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Of course this is the year everyone in the Pac-12 is good.
The Buffs and Coach Prime run headfirst into Pac-12 play this week in Eugene against Oregon, as the thick of the season is almost here. This season will be Colorado’s last before they make the move to the Big XII and it’s shaping up to be quite eventful. The Pac-12 is the best it’s been since the Buffs joined in 2011. Eight of the conference’s teams are ranked in the AP Coaches Poll for week four, which is the most out of any conference. Let’s rank all the Buffs’ formidable conference-mates so we know what to expect for the rest of the season.
The Top Dogs
1: #5 USC (3-0)
The best team in the Pac-12 has been the Trojans thus far. Lincoln Riley and his squad are poised to have a fantastic season in 2023 and it all starts with quarterback Caleb Williams. The reigning Heisman winner and lock for first overall pick in next year’s draft will ensure that USC’s offense is going to be really tough to stop. Williams’ arm talent is unparalleled and he can pick apart most defenses with ease. The Trojans’ defense has been impressive so far this year too, but the team hasn’t faced a real test yet. The first game against an actually good team for USC will be week five against the Buffs. We’ll have to wait and see if USC is really who we think they are until they come to Boulder.
2: #8 Washington (3-0)
We knew Washington was going to be good this year, but not THIS good. Michael Penix Jr. is a certified baller. Penix had a good season in 2022, but has really stepped up for this year’s campaign. The Huskies QB already has 1,332 passing yards in only three games, and will go as a top ten pick in the draft if he decides to declare. Kalen DeBoar has also proved himself as a damn good football coach in only his second year in Seattle. This group is hungry and ready to make a splash within the conference. Washington can easily overpass USC if they make one wrong step. That’s how good this team is. Thank your lucky stars the Buffs don’t have to play them this year.
3: #10 Oregon (3-0)
The Ducks have an absolutely lethal offense. Quarterback Bo Nix is back for his senior season and looks to finally take Oregon back to the promised land of the College Football Playoffs. Running back Bucky Irving can help Nix by establishing a dominant run game. He’s a tough, physical runner the Buffs need to contain on Saturday. Oregon’s defense was suspect last year, being the major thing holding this squad back for hanging with the big boys. Texad Tech played them close a couple weeks ago, scoring 30 points on a strong Oregon defense. The Buffs will make their way to Eugene this weekend and will need to be firing on all cylinders.
4: #11 Utah (3-0)
A team coached by Kyle Whittingham should never be underestimated. The Utes in the Whittingham era have been a well oiled machine. The biggest thing holding Utah back is their health to this point. Many key players, including quarterback Cameron Rising, haven’t seen the field yet due to injury. Utah has struggled some with these injuries and needed a late score and a controversial no-call to hang on against Baylor. Still, they’re 3-0 and will only get healthier. Keep an eye on the Utes because they’re going to cause problems in the Pac-12 schedule.
Knocking at the Door
5: #19 Colorado (3-0)
Are the Buffs ranked a couple places higher than they should be? Yeah, probably. But this is a CU blog, so let’s have some fun. New head coach Deion Sanders has revived this program like no one thought was possible. The Buffs are both flashy and fun. Quarterback Shedeur Sanders has showcased his elite vision and arm talent, along with an unparalleled amount of swagger these last two weeks. Losing Travis Hunter to a lacerated liver is a massive hit for the Buffs, but he will be back before too long thankfully. If the Buffs can fix up their lines and linebacker problems, this team can be really scary going forward. As long as it’s personal, don’t count out Coach Prime in any game.
6: #14 Oregon State
(3-0) Oregon State is a real enticing dark horse team within the Pac-12. While everyone else is focusing on Caleb Williams, Coach Prime and conference realignment, the Beavers have quietly put together a seriously good football team. Clemson transfer DJ Uiagalelei might be exactly what this team needs to get over the hump and be recognized as a major player. He’s not quite Williams or Penix, but he’s a veteran presence who just needs to spread the ball around to playmakers Damien Martinez and Silas Bolden (Victor’s little brother). Their game in Pullman on Saturday can tell us a lot about how serious they are.
7: #21 Washington State (3-0)
Wazzu has been very impressive in their first three games to little fanfare. The Cougars dismantled both CSU and Northern Colorado by 20+ points, and came away with an upset win against #19 Wisconsin in week two. Cameron Ward is a good quarterback and the team has a great core at the receiver position. If the defense can fend off some of the prolific offenses within the Pac-12, this team could be intriguing for fans looking for upsets. Aside from the Ducks and Buffs, this Beavs-Cougs game might be the one to watch this weekend.
8: #22 UCLA (3-0)
This is where the quality of teams on this list takes a significant dip in quality. The Bruins are still pretty good, but they’re no Wazzu or Oregon State. It’s hard to keep up with the big guns in this conference after losing your two best players to the draft. Quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson and running back Zach Charbonnet will be sorely missed by this group. The Bruins haven’t played a real team yet, but they have to go into Salt Lake this weekend to play the Utes. Everyone will watching how true freshman quarterback Dante Moore does against the vaunted Utah defense this weekend.
On the Struggle Bus
9: Arizona (2-1)
Arizona isn’t necessarily “on the struggle bus”, but their ceiling is much lower than any team before them on this list. The Wildcats just don’t have the talent and recruiting pull to actually contend for a championship within the Pac-12. With that being said, quarterback Jayden de Laura is fantastic. He makes the Wildcats’ offense very versatile and fun to watch. An old friend on the Buffs, Montana Lemonious-Craig, is now playing at U of A this year too. The Wildcats are a pretty decent team, but don’t expect excellence out of this group.
10: Cal (2-1)
Cal is playing an old-school, physical type of football with their reliance on the run game. Running backs Jaydn Ott and Isiah Iffanse have had major success so far with this strategy, who have combined for seven rushing touchdowns and over 400 yards rushing. The Bears even held their own against Auburn, but ultimately lost 14-10. It’s reality check time for Cal though, as they have to go to Seattle this week to play Penix and the Huskies. Let’s see how their run first strategy works against Washington, but it’s probably not going to end well for the Bears.
11: Arizona State (1-2)
The Sun Devils are bad, there’s no way to beat around the bush. The team simply can’t put points on the board, as they’ve only scored 39 through the first three weeks. To put that into perspective, the Buffs eclipsed this total in week one alone when they put up 45 on TCU. ASU just got bageled by a group of five team last week, as Fresno State beat them 29-0. Now, USC comes to town this week. It’s not going to be a fun week to be a Sun Devils fan.
12: Stanford (1-2)
If I had to pick one team that I wouldn’t want to be right now, it’d be Stanford. The Cardinals just had one of the most embarrassing weeks that you could possibly have. Stanford’s new head coach, Troy Taylor, just jumped ship from Sacramento State to coach in the Pac-12. Taylor let his old team, Sac State, come into Stanford Stadium and beat the Cardinals 30-23. If you want to know how demoralizing it is to lose at home to the Hornets, just ask any Buffs fan older than 25 and watch all the joy leave their eyes.