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A PAC 12 Review: The Elite Eight of the West

The PAC-12-Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, California
"Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, California" by Ken Lund is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0. via Flickr

College football on the West Coast. It has produced some of the greatest teams and plays in college football history, first as the Pacific Coast Conference and now as the PAC-12.

Through the years, where else could a young Cal lineman named Roy etch his name in the annals of college football lore, for running the wrong way? Where else could you witness a game-winning touchdown in the Cal-Stanford game and a trombone player becoming an unwitting participant in “The Play.”

But the current PAC-12 is on life support and the plug has all but been pulled. 10 teams have voted to move to other conferences in search of big money, geography be damned. The last bastions of gridiron prominence in the West have scooped up their ball and gone home, to new “homes” in the Midwest, the Southwest, and now the East Coast.

In 2024, USC, UCLA, Oregon, and Washington will begin play in the Big Ten. Next year, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and Arizona State will tee it up in the Big 12. And even the “Harvard’s of the West”-Cal and Stanford-will move 3000 miles east to join the Atlantic Coast Conference.

After this season, only Oregon State and Washington State will remain from this season’s roster of teams.

And so, it is ironic that in 2023 the PAC-12 emerges from an offseason of chaos and mutiny for the bounty as the top college football conference in the land going into week 4. Eight teams are undefeated (a combined 24-0) and reside in the Top 25 poll this week:

· #1 USC (3-0)

· #7 Washington (3-0)

· #9 Oregon (3-0)

· #10 Utah (3-0)

· #15 Oregon State (3-0)

· #19 Colorado (3-0)

· #21 Washington State (3-0)

· #22 UCLA (3-0)

Top PAC 12 Quarterbacks-The Most Important Position on the Field

The main reason for this strong showing is strong quarterback play, with the reigning Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams leading the Men of Troy at USC, Michael Penix, Jr. calling the signals at Washington, Bo Nix at Oregon, D.J. Uiagalelei at Oregon State, Shedeur Sanders at Colorado, Cam Ward at Washington State, and Dante Moore at UCLA. Penix, Sanders, and Ward rank 1, 2, and 3, respectively among the quarterbacks in the FBS:

· Michael Penix, Jr-Washington: 1332 yards, 12 TDs, 1 INT.

· Shedeur Sanders-Colorado: 1251 yards, 10 TDs, 1 INT.

· Cameron Ward-Washington State: 990 yards, 9 TDs, 0 INTs.

Add Nix (#12) and Williams (#16) and there are five PAC-12 quarterbacks ranked among the Top 20 signal-callers in the country.

Outside the Top 25 is Arizona, with a 2-1 record. Jayden de Laura ranks 8th in the FBS in passing and has thrown for 912 yards, eight TDs, and five INTs. In addition, he has rushed for two scores. de Laura is completing 73% of his passes.

PAC 12 Surprise of the Year (So Far)

The #19 Colorado Buffaloes. Coach Prime Deion Sanders has his team playing Rocky Mountain High right now and undefeated going into week 4, after winning just one game last season. The exposure Sanders has brought to that university in one year is undeniable. Through the first three weeks of this season, the Buffaloes are a team that is fun to watch but no one wants to go up against on the gridiron.

But they will be tested on Saturday as Colorado travels to Eugene, Oregon to battle the 9th-ranked Oregon Ducks. Colorado will be without Travis Hunter, who is out for several weeks after suffering an injury in the Colorado State game.

The Ducks, led by QB Bo Nix, employ a high-flying offense that averages 579 yards per game and 58 points per contest. Their defense is solid. Through three games, the Ducks have allowed 285 yards of total offense per game.

Can the Ducks' defense slow down Shedeur Sanders? We shall see.

Other Top 25 Matchups in the PAC 12 Week 4

#15 Oregon State v.s #21 Washington State. The Beavers have a Top 15 defense, allowing just 11 points per game, 57 yards on the ground, and 260 yards of total offense per opponent. They will be geared up to stop QB Cam Ward and the Cougars' offense which averages 48 points per game.

Oregon State RB Damien Martinez averages 117 yards a game for the Beavers.

#22 UCLA vs #10 Utah. The Bruins, under Chip Kelly, are ranked in the Top 10 in both offensive AND defensive categories. They average 40 points per game on offense (10th in the FBS), and are stingy on defense allowing just 10 points per game (7th in FBS). The Bruins also rank 8th in tackles for loss and are tied for 3rd in INTs with six.

True freshman QB Dante Moore runs Kelly’s offense. Moore has thrown for 615 yards, 7 TDs, and 1 INT. Three running backs average over 8 yards per carry, led by Carson Steele with 243 yards and 2 TDs.

On defense, Laiatu Latu is a marauder. He has racked up four sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss, with seven tackles, one INT, and a forced fumble.

The Utes are possibly without the services of QB Cam Rising who may be out with an injury (some reports have had him going full speed in practice). The backups are serviceable, hence their 3-0 record. Utah is tough on defense as usual and is more than capable of stopping the Bruins offense. The Utes allow 65 yards rushing per game and are tied for 9th in the FBS in scoring defense, allowing 10 points per game.

The PAC 12 Conference, the “Conference of Champions,” will soon be no more. But right now, they are playing the best football of any conference in the country.


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