A Pac-12 team has reached the College Football Playoff just twice, by far the fewest among the Power 5 Conferences. Will that change this season? Realistically, only USC and Oregon have a shot but they also will probably meet in the Pac-12 title game and are favored on the college football odds to do so.
Analysis College Football Playoff 2021
How bad has the Pac-12 been of late? The conference has a whole has gone 8-17 straight up in bowl games the past three years.
Oregon is the +240 favorite to repeat as conference champion. The Ducks weren’t supposed to play in last year’s title game but were placed into it because Washington had to drop out due to COVID issues. Oregon then upset USC 31-24. Ducks defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux was the game’s MVP with five tackles and a sack. He could be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
QB Anthony Brown threw two touchdown passes in his Oregon debut, and he will open this year as the starter because Tyler Shough, who was last year’s primary starter, transferred to Texas Tech. As Oregon’s backup last season, Brown was 15 of 24 for 164 yards with two touchdowns passing while adding seven carries for 40 yards and two scores.
Brown took on the full role as Oregon’s presumptive starter in the spring while freshmen Jay Butterfield, Robby Ashford and Ty Thompson split second-team reps. During the spring game, Brown was 17 of 26 for 208 yards and a touchdown.
“Anthony will start with the ones and he has earned that,” Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said. “He’s done a very good job from a performance standpoint, from a leadership standpoint, taken on (offensive coordinator Joe) Moorhead’s offensive scheme.”
The Ducks opened at No. 12 in the USA Today Preseason Top 25, the highest of any Pac-12 school. The RB tandem of Travis Dye and C.J. Verdell are back, and all three should benefit from an experienced line.
USC (+400) has perhaps the best returning QB in the conference in Kedon Slovis, a Heisman Trophy candidate and likely 2022 NFL first-round pick. In his two-year career, he has completed 459-of-656 passes (70.0%) for 5,423 yards with 47 TDs and 16 interceptions. Slovis is ninth on USC’s career passing list with 459 completions and his 70.0 career completion percentage is above Cody Kessler’s USC record of 67.5%.
Southern Cal opened at No. 14 in the USA Today Top 25. The Trojans catch a break in the regular-season schedule in that they avoid both Oregon and Washington.
The Huskies are +400 to win the Pac-12 and opened at No. 21 in the USA Today Top 25. However, US suffered a major loss in the spring when outside linebacker Zion Tupuola-Fetui suffered a torn Achilles. In Washington’s four-game 2020 season, Tupuola-Fetui recorded seven sacks and was named a third-team AP All-American.
Dylan Morris is back as starting QB but will have to hold off touted freshman Sam Huard. The five-star signal-caller broke the Washington state prep record for passing yards in a career during his final season after throwing for 514 yards and eight touchdowns in one game alone. He finished his career with 13,214 yards and 153 touchdowns.
Looking for one sleeper? Consider UCLA at +1200 – the Bruins need a big season or Coach Chip Kelly might be fired. The Bruins averaged 455 yards and 35 points per game in 2020, scoring 34 or more in every game but the wins over Arizona and Arizona State. QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson returns and his pass efficiency rating of 156.29 was the highest by a Bruin quarterback starter since 2005 (Drew Olson) All five starters return to the offensive line that paved the way for the nation’s 12th-best running game.Pac-12 title game pickOregon over USC
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