Dane Miller’s 2023 Week 3 Pac-12 Power Rankings

The League has eight teams ranked in the AP Top 25 and boasts a 20-3 nonconference record

Posted on September 11, 2023

  By Dane Miller, SuperWest Sports

The Conference of Champions has eight teams ranked in the AP Top 25 for the first time in its history and boasts a 20-3 nonconference record.

Utah, Oregon, Colorado, and Washington State all secured victories over Power 5 opponents in Week Two. The result sent me back to the drawing board to re-rank the 12 teams in the league.

Below is my Week Three ranking with a summary for each team. The list and order will be updated weekly through the end of the season.

1. USC (3-0, 1-0) ◄►
The Trojans dominated Stanford in a 56-10 drubbing at the Coliseum. Yet to face a high-quality opponent, the jury arguably remains out on USC’s season.

usc logoBut there’s no denying the offensive firepower on Lincoln Riley’s roster. The Trojans have depth at all of their skill positions—outside of quarterback—and run an elite system.

Traveling to Arizona State this week, USC gets its first test in a hostile environment. Still, the early part of the Trojan schedule was always viewed as easy, and little was learned during the blowout of the Cardinal.

2. Washington (2-0, 0-0) ◄►
Perhaps there was some letdown after the Boise State victory because Washington appeared to be off against Tulsa.

Receivers were dropping balls, running incorrect routes, and fumbling the football. The Dawgs turned the ball over twice while committing seven penalties for 93 yards.

Still, the final score was a 43-10 blowout that looks good for the East Coast media that didn’t watch the game.

Kalen DeBoer’s offense is elite, but the apparent inability to run the ball is a worrying problem. UW is dealing with injuries in its running back unit, yet there’s no denying DeBoer’s offense is almost entirely one-dimensional.

3. Utah (2-0, 0-0) ◄►
The Utah staff nearly cost its team the game by leaving Bryson Barnes in for so long. Completely unable to get drives going, Barnes was finally yanked for Nate Johnson, who led the team to a shaky win over Baylor.

How bad was it? Barnes went 6-of-19 for 71 yards with zero touchdowns and an interception. Johnson, on the other hand, went 6-of-7 for 82 yards and kept it on the ground 11 times for 32 yards and a score.

It’s unclear why Barnes was left to flounder for so long, especially considering how Johnson energized the offense in the Florida game. Cam Rising can’t come back soon enough.

4. Oregon (2-0, 0-0) ◄►
A win is a win, I guess.

Oregon Ducks Logo Pac-12Oregon’s defense struggled to get off the field against Texas Tech, allowing the Red Raiders to convert 8-of-13 third downs.

The Ducks had the same problem all last year, too, and those issues remain despite bringing in plenty of talent via the transfer portal to shore up the defense.

That indicates coaching is the problem and defensive coordinator Tosh Lupoi is left to shoulder the blame. A team expecting to make the Playoff shouldn’t struggle to beat a Texas Tech program fresh off a loss to Wyoming.

Credit the Oregon defense for doing enough to get the job done, but the Ducks were lucky to leave with a win.

5. Colorado (2-0, 0-0) ▲1
Eventually the oddsmakers in Las Vegas will catch on to what’s happening in Boulder.

Sean Lewis’s offensive system is elite and Shedeur Sanders runs it to perfection. The Buffs have talent at wide receiver and running back, too, creating a perfect storm of offensive firepower.

The CU offensive line did struggle against Nebraska’s Big Ten front seven, but the scheme and play-calling are able to mask enough of those issues to secure wins moving forward.

With a blowout victory over the Cornhuskers and a road win over TCU, the ammunition to criticize Colorado is running low. Still, there’s some credibility in the argument that CU has yet to play a quality opponent and it’s fair to stay in a wait-and-see mode.

6. Oregon State (2-0, 0-0) ▼1
The Beavers dominated UC Davis in game hidden on the Pac-12 Network.

Teams usually learn nothing about themselves when playing FCS opponents and there’s no difference in OSU’s 55-7 blowout win.

Yet to play a Power 5 opponent, it’s somewhat unclear how the Beavs stack up against the rest of the Pac-12.

That’s slightly unfair considering OSU has the top offensive line in the league, one of the top running backs in the Conference, and an arguably elite quarterback.

But, until Oregon State proves it against a talented team, the program gets a little lost in the mix.

7. Washington State (2-0, 0-0) ▲1
The writing was on the wall for a Washington State upset against Wisconsin and the Cougars got the job done. The second half was ugly, but Wazzu relied on their trusty defense to create the plays needed to secure the win.

The upset over the Big Ten program went beyond the field in the midst of all the conference realignment mess.

Regardless of what it meant to the University and the fan base, it was just one victory—and one that was arguably expected.

Hosting Northern Colorado this week, the Cougs will then play three ranked conference opponents over the next four games. A team’s memory has to be short and it’s on to the next.

8. UCLA (2-0, 0-0) ▼1
The Bruins have their quarterback of the future. True freshman Dante Moore eviscerated a talented San Diego State defense on the road in the first start of his career.

Chip Kelly’s offense put up 550 total yards and Moore made it look easy. Not only is Moore’s performance an indication of UCLA’s ceiling this year, it also sets the table for a smooth transition to the Big Ten over the coming years.

When the program looks back at the 2023 season five years down the road, the emergence of Moore might be pointed to as the catalyst that established success.

9. Arizona (1-1, 0-0) ◄►
Not many teams could commit five turnovers on the road and still bring an SEC opponent into overtime.

Arizona football Pac-12Credit Jayden de Laura for not letting his four interceptions phase him and leading the team to the brink of victory. It’s a testament to the trust built between de Laura and Jedd Fisch and is a positive sign for the state of the program.

The UA defensive line, in particular, held its own against an SEC frontline. The change in the defensive trenches from last season to this year is night and day, arguably indicating Arizona is on a path to bowl eligibility.

10. California (1-1, 0-0) ◄►
Justin Wilcox and the Bears dropped the ball against Auburn. There are very few reasons why California should have lost to a Tiger team that only put up 230 total yards of offense.

Auburn turned the ball over four times, produced just 12 first downs, and went 4-for-12 on third down.

Yet, Cal still managed to lose the game. Jaydn Ott’s injury in the second half arguably contributed to the defeat, but there’s really no one else to blame but themselves.

On a positive note, the California defense looked like they belonged against an SEC opponent. But until the program finds out how to win close games, the never-ending cycle of mediocrity will continue.

11. Arizona State (1-1, 0-0) ▲1
The early part of the season was always going to be a struggle for Arizona State, even before the injury to Drew Pyne.

After the Notre Dame transfer went down in fall camp, the 2023 season truly transitioned into a bridge year to joining the Big 12.

Still, the Sun Devils should have played better against a frankly bad Oklahoma State team. The Cowboys rotated multiple quarterbacks and were ineffective in the first half.

But the Sun Devil defense lost contain of the OK State rushing attack and that was all she wrote.

Dealing with injuries along the offensive line, the season is on the brink of turning from bad to worse.

12. Stanford (1-1, 0-1) ▼1
The convincing victory over Hawai’i in Week One probably raised expectations too high in Palo Alto. The Cardinal went from playing one of the worst teams in College Football to arguably the best, and the result speaks for itself.

Without any answers for USC’s never-ending set of weapons on offense, the game was over before it reached halftime. Still, it’s time to regroup and focus on the positives.

Troy Taylor’s system is creative, strong, and effective. Plus, recruiting is on the upswing. This season was always a bridge year and will remain so until joining the ACC in 2024.

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