Dane Miller’s Post-Spring Pac-12 Football Power Rankings

The offseason has produced coaching changes, roster movement, and controversy

Posted on May 16, 2022

  By Dane Miller, SportsPac12

Spring ball is over and fall camp is just around the corner, as the Pac-12 seeks to return to the Playoff for the first time since the 2016-17 season.

Pac-12The offseason has produced substantial coaching changes, roster movement, and controversy, building up to one of the most anticipated football seasons in recent memory.

But the preseason hype stops now and a dose of reality is in order.

The Conference of Champions runs through Salt Lake City and Eugene until another program emerges to challenge the perennial powerhouses.

Despite what some are saying about the USC Trojans, the offensive line issues and questionable defense remain.

The Conference would like nothing more than SC to reemerge as a contender, but the reality on the ground is that it’s going to take a season or two to turn it around.

Below is my Post-Spring Power Ranking of how I view all 12 teams as they sit now.

1. Utah

2021 Record: 8-1, 10-4, First Place in the South
Postseason: Rose Bowl loss to Ohio State (48-45)

Cam Rising is back to lead the way for the Utes fresh off their first-ever Rose Bowl game. The quarterback’s mobility turned Utah’s season around after Charlie Brewer left the team, keeping plays alive and opening lanes for UU’s running backs.

Tavion Thomas and Micah Bernard comprise a proven backfield that figures to once again take advantage of the space Rising’s threat to run creates.

On defense, Kyle Whittingham has a potential Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year candidate in corner Clark Phillips III, along with a solid transfer portal addition in linebacker Mohamoud Diabate.

Until proven otherwise, the Pac-12 Championship runs through Rice-Eccles Stadium.

2. Oregon

2021 Record: 7-2, 10-4, First Place in North
Postseason: Alamo Bowl loss to Oklahoma (47-32)

Mario Cristobal left for Miami, but the Ducks may have upgraded with Dan Lanning. The former defensive coordinator for Georgia, Lanning has hit the ground running.

Despite entering the cycle late, Oregon’s new coach has secured the Pac-12’s best 2022 recruiting class, highlighted by five-star offensive lineman Josh Conerly Jr.

Oregon Ducks Logo Pac-12And UO was active in the transfer portal, too, securing commitments from Auburn quarterback Bo Nix, UCLA wide receiver Chase Cota, and Minnesota running back Mar’Keise Irving.

Staying healthy will be pivotal to Oregon’s success in 2022, yet the Ducks’ new offensive scheme should produce more points and put them in contention for the Playoff.


2021 Record: 6-3, 8-4, Third Place in South
Postseason: Holiday Bowl vs. NC State (Not played due to Covid issues)

Chip Kelly’s system produced eight wins last season, and defensive coordinator Jerry Azzinaro was finally shown the door.

The combination of the offensive firepower and the new defensive scheme should allow UCLA to contend in the South.

Dorian Thompson-Robinson returns to command one of the nation’s top running offenses, while Zach Charbonnet and Brittain Brown are both back to create a three-headed monster on the ground.

And although a go-to wide receiver must emerge along with a tight end to replace Greg Dulcich, the Bruins are in a position to capitalize on the momentum brewing in Westwood.

4. USC

2021 Record: 3-6, 4-8, Fifth Place in South
Postseason: None

Year in and year out, there isn’t another team in America that receives more preseason hype than USC.

This season, the county is abuzz with Lincoln Riley’s move to LA and the addition of Caleb Williams under center.

usc logoTo Riley’s credit, he kept Donte Williams on staff and brought in his trusted defensive coordinator Alex Grinch.

Add in the transfers of Oklahoma receiver Mario Williams, Oregon running back Travis Dye, Arizona State linebacker Eric Gentry, and five-star freshman corner Domani Jackson, and perhaps some of the hype is justified.

Still, there’s one gaping hole in USC’s 9th-best recruiting class and No. 1 transfer class: a proven offensive line. Throw in the lack of depth at quarterback, and the Trojans are one injury away from an underwhelming year.

5. Oregon State

2021 Record: 5-4, 7-6, Third Place in North
Postseason: Los Angeles Bowl loss to Utah State (24-13)

Jonathan Smith and the Beavs are back at it after finishing the 2021 season with a record of 7-6. Oregon State lost running back B.J. Baylor, but return Deshaun Fenwick and an offensive system designed for running the ball.

Smith has a proven and experienced quarterback to run the offense in Chance Nolan, and reports out of Corvallis indicate true freshman RB Damien Martinez could be the real deal.

Trent Bray enters his first full season as OSU’s defensive coordinator, and his development of the Beaver defense figures to be one of the deciding-factors of the season.

6. Washington State

2021 Record: 6-3, 7-6, Second Place in North
Postseason: Sun Bowl loss to Central Michigan (24-21)

Jake Dickert took a risk by moving away from the Run-and-Shoot and bringing in offensive coordinator Eric Morris.

The former head coach of Incarante Word brought his quarterback Cameron Ward with him, potentially making the transition to the new scheme as smooth as possible.

Ward’s NIL deal drew attention earlier in the year, but it’s his leadership that appears to have shined through during Spring ball. Combined with the marquee defense that Dickert is known for, WSU should once again be in contention for bowl eligibility, with eyes on finishing no worse than second in the North.

7. California

2021 Record: 4-5, 5-7, Fourth Place in North
Postseason: None

The Bears hit the transfer portal with targeted efficiency, drawing Purdue quarterback Jack Plummer, Washington linebacker Jackson Sirmon, Utah defensive lineman Xavier Carlton, Arizona State offensive lineman Spencer Lovell, and Montana State offensive lineman T.J. Session.

Coming off a season with wins over USC and Stanford, Justin Wilcox must feel his team is primed to reach a bowl game.

Damien Moore returns in the backfield after starting eight games and leading the Bears with 517 yards rushing and six scores on the ground. But it’s the Cal defense that will determine whether or not it reaches a bowl game.

8. Washington

2021 Result: 3-6, 4-8, Fifth Place in North
Postseason: None

Jimmy Lake was fired after leading the Dawgs to a 4-8 season, and former Fresno State head coach Kalen DeBoer was hired in his place.

But other than the coaching staff rotation, it doesn’t appear much has changed in Seattle.

Washington football pac-12The Huskies have the second-worst recruiting class in the Pac-12, and are only eighth when basing the rankings purely on star average.

Terrell Bynum, Jackson Sirmon, and Sam Taimani all transferred out, while the issues at quarterback remain.

Indiana transfer QB Michael Penix Jr. and New Mexico running back Aaron Dumas have been added to the mix, and UW’s defense will be strong, as always.

But with just about half of its starters returning and the losses of Trent McDuffie, Kyler Gordon, Cade Otton, and Luke Wattenberg to the NFL Draft, times appear to be bleak in the Emerald City.

9. Arizona State

2021 Record: 6-3, 8-5, Second Place in South
Postseason: Las Vegas Bowl loss to Wisconsin (20-13)

Controversy surrounds Herm Edwards as the recruiting scandal rocks the makeup of his roster.

Since October 2021, at least 19 Arizona State players have entered the transfer portal, with the list seemingly growing every week.

Yet, sprinkled in with the news of the departures are beacons of light. Florida transfer quarterback Emory Jones has been brought in and figures to enter fall camp as the starter.

But the number of losses to the portal indicate that ASU’s players have lost hope in Edwards. It’s probably only a matter of time until the Sun Devil coach is let go and the program can begin to rebuild.

10. Arizona

2021 Record: 1-8, 1-11, Sixth Place in South
Postseason: None

Jedd Fisch worked wonders in the transfer portal and on the recruiting trail, bringing in Jayden de Laura and five four-star prospects.

With upgraded personnel at all the offensive skill positions, Arizona is set to take a jump on that side of the ball.

Arizona football Pac-12But the loss of defensive coordinator Don Brown was a significant development over the offseason.

First-year coordinator Johnny Nansen has been hired to run the defense, a major risk considering his lack of experience.

The UA offense should score enough points to win games, but its defense could hold it back from reaching bowl eligibility.

11. Stanford

2021 Record: 2-7, 3-9, Sixth Place in North
Postseason: None

The Cardinal have the second-best recruiting class in the Pac-12, boosted by seven four-star prospects. The young players must contribute early for the Tree to improve on their 3-9 season from a year ago.

Running backs Austin Jones and Nathaniel Peat both transferred out, leaving E.J. Smith as the projected starter.

Quarterback Tanner McKee should execute Stanford’s offense efficiently, and tight end Benjamin Yurosek figures to combine with receivers John Humphreyes and Michael Wilson for a strong year.

But the questions on defense are a cause for concern.

12. Colorado 

2021 Record: 3-6, 4-8, Fourth Place in South
Postseason: None

The Buffs’ 2022 recruiting class is entirely comprised of three-stars, while Jarek Broussard, Brenden Rice, Dimitri Stanley, Mekhi Blackmon, Christian Gonzalez, and Ashaad Clayton all transferred out.

Add in the losses of Carson Wells and Nate Landman to the NFL, and suddenly CU’s roster appears to be the most depleted in the Pac-12.

Still, the development of quarterback Brendon Lewis figures to be the make-or-break factor in Colorado’s season.

Second-string QB J.T. Shrout could make the battle with Lewis interesting, but it’s hard to see Colorado reaching bowl eligibility.

—More from Dane Miller—