USC leads the Pac-12 in ESPN's way-too-early 2023 Top 25, Oregon lands inside top 10
With the 2022 college football season coming to an end, there’s an offseason ritual that must be observed. It’s time to rank teams for the 2023 season before rosters are even finalized.
Everyone does it, and almost no one gets it right. And the knee-jerk reaction to them is that they don’t really mean anything at all, but public perception does shape quite a bit in college football and preseason polls linger far longer into the actual season more than they should. If you’re a program like Texas or a coach like Jimbo Fisher, you get the benefit of the doubt and you get ranked every preseason, and that could actually mean you linger longer in the in-season Top 25 than would otherwise be expected if you stumble more than a few times.
So how does public perception view the Pac-12 headed into the winter conditioning portion of the offseason? At ESPN, where longtime college football writer Mark Schlabach compiled their way-too-early Top 25 for the 2023 year, USC reigns atop the league and firmly in the top 10.
Here’s what Schlabach wrote on the Trojans, who he has ranked seventh:
The Trojans just missed out on winning a Pac-12 championship and reaching the CFP in coach Lincoln Riley’s first season. Then they collapsed late against Tulane and lost 46-45 in the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic. This past season looked all too familiar for a Riley-coached team: a Heisman Trophy winner leading an explosive offense and a defense that couldn’t stop anyone. The Trojans will have plenty of firepower coming back on offense in 2023, including Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams and receivers Mario Williams, Tahj Washington and Brenden Rice. Singer, who led the Pac-12 with 1,105 receiving yards at Arizona this past season, was a nice addition from the transfer portal. So was Cobb, who had 96 tackles at Oklahoma State, and Roland-Wallace, who started 29 games at Arizona the past three seasons. Tarquin was an important addition with three starters leaving the offensive line. The Trojans will play Notre Dame and Oregon on the road next season, and they’ll get UCLA, Utah and Washington at home.
The Trojans went 11-3 in Lincoln Riley’s debut season and 8-1 in Pac-12 play. But there were major problems on the defensive side of the football. In all three losses, opponents topped 40 points. It’s why USC didn’t win the Pac-12.
That title went to Utah for the second consecutive season.
Schlabach has the Utes ranked 13th. He wrote that if quarterback Cameron Rising is healthy next season — he suffered what coach Kyle Whittingham said was a significant injury in the Rose Bowl — “the Utes could be very good again in 2023.”
He has Oregon ranked ninth and Washington — which beat Oregon and finished with a better record and returns star quarterback Michael Penix Jr. — ranked two spots behind the Ducks at No. 11.
Schlabach has just one other Pac-12 team in his entirely-too-early Top 25: Oregon State, which checks in at No. 17. UCLA just missed the cut.
Here’s his full Top 25:
- Ohio State
- Florida State
- Penn State
- Notre Dame
- Oregon State
- Kansas State
- Ole Miss
- North Carolina
- Texas Tech
- James Madison