2021 Pac-12 football season preview: Predicted order of finish, best players, breakout stars

Oregon Ducks safety Jamal Hill and USC Trojans wide receiver Drake London in the Pac-12 title game. ( Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)
Oregon Ducks safety Jamal Hill and USC Trojans wide receiver Drake London in the Pac-12 title game. ( Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports) /
1 of 2
This Pac-12 football season preview includes predictions for the conference title and a rundown of the best offensive and defensive players in the west.

The Pac-12 is looking to strengthen its reputation in what is shaping up to be a critical and defining year for college football. The key to it all: Challenge for the College Football Playoff.

There are a few teams in the conference capable of doing that. Unfortunately, those teams have tended to trip up at vital moments.

Will the Pac-12 continue to cannibalize itself in 2021? Or will the cream rise to the top and stay there?

Pac-12 2021 predicted order of finish

Pac-12 North

  1. Oregon
  2. Washington
  3. Cal
  4. Stanford
  5. Oregon State
  6. Washington State

Oregon won the Pac-12 last year despite backing into the title game because of Washington’s COVID-19 roster issues. They were dealing with their own upheaval with key players opting out of the campaign, so this season they’re better set up to assert their dominance with a promising offense and loaded defense.

Washington could threaten Oregon, but the Ducks have proven themselves under Mario Cristobal while Jimmy Lake’s squad is more difficult to gauge. They should be great in the trenches, which is the best way to launch a serious challenge. The Huskies would have to grab hold of the Pac-12 North when they welcome Oregon to Seattle in November and that’s easier said than done. With their talent, the Ducks are kings in the north until proven otherwise.

Pac-12 South

  1. USC
  2. Utah
  3. ASU
  4. UCLA
  5. Colorado
  6. Arizona

The South is a mess of potential and uncertainty. USC is the obvious choice to repeat as division champs. However, their offensive line should be a major worry without Alijah Vera-Tucker to protect Kedon Slovis’ blindside. Things could go very wrong very quickly for the Trojans. Things could just as easily play into their hands with a favorable schedule and their usual crop of gifted athletes.

Despite questions around the Trojans, there are no clear choices to replace USC at the top of the standings. ASU is the offseason darling, but they just lost their best defensive lineman to injury and have recruiting violations unsettling their coaching staff. It’ll be an uphill battle for this to be the year they breakthrough.

The Utes will be good, but how good? The Bruins under Chip Kelly are an utter mystery. It’s USC’s division to lose.

Pac-12 Championship Game prediction

Here we go again. USC vs. Oregon. The Ducks have had the Trojans’ number in their last two meetings. USC has immense talent at the skill positions that could lift them this time around. However, Kayvon Thibodeaux and Oregon’s pass rush was too much for Slovis and company last time around. The Trojans will lose the critical battle in the trenches and the war for the Pac-12 crown.