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Washington Tops the UWDP Preseason Power Rankings

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Obviously.

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NCAA Football: Pac-12 Media Day Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

They are pointless. They are banal. They are not worth the pixels they are displayed on ... but we do love our power rankings around here. And it’s officially Week Zero Game Week!

I’m glad to be back for another year of cool charts, cross-blog banter and ranking Cal too high. As we set sail on yet another season of the Power Rankings, allow me the opportunity to remind you of what this Power Rankings exercise is all about (yes, I’m sure that I will have to repeat this later).

Our Power Rankings are a week to week, subjective assessment of how powerfully positioned each team in the conference is relative to other teams. Things like impressiveness of play, momentum, health of team, upcoming schedule and positioning for divisional races + the post-season all are considered in the ranking.

The Power Rankings ARE NOT a prediction of how teams will finish. And they ARE NOT earned based on the dominance of last week’s win (though they may well be informed by the last game).

Every year these basic premises seem to be overlooked. If you are one of the dozen or so that have read and understood these ground rules, consider yourselves deputized and authorized to remind fellow posters in the comment sections about what this exercise really is about.

Management Thanks You.

Now, let’s get this season started.

Overreactions of the Week

Kickoffs with your coffee?

There has been a lot of hand-wringing about the prospect of 9am/10am kickoff times getting implemented this season. In fact, I’d say that there has rarely been an issue that has so uniformly united P12 fans and coaches alike.

I would stipulate that this isn’t that big of a deal. Sure, fans would miss the tailgating on the one or two weeks in a year that they might get one of these games (though they sure do tend to turn out when Gameday is in town) but it would be easy enough to make “Pac 12 After ... Party” a thing. I also don’t buy the argument that 04:30 wake up calls would hurt the team. We are talking about athletes who travel thousands of miles in the air every year, who theoretically get up that early for training and class already and who play football games in all variety of conditions including extreme heat and blizzard.

The payoff could be worth it. Increased exposure could directly impact fan concerns about East Coast bias as well as increase the attractiveness of the offering to the mass market. It’s an idea worth exploring to be sure.

ASU’s new QB fits in the middle seat.

Jayden Daniels was named by coach Herm Edwards as the starter at Arizona State just two weeks into camp. The true freshman was a 4* recruit but at 6’3” and 180 lbs was deemed by many analysts as a guy who might need a year to get ready.

My first reaction to this was “ewwww” and I immediately downgraded ASU’s prospects for this season. But after a little reflection, I back-tracked a little. While I doubt that Daniels has an impact any more significant than what a guy like Dorian Thompson-Robinson had a year ago, it’s not like ASU was a serious contender in the South anyhow. In addition, I think the staff has seen enough of Dillon Sterling-Cole to understand that his ceiling might be as a quality backup.

Yankoff v Petersen

The Colson Yankoff vs Chris Petersen controversy has kind of blown up after UW refused to endorse Yankoff’s claims of “hardship” in the player’s bid to be granted immediate eligibility at UCLA. While I am very sympathetic to the argument that programs and universities have too much control over basic student athlete liberties, this issue is not that. As UW learned last year with the Ale Kaho debacle, the failure to enforce the rules as they stand leads to patterns of corruption by not just players but also competing programs. If you don’t want vultures circling around the program and exposing the players to undue influence, holding to the standards already in place is the best defense.

This is not to say players like Yankoff who are motivated simply by the desire to have a better chance to play shouldn’t have recourse. But it’s not the job of Chris Petersen or any other coach to address that. ADs and the Committees that govern these rules need to be more open-minded in making changes that are more equitable for the players.

The Cool Chart

Washington tops the 2019 UWDP Preseason Power Rankings
Chris Landon

The Power Rankings - Preseason

12. Oregon State

At the time of this writing, the Beavs were still a team trying to figure some things out. Unfortunately, the QB battle between super statue Jake Luton and super recruit Tristan Gebbia (former an ESPN 300 recruit out of Calabasas) remains unresolved. That means the style of the Beaver offense remains unsolved.

That’s not ideal.

The Beavs also suffered some bad news last week when promising freshman DB JoJo Forest had to be carted off the field. That won’t help get the OSU defense situated with Oklahoma State looming large just around the corner.

Next Up: Oklahoma State (8/30)

11. Colorado

I believe that Mel Tucker was absolutely the right hire for Colorado.

NCAA Football: Colorado at California
Steven Montez, Colorado
John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Now, with that out of the way, let’s talk about what’s right in front of the Buffs: an unestablished rushing attack, new schemes on both sides of the ball, a rivalry game to open the season against CSU, and then a home visit by Scott Frost and the surging Big Red Machine.

It’s going to be a challenging September.

Next Up: Colorado St (8/31)

10. Arizona State

The Jayden Daniels news solidifies in my mind what I was already suspecting: this is a rebuild year for the Devils. The good news is that Eno Benjamin and the rushing attack look fine and should be a great piece to build around. But it is hard to see ASU in a favorable state relative to the rest of the PAC given the QB situation, the holes in the d-line and the still-developing defensive back seven.

Next Up: Kent St (8/29)

9. Arizona

We all get optimistic about this time of year. However, Arizona fans may have legitimate reason to feel a little extra spring in their step. The Wildcats enter game week (they open Aug 24th at Hawaii) looking good.

Khalil Tate, by all accounts, is completely healthy and back to fully-mobile form. In addition, coaches believe that the integration of two JC interior defensive linemen (Myles Tapusoa and Trevon Mason) with incumbent Mykee Irvin is really going to bolster their defense. Both developments answer big questions if they end up panning out.

Next Up: @ Hawaii (8/24)

8. California

The Golden Bears slot into #8 for now. Chase Garbers looks set at QB just as a couple of receiving threats in WR Jeremiah Hawkins and TE Collin Moore begin to emerge as playmakers with strong camp showings. This is good news for an offense that has many question marks.

NCAA Football: Cheez-It Bowl-Texas Christian vs California
Jaylinn Hawkins, Cal
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

It’s unfortunate that Cal has to face UW in week 2 as they could probably use a little more time and a few more snaps to help that offense gel and to establish their player rotation in the pass rush. As it is, a tune up against Davis will have to do.

Next Up: UC Davis (8/31)

7. UCLA

I’ve got UCLA just ahead of Cal - for now - mostly because they seem to be more settled from a depth chart perspective. But I should note that there have reportedly been a not insignificant gaggle of players wearing yellow, non-contact jerseys and that RB Joshua Kelley remains out. Those injuries plus a brutal opening schedule that sees UCLA playing both Oklahoma and Cincinnati over their first three weeks should be enough to drop them a spot. But I’m going to stick with them at 7 for now.

Next Up: @ Cincinnati (8/29)

6. (23) Washington State

The Cougs are a team to watch this year, especially as they work in new QB Gage Gubrud and lean more heavily on the multi-talented Max Borghi. I’ve got WSU slotted here at #6 for now.

Getting Gubrud finalized as the QB will help settle some questions for sure. I am also really interested in seeing how the rotation in the defensive secondary will pan out as there still seems to be a lot of shuffling. DC Tracy Claeys will have to answer how the influx of JUCOs and young players will work before we can predict with confidence that WSU won’t be hemorrhaging big plays against opposing passing attacks.

* NOTE: since I drafted this article, Mike Leach stated publicly that Anthony Gordon would be his QB “if the season started today”. Lazy foreshadowing or menacing motivation? You decide.

Next Up: New Mexico State (8/31)

5. USC

The Trojans debut at #5 as a team that most people seem to be sleeping on. A QB room stocked with 5 stars and the PAC’s most talented receiving corps is reason enough to project decent things for the offense. That Stephen Carr appears to be a healthy return at RB and true freshman WR Munir McClain appears to be breaking out only bolsters confidence in the offense.

I also like that the Chris Steele situation is resolved and that the true freshman star will be eligible to play in 2019 (and I expect he will be outstanding). Things don’t look quite as rosy for Bru McCoy for his health or his eligibility appeal, but his situation remains technically unresolved.

It does remain hard to ignore the “win now or else” situation surrounding Clay Helton. I can’t help but to wonder if there is some lingering pressure that the players will have to contend with as a result. They are going to get tested immediately with Jeff Tedford and a better-than-you-think Bulldog team coming to town. Until we can judge the situation in full, we’ll call this ranking “tenuous at best”.

Next Up: Fresno State (8/31)

4. (24) Stanford

The Cardinal are another team that are inexplicably being discounted going into week 1. It’s one of those things where just because the analyst doesn’t know the name of the new starter, he presumes it is a gap.

But if we are being honest, it is hard to ignore the fact that David Shaw opens up with depth along both the defensive and offensive lines that they haven’t enjoyed since the #partyinthebackfield days. There are also some emerging stars at linebacker with Ricky Miezan and Andres Fox both turning heads in camp. I don’t really know if there is an every-down back there, but the three-headed monster with Cameron Scarlett, Trevor Speights and Dorian Maddox is good enough to protect KJ Costello in the passing game. This team is legit.

Next Up: (25) Northwestern

3. (11) Oregon

The Ducks are just behind UW and Utah in the preseason rankings mostly because they have the highest risk of a week 1 loss (which would dramatically crimp their odds of making the playoff). Otherwise, things really are looking good in Eugene.

The fact that star NT Jordon Scott is treating this as his last season caught my attention and kind of raises the sense of urgency around this season. But that is just a nit for now. The Ducks have had a pretty good camp. Reports leave the impression that newcomer wide receivers Mycah Pittman and Juwan Johnson are getting established in their roles and some playmakers are emerging on defense, particularly in the pass rush. If true, that would be good news in a few areas of question for the Ducks.

* NOTE: a rumor has swirled since I drafted this piece that Pittman has suffered a broken collarbone. If true, that has the potential to be a disruptive issue for the Duck offense.

Next Up: vs (16) Auburn (8/31 - Arlington, TX)

2. (14) Utah

Utah and Washington kind of look like 1a and 1b in the PAC 12 power rankings as things stand now. They both enjoy depth across their defenses, stability on offense and attractive out of conference schedules that set up a bunch of early season wins.

NCAA Football: Arizona at Utah
Bradlee Anae, Utah
Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Utah probably has more questions on offense than UW. The offensive line is replacing more pieces, there isn’t much established depth behind Zack Moss at RB (though true frosh Jordan Wilmore is emerging as a clear #2) and we don’t really have a sense of what the real upside is at the QB position. It will probably be a few weeks before we will get a sense of how that unit really compares to Washington’s.

Next Up: @ BYU (8/29)

1. (13) Washington

I really like where UW is at right now. Most encouraging to me is the return to health of critical guys such as Trey Adams, Chico McClatcher, and Quinten Pounds. Those players add to the tremendous depth that UW has developed along the offensive line and at the receiver position. With that depth available and Jacob Eason presumably starting to separate at QB, the upside of the Husky offense is starting to become tantalizing.

It is also great to see the Taylor Rapp-like emergence of Cam Williams at Safety, the successful transition of Benning Potoa’e to the d-line and the breaking out of talents like Joe Tryon and Levi Onwuzurike. There is a sense that “everything is coming together” even though there are a few injury issues (RFr Julius Irvin, DT John Clark and Fr Josh Calvert) that have bubbled up.

That sense of mojo paired with a very favorable early schedule solidifies my rationale for opening UW on top of the Preseason Power Rankings.

Next Up: Eastern Washington