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Pac-12 Preseason Rankings

With both the 1st AP and Coaches polls released, it’s time to look at them along with some of the other preseason rankings.

2023 Pac-12 Football Media Day Photo by Louis Grasse/Getty Images

Most Husky fans already know that UW was ranked #11 in the Coaches poll and #10 in the AP poll. In addition, USC (#6 in both), Utah (#14 in both), Oregon (#15 in both), and Oregon State (#18 in both) are also ranked in both polls. UCLA isn’t in the top-25 in either poll, but they are getting votes in both. WSU and Arizona both got votes in the Coaches poll, but not in the AP poll.

Other Preseason Rankings

There are other preseason rankings as well, from magazines like Phil Steele and Lindy, networks like CBS Sports, and from on-line magazines like College Football News, and some other on-line sources. Several of these others rank all 133 FBS teams.

There is a web site,, which summarizes a lot of the preseason magazine polls (currently only 5: Lindy, Athlon, Phil Steel, McIllece Sports, and CFB Model Dunham). You can find their ‘Consensus’ rankings as well as the rankings from each of the magazines here:

Many of the other on-line rankings (which are a lot of computer models) can be seen in the Massey Ratings (including Massey’s own ranking). Currently there are over 30 different rankings that make up their ‘Composite’, including ESPN’s FPI and both the AP and Coaches polls. You can find the current listing here:

Some additional rankings may be added before the start of the season, so there may be some slight changes to the ‘Composite’ rankings for each team-but they should be only a few places.

The table below summarizes where some different rankings have the Pac-12 schools.

Pac-12 Preseason Rankings

Team Consensus Composite College Football News CBS Sports USA Today Coaches AP Athlon Fox Sports
Team Consensus Composite College Football News CBS Sports USA Today Coaches AP Athlon Fox Sports
USC 10 15 5 6 6 6 4 4
UW 11 17 10 10 11 10 9 11
Utah 13 10 8 12 14 14 10 9
Oregon 12 11 17 14 15 15 13 13
Oregon State 20 18 26 18 18 18 19 22
UCLA 33 28 22 27 31* 28* 24 17
WSU N/R 52 42 59 52* N/R 59 N/R
California N/R 69 55 61 N/R N/R 64 N/R
Arizona N/R 74 45 62 52* N/R 63 N/R
Arizona State N/R 76 64 73 N/R N/R 75 N/R
Stanford N/R 97 72 97 N/R N/R 96 N/R
Colorado N/R 110 61 85 N/R N/R 81 20

*-Indicates not official ranking, but based on total points received

N/R-Not Ranked

With one exception (which will be discussed next) there is a pretty big gap between the top 6 teams and the bottom 6 even though there is disagreement with the order among the teams. The top 6 teams are all generally in the top 30, but the bottom 6 are mostly below 50 (with just 2 exceptions). This should not be surprising since those top 6 teams all finished ranked in the top 25 at the end of last season.

The one exception is Colorado. RJ Young at Fox Sports has Colorado at #20 in his rankings. Contrast that with a Composite ranking of #110 and you probably can’t find an instance of such a disparity in rankings-maybe ever. But a large disparity for Colorado should be expected since nobody has any idea about how they will do this year since the team is so much different than last year’s team.

It was a bit of a surprise to see both WSU and Arizona getting votes in the Coaches poll, although they got just 4 and 2 points respectively. But you can see that those points got them ranked about where they are in some of the other rankings which include all 133 FBS teams.

Comparison to Last Year

I thought that an interesting exercise would be to compare the preseason rankings this year with how the teams finished in the rankings at the end of the 2022 season. For comparison, the 2022 preseason ‘Composite’ ranking is also included. Here is a look at that using the ‘Composite’ rankings.

Pac-12 Ranking Comparison: 2022 vs Preseason 2023

School 2022 Preseason 2022 Finish 2023 Preseason
School 2022 Preseason 2022 Finish 2023 Preseason
Arizona 105 71 73
Arizona State 51 95 75
California 79 80 69
Colorado 89 119 110
Oregon 20 13 12
Oregon State 54 16 18
Stanford 82 92 95
UCLA 38 21 28
USC 48 13 15
Utah 9 11 10
Washington 67 14 17
WSU 60 48 50

For the most part, there is not a lot of difference between the rankings at the end of last season and the preseason rankings this year-at least at this level. Eight of the 12 are within 3 places of last season’s rankings. Some individual rankings (as we saw with Colorado above) can be quite different, but these even out since more rankings are used in the ‘Composite’.

UCLA was one of the 4 to see a change of more than 3 places, and a drop makes sense given that they are replacing a lot on offense. Improvement by Arizona State makes sense with a new coaching staff and the fact that they finished so low last season; however I wouldn’t have expected such a big jump. Similarly, Colorado’s improvement also makes sense, although I expected more of a jump. I think they will jump up even higher once games are played. It isn’t as easy to explain why California’s ranking improved that much, unless there are some that think that California’s offense (with a new OC and new QB) will be improved.

Interestingly, of the top 6 teams in the conference, only Utah is ranked higher than they finished at the end of 2022. Maybe Utah is getting the respect that it deserves after winning the Pac-12 the last 2 years. I would speculate that the (slight) drops by the other top Pac-12 teams has more to do with enough expected improvement by some other teams than with the Pac-12 teams being not as good.

Those comparisons were based on the ‘Composite’, which includes many different rankings. However, there are some bigger differences between the end of 2022 and the 2023 preseason with some of the individual rankings. There are so many rankings that it doesn’t make sense to show all of them. Instead, here’s a comparison between the end of last season and this year’s preseason of some individual rankings for UW.

UW Ranking Comparison: End 2022 vs Preseason 2023

2022 Finish 2023 Preseason
2022 Finish 2023 Preseason
8 10
17 22
12 12
16 26
7 7
17 10
18 17
7 14
20 21
15 15
15 53
14 14
14 28
11 28
8 23
16 14
20 27
10 13
17 17
15 15
8 11
10 11

By my count there are 3 rankings that have UW ranked higher than they ended last season (Donchess Inference, Dockter Entropy, and Payne). There are 6 that have UW ranked the same. And the rest (13) have UW ranked lower. Of the ones where UW ranked lower, 8 had UW ranked within 9 places of where they had been (difference of less than 10). Four had UW ranked between 10 and 20 spots lower. And one (Howell) has UW ranked 38 spots lower. Despite going down in some of the rankings, only 5 of them do not have UW as a top-25 team. Last year only one ranking (Sagarin) had UW as a top-25 team in the preseason.

While most Husky fans would probably not agree that UW should be dropped at all (let alone more than 5 places), there are a few things to keep in mind. First, UW is #10 and #11 in the two most important rankings at this point (the AP and Coaches polls). Second, UW is starting out much higher in all of this this year compared to last year. And third, UW will have plenty of opportunity to move back up with wins-just like they did last year.


We know that these early rankings are not very good about projecting how the teams will perform this season. Some will perform better-like UW and USC did last year. Others will perform worse-like Arizona State and Colorado last year.

But these early rankings do tell us a lot about the perception of where the teams are now and about the changes that they made since last season. The perception piece is important since it drives a lot of exposure for the early season games. More is written about the top teams-so they get more people knowing about them. That extra exposure probably helps with recruiting, and it also helps drive interest in the early season games. The UW-Boise State game probably wouldn’t be on ABC at 12:30 PM if there wouldn’t have been the expectation that UW would be a top-25 team when the network decided to broadcast that game.

The fact that UW dropped in some rankings indicates that despite returning a lot of the talent from last year, there is a feeling that UW did not do enough to elevate the team. Sure, the offense will still be good, but it was the defense that was the problem last year-especially the secondary. While UW did add some players, both through high school recruiting and the Transfer Portal, the people (and computers) doing the rankings didn’t see any 5-star recruits or a lot of immediate impact players added, especially compared with some of the other teams that UW had been ranked above in those final 2022 rankings. Just look at where teams like Texas, Tennessee, and Clemson ended up in the overall 2023 (high school and transfer) rankings. That, along with a tougher schedule this season, likely explains at least part of the reason for not bumping UW up-or even keeping them a top-10 team. Another part is that in looking at last season, some analysis indicates that UW was fortunate to win a few of those games; they may not be as lucky this year.

Expectations are high for UW and many of the other Pac-12 teams in what appears to be the last season for the Pac-12. The early preseason rankings don’t really give us the answers; but what they do is to give us an idea of what the expectations are, at least from some people outside of the Pac-12, for each of the teams. It is up to the players and coaches now to meet, exceed, or fall short of those expectations-fair or not.