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College Football 2021: Conference title probabilities and projected win totals for every Pac-12 team

USC QB Kedon Slovis
USC QB Kedon Slovis
Walter Sharp
ANALYST

Pac-10 changed to the Pac-12 on October 21, 2010, when Colorado and Utah joined the conference. The additions of the two programs led to the conference implementing a conference championship game. It also helped the Pac-12 separate into two separate divisions.

Here's how the two divisions pan out in the Pac-12 conference:

North Division

  • Oregon
  • Oregon State
  • Washington
  • Washington State
  • California
  • Stanford

South Division

  • Arizona
  • Arizona State
  • Colorado
  • Utah
  • UCLA
  • USC

There are six rivalries in the college football season in the Pac-12:

  • Arizona vs. Arizona State - Territorial Cup
  • California vs. Stanford - Stanford Axe
  • Colorado vs. Utah - Rumble in the Rockies
  • Oregon vs. Oregon State - Platypus Trophy
  • UCLA vs. USC - Victory Bell
  • Washington vs. Washington State - Apple Cup'

Oregon and Oregon State have met a total of 124 times heading into the 2021 season. The two programs have met the most out of all the rivalries in the Pac-12. Stanford and California come in second with 123 meetings.

USC has won the Pac-10 and Pac-12 the most out of all the programs with 39 conference championships. The Trojans have a sizeable lead over the rest of the conference. Oregon and Washington have had the most success in recent years. Both programs have made appearances in the College Football Playoffs.

Entering the 2021-2022 college football season, the USC Trojans are the favorites to walk away with the Pac-12 crown and a chance at making the CFP for the first time in school history.

Here's how the 2021-2022 Pac-12 conference is set to shape up for the upcoming season.


2021 Pac-12 Conference probabilities and projections

USC QB Kedon Slovis
USC QB Kedon Slovis

#1 USC Trojans

PFF Pac-12 Conference Championship appearance probability: 46%

PFF Pac-12 Conference Championship win probability: 26%

PFF projected win total: 8.5

USC enters the 2021-2022 season with a 12% chance of making the college football playoffs. They'll need to play perfect football the entire season to hold a spot in the final four.

Kedon Slovis holds the success of the Trojans in the palm of his hands. Slovis recorded a PFF passing grade of 80.8 during the 2019 season for the Trojans. College football scouts compare his accuracy to former LSU QB Joe Burrow, but in 2020, Slovis didn't improve. His passing grade saw a slight slump at 80.1.

USC has two talented wide receivers entering the 2021 season. Drake London leads the way for the Trojans and they're also hoping to transfer K.D. Nixon. There's also hope for Tahj Washington pulling through with a great season.

The Trojans have a lot of untapped potential on offense, but for a shot at the title, USC will need to see improvements from Slovis and the wide receiver group.


#2 Oregon Ducks

PFF Pac-12 Conference Championship appearance probability: 46%

PFF Pac-12 Conference Championship win probability: 23%

PFF projected win total: 8.3

Oregon may have the best defense in the Pac-12 heading into the season. The Ducks have the best defensive player in edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux. Outside of Thibodeaux, Noah Sewell, the brother of former offensive tackle Penei Sewell, is coming into his own as a star at linebacker.

Oregon's offense suffered a tough loss at quarterback with Tyler Shough transferring. The Ducks will now turn to former Boston College QB Anthony Brown to lead the offense in 2021.

If Oregon wants to compete with Kedon Slovis and USC, they'll need a massive season from Anthony Brown. If not, the Ducks will have to turn to backup QB Ty Thompson.


#3 Washington Huskies

PFF Pac-12 Conference Championship appearance probability: 28%

PFF Pac-12 Conference Championship win probability: 15%

PFF projected win total: 8

Washington enters the 2021 season with a lot of positives at the quarterback position with Dylan Morris. The Huskies have the second-best quarterback situation in the Pac-12 behind USC and Kedon Slovis. Morris was the second-highest-graded passer in the Pac-12.

Washington will lean on its cornerbacks to lead the defense in 2021. Trent McDuffie and Kyler Gordon are returning to lead the way for the Huskies. Their defense has the top linebacker and the second-best edge rusher in the Pac-12 heading into the 2021 season.

The Huskies have also added one of the best slot corners in college football with Oklahoma transfer Brendan Radley-Hiles. Washington added Radley-Hiles to replace Elijah Molden, who took his talents to the NFL.

Utah QB Jake Bentley
Utah QB Jake Bentley

#4 Utah Utes

PFF Pac-12 Conference Championship appearance probability: 23%

PFF Pac-12 Conference Championship win probability: 11%

PFF projected win total: 7.8

Utah had one of the worst passing offenses in 2020, which made them turn to former South Carolina QB Jake Bentley. Entering the 2021-2022 season, the Utah Utes will rely on another transfer in former Baylor QB Charlie Brewer.

Utah will need Charlie Brewer to repeat his 2018 performance. In 2018, Brewer registered a PFF passing grade of 90.0 but saw massive drops over the past two seasons. Brewer saw his passing grade decline to 75.7 in 2019 and 57.2 in 2020 with the Bears. He will now enter an offensive scheme that fits all his strengths.

The Utes will have a group of talented pass catchers this season. Tight end Brant Kuithe and wide receivers Britain Covey and Jaylen Dixon are significant contributors to Utah's offense. If the Utes want to compete for the Pac-12 championship this fall, they'll need their offense to match their defense.


#5 Arizona State Sun Devils

PFF Pac-12 Conference Championship appearance probability: 21%

PFF Pac-12 Conference Championship win probability: 9%

PFF projected win total: 7.6

Arizona State has had an interesting offseason, to say the least. They're currently being investigated by the NCAA for recruiting violations. The Sun Devils will conduct business as usual for the 2021-2022 season, but it's something to keep an eye on.

Arizona State has impressive corners in Chase Lucas and Jack Jones. The two standout cornerbacks will be assisted by their interior defensive lineman, Jermayne Lole. ASU will need its defensive front to provide a pass rush if the cornerbacks are to succeed this fall.

The Sun Devils may have talented defensive players but their success will be determined by their QB, Jayden Daniels.


#6 Stanford Cardinals

PFF Pac-12 Conference Championship appearance probability: 11%

PFF Pac-12 Conference Championship win probability: 5%

PFF projected win total: 5.9

Stanford will lean on young, untapped potential to lead the way this fall. The Cardinals lost a lot of talent this past season and will be led by quarterback Tanner McKee. Stanford's young quarterback has only had seven career pass attempts in college.

Stanford lost its top two wide receivers from 2020. Simi Fehoko and Connor Wedington both took their talents to the NFL. The Cardinals will now turn their attention to Michael Wilson and Elijah Higgins to lead their wide receiver room.

The Cardinals are not as successful on the defensive side of the ball. Stanford has ranked towards the bottom of the Pac-12 in defense since 2019. Their corners have given up a quarterback passer rating of 114.8 since 2019.

California QB Chase Garbers
California QB Chase Garbers

#7 California Golden Bears

PFF Pac-12 Conference Championship appearance probability: 8%

PFF Pac-12 Conference Championship win probability: 3%

PFF projected win total: 6

California's 2020 season was a disaster but the Golden Bears have some silver linings on defense. Cal is returning defensive backs Josh Drayden, Chigozie Anusiem, as well as both safeties in Daniel Scott and Elijah Hicks.

The Golden Bears will have a formidable secondary that should rank towards the top of the Pac-12 in pass defense.

Cal's offense is another story. Quarterback Chase Garbers struggled massively in his first season under offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave. Garbers wasn't the only issue for Cal on offense. Their receiving group also ranked towards the bottom of the Pac-12 last fall.


#8 Washington State Cougars

PFF Pac-12 Conference Championship appearance probability: 6%

PFF Pac-12 Conference Championship win probability: 3%

PFF projected win total: 6.5

Washington State struggled in 2020 after losing its former head coach, Mike Leach. After eight seasons with the Cougars, Leach had a win-loss record of 55-47 as head coach.

Washington State's will rest on quarterbacks Jayden de Laura, Tennessee transfer Jarrett Guarantano, and Cammon Cooper. The Cougars are struggling with the suspension of Jayden de Laura, which has opened the QB competition.

Defensively, Washington State is heading towards another rough season this fall. Jayden de Laura will most likely win the starting job after he serves his suspension. If this holds true for the Cougars, there could be some success.


#9 Colorado Buffaloes

PFF Pac-12 Conference Championship appearance probability: 6%

PFF Pac-12 Conference Championship win probability: 2%

PFF projected win total: 5.5

Colorado is coming off a 2020 season where it fielded the worst defense in the Pac-12. The Buffaloes have a better chance at a decent year in defense this fall. They'll return three massive starters on the front seven of the rearguard.

Linebacker Nate Landman and edge rushers Carson Wells and Terrance Lang hold the keys to the Buffaloes' defense. They also return cornerback Mekhi Blackmon and safety Isaiah Lewis, which should boost their pass defense.

Colorado needs to have a big season from quarterback Sam Noyer to taste some success in 2021.


#10 UCLA Bruins

PFF Pac-12 Conference Championship appearance probability: 4%

PFF Pac-12 Conference Championship win probability: 2%

PFF projected win total: 5.2

Chip Kelly is entering a make-or-break season in 2021. Kelly hasn't won over the boosters at UCLA and will need to start showing some success.

For that, Chip Kelly will lean on his quarterback, Dorian Thompson-Robinson, to lead the offense. The problem with this is that Thompson-Robinson has been far from consistent. His PFF passing grades for the last three seasons haven't cracked 70.

If Chip Kelly wants to keep his job with the Bruins, he'll need a more efficient 2021 season from his quarterback.

Oregon State QB Tristan Gebbia
Oregon State QB Tristan Gebbia

#11 Oregon State Beavers

PFF Pac-12 Conference Championship appearance probability: 2%

PFF Pac-12 Conference Championship win probability: 1%

PFF projected win total: 4.8

Oregon State brought in former South Carolina running back Deshaun Fenwick to assist its rushing attack in 2021. The Beavers have one of the better offensive lines in the Pac-12.

Oregon State will lean on quarterback Tristan Gebbia, who had a roller-coaster 2020. Gebbia started four games for the Beavers offense and posted PFF passing grades of 84.6, 56.0, 60.3, and 80.2. Oregon State will need more consistency this fall to compete in the Pac-12.


#12 Arizona Wildcats

PFF Pac-12 Conference Championship appearance probability: 1%

PFF Pac-12 Conference championship win probability: 0%

PFF projected win total: 4

The Arizona Wildcats are entering a new era in 2021. Jedd Fisch is the new head coach for the Wildcats, but it could be a rough start. Arizona had one of the worst offenses in the Pac-12 in 2020. The Wildcats also lost starting quarterback Grant Gunnell to the transfer portal this offseason.

The success of the Wildcats' season rests on the shoulders of their cloudy quarterback room. Arizona's quarterback room consists of Will Plummer, who had a PFF passing grade of 48.6, Gunner Cruz, an inexperienced prospect, and Jordan McCloud, who has underwhelmed.

(All probabilities and projections are based off Pro Football Focus.)


Edited by Colin D'Cunha
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