- Ted Miller, ESPN Staff Writer
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These are final power rankings of 2011-12. They look back and measure the totality of the season.
We're looking ahead with the next power rankings later Tuesday.
And, by the way, if you don't like where you ended up in the power rankings ... you should have played better.
1. Oregon: Chip Kelly and Oregon just can't win the big one. Oh, wait! They did. A thrilling Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin capped another great season in Eugene and left the Ducks, again, atop the Pac-12 at season's end. So, in the history of the program, which is the all-time best season: 2001, 2010 or 2011? Or should we hold off judgment on that until after the 2012 campaign?
2. USC: The win over Oregon, the stomping of UCLA and the final top-five ranking were cool, but the return of quarterback Matt Barkley created major momentum heading into the offseason. And if the Trojans had been eligible for the postseason, the Pac-12 bowl record would have been better.
3. Stanford: I'm sure Stanford fans were annoyed by the stunning ignorance among pundits discussing the Cardinal before the Fiesta Bowl. It seemed like many thought Oklahoma State was going to blow Stanford out -- calling the Cardinal "overrated" in the process. You and I knew that was an absurd position. If Stanford and the Cowboys played 10 times, the series would have gone 5-5. And that's being very generous to Oklahoma State. One last thing: Goodbye and good luck Andrew Luck. You were great for Stanford and great for college football.
4. Utah: Yep, the grind of a Pac-12 schedule really wore down the Utes. Yep, the Utes just couldn't handle it. But, with all due humility, how many other conference teams won four of their final five games and a bowl game? If you're looking for a sneaky-good team in the South Division next season, you might want to cast your gaze to Salt Lake City.
5. Washington: The Alamo Bowl loss to Baylor was, at least, an offensive spectacle. Quarterback Keith Price certainly introduced himself to a national audience by outplaying the Heisman Trophy winner. But, wow, that defense. After the Huskies lost four of their final five games, it's fair to say the best thing going their way at year's end was the hiring of A-list defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox.
6. California: Cal, Cal, Cal. The Holiday Bowl was winnable against a middling Texas squad, but not with a 5-0 turnover disadvantage -- 5-zip! As Charles Barkley might say: "Turrable." If the Bears had won, they would been a candidate for "potentially sneaky-good team in the North Division in 2012." Now we're holding off judgment. On the plus side, recruiting is rolling along nicely.
7. UCLA: Another season of inconsistency in Westwood earned coach Rick Neuheisel his walking papers, and the graceful way Neuheisel handled himself after getting fired made it seem all the more sad that he couldn't get the job done at his alma mater. Jim Mora takes over a program that needs an injection of discipline and a cultural shift.
8. Arizona: Sure, the Wildcats fired their coach and finished 4-8. But they won their last two games, including a win over Arizona State, and head into the offseason with positive momentum after the hiring of Rich Rodriguez.
9. Arizona State: The Sun Devils completely collapsed, losing their final five games. They fired their coach. Their coaching search was a meandering mess, and the hiring of Todd Graham away from Pittsburgh didn't exactly inspire much celebration. Then their best player and leader, quarterback Brock Osweiler, made a fairly surprising decision to enter the NFL draft. The good news is there has to be some good news ahead, right?
10. Oregon State: A second consecutive losing season, a 3-9 one at that, has Beavers fans understandably frustrated, particularly with what's going on in Eugene. Just two years ago, coach Mike Riley seemed certain to retire as the Beavers coach. So much for certainty. The good news -- or is it an excuse? -- is Oregon State was extremely young in 2011 and should be better in 2012. The surprising late-season win over Washington also provided some consolation.
11. Washington State: The Cougars started 3-1 and looked like a bowl team that would save coach Paul Wulff's job. They then lost seven of their final eight games and Wulff got canned. The late-season win over Arizona State was nice, but the Sun Devils were in the process of waving a white flag over their season. Yes, it was another bad season, but there are more smiles today in Pullman than in years after AD Bill Moos pulled coach Mike Leach out of his hat.
12. Colorado: Colorado isn't buried in the basement here. You could, in fact, make an argument for the Buffs promotion a couple of notches: They, after all, won two of their final three games, beating both Arizona and Utah. Still, 3-10 is 3-10 and 2-7 in conference play is 2-7 in conference play. As is finishing last in scoring defense and scoring offense among Pac-12 teams. The Buffs also have some big holes to fill in their starting lineup. Further, they don't have the "New Coach Is Here to Save Us!" storyline heading into year two with Jon Embree.
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