Pac-12 Power Rankings: Washington, Oregon Separating Themselves?

Sep 26, 2023, 12:38 PM

SALT LAKE CITY – The Pac-12 hierarchy got a little clearer in week four as league play opened and teams began to play each other. While still early in the process, it appears for now Washington and Oregon are on another level.

The “Conference of Champions” is off to the strongest start they’ve had as a conference of 12 making it all the more ironic this will also be its last as we know it. Six teams in the Pac-12 are currently ranked in the AP Top 25 with two from the previous week tumbling out. However, the Pac-12 now has four teams inside the Top 10- the most in conference history at any given time.

With a small sample size that will continue to sort itself out as league play continues, here is how the Pac-12 shakes out in week four.

Pac-12 Power Rankings 2023 Season: Week Three

There was a lot of buzz heading into the 2023 football season for the Pac-12 and rightfully so. On paper the league looks as strong as ever after having finished the previous season with six ranked teams which is where they sit right now. Those teams returned most of the same talent, while others went to work stepping up their game.

Those efforts have showed well the past four weeks leaving Pac-12 fans feeling good (and admittedly a little sad) about where things are heading during the league’s “farewell season”.

Washington continues to roll, looking like a well-oiled machine with Oregon close on their heels. Utah’s defense looks to be a problem for everyone who plays them, but the offense is going to need to catch up soon as their schedule only gets harder from here.

Colorado came back to Earth after a hot, fast-talking start to their 2023 campaign, and USC was challenged more than most probably expected. Washington State might end up being the actual surprise of the conference playing with a chip on their shoulder while Oregon State is still looking a tad disjointed to this point.

1. Washington (4-0, 1-0)

Washington 59 | Cal 32

Washington is just humming along. Michael Penix Jr. has picked up right where he left off last season with the Huskies and they have been impressive early on this season. I had this team in my top two for the Pac-12 along with Utah because I thought they had the most potential to be a well-rounded team and so far that thought process is looking good.

This week: at Arizona, 8:00 p.m. MT, Pac-12 Networks

2. Oregon (4-0, 1-0)

Oregon 42 | Colorado 6

Dan Lanning should teach a master class on turning someone’s schtick sideways and beating them with it because what the Ducks did to Colorado and how they did it was impressive. Going into the season I figured Oregon would be right at the top but wasn’t entirely sure what they would look like as a whole unit. So far, so good for them.

This week: at Stanford, 4:30 p.m. MT, Pac-12 Networks

3. Utah (4-0, 1-0)

Utah 14| UCLA 7

If Dan Lanning is teaching classes on turning someone’s schtick on them, then Kyle Whittingham and the Utes are teaching butt-whooping defense. Seven sacks, 11 tackles for loss, one pick six, three forced fumbles and only nine yards rushing allowed. Wow. Wow. Wow. Here is the catch though- Utah’s offense as it currently stands is a liability. I put them at No. 3 because it’s not hard to imagine what this team will look like once Cam Rising is back running the show. However, Utah is running out of real estate to play hypotheticals with as their schedule continues to get tougher. Still, what this team has accomplished early on without their leader is pretty impressive and should make the others in the conference nervous about Rising’s return.

This week: at Oregon State, 7:00 p.m. MT, FS1


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4. Washington State (4-0, 1-0)

Washington State 38 | Oregon State 35

The Cougars continue to make a compelling argument that we should be talking about them as a top team in the conference. Cam Ward appears to be on another level for Washington State in year two in Pullman. This team is playing with a chip on their shoulders (understandably so) and have been very fun to watch early on in the 2023 season.

This week: BYE

5. USC (4-0, 1-0)

USC 42 | Arizona State 28

I said I had some questions about USC and Arizona State, shockingly, helped answer some of them. The Sun Devils were right on the Trojan’s heels for much of the game before USC finally pulled away toward the end of the game. ASU (who barely squeaked it out against SUU and got hammered by Fresno State) took a page out of Utah and Tulane’s book from last season and pushed USC around and the Trojans showed they still have a bit of a propensity to wither when someone wants to play bully ball with them. Thankfully for USC, talent won out in the end, but how are they going to handle some of the teams on their schedule that are every bit as talented while also playing a very physical style of football?

This week: at Colorado, 10:00 a.m. MT, FOX

6. Oregon State (3-1, 0-1)

Oregon State 35 | Washington State 38

Tough week for Oregon State against the Cougars, but no shame in losing to that team. The game was hard-fought, and the Beavers have a pretty solid squad, though they maybe haven’t looked quite as formidable as most expected the past two weeks. However, opportunity always knocks and the Beavs have a big one coming into Corvallis this week with No. 10 Utah paying them a visit.

This week: at home against Utah, 7:00 p.m. MT, FS1

7. UCLA (3-1, 0-1)

UCLA 7 | Utah 14

I’m honestly not sure anyone had UCLA’s game against Utah pegged as a defensive slugfest at the beginning of the year, but that is what we got last Saturday. Much like Oregon State, there is no shame in UCLA coming up short on the road to Utah. Especially considering they are breaking in a (very talented) freshman quarterback. The Bruins have a lot to work with on their roster and will just continue getting better.

This week: BYE

8. Colorado (3-1, 0-1)

Colorado 6 | Oregon 42

The Buffs came back down to Earth this past weekend at the hands of the Ducks. Listen, there is a lot to be excited about in regard to Deion Sanders and this program. They are already a far-cry from what they were just a year ago, but if we are all being a little honest with ourselves which should include the people in the building as well, the cart was being put before the horse. Chickens were being counted before the eggs ever hatched. The hay wasn’t in the barn yet…whatever your favorite farm-themed analogy is, there is still more work to be done in Boulder before we talk about Colorado quite like that.

This week: at home against USC, 10:00 a.m. MT, FOX

9.Arizona (3-1, 1-0)

Arizona 21 | Stanford 20

The Wildcats are off to a pretty good start on their season as Jedd Fisch continues to build up the program. There is obviously still more work to be done in Tucson, but anyone paying attention can see the bricks are being laid.

This week: at home against Washington, 8:00 p.m. MT, Pac-12 Networks

10. Cal (2-2, 0-1)

Cal 32 | Washington 59

I’ve got to give it to the Golden Bears, they scored way more points on Washington than I thought they would. Cal is not a great team, but they’ve been doing better than I expected early in this season.

This week: at home against ASU, 1:00 p.m. MT, Pac-12 Networks

11. Arizona State (1-3, 0-1)

ASU 28 | USC 42

This was another game that went very differently than I expected. The Sun Devils hung around with USC for the better part of three quarters and pushed them around. It’s still going to be a long season for this team, but they do have a faint pulse.

This week: at Cal, 1:00 p.m. MT, Pac-12 Networks

12. Stanford (1-3, 0-1)

Stanford 20| Arizona 21

There is going to be some struggles in Palo Alto this season. Believe that.

This week: home against Oregon, 4:30 p.m. MT, Pac-12 Networks

Michelle Bodkin is the Utah Utes Insider for KSLsports.com and host of both the Crimson Corner Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and The Saturday Show (Saturday from 10 a.m.–12 p.m.) on The KSL Sports Zone. Follow her on XInstagram, and Threads: @BodkinKSLsports

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Pac-12 Power Rankings: Washington, Oregon Separating Themselves?