Pac-12 Power Rankings 2023: Washington Huskies are the Best out West

    The "Conference of Champions" is living up to its name, with our 2023 Pac-12 Power Rankings revealing the depth of talented teams out west.

    Put your hand up if you had the Pac-12 earmarked as the conference that would dominate the on-field conversation in the early part of the season. In what is it’s final season as the result of a quick-fire round of conference realignment, the self-named “Conference of Champions” may well indeed hold the championship.

    As they dominate the national conversation, how do the 12 teams compare amongst themselves? Our latest 2023 Pac-12 Power Rankings rank the contenders from worst to first.

    Pac-12 Power Rankings 2023

    Our Pac-12 Power Rankings for the 2023 college football season take into account a number of factors. Overall record is a consideration, but roster talent and depth, coaching staff, strength of schedule, plus offensive and defensive efficiency are taken into consideration in our latest update.

    12) Stanford Cardinal

    Preseason Ranking: 11th

    Troy Taylor’s arrival from Sacramento State, with his high-powered offensive history, promised a new age for Stanford football after years of leadership under David Shaw. While there have been some small offensive improvements early in his tenure, the job of transforming the program into a contender will likely not be anywhere near complete before a move to the ACC.

    The Cardinal are currently 1-3 with two defeats in the conference, facilitating a slip to the bottom in our latest Pac-12 Power Rankings. Limiting Arizona to their lowest score this season showed that they’re trending in the right direction, but a loss to Taylor’s old team on their résumé does little to bolster their case to climb much higher for the rest of the season.

    11) Arizona State Sun Devils

    Preseason Ranking: 9th

    They might not like it, but both teams on either side of the Duel in the Desert rivalry have similarities heading into the 2023 college football season. They’ve had recent hardships, but they’re in a place now where genuine and substantial development and improvement can take place.

    For Arizona State, hiring Kenny Dillingham as head coach represents an exciting new era.

    The Arizona State team that takes to the field in 2023 will be barely recognizable from last year, which is not a bad thing. That said, holdovers CB Ro Torrence and TE Jalen Conyers are among the best at their position.

    Dillingham’s offenses have been exciting, and while the QB situation figures itself out, they have Cam Skattebo to terrorize behind an improved line.

    10) Cal Golden Bears

    Preseason Ranking: 12th

    There was mixed expectations for the Cal Golden Bears ahead of the 2023 college football season, with some analysts predicting the hire of Jake Spavital as offensive coordinator to be the spark plug the program needed under head coach Justin Wilcox. Others, like us at College Football Network, were not quite as sold on that potential.

    While the Bears climb off the foot of the Pac-12 Power Rankings, they’re definitely a work in progress. The offense has been better and the defense has shown some promise. However, when it came to conference play, they were ripped apart by a rampant Washington Huskies team. They’re 2-2, but 0-1 in conference play with a nightmare schedule on its way down the stretch.

    9) Arizona Wildcats

    Preseason Ranking: 8th

    The shoots of growth under Jedd Fisch are still growing strong, but how high can this Arizona Wildcats team get? They drop one spot in our Pac-12 Power Rankings, not so much because of their play, but as a result of a competitive conference with a race to the finish line.

    In fact, the Wildcats have done a good job on both sides of the ball early on in the season, leading to a 3-1 overall record and a 1-0 conference résumé heading into Week 5. While their WR room is one the more underrated units in the game, the Wildcat defense is also doing the business. However, their strength of schedule is one of the weakest in the conference.

    That clips their climb with Washington, USC, and Washington State up next.

    8) UCLA Bruins

    Preseason Ranking: 6th

    Let’s start with the positives for the UCLA Bruins following their two-place drop in our latest Pac-12 Power Rankings. Chip Kelly’s team has been defensively ferocious, averaging 3.75 sacks per game, with Laiatu Latu asserting himself as one of the best pass rushers in the nation. As a result, they’ve allowed just 11.0 points per game as a top-10 scoring defense.

    Continuing on a positive theme, Carson Steele has been as advertised in a leap up to the Power Five level, while an offseason QB competition appears to be over with Dante Moore taking over as starter and flashing his five-star talent.

    Yet, Moore has had his freshman struggles, and they’re a game back in the Pac already after losing out in a defensive slugfest with Utah.

    7) Colorado Buffaloes

    Preseason Ranking: 10th

    “We’ve no doubt that Sanders will be successful in returning the program to its former glory, but a complete and instant turnaround of a team rooted to the bottom of most metrics is unrealistic. Nonetheless, the offensive possibilities are mouth-watering. TCU, Oregon, and USC on the schedule will be a phenomenal test for a defense meshing at least 10 new starters.”

    That’s what we wrote in our preseason Pac-12 Power Rankings, and it feels like it’s kind of held true.

    There was a spellbinding opening to the season for the Buffaloes under new head coach Deion Sanders, but they failed the Oregon test miserably. How they rebound against USC will be a big indicator of the mettle of this Buffaloes team that has captured the attention of the nation.

    6) Oregon State Beavers

    Preseason Ranking: 5th

    The strength of the Pac-12 this season is absolutely ludicrous, and as a result, someone has to be on the outside looking in. In the latest update of our Pac-12 Power Rankings, that team is Oregon State, who don’t really deserve to be this low down and likely wouldn’t be in any other conference. They’ve been strong on both sides of the ball but just not quite strong enough.

    Their Week 4 defeat to the Washington State Cougars sees them drop a spot from their preseason position. The Cougars took advantage in some small defensive chinks and relentlessly exploited them. The Beavers gave it their best shot in a close game, but despite the resurgence of D.J. Uiagalelei, the offense couldn’t quite compete, dropping their first game of the year.

    5) Washington State Cougars

    Preseason Ranking: 7th

    Here come the Cougars! We touted Western Kentucky offensive coordinator Ben Arbuckle as the most substantial addition to the program this offseason, and early returns on that investment look to have paid off.

    Washington State has always been an offensive juggernaut historically, but with Cameron Ward at QB and Arbuckle as his puppeteer, the Cougars are electric.

    How electric? They currently rank fifth in the nation for scoring offense, have twice put up over 50 points, and put up 30+ in two wins over AP Top 25 ranked teams with historically good defenses.

    The defense might have seen a slight downturn in terms of points allowed versus last season, but honestly, who cares when you can outscore almost anybody in front of you?

    4) Utah Utes

    Preseason Ranking: 4th

    Washington State is just on the periphery of a top four in our Pac-12 Power Rankings that you could throw a bed sheet over. While the number one team is — in my opinion — the best in the nation, the Utah Utes begin a run of four teams that could easily claim to be the best in the conference. Utah is still very much in contention for a third straight Pac-12 conference title.

    That statement alone seems remarkable given the injury issues that have plagued their season. QB Cam Rising is still yet to return, same for star tight end Brant Kuithe. Yet, Kyle Whittingham’s team has three Power Five wins and has suffocated the living daylights out of every offense they’ve faced. It’s an impressive accomplishment given their injury issues.

    3) USC Trojans

    Preseason Ranking: 2nd

    Led by Caleb Williams and Lincoln Riley, the USC Trojans have become the nationally recognized offensive juggernaut of college football. An early-season favorite to become the first back-to-back Heisman Trophy winner for decades, Williams hasn’t disappointed while asserting himself as one of the very best players in the sport. His mastery is a joy to behold.

    USC has beaten up every single one of their opponents, scoring for fun. However, their undefeated résumé right now is arguably the least impressive of the four teams in contention. In fact, their strength of schedule is the worst in the conference.

    Meanwhile, there are legitimate question marks over how Alex Grinch’s defense will hold up to a true test, like an Oregon or Washington.

    2) Oregon Ducks

    Preseason Ranking: 3rd

    Dan Lanning’s team has all their ducks in a row and is ready to mount a legitimate assault on the conference title. They’ve meticulously steamrolled every opponent on their schedule, balancing an efficient and effective offense in the hands of Heisman hopeful Bo Nix and running back talent Bucky Irving with a defense only bettered by Utah for success rate.

    Traveling to Lubbock and going toe-to-toe with a highly-rated Texas Tech team in Week 2 set the standard. The 42-6 win over Colorado in Week 4 made a statement.

    While you can argue that USC’s offense is objectively more terrifying than Oregon’s, the Ducks defense is currently playing a different game to their West Coast compatriot — that’s the difference maker right here.

    1) Washington Huskies

    Preseason Ranking: 1st

    Placing the Washington Huskies as the best team in our Pac-12 Power Rankings ahead of the season was a controversial move approaching a hot take, but we don’t deal in hot takes here at College Football Network. We deal in cold, hard, facts, and the fact remains that Washington was probably the best team in the Pac-12 in 2022 but didn’t receive the recognition as such.

    National attention is slowly making its way to Seattle.

    As Michael Penix Jr. asserts himself as a Heisman frontrunner, bolstered by a wide receiver room as good as any in the nation, the Huskies look unstoppable on offense. Their defense is equally impressive, with the combination of the two factors making them the leading contender to take the Pac-12 back to the College Football Playoff.

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