The 2021 college football season is important for many reasons. The College Football Playoff will hopefully be expanding after this year, and we’re entering a season where many of the top teams are facing significant turnover. For the Pac-12, there’s also the incentive of new media rights negotiations, making this season an incredibly important run for their future.
We’re looking at the best Pac-12 games of the 2021 season to help project how this historic campaign plays out for our NCAAF odds. Can the conference get back to the playoff after a prolonged absence? It depends on how these key games shake out.
Of course we’ll have you covered throughout the year with game predictions and prop bets when the season nears based on top sportsbooks. We only looked at in-conference games and didn’t include the out-of-conference battles that’ll highlight an entire week’s slate. Hang tight and let’s jump into our preview.
Arizona State vs. Utah (Oct. 16)
Our high regard for this duel is based on one assumption and two possibilities. The assumption: That the Utes and Sun Devils are the two best teams in the South, making this critical to the division race.
The possibilities: That both teams are undefeated, and ranked in the top-10/12, at the time of kickoff. (More likely for ASU than Utah based on the schedules.)
Oregon vs. Washington (Nov. 6)
One of the top games in the conference in any season, the heated rivalry could carry outsized significance in 2021. Not only are the Ducks and Huskies our clear favorites in the North, placing a berth in the title game on the line, but their momentous early dates with Big Ten opponents could lend rocket fuel for the winner to make a serious playoff push, according to our NCAAF picks.
Utah vs. USC (Oct. 9)
If the past two collisions in the Coliseum are any indication, this should be one of the most riveting games of the Pac-12 season. Whether it’s one of the most important depends on the overall performance of the participants. The Week Six placement creates the potential for both teams to be undefeated, with the outcome determining the stakes for Utah’s duel with ASU the following week. Yep, Utah has the Trojans and Sun Devils back-to-back in the first half of October.
UCLA vs. USC (Nov. 20)
Sure, the crosstown showdown could matter to the division race, UCLA should not be discounted as a South contender. But the 89th meeting is likely to carry significant employment implications for one or both head coaches. This is judgment season for both Chip Kelly and Clay Helton as patience runs low and contract buyouts become more manageable. The only hot seats in the conference this fall are in Los Angeles.
Arizona State vs. Washington (Nov. 13)
Should have division implications for at least and likely both participants, with placement on the calendar elevates the stakes: Not only does it fall late in the regular season; it also comes the week after huge games for both teams. The Huskies will be coming off their Oregon duel, while the Sun Devils will have just played USC. We considered slotting this in the top five and could very well regret not doing so.
Cal vs. Oregon (Oct. 15)
Were we convinced the Bears had what it takes to compete in the North, this Friday night affair would demand a loftier placement. But we’re fully convinced of Cal’s ability to beat the Ducks — and thus potentially derail the Pac-12’s top playoff hopeful. The Bears won a close game last season and have held Oregon to 17 points in each of the past two meetings.