Spring has sprung, and with it the first official batch of very early college football rankings and predictions for what figures to be an exciting 2022 season.
Especially in the Pac-12, a league that hasn't quite made a dent in the national picture since the advent of the College Football Playoff. But which can change that in the months to come after some bombshell coaching hires.
It's been almost 20 years since USC, the league's superpower, has won the national championship, but the addition of head coach Lincoln Riley and a bevy of blue-chip transfer players could finally tilt the balance of power back in Troy's direction. At least, eventually.
Dan Lanning takes over the Oregon program after Mario Cristobal's departure and looks to beef up the Ducks defense in the image of the unit he coached at Georgia.
Defending Pac-12 champion Utah is coming off a banner season after beating Oregon twice and coming within three points of Ohio State in an instant classic Rose Bowl.
Where do things stand for the 2022 season? Scroll through to see the current preseason Pac-12 power rankings, from worst to first.
Pac-12 power rankings for 2022 college football season
12. Arizona Wildcats
2021 record: 1-11 (1-8 Pac-12)
Where Arizona is right now: Arizona may be coming off its worst stretch in history, following a winless five-game season during Covid that included a 70-7 loss to the Sun Devils, and a one-win disaster in '21 that included an L against Northern Arizona.
But coming in 2022, there are signs of hope for the Wildcats. They scored some very solid transfers in quarterback Jayden de Laura, wide receiver Jacob Cowing, and defensive tackle Tiaoalii Savea.
And coach Jedd Fisch just signed a pretty solid recruiting class, too, including 5-star receiver Tetairoa McMillan, by far the team's best gain. That's a good group to work with, but Arizona still needs to beef up its depth on both lines of scrimmage.
11. Colorado Buffaloes
2021 record: 4-8 (3-6 Pac-12)
Where Colorado is right now: Two linebackers and three defensive backs are gone from a defense that could have used some experience coming into this season after Colorado ranked second-worst overall defense and pass defense in the Pac-12 last year.
Brendon Lewis is a name to watch at quarterback — he showed flashes, like not throwing a pick in his last five games — but there were five sub-100 yard passing games, too, and this unit was good for just under 21 ppg in Pac-12 games last year. Now the Buffaloes have lost some important offensive pieces to the transfer portal.
10. Arizona State Sun Devils
2021 record: 8-5 (6-3 Pac-12)
Where Arizona State is right now: Decisions, decisions. Jayden Daniels won't return at quarterback after leaving for LSU, and neither will three of this team's principal offensive linemen, the team's best linebacker in Eric Gentry, star defensive lineman Jermayne Lole, and receiver Ricky Pearsall.
Wyoming transfer running back Xazavian Valladay — a thousand-yard rusher with six TDs in 2021 — will help things on the ground, an important building block for new OC Glenn Thomas. As will a pair of important offensive additions in quarterback Emory Jones from Florida and wide receiver Cam Johnson from Vanderbilt.
Only four starters return on the defensive side, and this secondary is basically starting from scratch. ASU boasted the Pac-12's second-best defense both in yards and points allowed, but it'll look a lot different this time around.
9. California Golden Bears
2021 record: 5-7 (4-5 Pac-12)
Where Cal is right now: Cal has played some decent defense over the last several years, ranking fourth overall in the conference, third in scoring, and tops in yards per play allowed. But the Golden Bears went a paltry 1-5 on the road last fall behind an inconsistent offensive attack.
Watch how this team replenishes at quarterback — where Purdue transfer Jack Plummer steps in — and wide receiver. Make the right moves there, and Cal can emerge as a surprise bowl team.
8. Stanford Cardinal
2021 record: 3-9 (2-7 Pac-12)
Where Stanford is right now: It's been quite the fall from grace for the Cardinal since the days when Andrew Luck and Christian McCaffrey were on The Farm, last season winning just twice in conference and losing its last seven straight games.
This can still be a physical team — one that beat No. 3 Stanford a year ago — but needs a far better and more consistent offensive output. Tanner McKee returns at quarterback after throwing 15 touchdowns last season, and Stanford went 3-2 in games he didn't have a turnover.
But David Shaw and his staff, which has won 11 games total in the last three seasons, needs to work out a radical master plan on both sides of the ball. Stanford ranked 122nd and 114th in total offense and defense, respectively, last year. Numbers that boggle the mind when considering how Shaw started off with this program.
7. Washington Huskies
2021 record: 4-8 (3-6 Pac-12)
Where Washington is right now: Kalen DeBoer steps in as head coach to right the ship after the 13-game Jimmy Lake experience came to an awkward conclusion.
Offense was DeBoer's calling card at Fresno State, where he went 9-3 a year ago with wins against two ranked teams, including at UCLA, and a seven-point loss to No. 11 Oregon.
Washington was the third-worst offense in the Pac-12 last season and averaged just over three TDs per game. DeBoer, who paired so well with Jake Haener at Fresno, needs to find a long-term solution at quarterback to run this scheme through, and, equally importantly, a way to protect him.
In the meantime, the Huskies defense, a unit that placed third in conference a year ago and fourth in points allowed, should be able to hold things down well enough.
6. Washington State Cougars
2021 record: 7-6 (6-3 Pac-12)
Where Washington State is right now: Definitely expect an increase in offensive production with former Incarnate Word quarterback Cameron Ward coming over.
He threw 47 touchdowns last season — at least four in seven games — while surpassing 4,600 passing yards total. And he'll have continuity with his former coach Eric Morris calling plays as Washington State's first-year offensive coordinator.
While they're slinging the ball around, the Cougars will also need to come up with a new game plan for stopping the other team from doing that. Wazzu needs a face lift in the secondary, which loses three starters, as well as at linebacker. But if this team can improve defensively overall, it should find the room to move up in the Pac-12 North standings.
5. Oregon State Beavers
2021 record: 7-6 (5-4 Pac-12)
Where Oregon State is right now: OSU put a decent product on the field offensively in 2021, ranking fourth in the Pac-12 in total yards and scoring with just over 31 points per game on average.
But the Beavers need to plug in two new blockers on an otherwise veteran front line and find a swap for NFL-bound rusher B.J. Baylor — DeShaun Fenwick, who scored four times on a shade under 450 yards last fall should inherit the RB1 role here.
Chance Nolan had mixed results at quarterback, passing for 19 scores, but also 10 interceptions. He passed for over 200 yards in eight games, but didn't throw a touchdown in a bowl game loss to Utah State. This team had losses to Cal and Colorado last fall, but also a win over Utah, and starts off 2022 with a tough slate.
4. USC Trojans
2021 record: 4-8 (3-6 Pac-12)
Where USC is right now: If a team can "win" an offseason, USC certainly did. Lincoln Riley is in at head coach, with Caleb Williams following at quarterback, Mario Williams at wideout, Travis Dye at running back, and an already firm hold in the West Coast recruiting scene.
But the history of college football is littered with expectations never lived up to.
To avoid that fate, USC needs Alex Grinch to find some solutions to this team's defensive issues fast. It was one of three Pac-12 teams to allow over 400 yards per game a year ago, gave up almost five TDs per game to conference foes, and posted the league's overall second-worst scoring defense (31.8 ppg), worse than Arizona and better than only Stanford.
3. UCLA Bruins
2021 record: 8-4 (6-3 Pac-12)
Where UCLA is right now: Dorian Thompson-Robinson is back after a 21 TD, 6 INT performance in 2021, as is back Zach Charbonnet, an 1,100-yard rusher with 13 TDs a year ago. That one-two punch should keep the Bruins in most games — provided Chip Kelly can find alternatives at receiver.
UCLA placed 107th nationally in pass defense a year ago and was anemic at getting to the quarterback on a regular basis. New coordinator Bill McGovern has been getting some positive results so far this offseason and might have something going with a pair of twin brothers, Grayson and Gabriel Murphy, coming off the edges.
2. Oregon Ducks
2021 record: 10-4 (7-2 Pac-12)
Where Oregon is right now: There's no time to work out the wrinkles for first-year coach Dan Lanning, with a Week 1 date against defending national champion Georgia, whose defense Lanning coordinated during that title run.
Especially with the Ducks dealing with some injuries on defense during the spring, and while the unit does bring back star linebacker Noah Sewell, Lanning needs to plug in some holes in the secondary. Bo Nix steps in at quarterback with a mixed record, but with some solid speed at receiver. Pac-12 honor is on the line in Week 1, and while a loss doesn't ruin Oregon's season, it doesn't help it, either.
1. Utah Utes
2021 record: 10-4 (8-1 Pac-12)
Where Utah is right now: Utah genuinely surprised the college football world last fall, smacking around Oregon twice, winning the Pac-12, and taking Ohio State to the wire in a thrilling Rose Bowl.
Losing wideout Britain Covey is notable, but Utah returns star rusher Tavion Thomas, a thousand-yard fixture who scored 21 times a year ago, and quarterback Cameron Rising, who passed for 20 TDs with five picks. Defensively, the Utes allowed a respectable 20.6 ppg, a number that fell to 19.1 in Pac-12 games, but loses linebacker Devin Lloyd and two safeties in Brandon McKinney and Vonte Davis.