PAC-12 Week 7 Review

2021 Pac-12 Season Preview

Jord is here with his 2021 Pac-12 season preview.

The college football season is nearly upon us. That means the teams in the Pac-12 are looking forward to a full season of football after a bulk of missed games in 2020. The Pac-12 is one of the more competitive conferences in college football. Both North and South could be won by a handful of teams. Washington and Oregon should be fighting it out for the North title. In the South, USC, Utah, UCLA and Arizona Sate all have title credentials. Remaining teams will want to make a statement. This is the 2021 Pac-12 season preview: the conference of champions.

2021 Pac-12 season preview: Pac-12 North

Washington

2020 Record: 3-1

Bowl Game: N/A (Withdrew from Bowl game contention due to Covid-19)

Washington topped the Pac-12 North in 2020, but couldn’t participate in the title game due to a Covid outbreak. Jimmy Lake goes into his second season as the HC, looking to repeat over the course of a longer season. The defence is one of Washington’s strongest attributes, even with top LB Zion Tupuola-Fetui most likely out for the season. Cornerback Trent McDuffie is a guy to watch out for in the secondary as well as inside linebacker Edefuan Ulofoshio.

On the offensive side of the ball, the question is whether 5 star 2021 recruit Sam Huard be under centre week 1. Or will Dylan Morris keep the job? Whoever it is, UDub are primed for another good run at the Pac-12 North title.

Prediction: A top 25 CFB ranking but pipped to the Pac-12 North title

Oregon

2020 Record: 4-2

Bowl Game: Lost Fiesta Bowl v. Iowa State (34-17)

Oregon were the beneficiaries of Washington pulling out of the Pac-12 Championship game. They took advantage by beating USC. This year they will want to get there on merit.

Since Mario Cristobal took the Head Coaching job at the Ducks, they have been one of the best recruiters in all of college football. Kayvon Thibodeaux is one of the best recruits they have had in program history. The DE is a guaranteed top 10 draft pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Penei Sewell may have departed, but younger brother Noah looks to continue his growth at ILB. The QB1 battle is still undecided but Anthony Brown looks in pole position for now. The Ducks look like the team to beat in the North this season.

Prediction: A Pac-12 Championship Game and a top 10 CFB ranking

Stanford

2020 Record: 4-2

Bowl Game: N/A (Withdrew from Bowl game contention due to Covid-19)

Stanford will want to start the new season as they finished the 2020 one. David Shaw’s side won their last 4 games in a 6 game season. 2021 will be a challenging season for the Cardinal, with a handful of offensive talent leaving for the NFL. Receiving duo Micael Wilson and Elijah Higgins are primed for a good season, whoever the QB might be. Will 2021 be a breakout year for RB Austin Jones? The defence needs to get significantly better but have a star in CB Kyu Blu Kelly. With a tough 2021 schedule and a lot of questions at key roster positions, it could be a long season for Stanford.

Prediction: A difficult year with a below .500 record

Oregon State

2020 Record: 2-5

Bowl Game: N/A (Withdrew from Bowl game contention due to Covid-19)

HC Jonathan Smith’s job seems safe for now. After an improvement in 2019, the 2020 record can be somewhat forgiven. A step up is needed. With lots of uncertainty on the offence, one thing that stays the same is the offensive line. Nathan Eldridge will lead an experienced line at centre. The Beavers defence will have to get better if they want to get to their first bowl game since 2013. ILB Avery Roberts was ranked number one among Pac-12 tacklers with 69, another good year could edge him up the 2022 NFL Draft board. The Beavers could be in for a rough season if things don’t click early with 3 out of conference games to start.

Prediction: Difficult season but could squeeze to 5 wins

California

2020 Record: 1-3

Bowl Game: N/A (no invite received)

The 2020 season was primed to be a good one for the Golden Bears. A stop-start year and lots of Covid cases really did put the handbrake on. Cal is still confident that 2021 will be a good year, although the schedule looks difficult. The bright news is that the team retained most of their starters from the 2020 squad, with more changes coming on the coaching staff. A key member for California is LB Kuony Deng. He is a leader on the field and looking to boost his draft stock this season. Positive vibes are coming out of Berkeley, the team believes they can challenge for that Pac-12 North title. Their sole 2020 win did come against conference champions, Oregon.

Prediction: Middle of the road .500 record season

Washington State

2020 Record: 1-3

Bowl Game: N/A (Withdrew from Bowl game contention due to Covid-19)

Nick Rolovich didn’t get any real chance to stamp his identity on the team in his first year as HC. He is so far best known for his vaccination status. A good year is needed to take the attention away from Rolovich’s already-warm seat.

The Cougars have a lot of veterans coming back for 2021. One of which is exciting running back Max Borghi, who will want to put 2020 behind him after a back injury saw him start just 1 game. With a full schedule on the cards, comes games against the weaker sides in the Pac-12 and out of conference match-ups. Expect a better year for Wazzu in 2021.

Prediction: Improvement, but still a losing season for Rolovich and the Cougars.

2021 Pac-12 season preview: Pac-12 South

USC

2020 Record: 5-1

Bowl Game: N/A (Withdrew from Bowl game contention due to Covid-19)

The only team from the Pac-12 to get a top 25 ranking in 2020 was USC.Their only loss came in the title game defeat to Oregon. It was the only blotch on their record after some thrilling comeback wins in the regular season. The offensive side of the ball was successful for most parts. The defence left a lot on the sidelines. USC has a handful of potential 1st Round 2022 NFL Draft talent on the roster. QB Kedon Slovis and DE Drake Jackson will be players to watch out for. USC is primed for another run at the South title. The Trojans seem to have the best chance of stopping the Northern dominance in the Pac-12.

Prediction: A top 25 CFB ranking, but no back to back South titles

Colorado

2020 Record: 4-2

Bowl Game: Lost Alamo Bowl v Texas (55-23)

Karl Dorrell had a fantastic first season with the Buffaloes, even with the bittersweet loss in the Alamo Bowl. Still, they were the only Pac-12 team to make a Bowl Game, so there’s that.

Dorrell was named Pac-12 Coach of the Year and guided Colorado to only their second Bowl Game since 2007. The Buffs want to build on a positive 2020 season, though the 2021 schedule is anything but kind. They will face five Pac-12 road games, 2 out-of-conference opponents in Texas A&M and Minnesota, and home games against Washington and USC. It could be a tough year down in Boulder. RB trio Jarek Broussard, Alex Fontenot and 2020 4 star recruit Ashaad Clayton are guys to watch out for on offence.

Prediction: A tough year ahead but they have been underestimated before

Utah

2020 Record: 3-2

Bowl Game: N/A (Withdrew from Bowl game contention due to Covid-19)

The Utes were one of the last teams to get their season started in 2020, which could excuse the stuttering start. They did rally to win their last 3 games, but were not where they wanted to be at the end of the year. HC Kyle Whittingham has the experience to get Utah back on track in 2021. Baylor transfer Charlie Brewer will step in at QB, and should bring stability to the offence. On defence, look out for Devin Lloyd, who passed on the NFL for one more season in Utah, and is one of the best linebackers in college football. Utah could get off to a fast start, with 4 winnable games to start the season. Confidence would be carried over and once on a roll, they could be hard to stop.

Prediction: Utah to reign supreme in the South again

UCLA

2020 Record: 3-4

Bowl Game: N/A (Withdrew from Bowl game contention due to Covid-19)

As good as Chip Kelly has been in the past, this is a key year. The Bruins last 5 seasons have been losing ones, 3 of which were Kelly’s. Though 2020 could have easily looked healthier, with all 4 losses coming within a score. QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson has the ability to be a top dual-threat QB, but still is trying to put it all together. Greg Dulcich is a TE whose stock is on the rise. The defence is primed for another good season, with just one 2020 starter missing in 2021. Improvement will be there for the Bruins. Will they show enough to keep Kelly in a job?

Prediction: The warm seat is getting hot for Kelly. Just over a .500 season, just

Arizona State

2020 Record: 2-2

Bowl Game: N/A (Withdrew from Bowl game contention due to Covid-19)

The 2021 season will be year four under Herm Edwards. It has been a solid tenure to date. 2020 was the season that the Sun Devils were ready to challenge for the South Division title. The pandemic struck and one score losses to South rivals USC and UCLA scuppered any chances. Just about everybody is back for the Maroon and Gold in 2021. With that comes another chance for their first Pac-12 South title since 2013. Another step forward from QB Jayden Daniels will boost the chances of that, but he will need the best defence in the Pac-12 in 2020 showing up again. A big season is on the cards for the Sun Devils.

Prediction: Best season since 2014, but pipped to the title

Arizona

2020 Record: 0-5

Bowl Game: N/A (no invite received)

After Kevin Sumlin went on a 12 game losing run over two seasons, it was no surprise to see a new man in charge at Arizona. Jedd Fisch comes in after spending the last few years in the NFL. He brings with him offensive coordinator Brendan Carroll (son of Seattle Seahawk HC Pete) and DC Don Brown. There is a lot to workout with this team, and it’s going to be rough before we see any potential progress. The schedule looks tough, with out of conference games vs BYU and San Diego State to start off the season. Any kind of improvement shown will be a positive year for the Wildcats.

Prediction: It’s hard to see any positives in 2021 for Fisch and Arizona

There you have it, Rush Nation. Your very own 2021 Pac-12 Season Preview. Check out all of Jord’s work over at @5yardcollege and 5yardrush.co.uk

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