Football is getting closer.
Yes, the 2022 college football season ended just two months ago when Georgia dismantled TCU to win the national championship, but here’s your reminder that spring training is on the horizon.
Colorado’s practice begins in just under two weeks on March 19, followed by the much-anticipated spring game on April 22 when the Buffaloes begin their first season under Deion Sanders.
With that in mind, Athlon Sports has released its Spring 2023 Pac-12 Achievement Rankings ahead of most spring camps. The Pac-12 spans the gamut of USC heavyweight, Colorado intrigue and finding Stanford to get out of the conference basement.
Here’s how all programs stack up, according to Athlon Sports:
11/11/2022; Los Angeles, California, United States; Southern California Trojans quarterback Caleb Williams (13) falls back to make a pass against the Colorado Buffaloes in the first half at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Athlon is ranked high among Trojans, and there are few reasons not to. Despite losses on the offensive side, including Jordan Addison and Travis Dye, Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams returns to Los Angeles to lead what should still be an explosive offense in 2023.
Defense is still a question mark for USC but the Trojans bring back eight starters from a unit that admittedly needs improvement. Transfer Arizona’s CB Christian Roland-Wallace and Oklahoma State’s LB Mason Cobb could prove good additions this side of the ball.
09/24/2022; Seattle, Washington, USA; Washington Huskies quarterback Michael Penix Jr. (9) plays against the Stanford Cardinal in the third quarter at Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
In a mild surprise, Washington ended up at #2 after emerging from a momentous 2022 campaign. But with the return of Michael Penix Jr., the Huskies should still have one of the best offenses in the conference.
As with USC, defense is a concern for Washington, but this Pacific Northwest team is capable of winning shootouts with almost everyone in the conference.
9/3/2022; Atlanta, GA, USA; Oregon Ducks quarterback Bo Nix (10) passes the ball against the Georgia Bulldogs during the first half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Slipping into No. 3 is the high-flying Oregon Ducks, while Bo Nix (see a pattern here?) returns for his second and final season in Eugene.
Oregon’s offense is still impressive, but an offensive line replacing four starters and a leaking secondary line give the Ducks cause for concern heading into 2023.
January 2, 2023; Pasadena, California, United States; Utah Utes quarterback Bryson Barnes (16) plays against the Penn State Nittany Lions in the third quarter of the 109th Rose Bowl game at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Utah is not as easy as the previous three.
Although the Utes should still have an elite defense, quarterback Cameron Rising tore his ACL in their Rose Bowl loss to Penn State, likely letting Bryson Barnes start the season in the veteran’s absence.
Barnes has been solid in limited action, although the offense should mostly run through the Utes’ running game. It will be interesting to see if Utah can at least tread water early in the season with games against Florida and Baylor beginning in 2023.
Clemson quarterback DJ Uiagalelei (5) flashes back to get near North Carolina defenseman Kevin Hester (98) during the first quarter of the ACC Championship soccer game at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina Saturday, May 3. December 2022 to happen.
Clemson Tigers Football Vs North Carolina Tar Heels Acc Championship Charlotte Nc
The Beavers have had a successful 2022 campaign under Jonathan Smith, but they have a few questions heading into 23.
Formerly acclaimed recruit DJ Uiagalelei joined Clemson after an up and down tenure, and whether or not he can reignite the magic that has made him a five-star company is one of the most intriguing stories of the entire conference secondary school.
Defensively, key losses on this side – namely LB Omar Speights – are a concern and defense could be a problem for the Beavers in 2023.
Detroit Kings quarterback Dante Moore aims to score against Birmingham Brother Rice in the first half of the Division 3 regional championship game in Detroit on Friday, November 11, 2022.
UCLA will go into the fall with new names on offense as QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson, RB Zach Charbonnet and WR Jake Bobo are three key players no longer in Pasadena. Five-star QB Dante Moore comes in to try to replace DTR and he should be the early favorite in a three-man contest.
On defense, D’Anton Lynn replaces Bill McGovern as the Bruins’ defense coordinator.
Lynn comes in with an NFL pedigree, namely as a secondary coach, which is an area that needs improvement for UCLA. However, this is his first job as defense coordinator and it remains to be seen if there will be any system changes in 2023.
9/3/2022; Pullman, Washington, USA; Washington State Cougars quarterback Cameron Ward (1) is pocketed by Idaho Vandals defensive lineman Zach Krotzer (96) during the first half at Gesa Field at Martin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
What stands out as a need area for the Cougars is wide receiver.
Washington State will replace its top four receivers from last year, so a rather thin group there could experience a problem.
Additionally, an offensive line that allowed the most sacks in the Pac-12 is still a question mark, so this year could be boom or bust on offense for the Cougars, at least as things stand right now.
Oct 1, 2022; Tucson, Arizona, USA; Arizona Wildcats quarterback Jayden de Laura (7) smiles after a game against the Colorado Buffaloes in the first half at Arizona Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ivan Pierre Aguirre-USA TODAY Sports
Arizona had one of the more consistent offenses last season, and that should remain the status quo in 2023 as most of the key playmakers return to Tucson.
The question – again – for Arizona is its defense. The Wildcats lost winnable games last season because of that unity, but if they can improve in that area, they could be an upset this year.
Dec 31, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, United States; TCU Horned Frogs quarterback Sam Jackson (16) against the Michigan Wolverines during the 2022 Fiesta Bowl at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
There are encouraging signs for Cal heading into 2023 as the Golden Bears return most of their offensive starters from last season, with one notable exception, quarterback Sam Jackson, who transferred from TCU.
If Jackson can come in and be a difference for Cal under new offensive coordinator Jake Spavital, it could be a decent year at Berkeley. If not, it could be a difficult season that would see a shaky defense take a big step forward in 2023.
State of Arizona
Oregon offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham calls players during practice with the Ducks on Tuesday, April 5, 2022.
O40522 Eug football training 10
Kenny Dillingham will take charge of ASU in 2023 after a 2022 season in which he made Oregon one of the most prolific offenses in the nation.
A quarterback fight between real freshman Jaden Rashada and Notre Dame transfer Drew Pyne will be the most intriguing storyline for the Sun Devils.
The direction Dillingham takes will likely shape the program ASU runs this year, and I think Pyne will emerge as the favorite given Rashada’s turbulent recruit, thus giving him less time to acclimatize at Tempe.
December 4, 2022; Boulder, CO, USA; Colorado Buffaloes head coach Deion Sanders reacts during a news conference at Arrow Touchdown Club. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
And here are the buffalo.
This offseason made headlines a lot when Deion Sanders came to Boulder, bringing with him his son Shedeur, to become Jackson State’s first quarterback in 2023 after two productive seasons. Joining the Prime duo will be Travis Hunter, a former No. 1 recruit who has proven to be a lockdown corner and capable receiver at Jackson State.
Think of this as more of a long game for Colorado. Even with these additions, it will take time for the buffs to turn around as they come off a 1-11 season in 2022.
These three are definitely the foundation for a reversal in Boulder. Just not necessarily expect You’re already a Pac-12 contender.
09/18/2021; Berkeley, California, USA; Sacramento State Hornets head coach Troy Taylor kneels on the sidelines during the second quarter against the California Golden Bears at FTX Field at California Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
I know spring training is usually a time of optimism for programs. However, the closet is empty for Stanford and new head coach Troy Taylor.
Taylor comes to Stanford after an incredible season at Sacramento State, but he doesn’t have much available. Given the loss of quarterback Tanner McKee from a previously stunning offense and a defense that was one of the conference’s worst, there’s not much reason for optimism — at least in 2023.
Well, the cardinal was able to surprise people, and not to get too cliche, so she did play the games But personally, I’d be very surprised if Stanford turns out to be formidable this year.
Story originally appeared on Buffaloes Wire