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2021 Pac 12 Football Preview

Predicted Order of Finish

North Division

1. Washington- HC Jimmy Lake held his own in his abbreviated debut season coaching the Huskies to a 3-1 mark, QB Dylan Morris also returns for his second season after passing for 224 yards per game in 2020 and will have the luxury of working behind 5 returning starters on the line, the defense has holes to fill up front after losing star pass rusher Zion Tupuola-Fetui to injury however it returns all three linebackers, motivation should be high after a shot at a Pac 12 title was taken away due to Covid-19 issues

2. Stanford- after suffering their first losing season under HC David the Cardinal posted a respectable 4-2 record in a pandemic shortened season, offense however must replace NFL bound QB Davis Mills who led a 22nd ranked passing offense, senior Jack West will battle strong armed sophomore Tanner McKee for the starting job, the backfield boasts 2 quality running backs in Austin Jones and Nathaniel Peat who will be helped out by solid O-Line that returns three experienced starters, the defense struggled to stop the run in 2020 and with key contributors no longer on the roster the unit remains a big question, Shaw has a proven track record and with Oregon and Washington both a home an unexpected North Division title could be in the cards

3. Oregon- yes the Ducks won the Pac 12 last year and have 18 starters returning from that, however it must replace QB Tyler Shough and his 13 touchdown passes after transferring to Texas Tech, the defense also lost coordinator Any Avalos who is now the HC at Boise State, former Boston College QB Anthony Brown looks to snag the starting job but could be challenged by a pair of top recruits, the defense was just average a year ago finishing outside the top 65 in rushing and passing yards allowed, will turn to new coordinator Tim DeRuyter who knows the Pac 12 having come from Cal

4. Cal- After back to back bowl appearances the Bears posted a 1-3 record in a Covid-shortened season, in all fairness 2 of the 3 losses could have easily been flipped to wins, the Bears defense had been a constant strength under defensive minded HC Justin Wilcox, the unit returns 3 stud linebackers however the D-line which already lacked depth lost Brett Johnson in a non- football accident during the offseason, the offense struggled mightily in 2020 finished 110th in scoring but expect improvement under fourth year starter Chase Garbers who will have another year to adapt to coordinator Bill Musgrave’s offense

5. Oregon St- The quote “you are what your record says you are” didn’t hold true the Beavers in 2020, the team was much better than its 2-5 would indicate posting a win over Pac 12 Champ Oregon while suffering 3 hard fought close losses, Colorado transfer Sam Noyer will batter incumbent Tristan Gebbia who suffered a season ending injury late in Civil War win, while the offense has continued to improve under HC Jonathan Smith the defense has it share of issues finishing outside the top 90 in scoring 3 straight years, the defense returns 7 starters but must replace star linebacker Hamiclar Rashed

6. Washington St- the QB situation remains a question heading into 2020, incumbent Jayden de Laura will batter Tennessee transfer Jarrett Guarantano and Cammon Cooper for the starting job, whoever emerges will have a strong line and a quality backfield to work with, the defense returns almost everyone but was carved up by Pac 12 quarterbacks giving up a whopping 307 yards per game thru the air

South Division

1. USC- HC Clay Helton just can’t seem to find his way off the hot seat, after starting 5-0 and looking at an outside shot at the College Football Playoff the Trojans laid an egg in the Pac 12 Championship with putting the pressure back on Helton heading to 2021, junior QB Kedon Slovis returns after throwing an impressive 17 touchdowns despite having a deal with a subpar O-line, Drake London leads a talented receiving corps, the defense wasn’t awful but will be expected to perform better in Todd Orlando’s second year as coordinator

2. Utah- picking up Baylor transfer QB Charlie Brewer immediately made the Utes a contender for the South Division, Brewer has 4 years of starting experience and helped guide the Bears to an 11 win season in 2019, will be without Pac 12 Newcomer of the year RB Ty Jordan who was tragically killed in the offseason, HC Kyle Whittingham known for his stout defenses returns 9 starters and on paper should be the top in the Pac 12 led by defensive end Mika Tafua and linebacker Devin Lloyd

3. UCLA- HC Chip Kelly hasn’t forgotten how to coach, at some point water must find its level and the successful 46-7 four year run he orchestrated in Eugene will carry over to LA, senior QB Dorian Thompson returns along with a slew of talented playmakers, the defense returns 9 starters and will look to continue to wreak havoc in coordinator Jerry Azzinaro’s aggressive, attacking scheme, the Bruins will be much improved but with games at USC and Utah a South Division is a bit out of reach

4. Arizona State- Herm Edwards enters his fourth season in Tempe with expectations riding high, 2 year starter at QB Jayden Daniels returns after throwing 9 touchdowns and only one interception, the backfield is loaded with Rachaad White and Chip Trayanum propelling the Sun Devils to 7th nationally in rushing in 2020, the numbers on defense were a little skewed due to the abbreviated 4 game schedule however with 11 returning starters has a chance to be among the best in the conference

5. Colorado- the Buffaloes got off to a surprising 4-0 before getting thumped in its final 2 games under first year HC Karl Dorrell, starting QB Sam Noyer transferred to Oregon and RS freshman Brendon Lewis is expected to step in as starter, the backfield returns Pac 12 Offensive Player of the Year Jarek Broussard who rushed 895 yards and 5 touchdowns in 2020, the defense was consistently inconsistent finishing 77th in points allowed, 8 starters return under new coordinator Chris Wilson

6. Arizona- it’s safe to say the Kevin Sumlin hire was a big swing and miss, the winless 2020 season capped off by a 70-7 loss to rival Arizona led to the end of the Sumlin era and start of the Jedd Fisch era, QBs Will Plummer, Washington St transfer Gunner Cruz, and South Florida transfer Jordan McCloud will compete for the starting job, after finishing 120th in scoring the defense will need a complete overhaul under former Michigan coordinator Don Brown

Buy- Cal, UCLA

Sell- Oregon

Best Bet Oregon UNDER total wins

Coach of the Year- Clay Helton USC

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