Around the Conference Table: Final Review
A look back on all the teams in the conference
This season we went around our writers for their takes on the other conference games that went on in the game week. To end the season we give our thoughts on all of the other 11 teams in the conference.
ASU (3-9 Overall, 2-7 in Conference)
Piotr T Le - Le Roi mort vive le Roi. Dillingham looks like a fantastic hire with Ragle coming in to boster in state recruiting. Although NCAA sanctions are upcoming.
Christopher_h - After some early season struggles (and an upset loss to Eastern Michigan), they fired their coach Herm Edwards and at least made games more competitive (including an upset win over Washington). They have a strong run game behind X Valladay and a solid defense, and they're a team that could take a big step forward with some solid coaching. They're definitely hopeful with returning alum coach Kenny Dillingham and Wazzu's DC Brian Ward.
TD_24 - This was quite a tire fire this season. Kenny Dillingham was given the keys to turn it around but I'm not sure about him going against the adversity that's coming their way via sanctions.
Bk97 - A disappointing season, but one-time fifth-string QB Trenton Bourguet's impressive productivity was a pleasant surprise.
Rob Hwang - Probably the most in-season drama of any team with a decent amount of talent. Dillingham already is changing the direction of recruiting by getting Charlie Ragle. A very interesting team to watch the next 2-3 seasons, but for now a reset that was desperately needed.
Arizona (5-7 Overall, 3-6 in Conference)
Piotr T Le - Something Fisch-y in Zona and it's not the food. Next year we will see if the Jedd-JDL experiment will bring them back into prominence or they will struggle to find their identity in 2023.
Christopher_h - Other than USC, no team turned their fortune around quicker thanks to the transfer portal. An extremely athletic quarterback with a bevy of talented receivers (two 1000+ yard receivers; Dorian Singer led the Pac-12 in receiving yards and Jacob Cowing finished #4) carved up pretty much every team. Reminiscent of the Cal Dykes' teams, if they could put up a semblance of a defense, they'd be a force to be reckoned with.
TD_24 - Their offense was so fun to watch this season. They had the anti Cal problem, all offense and no defense. If they get a defense this can be a 8-4 team.
Bk97 - The offense took a massive step forward while the defense took a step back this year. Still, a 5-7 season is a huge improvement over last year's 1-11. Can they ride this into a top-half finish in the conference next year? I seriously doubt it.
Rob Hwang - Early season hype doesn’t turn into enough wins to get to a bowl game. Winning 1 game to winning 5 and a pretty spectacular offense? They are set up well for 2023.
#8 Utah (10-3 Overall, 7-2 in Conference)
Piotr T Le - All hail our Utes overlords, the true Big 10 type team in the Pac-12.
Christopher_h - I bet on them to win the conference in the preseason and somehow ended up surprised when they did win. They split games with the other top teams in the conference (falling to UCLA and Oregon, but a win in the regular season over USC), but no one is scarier than Kyle Whittingham in a conference championship game. They're consistently solid every single year, but they'll have to contend with some loaded teams next year (USC, UW, etc).
TD_24 - Utah fans could reasonably be disappointed that they didn't make the CFP with all the players that were returning, but going back to the Rose Bowl will be a fun time for them.
Bk97 - What an incredible year for the Utes. Two weeks ago they missed a bunch of chances to earn a huge win over Oregon and now they're back-to-back Pac-12 champs.
Rob Hwang - Still the best team in the conference from top to bottom with a HC that does not lose his cool ever. Amazing to see how far theyve come since joining the conference and elevating to that next tier.
Colorado (1-11 Overall, 1-8 in Conference)
Piotr T Le - I don't like Deion Sanders as a coach (see Prime Academy and his slimey attitude of being the saviour of HBCU football only to bail the moment a P5 job offered him). But I do think his hire of the Kent State HC as OC is a great one. They will be a pain in the ass to play.
Christopher_h - Well, it's not like it could get any worse. They're obviously excited about new head coach Deion Sanders, who will have to pull up the floorboards and tear down the house in rebuild of this team. I'm sure he'll attract some talent, but it'll be the performance of his coordinators that will determine his success at Colorado.
TD_24 - #CoachPrime. #Primetime. They also beat Cal.....
Bk97 - A horrific and woefully uncompetitive year...except for the win over Cal. There's plenty of excitement over the Deion Sanders hiring, but I remain skeptical that it will translate into success in a conference where half the teams won 9+ games this year.
Rob Hwang - Well. We know where the 1 win came from. Unlike Arizona State, Coach Prime might turn it around real quickly at Colorado. At the same time, he might not be here when Dillingham starts to take off at Arizona State, if you catch my drift.
#15 Oregon (9-3 Overall, 7-2 in Conference)
Piotr T Le - I would say it was a year 1 job Lanning did a good job. There is a lot of build upon this year but losing your offensive leader as a defensive minded coach can induce some instability in the process. Also is Bo Nix coming back?
Christopher_h - And here I thought the former Georgia DC Dan Lanning would build an elite defensive team, instead of the elite offense they ended up with. That's mainly due to the unstoppable performance of former Auburn QB Bo Nix, whose dual-threat ability frustrated pretty much everyone (at least until he sustained a leg injury late in the season, and the offense consequently sputtered). The fact that Georgia QB Stetson Bennett is a Heisman finalist over Bo Nix despite having roughly half as many TDs (Nix had 27 passing TDs and 14 rushing TDs) is a travesty, and shows it's really an award for the best player on the best team instead of the best player period. Oregon will have high-rated recruits all over the field, but I believe their performance next year will similarly hinge on the QB. I don't expect much from their defense as long as Tosh Lupoi is at the helm.
TD_24 - A great start, a confusing finish for the Ducks. Bo Nix's return leaves a big cloud over their future.
Bk97 - This could have been a playoff team if not for a series of mind-boggingly bad decisions from Dan Lanning.
Rob Hwang - I’ll admit it. I did not think Bo Nix would be this good this season.
#14 Oregon State (9-3 Overall, 6-3 in Conference)
Piotr T Le - All hail our true Pac-12 North overlords the Beavers. They are still more endearing than the Ducks. They will lose a bunch of talent for sure but Smith looks to have build this team on a stable identity.
Christopher_h - Jonathan Smith turned a 2-10 team into a 9-3 team, ending the season with a win over their rivals Oregon, and even finished higher in the AP Top 25 poll at the end of the regular season. That has to feel good, and OSU is extremely lucky that Smith is an alum and thus much less likely to bail for a better offer (and I have to imagine bluer-blood teams have tried). Their offensive line paved the way to one of the best rushing attacks in the conference, and they succeeded despite the QB play, meaning there is still room to grow next year. They had a similarly stellar defense, but they'll have some big shoes to fill in the secondary next year.
TD_24 - What a season for the Beavers. Jonathan Smith is the truth, the culture he built is second to none, and the fans are right back in their corner in Corvallis. They are one QB away from becoming big time....Aidan Chiles I'm looking at you.
Bk97 - Jonathan Smith keeps lifting the Beavs to new heights. Surprisingly, Oregon State's defense is the main reason they have a chance to be a 10-win team this year. If they can stay healthy on offense next year and maintain this level of defense, they'll be Pac-12 title contenders.
Rob Hwang - They’ve been a thorn in our side for YEARS, but how can you not be happy to see this team thriving after years of subpar football? They’ll most likely be ranked heading into next season and with the renovations at Reser, that stadium is going to be electric for their first home game.
#12 Washington (10-2 Overall, 7-2 in Conference)
Christopher_h - Oh great, another team that can recruit blue chips that found a coach that wouldn't squander that talent away. They went 10-2 with a loss to UCLA and (surprisingly) ASU, who used their obvious voodoo desert magic for an upset, but they also beat their rivals in Oregon. With Michael Penix Jr coming back next year, they will again be a contender for the conference title.
TD_24 - The other nice rebuilding job goes to Kalen DeBoer and the Washington Huskies. Michael Penix Jr coming back next season is going to be huge for them.
Bk97 - I still don't know how they lost to ASU, a loss that tanked their hopes of a Pac-12 title.
Rob Hwang - We knew they had talent, but the questions around Penix and De Boer as first-timers in the conference were big questions. One that was answered emphatically. Now with Penix coming back, you have to wonder… does Morris or Huard enter the transfer portal?
Washington State (7-5 Overall, 4-5 in Conference)
Christopher_h - Wazzu again had a surprisingly strong defense this season, although they lost their defensive coordinator to ASU (Brian Ward). The season probably didn't end the way the Cougs hoped, but I imagine they'd probably still consider it a success-- although I also have to imagine there's a lot of concern for the future. Their offense showed flashes behind QB Cam Ward, but an awful offensive line led to an absurd number of sacks allowed and is definitely a concern going forward. Wazzu has some talent on the defensive line going forward, but they'll have some pieces to replace on defense in addition to a new DC.
TD_24 - A nice season on the Palouse for the Cougs. Those games against Oregon and Utah will haunt them as ones that got away. Also they beat the piss out of Stanford with me in attendance so I give them brownie points for that.
Bk97 - A true middle-of-the-pack team this year: they lost to the conference's top-tier teams and beat up the bottom-dwellers. They're a decent team, but that's a big gap between them and the Utah-USC-UCLA-Oregon-UW tier.
Rob Hwang - I do wonder what the ceiling is at Wazzu. Not in a cynical, it’s super low kind of way, but they gotta be looking at Oregon state and wanting to be on that track right?
#10 USC (11-2 Overall, 8-1 in Conference)
Piotr T Le - Fuck SC. Congrats, you bought a pre-made coach and roster only to maintain being Utah's punching boy.
Christopher_h - If USC hadn't lost the conference title game, Lincoln Riley would have just led another strong offense to a blowout playoff loss. USC spent a lot of money on their football team to immediately turn around their fortune, but still not enough to win the conference. Too bad, so sad.
TD_24 - Caleb Williams is the Trojans.
Bk97 - Every single day that Mark Fox remains employed I am going to blame USC for costing the conference millions of dollars.
Rob Hwang - This offense was extremely fun to watch and good lord Caleb Williams is an outstanding modern QB. The defense has A LOT of questions, but the fact they got to the title game just tells you how good Lincoln Riley is at scoring enough points to win despite the defense not coming up in certain moments.
#18 UCLA (9-3 Overall, 6-3 in Conference)
Piotr T Le - Congratulations to DTR for completing his 10th year at UCLA and his 2nd PhD at the Southern Branch. Just like Cal last year UCLA will have to face the Q of who their QB will be? Will it be the transfer Garbers the Younger? or the freshfaced local phenom Martin of Inglewood? Or will DJU return from his self-imposed exile to South Carolina to claim the QB seat?
Christopher_h - I love how Chip Kelly is credited with developing all this talent, ignoring the fact that most key contributors this year were transfers that had developed elsewhere (Michigan RB Zach Charbonnet, Duke WR Jake Bobo, Hawaii LB Darius Muasau, their entire defensive line, etc). The one exception was the QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who turned around UCLA's fortunes by eliminating most of the boneheaded plays that plagued his early career, to which I'd credit their QB coach Ryan Gunderson. Unfortunately, it worked, and obnoxious UCLA fans are back. No idea who the QB will be next year, but I imagine it'll be a 4-star dual-threat QB developed elsewhere, and UCLA will probably continue to be near (but not at) the top of the conference.
TD_24 - Had a balanced attack all season, got to 9-3 in a stacked Pac 12. A Sun Bowl berth is probably not what they wanted, and they will need to replace a lot of production for next year.
Bk97 - The defense wasn't great but the DTR-Charbonnet tandem was enough to outscore most of their opponents. 2023 may be a drop back down to .500 after DTR and Charbonnet finally graduate.
Rob Hwang - I just want to beat them one last time before they leave.
Stanford (3-9 Overall, 1-8 in Conference)
Piotr T Le - Furd still ponders their HC move in the wake of the abdication of their long term HC Shaw. There are many Qs as the old Stanford identity is all but a slogan, and despite all their wealth they seem unable to figure out what to do with it.
Christopher_h - In the immortal words of Nelson Muntz: "Ha-ha!" They looked terrible all season, I imagine (hope) they'll lose their NFL-caliber QB and a number of grad transfers, and it'll be up to a new coaching staff to rebuild this team. I hope they blunder the hire and continue to not care about football.
TD_24 - Their future hinges on the hire they make.
Bk97 - I'm still not yet ready for the Shaw era to end. I was hoping he'd squeeze a few more 3/4-win seasons out of them.
Rob Hwang - What a dumpster fire of a year. Shaw is gone, but I will say this. He is one hell of an outstanding teacher and voice for collegiate athletics. Both for the players and the modernization of the game with the current landscape constantly changing. I do hope he sticks around to coach in College because the sport desperately needs voices like his.
Any other thoughts?
Christopher_h - It's going to take me the entire off-season to forget this one so that I can again delude myself into thinking that next year is definitely our year. Stop burning me out, Cal. Please.
TD_24 - Go Bears:)
Rob Hwang - Never in doubt.