Please note that power rankings are meant to rank teams based on current team strength on a neutral field. It is not necessarily a projection of where I think teams will finish or who has a better resume. It is forward thinking but does not factor in strength of schedule, schedule breakdown, etc.
ICYMI Other Conference Preseason Power Rankings:
2021 Pac 12 Preseason Power Rankings
- USC: You could make a case for anyone 1-4 here as I think the Pac 12 will be really competitive (but once again on the outside looking in for the playoffs) this year. It’s now or never for HC Clay Helton. I have Kedon Slovis as my #1 QB in the conference (and even took a shot on him to win the Heisman). He has a great WR corps led by Drake London and USC has one of the better defenses in the conference.
- Washington: Washington won the Pac 12 North last season but couldn’t play in the conference title game because of Covid. They have 18 starters coming back and a really strong offensive line and defense. Jimmy Lake will want to run the ball and play good defense. This looks like a double-digit win team on paper and the week 2 matchup in the Big House should be a lot of fun.
- Oregon: The ducks probably have the best player in the conference on their roster in Defensive End Kayvon Thibodeaux. On offense they have a veteran QB in Anthony Brown to go along with a very strong receiving corps and offensive line. But they are coming off a disappointing 4-3 season and do have a pretty brutal schedule to endure.
- Utah: I like the Utes a lot this year and even grabbed them at +1700 to win the Pac 12 on Fan Duel. They have the #1 offensive and defensive line in the conference and (in my opinion) the best coach as well in Kyle Whittingham. They had lots of players on defense return this season, with the goal of winning the conference, and added former Baylor QB Charlie Brewer in the transfer market. This team is right there with the top 3 teams talent-wise and their matchup with USC will be a must-watch game.
- Stanford: Stanford had to put up with a lot of covid challenges in 2020, including being homeless the last 3 weeks of the season. Despite all that, they rallied from an 0-2 start to finish 4-2. David Shaw frustrates a lot of fans and gamblers alike with his conservative play calling and multi-TE sets but he has had plenty of success with the Cardinal despite the criticism. This year should be more of the same as they will run the ball plenty behind their solid offensive line but they aren’t going to wow anyone with their athleticism. There looks like there is a noticeable drop off in the Pac 12 after the Top 4.
- Arizona State: They have plenty of talent on paper, but you just have to worry about how much the trouble they got into this offseason will affect the team. Will Herm Edwards even still be the coach in August? This is a team we will have to monitor closely as they still are very good, but if things start to go bad it could snow ball in a hurry. The backfield is terrific with Jayden Daniels at QB and Rachaad White at RB.
- UCLA: This is the year where Chip Kelly needs to get it done. He has just about everyone coming back this year including highly touted QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson. The question will be how much better did the defense get? They gave up 38+ points in 4 of their 7 games last season and that certainly needs to improve if they are going to jump into the upper tier of the conference. They get LSU at home Labor Day weekend after getting Hawaii in Week 0. That LSU game has a suspicious line that is only hovering around LSU -4. It seems like the books are more than happy to keep taking those LSU wagers?
- Washington State: The Cougars were one of those teams that had a first year head coach last season (that was trying to change their scheme from Mike Leach’s air raid system) that really got set back by Covid wiping out Spring practice. They are a little bit of an under the radar team to watch here with a solid defense highlighted by RB Max Borghi. Like UCLA, my concern with Washington State is with the defense. It looks like one of the lesser units in the conference on paper.
- Colorado: The Buffs surprised everyone by starting the season 4-0 last season. They then blew a lead to Utah that cost them a shot at the conference championship game and ended up getting crushed by Casey Thompson and the Texas Longhorns in the Alamo Bowl. They should have a really strong running game with Jarek Brousssard coming back (156-895-5.7 in 2020), but I think their passing game might be one of the worst in the conference. On defense they have a strong linebacking corps. I think they over performed a little bit in a wacky covid season and will probably slide back down this year.
- California: Cal has a lot of returning players including QB Chase Garbers, but most of those returning players haven’t accomplished a whole lot at this level. The offense hasn’t been where they’ve needed it to be in recent years. Last year in a short 4-game season they only scored 20 points per game (including only 10 against a bad UCLA defense).
- Oregon State: The Beavers have ten starters back on offense and nine on defense but they lost their best player in RB Jermar Jefferson. Still the offense should be able to put up a good amount of points with the players that they do have coming back (this was a team that averaged 29 ppg in 2020). The defense will need to improve upon their 33 ppg allowed if they are to make a jump, especially with Jefferson gone from the offense.
- Arizona: The Wildcats have lost 12 straight games and are brining in a new HC Jedd Fisch to try to turn things around. On paper, they don’t have a single position group that ranks higher than 10th in the conference according to Phil Steele. It’s probably not going to be pretty right off the bat for Fisch.