Miller: Final 2020 Pac-12 Football Power Rankings

Assessing the teams beyond the quirks, cancellations, and opt-outs of a shortened season

Posted on January 4, 2021

Dane Miller
  By Dane Miller, SportsPac12

The 2020 season was a wild, bumpy ride that will be remembered with varying differences of opinion. The Coronavirus destroyed all sense of normalcy and arguably turned this year into a wash that will forever have an asterisk next to it in the record books.


As we close out the season with our final Power Rankings, keep in mind that a full third of the Conference played just four games, and half played in five games or fewer.

Other than USC and Washington, every program had more than one loss, and seven teams had two or three defeats to their name.

Comparing and ranking the Conference with such a limited number of games is full of challenges, especially when attempting to keep the list in tune with the results of head-to-head matchups.

But here it is, our final Power Ranking of the 2020 season. As always, you can find our senior writers’ picks at the bottom.

1. Oregon (4-3)

Held scoreless in the second half of the Fiesta Bowl, the Ducks finished the season just a game above .500. Anthony Brown played most of the day at quarterback, despite Tyler Shough leading UO to the red zone on his first drive.

Brown did score twice on the ground, including on Oregon’s opening possession, but missed a wide open receiver at the end of the first half that should have resulted in a touchdown pass.

In the end, the Ducks went 0-for-6 on third down and turned the ball over four times. That’s just not going to get it done against the runner-up in the Big 12.

And with rumors swirling around defensive coordinator Andy Avalos and the Boise State job, UO’s offseason begins now. Either way, Oregon was one of the youngest teams in the nation and brings in another elite recruiting class heading into next season.

2. USC (5-1)

usc logoStaff changes within the Trojan organization are already taking place, the most noteworthy of which is the promotion of Donte Williams to Associate Head Coach. The renowned recruiter has helped build the eighth-best class in the nation, headlined by the No. 1 overall prospect in defensive end Korey Foreman.

With such a highly touted incoming freshmen class, USC projects to be the favorite in the South Division for the 2021 season.

3. Washington (3-1)

The Dawgs played just four games this year, but are returning several key players for next season. Currently holding the No. 33 recruiting class in the country, UW should have the firepower to stay competitive in the North.

The Huskies’ class is headlined by five-star Sam Huard, the nation’s highest ranked Pro-Style quarterback.


4. Utah (3-2)

The tragic loss of Ty Jordan weighs heavy on the entire conference, but especially on his coaches and teammates. The 2021 season is the last thing on the minds of the Utes, and the process of honoring Jordan’s memory continues.

Eventually, an eye will turn toward next season. But as of now, the focus remains on the running back’s impact on the program and his legacy in Salt Lake City.

5. Colorado (4-2)

In just their second loss of the season, the Buffs were defeated handily by Texas in the Alamo Bowl. Sam Noyer threw two interceptions and Jarek Broussard was limited to just 3 yards per carry, but true freshman Brendon Lewis played well in his only appearance of the season.

The quarterback’s performance sets the table for a battle over the summer for the starting role. But with the Pac-12’s ninth-ranked recruiting class, the Buffs must recruit better in Dorrell’s second season.

6. Stanford (4-2)

The departures of Davis Mills and Simi Fehoko to the NFL Draft were blows to David Shaw’s program over the last few weeks. Yet there’s no denying the momentum generated from closing the season on a four-game winning streak.

Reloading on offense figures to be the challenge this offseason, and Shaw could utilize the transfer portal to get it done.


7. UCLA (3-4)

Dorian Thompson-Robinson has announced his return to Westwood for one more season along with running back Brittain Brown. The pair combined for over 800 yards rushing and nine touchdowns on the ground this season, providing a needed spark on offense in 2021.

And even though DTR struggled through injuries once again this year, his final season at UCLA projects to be his best.

8. Arizona State (2-2)

The silly-season marches on with reports of Marvin Lewis interviewing with the Detroit Lions. Until the dust settles, it’s unclear what the makeup of Arizona State’s staff will be in 2021.

But Herm Edwards has utilized the transfer portal to his benefit, securing the commitment of three former four-star recruits, each from Power 5 programs. And with four additional four-star recruits in his incoming recruiting class, Edwards continues the momentum in Tempe.

9. Oregon State (2-5)

The Beavers finished the year with a 2-5 record and a victory over Oregon. But with just eight players in its recruiting class, Oregon State has one of the lowest ranked incoming classes in the country.

However, Jonathan Smith has landed Georgia transfer and former four-star prospect Makiya Tongue. The wide receiver should add a weapon on the edge for Tristan Gebbia next year.

10. Cal (1-3)

Even though this season was mostly one to forget, the Bears have the Pac-12’s third-best recruiting class heading into next season. With four four-star recruits, all on offense, Justin Wilcox’s clear focus is improving Cal’s scoring.

The nation’s No. 25 class should help improve the Bears’ scoring offense that was among the worst in the FBS this season, averaging just 20.3 points per game.

11. Washington State (1-3)

Nick Rolovich’s first season was always going to be a wildcard, and it was compounded by the Coronavirus. Dealing with opt-outs and injuries, the Cougs won just a single game, yet were leading in both the Oregon and Utah matchups.

Finding ways to maintain leads and finish strong is the next hurdle Rolovich must deal with over the offseason. And with a class of 20 commits to go along with several returning players, the former Hawaii coach should have plenty of options to chose from.

12. Arizona (0-5)

Former New England Patriot’s Quarterbacks Coach Jedd Fisch has been announced as the new head coach in Tucson. His staff is a combination of former Arizona players, former NFL coaches, and former college positional coaches.

The final remaining piece is the Defensive Coordinator position, and reports suggest that former Michigan Defensive Coordinator Don Brown is the leading candidate.

How Our Senior Football Writers Voted


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