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Power ranking: Which former Pac-12 team is best positioned for success in their new league?

Credit: Oregon athletics

Last week was a historic week in the world of college sports, with the Pac-12 essentially breaking up, and eight of the 12 schools going their different ways.

What started with USC and UCLA leaving for the Big Ten a year ago, now sees Washington and Oregon joining them, while Arizona, Arizona State and Utah head to the Big 12.

While it remains to be seen where the other four schools end up, the dust appears to be settled for now, which leads to an interesting debate: Which Pac-12 school is best positioned for success in their new league?

Let's take a look

1. Utah: This isn’t new from the Utes. Utah’s been changing conferences for a bit, starting years ago in the WAC and being the main catalyst behind the Mountain West being created. Then, a decade ago, they got an invite to a Power Five conference in the Pac-12. Now, it's onto the Big 12.

The football in the Big 12 is going to be a lot of fun and has depth, but no true school stands out completely and being head and shoulders above everyone. That’s where Utah comes in. Utah’s success started with Urban Meyer and has been maintained by Kyle Whittingham. They have won the last two Pac-12 championships and should immediately be one of the best programs in the new Big 12.

The combination of Utah maintaining their success and coming into a new conference that doesn’t have a clear favorite is why Utah is best positioned to have success of all the former Pac-12 teams.

2. USC: USC is the biggest brand in the Pac-12 football-wise and it’s not that close. Since the brand is national, there’s a massive argument for USC to be number 1, but they are joining a conference that has Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State already.

They should be great once again this season in the Pac-12, but for the Big Ten there could be some adjustments against the upper-tier competition.

Lincoln Riley is going to have the Trojans staying relevant if he’s the head coach and even though it could take time, USC will be fine in the Big Ten and should be a contender for the expanded 12-team playoff, basically every season.

3. Oregon: The Ducks are like USC in this instance. They are a national brand in football and can recruit and compete with almost everyone thanks to the amount of money that Phil Knight has pumped into the entire athletic department in Eugene.

They should be very good this year under Dan Lanning with the return of Bo Nix, and after signing a Top 10 recruiting class and crushing in the portal this spring, there's no reason to think they'll slow down any time either.

The Ducks are going to have no issues competing in the Big Ten, overall, but they face the same issues as the Trojans with travel and the fact that Penn State, Ohio State, and Michigan are waiting for them too.

4. Washington: The Huskies are coming back into the national spotlight after a great year last year and they should be very good once again this year. Kalen DeBoer has revitalized the Huskies and they should be set up to have success in the Big Ten relatively easily. The Huskies might be the team that is most handcuffed in terms of travel in the conference and that’s a concern in general. Also, the Huskies are playing well now, but they haven’t shown the same amount of staying power that USC and Oregon have shown and that could be an issue in a Big Ten conference that’s going to be tougher than the Pac-12 overall in quality.

5. Arizona: This is more of a projection for Arizona but based on the recruiting rankings it’s a fair one. Jedd Fisch has done wonders for Arizona on the recruiting front and has slowly but surely improved the Wildcats on the field. They went from 1 win to 5 wins a season ago, and they should be a bowl team this year, which also sets them up well in the new Big 12. Arizona football needs to find some consistency mainly and the Big 12 provides the best conference for that. The sky is the limit for the Wildcats with Fisch and in a new conference.

6. Colorado: This is a homecoming for the Buffaloes, who are coming back to their old conference after initially moving to the Pac-12. The Buffaloes also have the most hype in all of college football right now thanks to Deion Sanders as their new head coach. All eyes are going to be on the Buffaloes this season and no matter what, they should be even better in 2024 because of adding more depth through recruiting and the transfer portal and even more time in the offensive and defensive systems.

Colorado has a lot to be excited about and with a homecoming back in the Big 12, they are set up for success. The biggest issue is still if Deion Sanders will stay with the Buffaloes long term, but for now there’s no team that will have a bigger spotlight on it than Colorado for at least two years.

7. Arizona State: This ranking is a lot about how much unknown is with the football program after a bad season in 2022, which led to the hiring of new coach in Kenny Dillingham. They have some potential based on how much roster turnover they’ve already gone through in one offseason, but we still haven’t seen Dillingham coach a game yet. He’s been a very good offensive play-caller in his career but being a head coach is very different. There are also some questions based around the overall quality of his staff too. Still, the Phoenix area stands out in recruiting and should be a key piece in why the Sun Devils start to emerge in the new Big 12.

8. UCLA: If this was a basketball list, UCLA would be at the top of this list with only Arizona coming close. However, with football it’s going to be a struggle for the Bruins. The fanbase already seems to have a lot of apathy, just look at pictures taken from the Rose Bowl on any given Saturday. You can expect more fanbases to pack the stadium than they do already, but there’s not a lot of benefit for the football team in terms of performance-wise.

They’ve been middling to good in the Pac-12 in recent years under Chip Kelly and there doesn’t seem to be much upward trajectory for the Bruins in the Big Ten. It also doesn’t help that they’ll have to travel farther distances and they’ll play Ohio State, Michigan, and Penn State. The Bruins, at least on paper, are going to have the hardest time competing in a new conference.

Follow Jake Faigus on Twitter - @Jake_Faigus

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