had six years in Westwood without any major success. His offensive system hasn’t lived up to expectations and the time has come to move on.
Other than a victory over LSU a few years ago, there aren’t any signature wins that come to mind. There’s been no New Year’s Six bowls and no conference championships.
The transition to the Big Ten is imminent and UCLA is at risk of falling behind if it maintains the status quo.
8. USC (7-5, 5-4) ◄►The clock is ticking. It’s been several weeks since USC moved on from Alex Grinch and there has yet to be an announcement on the defensive coordinator position.
Whether or not that’s a bad sign remains to be seen. The decision will arguably determine Lincoln Riley’s tenure and legacy.
A bad hire could cost him his job while the right choice might put the Trojans in a position to make the Playoff.
9. Washington State (5-7, 2-7) ◄►The 2023 season has been an uncertain time for almost all of the programs in the Pac-12.
But none more than Washington State.
The Cougars end their final year in the Conference with a losing record and stunted momentum. Jake Dickert could lose a significant portion of his roster to the transfer portal.
The NIL situation in Pullman is awful and there is no clarity on who Wazzu will even play against next year. The sooner the schedule is announced, the better.
10. Colorado (4-8, 1-8) ◄►Expectations were too high for Colorado entering the season.
Some national media members distorted the realistic possibilities of what the team could accomplish and convinced too many people to drink the Kool-Aid.
If those wild projections are ignored, the Buffs’ season could be described as a success.
The team won just a single game in 2022 and Coach Prime engineered a roster that tallied four wins.
Successful programs aren’t built in one season and CU is on an upward trajectory.
11. Stanford (3-9, 2-7) ◄►The transition to the ACC begins now. Recruiting becomes the primary focus along with developing the current players on the roster.
Ashton Daniels is a reasonable piece to build around and Troy Taylor has some young weapons at wide receiver. The offensive line has to be improved and impact players are needed in the secondary.
Even so, three wins were in line with expectations and the Cardinal were a play or two away from beating Arizona and Sacramento State.
The Tree are not that far off from where they need to be.
12. Arizona State (3-9, 2-7) ◄►Of the four Pac-12 teams moving to the Big 12, Arizona State is the furthest behind.
From the threat of NCAA sanctions to a fledgling NIL program, the Sun Devils are playing catch up. The blowout defeat to Arizona was the capstone to a forgettable year.
The transfer portal could change the expectations for next season, though, and the football collective has seen an influx in contributions after Ray Anderson’s departure.
Still, ASU is in the worst position of the Four Corner schools as they enter a new era.
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