Dane Miller’s 2023 Week 12 Pac-12 Football Power Rankings
Posted on November 13, 2023
The weekend in the Pac-12 was a wash in the context of the national narrative.
Neither Oregon nor Washington did enough to separate themselves from each other or catapult themselves into the Top 4 of the College Football Playoff rankings.
Both teams have their flaws and both failed to deliver a box score that changed anyone’s mind.
That’s a problem considering the push from the SEC to get two of its teams in the Playoff and the pressure from the Big Ten to secure two spots, as well.
But, the results did add some clarity to how the rest of the Pac-12 stacks up against itself. Below is how I view the teams entering Week 12.
1. Oregon (9-1, 6-1) ◄►
The Ducks had an opportunity to make a statement against USC and dropped the ball in the fourth quarter.
Leading 36-14 late in the game, Oregon allowed the Trojans to creep back in and make it interesting. The result was an underwhelming nine-point victory at home.
Still, the win keeps UO in the Playoff picture with two games left in the regular season. As long as Dan Lanning’s team wins out, the Committee will have no choice but to put them in the Playoff.
2. Washington (10-0, 7-0) ◄►
Kalen DeBoer and the Dawgs did what they needed to do. The seven-point victory over Utah may have been slightly disappointing, but the second-half performance of the defense was elite.
Nobody is questioning the Playoff-caliber quality of Washington’s offense. But there are concerns about the defense that have kept UW out of the Top 4 of the CFP rankings.
However, if the Husky defense plays like they did in the second half for the remainder of this season, UW will gain the respect of the Selection Committee.
3. Arizona (7-3, 5-2) ◄►
Johnny Nansen coached the first half of the Colorado game with a blindfold on. The UA coordinator elected to play a defensive back at the linebacker position and rarely brought pressure in the first two quarters.
The decisions were questionable, to say the least, and failed to expose the weaknesses of the Buffaloes’ offense. Adjustments were made at halftime, though, and Jedd Fisch’s clock management in the final two minutes was elite.
With three wins against the AP Top 25 and two overtime losses, the Wildcats are still in the hunt for an appearance in the Pac-12 Championship Game.
4. Oregon State (8-2, 5-2) ▲1
There was no letdown in Corvallis for the matchup with Stanford. The Beavers dominated the Cardinal with Damien Martinez going off for 146 yards rushing and four scores.
Ranked in the Top 10 for the first time since 2012, Oregon State is a substantial threat. But the final two games of the year will shape the perception of the season.
Washington and Oregon are hands down the best opponents OSU has faced all year. It’s one thing to beat up on the likes of UCLA and an injury-laden Utah team. It’s a whole other ball game facing the Dawgs and Ducks.
5. Utah (7-3, 4-3) ▼1
Another big-time matchup, another defensive failure. For all the accolades Morgan Stanley gets for his group, the team doesn’t play like themselves in nationally relevant games.
This year, the Utes gave up 35 to Oregon, 35 to Washington, and 32 to USC. And in the last two Rose Bowls, Scalley’s unit allowed Penn State to score 35 points and Ohio State to put up 48.
That’s a problem with no obvious solution. Still, Utah has made the best of its situation and a 10-win season is still achievable.
6. USC (7-4, 5-3) ▲1
The first game without Alex Grinch yielded the same results. USC gave up explosive play after explosive play while failing to create a turnover.
It was par for the course and to be expected. It’s going to take a full offseason to implement new defensive formations, techniques, and playcalling.
With little left to play for, the pressure on Caleb Williams to skip out on the bowl game will be immense. With the way the season has gone, this weekend’s contest against UCLA might be the final game Williams plays as a Trojan.
7. UCLA (6-4, 3-4) ▼1
It’s time to move on from Chip Kelly. The Bruins were outclassed by a first-year head coach running a gimmick offense with a running back and tight end playing QB.
The quarterback situation is a mess and the fourth-down decision-making has been poor. Expectations were too high to start the year, but you can’t lose at home to an Arizona State team that can’t beat anyone.
If not for D’Anton Lynn turning UCLA’s defense into a monster, the Bruins would be near the bottom of the Pac-12.
8. California (4-6, 2-5) ▲1
The Bears can smell bowl eligibility. After holding on against Washington State, Justin Wilcox’s team kept their postseason hopes alive.
With two games remaining against Stanford and UCLA, the chances of Cal reaching 6-6 are real. Anything can happen in the Big Game, but California has won three of the last four.
And the Bruins can’t score any points, making the finale in the Rose Bowl a winnable matchup. Credit Fernando Mendoza for turning the season around and reigniting hope within the program.
9. Colorado (4-6, 1-6) ▼1
The reality of life in the Pac-12 has set in for Deion Sanders.
The Buffs couldn’t find a way to win against a redshirt freshman quarterback playing the worst game of his career and an opposing defensive coordinator intentionally deciding not to blitz.
Bowl eligibility is still a possibility, but that will require Colorado to win two road games to close the year.
On the positive side, the defeats in league play exposed the changes needed for 2024. Look for CU to hit the transfer portal to shore up its offensive and defensive lines over the winter and spring.
10. Arizona State (3-7, 2-5) ▲2
What is the remedy for an offense decimated by injuries to its offensive line and quarterbacks? Kenny Dillingham has the answer.
The first-year head coach used running back Cameron Skattebo and tight end Jalin Conyers at quarterback in several series against UCLA.
Dillingham also implemented the “swinging gate” formation, an odd set that features linemen on both sides of the field with the quarterback and center exposed in the middle.
But if it works, it works. And ASU got the job done on the road.
11. Stanford (3-7, 2-6) ▼1
Burn the tape and never think about it again. That might be Troy Taylor’s message after his team was destroyed by Oregon State. The Tree turned the ball over four times and were sacked six times in a 62-17 blowout.
With two games left in the season, the matchup this weekend against California is the proverbial Super Bowl.
The final contest of the year is against Notre Dame and there’s no possibility to reach bowl eligibility. That makes the Big Game on Saturday the most important matchup of the season.
12. Washington State (4-6, 1-6) ▼1
It’s the end of an era. The other 10 teams in the Pac-12 have left Washington State behind and are kicking them on their way out.
The Cougars haven’t won a game since September and are on the brink of entering the darkest offseason in program history. It’s a sad time in Pullman.
All the memories of the last several decades in the Conference are coming to a crashing culmination. For the sake of the well-being of its alumni, Wazzu has to find a way to beat Colorado on Friday.