CHRISTIAN CAPLE

Caple: Pac-12 Preseason Power Rankings — with a twist

Jun 19, 2024, 12:29 PM

Pac-12...

Rome Odunze of the Washington Huskies runs with the ball during a 2024 game. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Pac-12 technically still exists, with Washington State and Oregon State in theory attempting to rebuild it following last summer’s disintegration. But for all intents and purposes, the conference we all knew and loved (and sometimes hated) is dead, and its former members will be competing in three different leagues this football season.

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If you’re not ready to accept such a reality, however, this column is for you. What would the Pac-12’s preseason power rankings look like if everyone was still together in the same league? Let’s take a stab at it, but with a twist — projections are based on how I expect each team to fare in its new league (or, in WSU and OSU’s case, against its Mountain West-but-not-really schedule).

1. Oregon: Even in the Big Ten, the Ducks’ schedule sets up for them to win at least 10 games this season. They would be the prohibitive favorite to win the Pac-12.

2. Utah: Led by seventh-year quarterback Cam Rising, the Utes should contend for a Big 12 title this season, and would likely enter a 2024 Pac-12 season as Oregon’s primary competition.

3. Arizona: You could have made a case for Arizona as the likely Pac-12 title-game participant against Oregon, if not for Jedd Fisch’s departure, though the Wildcats are still in good shape with a known commodity at quarterback and talent elsewhere, too.

4. Washington: A step back from last season’s CFP run is expected, but the Huskies would still be a top-third program in the old Pac-12.

5. USC: You could justify flipping the Trojans and Huskies, though a new starting quarterback and new defensive coordinator — and a really tough schedule — make USC something of an unknown.

6. California: The Golden Bears have a promising young quarterback, a talented tailback, a new offensive coordinator and some unknowns on defense. But their ACC schedule actually doesn’t seem terribly difficult, aside from the travel; they face Florida State and Miami, but not Clemson.

7. Washington State: Jake Dickert did well to keep most of the team together, all things considered, though a couple key transfers did depart. We’ll likely get to see what John Mateer is capable of at quarterback.

8. Colorado: Deion Sanders’ first season did represent progress for the Buffaloes, but even with Shedeur Sanders still at quarterback, I think they have a ways to go before competing with the top half of the old Pac-12.

9. Oregon State: New coach, new roster, no conference. It’s hard to know exactly what to expect from the Beavers this season, though they face a much less daunting schedule than they would have in the old Pac-12.

10. UCLA: The Bruins have a returning quarterback and a decent amount of returning production, but a brutal schedule and not a lot of momentum with new coach DeShaun Foster taking over for Chip Kelly.

11. Arizona State: Kenny Dillingham’s team isn’t getting any favors as it joins the Big 12, with five likely preseason top-25 teams on its conference schedule.

12. Stanford: The Cardinal do have some pieces back from last year’s 3-9 finish, and Troy Taylor is a good coach. But the ACC schedule doesn’t break well for them, and their annual nonconference game against Notre Dame only makes things harder.

This column from UW Huskies football insider Christian Caple is exclusive to Seattle Sports. Subscribe to OnMontlake.com for full access to Caple’s in-depth Husky coverage.

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