Pac-12 Power Rankings entering Week 2: A perfect start to 2023
The Pac-12 opened the 2023 football season 13-0. It is the only Power Five league that can say it is unbeaten through Week 1.
Teams at the top of the conference looked just as strong as we thought they would, but it’s the bottom of the league that seems to have risen. Colorado shocked some folks. Stanford looked promising in its debut under Troy Taylor. Cal showed the makings of a competent offense under a new coordinator.
Time to update the Power Rankings. Let’s dive in.
12. Arizona State Sun Devils (1-0)
The Sun Devils got off to a hot start last Thursday, jumping on top of Southern Utah 21-7 in the first half. Then a dust storm and some lightning delayed the game almost three hours into the early-morning hours of Friday. When play resumed, ASU couldn’t find any rhythm on offense. Let’s see how they look against a beatable Oklahoma State team.
11. Stanford Cardinal (1-0)
Last week: 12
Stanford kept its quarterback a mystery going into Friday night’s opener. Then Ashton Daniels threw for 248 yards, ran for another 42, and scored two touchdowns without a turnover while completing 69% of his throws. Stanford looked improved in Game 1 under Troy Taylor.
10. Cal Golden Bears (1-0)
Last week: 10
Cal opened its season with a 58-21 win over North Texas, but lost its starting quarterback in the process. Ben Finley stepped in for Sam Jackson V and threw the ball well. Jaydn Ott remains awesome. Offensive coordinator Jake Spavital passed his first test in his first game back with the program. A huge Week 2 test awaits with Auburn.
9. Washington State Cougars (1-0)
Last week: 8
In both fantasy football and basketball, I’ve always been a year too early in predicting breakouts. That may have been the case with Lincoln Victor. I picked the slot receiver for the Cougs to be among the league leaders in receiving yardage last season and he was far from it. But he caught 11 balls for 168 yards in Washington State’s 50-24 win over CSU. Cam Ward was fabulous. Questions remain about that offensive line, which allowed three sacks and 10 TFLs.
8. Colorado Buffaloes (1-0)
Last week: 11
Coach Prime might take this as disrespect. That’s fine. If CU keeps winning, CU will keep moving up. But College Football Playoff buzz at this stage is nonsense. Colorado looked far better than I expected at the line of scrimmage and in managing some late-stage adversity. TCU, however, is not a CFP team anymore and shouldn’t be treated as such. This group is far removed from the 2022 squad based on what I saw in Week 1. They will struggle in the Big 12 this year. Let’s see if Colorado can sustain the same kind of play at the point of attack against a better Nebraska front in Week 2.
7. Arizona Wildcats (1-0)
Last week: 7
Arizona’s offense looked as expected in a 38-3 win over Northern Arizona. The defense, however, was a pleasant surprise. NAU got just 3 points in the first half and gained only 3.2 yards a play. In the second half, they were blanked. A good start.
6. UCLA Bruins (1-0)
Last week: 6
UCLA promised a three-quarterback system and showed a two-quarterback system in a 27-13 win over Coastal Carolina. The backup looked much more explosive than the starter. Ethan Garbers had two interceptions and one touchdown. Dante Moore had two touchdowns and one interception. This split seems likely to continue for at least another week, so I’m curious if Week 1 jitters give way to a more even performance in Week 2. UCLA got decent play from its defense despite 103 offside penalties. A road matchup against a 2-0 San Diego State team should provide the UCLA coaching staff with more clarity on the QB spot.
5. USC Trojans (2-0)
Last week: 4
I’m not really sure what to do with USC. And I don’t really know how they end up fifth in a conference power ranking, but I can’t put them head-to-head with any of the teams above them and say, ‘Yeah, I’ve been more impressed with the Trojans’ start.’ They played around with a San Jose State team that Oregon State just crushed. Nevada is awful. They have gotten better play across the board from the defensive front, but they’re not really forcing any turnovers. Caleb Williams is other-worldly, but we already knew that and he alone wasn’t enough last season. So … Feel free to yell at me over this. I’m having a shouting match in my own head about it. Let’s see how they look against Stanford.
4. Oregon State Beavers (1-0)
Last week: 5
DJ Uiagalelei completed 20 of his 25 pass attempts in his Beaver debut and became the first Oregon State quarterback in nearly 30 years to run for two scores and pass for three in the same game. Oregon State has quality everywhere. This group looks like a legitimate Pac-12 title contender if DJ U is going to get the kind of protection he got in a 42-17 win on Sunday.
3. Utah Utes (1-0)
Last week: 3
Here’s a brief (and incomplete) list of the players who were missing in action when Utah demoralized Florida in a Week 1 opener: starting quarterback Cameron Rising, starting tight end Brant Kuithe, starting running back Ja’Quinden Jackson (for part of the game), starting defensive lineman Junior Tafuna, starting defensive lineman Simote Pepa, starting defensive end Connor O’Toole, and starting linebacker Karene Reid (for part of the game). Florida had 13 total rushing yards and was 1-for-13 on third down. It was as impressive a defensive performance as I’ve seen from Utah in recent years. Andy Ludwig was on the money for his part. A phenomenal win, even considering how pathetic Florida looked.
2. Oregon Ducks (1-0)
Last week: 2
Oregon scored 81 points and only gave up seven. Even against a FCS opponent like Portland State, that’s a masterclass kind of showing. The Ducks had one bad drive. Only one. All game. The offense is elite, and the defense showed signs of progress.
1. Washington Huskies (1-0)
Last week: 1
Michael Penix Jr. just makes throws, man. You just have to admire the level of quarterback play UW has gotten under Kalen DeBoer. Questions about the ground game are fair. It might be a weakness that prevents a College Football Playoff run. But a 56-19 dismantling of Boise State goes down in my book as enough to keep UW in the top spot this week.