Just as they were in the final rankings of the 2021 season, Utah and Arizona State are the two leading teams in the Pac-12 in Bill Connelly’s early 2022 SP+ projections.

The ESPN model released its early projections for the new season, factoring in returning production, recent recruiting, and recent history. Utah came in at No. 14 nationally, the highest-ranked team in the league, but there wasn’t another Pac-12 team in the top-30.

Here’s the full standing, with national rankings in parenthesis:

  1. Utah (14)
  2. Arizona State (31)
  3. Oregon (32)
  4. UCLA (44)
  5. Oregon State (46)
  6. Washington (61)
  7. USC (64)
  8. Stanford (68)
  9. Washington State (70)
  10. California (74)
  11. Arizona (99)
  12. Colorado (102)

That’s about what the league looked like in Connelly’s final SP+ rankings of the 2021 season, with a few variations toward the bottom: Utah, Arizona State, Oregon, UCLA, Oregon State, Washington State, Cal, USC, Washington, Colorado, Stanford, Arizona.

The Cardinal was the biggest climber after a very strong 2022 recruiting class and thanks to the fact it returns, according to Connelly’s numbers, the third-most production of any team in the country for the 2022 season. Washington State was on the other end of that coin, so the drop here makes sense, but it’s worth pointing out that while SP+ factored FBS-to-FBS transfers into its returning production numbers, it didn’t do so for FCS/Division II transfers stepping up to the FBS level, so it looks like the Cougars lost their starting quarterback without the replacement option many expect former Incarnate Word star Cam Ward to be.

And for anyone unsure of what Connelly’s SP+ system is, here’s how he describes it:

“It’s a tempo- and opponent-adjusted measure of college football efficiency. It is a predictive measure of the most sustainable and predictable aspects of football, not a résumé ranking, and, along those same lines, these projections aren’t intended to be a guess at what the AP Top 25 will look like at the end of the year. These are simply early offseason power rankings based on the information we have been able to gather to date.”