My colleague Jon Gold and I offered a little back-and-forth take on the Pac-12 power rankings a month ago, just ahead of Pac-12 Media Day. I’ll admit from the jump: not much has changed for me since then.

But we’ve finally arrived at game week. It’s Week 1 in college football, which means its debut time for the Pac-12. The season gets rolling on Thursday when Arizona State hosts Northern Arizona. Colorado hosts TCU Friday night. Then everyone else hits the field on Saturday. 

Let the weekly Power Ranking updates begin. 

A note: this is not a prediction of where each team finishes the season, it is a snapshot of where each team is at right now. 

12. Colorado Buffaloes

Prev. rank: 12
Week 1 opponent: TCU (Friday, Sept. 2, 7 p.m. PT, ESPN)

This is a make-or-break year for coach Karl Dorrell. Colorado has some pieces I like — Guy Thomas on defense, RJ Sneed on offense — but a big, glaring question mark at quarterback. CU had an Eckel rate last season (quality drives; drives that crossed the opponent’s 40 or ended in a big-play touchdown) of 31.4%. That was the third-worst clip in college football. The passing game needs to be more aggressive in the new year. We won’t know who the quarterback is until the Buffs take the field against the Horned Frogs.

11. Arizona State Sun Devils

Prev. rank: 11
Week 1 opponent: Northern Arizona (Thursday, Sept. 1, 7 p.m. PT, Pac-12 Network)

This is the spot where I feel compelled to reiterate the goal here. This is not “Arizona State is going to be the second-worst team in the Pac-12.” It’s not even “this is the second-worst team in the Pac-12 right now,” to be perfectly honest. But there is so much turnover in Tempe this offseason that I have zero idea what to expect in 2022. Vegas says six wins. Fans are apathetic. Outside media sees a dumpster fire. Local media sees an overlooked team with talent. Emory Jones has been named the starting quarterback, an expected decision but noteworthy nonetheless. Both sides seemed OK with him leaving Florida after last season. Just something to keep in mind.

10. Cal Golden Bears 

Prev. rank: 8
Week 1 opponent: UC Davis (1 p.m. PT, Pac-12 Network)

The only team to move down from my Pac-12 Media Day ranking. Cal announced on Saturday that defensive lineman Brett Johnson will miss the entire 2022 season with a lower-body injury. Coach Justin Wilcox didn’t want to go into too much detail on the injury, but it doesn’t sound like there’s any chance Johnson plays. It’s a crushing blow. Johnson might be the team’s best football player. Period. With a bevy of offensive questions, losing that kind of defender isn’t what you want. A handful of folks have suggested Cal could pull some upsets in 2022. That just got a lot harder.

9. Arizona Wildcats

Prev. rank: 10
Week 1 opponent: at San Diego State (12:30 p.m. PT, CBS)

I’m optimistic about what coach Jedd Fisch is building in Tucson and I’m very excited about some of the pieces that have joined the program this offseason. I think Arizona will have one of the best one-two punches at wideout of any team in the league. The running back room is loaded. But it seems like there’s going to be a tremendous amount of reliance on youth in 2022. To me, that forecasts competitiveness but crucial mistakes that prevent a ton of wins. 

8. Stanford Cardinal

Prev. rank: 9
Week 1 opponent: Colgate (5 p.m. PT, Pac-12 Network)

I know it was rough watching this offense a year ago, but I’m on board with a tweaked offensive gameplan, a better running back, and a more experienced offensive line. Can Stanford’s wide receiver room not be demolished by injuries again? Can Tanner McKee stay upright? If the answers are yes, Stanford could get back to a bowl. That’s even with a defense that has a ton of holes. 

7. Washington Huskies

Prev. rank: 7
Week 1 opponent: Kent State (7:30 p.m. PT, FS1)

Mike Penix Jr. and Wayne Taulapapa is your starting UW backfield. Zion Tupuola-Fetui is healthy and causing problems. Kalen DeBoer is pretty good. I feel better about Washington than I did a few months ago. I still have reservations about the quarterback spot, but DeBoer seems very pleased with the summer and camp that Penix had from a consistency standpoint. We’ll see.

6. Oregon State Beavers

Prev. rank: 6
Week 1 opponent: Boise State (7:30 p.m. PT, ESPN)

5. Washington State Cougars

Prev. rank: 5
Week 1 opponent: Idaho (6:30 p.m. PT, Pac-12 Network)

I don’t lump these two together as a slight toward either. They’re just too close to separate and have been — for me at least — for a while. Washington State has the better quarterback. Oregon State has the better offensive line/ground game. Washington State has the better defensive front. Oregon State has the better coach. These two teams are closer to Oregon than either of them has been in a few seasons, and I can’t wait to see how that plays itself out on the field. The Beavers are going to be tested right away, and the Cougars have a Week 1 tune-up before heading to Madison, Wisconsin, to face a bruising Badgers team. I think both of these teams could be slow out of the gates and then really catch fire down the stretch.

4. UCLA Bruins

Prev. rank: 4
Week 1 opponent: Bowling Green (11:30 a.m. PT, Pac-12 Network)

UCLA has 10-win potential in 2022. The offensive combination of Chip Kelly, Dorian Thompson-Robinson, and Zach Charbonnet is that good. It has a bunch of transfer players on the defensive side of the ball who I think can be instant-impact guys, and it has them at all three levels. There are literally no excuses for UCLA to start anything other than 5-0. 

3. Oregon Ducks

Prev. rank: 3
Week 1 opponent: Georgia (12:30 p.m. PT, ABC)

This is going to be one of the better defenses in all of college football. I’ve been consistent with that all offseason. Oregon has the most talented roster in the Pac-12 and the best defense in the conference. How high the Ducks fly in 2022 is going to be determined by Bo Nix. That might excite you. That might terrify you. Welcome to the Bo Nix experience. We’re in for a heck of a ride.

2. USC Trojans

Prev. rank: 2
Week 1 opponent: Rice (3 p.m. PT, Pac-12 Network)

What can I say about this group that hasn’t been said yet? The talent influx is undeniably game-changing. I don’t totally buy into the narrative that because this team was assembled through the transfer portal they won’t be an actual team and just a bunch of individuals. That feels a little reductive. 

1. Utah Utes

Prev. rank: 1
Week 1 opponent: Florida (4 p.m. PT, ESPN)

The champs are the champs. My rule of thumb: if you are the reigning champion — be it league or national — you are the No. 1 team in a power ranking going forward until you lose or see your entire roster enter the portal. Seeing as neither has happened at Utah, I’m compelled to call them the top team in the Pac-12. It also helps the offense is going to be superb.