Pac-12 Week 0 Power Rankings: USC holds strong despite shaky defensive performance

Football season has finally returned.

While not everyone in the nation kicked off action over the weekend, we did get a handful of Week 0 games to wet our beaks. In just a handful of days, we will have a full college slate fit with some incredible matchups across the nation.

For the Pac-12, the USC Trojans got things underway over the weekend with a 56-28 victory over the San Jose State Spartans. While the offense under Caleb Williams and Lincoln Riley was as expected, the defense under coordinator Alex Grinch continued to raise some concerns.

Going into Week 1, there are some notable games in the conference, including Utah’s Thursday bout with the Florida Gators, Colorado’s matchup with the TCU Horned Frogs, and Washington’s game against the Boise State Broncos.

Other teams in the conference have relatively light season-openers, with the Oregon Ducks hosting Portland State, UCLA hosting Coastal Carolina, and Arizona hosting Northern Arizona.

Every week of the season, we will keep track of the balance of power in the conference based on previous results and projections going forward. It should be noted that these power rankings are meant to be a snapshot of  where things currently stand, and not an end-of-season prediction for where things will shake out.

A week from now, we will have a much better sense of where the power is held in the conference based on finally being able to see some highly-anticipated gameplay. For now, though, here’s how things stand going into Week 1.

Stanford Cardinal

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Current Record: 0-0 (0-0 Pac-12)

Associated Press Ranking: N/A

Next Game: at Hawaii Rainbow Warriors — Friday at 8 p.m. PT (CBSSN)

Analysis: No disrespect to new coach Troy Taylor — he’s done a great job on the recruiting trail since coming to Stanford. However, the current roster needs a lot of help. I don’t see the Cardinal winning many games this year.

Arizona State Sun Devils

Current Record: 0-0 (0-0 Pac-12)

Associated Press Ranking: N/A

Next Game: vs. Southern Utah Thunderbirds — Thursday at 7 p.m. PT

Analysis: The Sun Devils did a noble thing and implemented a self-imposed bowl ban for the 2023 season due to infractions from the previous coaching staff. As if ASU were going to a bowl game this year anyway. Kenny Dillingham’s team might show flashes at times, but I would give it a year or two before we start to strongly consider them as a threat on the gridiron.

Colorado Buffaloes

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Current Record: 0-0 (0-0 Pac-12)

Associated Press Ranking: N/A

Next Game: vs. No. 17 TCU Horned Frogs — Saturday at 9 a.m. PT (FOX)

Analysis: We’re all looking forward to seeing the Deion Sanders experiment take place in Colorado. However, I’m not sure that the results are going to be too impressive, at least early on. While the Buffs may find some stability later in the season, with so much new early on, I think the early results will be tough.

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California Golden Bears

(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Current Record: 0-0 (0-0 Pac-12)

Associated Press Ranking: N/A

Next Game: at North Texas Mean Green — Saturday at 1 p.m. PT (ESPNU)

Analysis: California is a team that I’m not quite sure what to do with. There’s a world where they are decent, riding the backs of a strong defense and a solid offense, but there’s also a world where they continue to struggle, and Justin Wilcox is on the hot seat quickly. I tend to lean towards the latter.

Washington State Cougars

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Current Record: 0-0 (0-0 Pac-12)

Associated Press Ranking: N/A

Next Game: at Colorado State Rams — Saturday at 4 p.m. PT (CBSSN)

Analysis: If Cam Ward returns to the Incarnate Word version of himself this year, then the Cougars could be a decent team under the tutelage of Jake Dickert. The defense should be solid, but the offense has a lot of work to do in order to keep up in the conference this year.

Arizona Wildcats

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Current Record: 0-0 (0-0 Pac-12)

Associated Press Ranking: N/A

Next Game: vs. North Arizona Lumberjacks — Saturday at 7 p.m. PT
(Pac-12 Network)

Analysis: Offensively, I think that Arizona could be among the better teams in the Pac-12 this year. They’re stacked with weapons and a decent quarterback in Jayden de Laura. Defensively, though, they have a lot to prove before I can take them seriously in the conference.

UCLA Bruins

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Current Record: 0-0 (0-0 Pac-12)

Associated Press Ranking: N/A

Next Game: vs. Coastal Carolina Chanticleers — Saturday at 7:30 p.m. PT (ESPN)

Analysis: UCLA has to be among the highest ceiling, lowest floor teams in the conference this year. If they can figure out their QB situation, then they have the weapons to be pretty dangerous. However, it’s unclear which way they will turn at the moment, so their standing in the conference is a bit up in the air.

Utah Utes

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Current Record: 0-0 (0-0 Pac-12)

Associated Press Ranking: 14th

Next Game: vs. Florida Gators — Thursday at 5 p.m. PT (ESPN)

Analysis: At this point in the power rankings, I think we will see a lot of fluidity throughout the season. While I think that Utah will be higher as we get further into the year, the uncertainty around starting QB Cameron Rising and his health. If he plays vs. Florida and looks completely healthy, then the Utes should be considered one of the top teams in the conference. Until I can see how he has recovered from that ACL tear, though, I will have my doubts.

Oregon State Beavers

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Current Record: 0-0 (0-0 Pac-12)

Associated Press Ranking: 18th

Next Game: at San Jose State Spartans — Sunday at 12:30 p.m. PT (CBS)

Analysis: There are questions at the QB spot in Corvallis as well. While we all know that D.J. Uiagalelei is the guy, I want to see how he looks under Jonathan Smith. His great was really great at Clemson, but his bad was bad. Which version will we get in Corvallis? Depending on that answer, the Beavers will move a lot in the top 5.

Washington Huskies

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Current Record: 0-0 (0-0 Pac-12)

Associated Press Ranking: 10th

Next Game: vs. Boise State Broncos — Saturday at 12:30 p.m. PT (ABC)

Analysis: Washington at No. 3 instead of No. 2? Some may disagree, but I feel confident in the rankings. I think Oregon’s defense is better than the Huskies, and while Washington’s offense may be better than the Ducks, they lost a key piece with RB Cameron Davis ruled out for the year. Call them 2B in my book, at the moment.

Oregon Ducks

(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Current Record: 0-0 (0-0 Pac-12)

Associated Press Ranking: 15th

Next Game: vs. Portland State Vikings — Saturday at 12 p.m. PT
(Pac-12 Network)

Analysis: If Washington is 2B, then Oregon is 2A, in my opinion. The offense should be great under Will Stein and Bo Nix this year, and the expectation is that Oregon’s defense will be much improved this year. Going into Week 1, it will be important to see how dominant the Ducks can be at shutting down Portland State. It’s not a huge task, but if Oregon can allow fewer than 20 points, then I think confidence will be high in Eugene.

USC Trojans

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Current Record: 1-0 (0-0 Pac-12)

Associated Press Ranking: 6th

Last Game: 56-28 Win vs. San Jose State

Next Game: vs. Nevada Wolfpack — Saturday at 3:30 p.m. PT
(Pac-12 Network)

Analysis: Despite allowing 28 points to San Jose State in Week 0, the Trojans remain in the top spot in our rankings. The offense is just that good. We already knew what Caleb Williams and Lincoln Riley could to together, but when you add QB guru Kliff Kingsbury to the coaching staff as well, the ceiling gets raised that much more. Going forward, though, it will be on Alex Grinch and the Trojans’ D to make sure that this team actually reaches that ceiling.

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Story originally appeared on Ducks Wire