2021 Pac-12 Conference College Football Preview

By in College Football on
15 Minute Read
Pac-12-Logos

The 2021 college football season kicks off in just a few weeks from now with the opening games of the season. Anticipation in the Pac-12 for the return of football is running sky-high after the conference had to deal with an abbreviated season a year ago. Read all about what the conference looks like heading into 2021 so that you can make confident wagers.

The excitement is ramping up for the upcoming football season, with college football fans salivating at the prospect of a complete season. That wasn’t the case, of course, in 2020, when health and safety issues led to a season that was a far cry from what we usually expect. And no conference was affected more than the Pac-12.

Pac-12 conference play didn’t get started until weeks after some of the other conferences played. That means no nonconference games, and even conference games ended up getting cancelled as the year progressed. It made for a frustrating season for fans of the conference, which is why so many can’t wait for the 2021 season to begin.

A Wide-Open Pac-12

With teams undergoing a relatively full slate of Spring practices, things are beginning to take shape in the conference. Early preseason rankings have the Pac-12 looking like one of the most balanced in the country among the Power Five conferences. That could mean competitive games and a championship race that goes right down to the end.

If You’ve Been Waiting to Wager on Pac-12 Conference Action, the Time Is Fast Approaching

You can check out wagers already at top gambling websites that are pinned to how many wins each team will have at the end of the regular season. And it’s also a great time to begin to prepare for the upcoming season and all the games that you’ll be able to wager.

We’re here to help you out with this in-depth 2021 Pac-12 college football betting preview. For each team in the conferences, we’ll look at their strengths and weaknesses, preview their schedule, and talk about their prospects of meeting (or failing to meet) their preseason win/loss projections from top real money football betting sites for football wagering. After reading this, you should be ready to take on the Pac-12 season and, hopefully, win big.

2020 Pac-12 Standings Recap

Pac-12 North

  • Washington: 3-1 conference, 3-1 overall
  • Stanford: 4-2 conference, 4-2 overall
  • Oregon: 4-2 conference, 4-3 overall (beat USC in Pac-12 championship game, lost to Iowa State in the Fiesta Bowl)
  • Oregon State: 2-5 conference, 2-5 overall
  • California: 1-3 conference, 1-3 overall
  • Washington State: 1-3 conference, 1-3 overall

Pac-12 South

  • USC: 5-1 conference, 5-1 overall (lost to Oregon in Pac-12 championship game)
  • Colorado: 3-1 conference, 4-2 overall (lost to Texas in Alamo Bowl)
  • Utah: 3-2 conference, 3-2 overall
  • Arizona State: 2-2 conference, 2-2 overall
  • UCLA: 3-4 conference, 3-4 overall
  • Arizona: 0-5 conference, 0-5 overall

2021 Pac-12 Teams Betting Preview

Oregon

  • Preseason ranking: 10
  • Over/under win total: 9
  • First game: September 4 (home vs. Fresno State)

Strengths

University-of-Oregon-logoOregon has been consistently on top of the recruiting classes in the Pac-12, and that has led to the consistency they’ve shown over the past three years. The standout this year is Keyvon Thbodeaux, who could be the first player taken in the NFL draft as a pass-rushing demon. On offense, the running game should be potent with experience all over the backfield and offensive line.

Weaknesses

The somewhat surprising transfer of Tyler Shough leaves Oregon scrambling at the quarterback position. All the pressure goes on Anthony Brown, a former Boston College signal-caller who couldn’t beat out Shough last season. On top of that, the passing attack could be hampered by a lack of experienced receivers.

Schedule

Oregon will be repping for the entire Pac-12 when they travel cross-country to take on Ohio State in a quasi-Rose Bowl. On top of that, perhaps they have to face two of their top contenders in the conference, Stanford and Washington, on the road. The good news is that they avoid Southern Cal, who battled them closely in the Pac-12 championship game a year ago.

Over/Under Outlook

Oregon is the lowest-ranked out of the quintet projected to win the Power Five conferences. That suggests that the rest of the league isn’t far from them, which means that total dominance will be tough to achieve. That’s why the nine wins projected for them by oddsmakers seems to be a fair estimation as things stand right now.

Washington

  • Preseason ranking: 17
  • Over/under win total: 9
  • First game: September 4 (home vs. Montana)

Strengths

The Huskies feature one of the most rugged offensive lines around, with five returning starters leading the way for the scoring attack. On the defense, the back seven is loaded with talent. Lockdown corner Trent McDuffie should neutralize most #1 receivers that opponents send his way.

Weaknesses

That defense would have looked a lot more fearsome had top sacker Zion Tupuoa-Fetui not suffered a Spring injury. He seems likely to miss a good chunk of the season, if not all of it. The offense lacks explosion compared to some of the top teams in the conference and nation.

Schedule

After easing into things with an opening week home game against Montana, the week 2 tilt against Michigan in Ann Arbor will be garner a lot of attention. The conference schedule isn’t too daunting, especially considering they get Oregon at home. As things stand now, there aren’t too many games where the Huskies won’t be favored.

Over/Under Outlook

It’s hard to say what the Huskies might have done a year ago had their season not been so abbreviated. They lost a lot of defensive talent from that squad, but a lot returns. It’s incumbent on the offense to improve if they’re going to hit that nine-win plateau of the over/under.

Arizona State

  • Preseason ranking: 19
  • Over/under win total: 8 ½
  • First game: September 2 (home vs. Southern Utah)

Strengths

With a couple stops late in their two losses, Arizona State easily could have been the lone unbeaten in the Pa-12 a year ago. They return electrifying quarterback Jayden Daniels and running backs Rachaad White and Chip Trayanum to what should be one of the most potent rushing attacks in the nation. And 11 starters return on the defense, which really only suffered those two key lapses in the four-game schedule.

Weaknesses

There is just a lot that we don’t know about this team, with only four games in Coach Jimmy Lake’s tenure as evidence. Considering their two wins were against league bottom-dwellers Arizona and Oregon State, they didn’t prove a lot. Can Daniels do it against some of the league’s premiere defenses, which he largely avoided last year?

Schedule

Of the three nonconference games, the one road test, at BYU, is the one that should concern Sun Devil fans. The toughest stretch of the season comes up in November, when they follow up a home game against USC with a road battle against Washington. But all things considered, Arizona State won’t have too many contests where they should be overmatched.

Over/Under Outlook

The Sun Devils are one of the buzzy teams in college football, and their over/under total reflects that. Maybe the expectations are a tad high, considering they’ve mostly hovered around the .500 plateau over the past several years of action. But Daniels and company have the chance to make this a really special season in the desert.

USC

  • Preseason ranking: 22
  • Over/under win total: 8 ½
  • First game: September 4 (home vs. San Jose State)

Strengths

USC-logoIf you added up the pro prospects on each Pac-12 roster, USC would probably come out on top. That includes the lethal passing combination of Kedon Slovis to Drake London and game-disrupting defensive lineman Drake Jackson. As a matter of fact, in every position group on the Trojans squad you can find at least one difference-maker.

Weaknesses

The five wins in a row to start the Trojans season a year ago were a bit misleading, as they pulled out narrow wins in three of them. In particular, the defense struggled to maintain dominance for long stretches. Coach Clay Helton, as usual, must try to avoid the distractions of his job seemingly being on the line.

Schedule

USC’s schedule is unusual among Pac-12 teams in that they’re nonconference games are spread throughout the season, including an October trip to Notre Dame and a season-closing contest at home against BYU. But five of their nine conference games are home, and none of them are against Oregon or Washington.

Over/Under Outlook

The schedule is set up for Helton to thrive this year, assuming that Slovis can put up the big numbers many expect. USC doesn’t necessarily have to be a perfect powerhouse to get to nine wins this season. But it would help if they played well enough, especially against the weaker teams, that every game doesn’t go down to the wire.

Utah

  • Preseason ranking: 30
  • Over/under win total: 8 ½
  • First game: September 2 (home vs. Weber State)

Strengths

As is usually the case, the Utes can absolutely grid you up defensively. They return nine starters to what was a solid, if not quite spectacular, unit a year ago, led by superstar linebacker Devin Lloyd. The offense got a boost by the transfer addition of quarterback Charlie Brewer, a longtime starter at Baylor who stabilizes what would have been a question mark.

Weaknesses

The unexpected death of budding star running back Ty Jordan will hurt the Utes on the field, no doubt, as they lack experienced replacements. What it does to them in terms of their readiness to play remains to be seen. Coach Kyle Whittingham has been at Utah a long time, but he likely never has dealt with anything like this in his tenure.

Schedule

While not Power 5 teams, San Diego State and BYU, whom the Utes face on the road in the opening month, can be troublesome. Utah gets Oregon and Arizona State at home but has to travel to face USC. They also avoid Washington and have five conference home games, so the schedule isn’t overly threatening on the whole.

Over/Under Outlook

While the Jordan tragedy will be tough to overcome, the on-field talent for the Utes is as good as it’s been, on both sides of the ball, in a while. It won’t be easy, but a 3-0 start in nonconference action would mean they’d only need to go 6-3 in conference to hit the over. And that seems eminently doable for this team.

Stanford

  • Preseason ranking: 42
  • Over/under win total: 4 wins
  • First game: September 4 (vs. Kansas State at Arlington, Texas)

Strengths

The Cardinal have trotted out some impressive running backs in recent history, and they’ve got a pair to send out against defenses this season. Austin Jones and Nathaniel Peat are a one-two combination that can both wear down opponents and hit them with the big play. On defense, end Thomas Booker should be in the mix for All-Conference again.

Weaknesses

The best part of Stanford’s team a year ago was their passing offense. But with quarterback Davis Mills now in the NFL and many key receivers gone as well, Stanford is going to have a hard time replicating that production. Outside of Booker, the defensive line will be mostly first-time starters.

Schedule

Stanford is one of the few teams in the nation that play nothing but Power 5 teams in the nonconference (we’re counting Notre Dame as an unofficial Power 5 for these purposes.) On top of that, they don’t really avoid any of the top teams in the conference. This will be rough go for veteran Coach David Shaw and his troops.

Over/Under Outlook

The oddsmakers at top gambling sites clearly got a look at that schedule, which is why there’s such a discrepancy between the respectable ranking and the low number of wins projected. Stanford doesn’t seem to have a defense strong enough to get away with the ball-control attack that would suit their offense. They’ll need a quarterback to emerge as a solid performer if they have any hope of avoiding the under.

Colorado

  • Preseason ranking: 43
  • Over/under win total: 4 ½
  • First game: September 3 (home vs. Northern Colorado)

Strengths

Colorado-Buffaloes-logoThe Buffaloes overachieved in 2020 with four wins in six games and hope to continue that progress this season. Colorado features a breakaway running back in Jarek Broussard and some excellent receivers as well. On the defensive side of the ball, Nate Landman is the star of the unit from his linebacking position.

Weaknesses

Although he did a fine job last year as a kind of emergency option, it probably doesn’t bode well for Colorado that their quarterback Sam Noyer was used as a safety two seasons ago. Colorado struggled against the better offenses that they faced. In particular, the Buffs had a hard time stopping the run, even with Landman patrolling the second tier of the defense.

Schedule

Texas A&M (on a neutral field) and Minnesota (at home) ensure that the Buffs will be well-seasoned by the time they hit conference play. That part of the season figures to be pretty rough as well. Colorado won’t be able to miss any of the top teams, and they have to go on the road against Oregon and Utah.

Over/Under Outlook

Playing a full season might expose some of the holes that Colorado patched up in the shortened 2020. They don’t have too much to do to make the over as projected by top football betting sites. But the schedule won’t give them too many easy wins to pad that victory total either.

UCLA

  • Preseason ranking: 45
  • Over/under win total: 7
  • First game: August 28 (home vs. Hawaii)

Strengths

Watch out for the Bruins offense this season, as Chip Kelly finally has the weapons on his side that might make everybody remember what an offensive genius he can be. Dorian Thompson-Robinson is an experienced, multiple-threat quarterback, throwing to talented receivers Kyle Phillips and Greg Dulcich. Add in an offensive line returning intact and you have the makings of a powder keg of an offense.

Weaknesses

That offense will need to be great, because the defense looked ugly against the pass in the Bruins losses. Even though they return nine starters, the few losses they did suffer were key ones. Shootouts every week over a 12-game season will wear a team down real fast.

Schedule

All three of the Bruins nonconference games are home, but none will be easy. Especially daunting will be the September 4 contest against LSU, who will be motivated to show that last year’s struggles were a fluke and that they can be a national championship contender again. The conference schedule never goes too long without one of the top teams popping up.

Over/Under Outlook

Ending up with a winning record in the regular season seems like it will be a tall task for the Bruins. There are very few east games anywhere to be found on their 12-game slate. Unless the defense improves considerably, they’ll be lucky to get to .500.

California

  • Preseason ranking: 60
  • Over/under win total: 6 ½
  • First game: September 4 (home vs. Nevada)

Strengths

After a season shortened to just four games a year ago, Cal has a clean slate from which to start this year. And they have the momentum of their upset win over Oregon in their last game of 2020 on which to build. The defense is promising and quarterback Chase Gethers has been around a while.

Weaknesses

There are a lot of things that have to break right for the offense to reach its potential, most notably keeping Gethers and running back Christopher Brown Jr. healthy, something that has only happened sporadically in recent seasons. Cal needs more explosion plays out of their wide receiver unit. And the special teams play was really bad last year and needs to pick up their game.

Schedule

Beginning the season on the road against a dangerous Nevada team won’t be easy, and a second-game test against TCU will add to the early-season stress. On top of that, the Pac-12 schedule does the Bears no favors. That’s because they have to play the top two projected teams in the conference (Washington and Oregon) on the road.

Over/Under Outlook

Cal has a lot of veterans on their team, but not too many that stand out as electric players. They’ll get as far as their defense can carry them and hope to eke out tight wins. But at the end of the season, you’ll likely be looking at a team that is hanging around .500 and no higher.

Oregon State

  • Preseason ranking: 69
  • Over/under win total: 5
  • First game: September 4 (at Purdue)

Strengths

Oregon-State-logoThe Beavers can boast a strong offensive line that serves as a solid foundation for everything that goes on around them. With all of the changing players at the skill positions, that will help provide some much-needed stability. Their win against Oregon a year ago proves that there is potential to be found in this squad.

Weaknesses

In seven games last year, the best Oregon State was able to do defensively was hold their opponents to 27 points. The big problem was an inability to stop the run, and the returning personnel doesn’t inspire confidence that it will change in 2021. On top of that, this team struggled in close-game situations a year ago, losing a few that they could easily have won.

Schedule

The nonconference games split the distance between unwinnable quests and walkovers, which means that the Beavers will get a good sense of where they stand. Their conference schedule starts and ends tough, meaning that they have to make up ground in the middle. Five of their nine conference games will be away from Corvallis.

Over/Under Outlook

Losing star performers like Jake Luton and Jermar Jefferson over the past two years has left the Beavers somewhat anonymous. The hope is that Coach Jonathan Smith’s offensive schemes will overcome the lack of standout personnel. But that won’t help the defense, which could again be overmatched and land Oregon State near the bottom of the conference standings.

Washington State

  • Preseason ranking: 73
  • Over/under win total: 6
  • First game: September 4 (home vs. Utah State)

Strengths

There are a few units on this team which can stand with any other in the league. The Cougars’ offensive line returns four of five starters, led by tackle Abraham Lucas. And Travell Harris and Renard Bell are outstanding as slot receivers, which are so crucial to the success of the run-and-shoot that Coach Nick Rolovich wants to run.

Weaknesses

Also crucial to run-and-shoot success is a quarterback who is a good fit for the scheme. Until one steps up, Rolovich’s offense could be stuck in neutral. And that’s truly problematic considering the defense was pretty toothless a year ago, although the hope is that a bunch of returning starters can help out.

Schedule

A home date with BYU in October is the toughest of the three nonconference games, but the other two are relatively easy pickings. The bad news on the conference side is that many of the toughest foes are on the road. But you can look at the bright side and say that home games against Oregon State and Arizona should find WSU as favorites.

Over/Under Outlook

The six-win level that oddsmakers have set for the Cougars seems like it might be a tad optimistic. But if Rolovich can get his system working, this team can easily overachieve. Even with all the spread offenses in college football, the run-and-shoot is still unique enough to give team’s major headaches on short preparation times.

Arizona

  • Preseason ranking: 83
  • Over/under win total: 2 ½
  • First game: September 4 (vs. BYU at Las Vegas, Nevada)

Strengths

The hope is that the Wildcats have a keeper in new head coach Judd Fisch. And the other hope is that you can partly write off the disastrous 2020 campaign as a byproduct of how unorthodox the season was. You have to do mental gymnastics like that to see Arizona digging themselves out of this big hole in the conference.

Weaknesses

Fisch seems to have made good decisions in his coaching hires. And his ability to pick off one of the top transfers on the market, linebacker Treshaun Howard, is a good sign about his recruiting ability. But the cupboard was as close to bare as you can find in any Power 5 conference outside of Kansas, so Fisch has a long way to go to turn this thing around.

Schedule

The opener in Vegas against BYU will be tough for Arizona, even with the Cougars rebuilding just a bit. Arizona will also get a rude awakening in the conference, as their first game in the Pac-12 takes them to league favorite Oregon. And Arizona also plays just four conference home games, giving them another disadvantage, as if they need any more.

Over/Under Outlook

Unlike some other conference bottom dwellers who have been down there a while, Arizona isn’t that far removed from being a respectable program. Perhaps that’s an indication that they can get back to that level of play sometime relatively soon. As for making the over, they’ve got to win at least two of their nonconference games and then find a way to squeak one out over a conference foe somewhere along the line.

Conclusion

Pac-12 teams are likely eagerly awaiting the start of the 2021 college football season after so much was interrupted a year ago. We know you’re probably anxious to bet the conference action this season at the top sports gambling sites. Hopefully, we’ve given you a strong foundation to make those wagers with the information included in this article.

Jim Beviglia

Jim Beviglia joined Gamblingsites.org as a staff writer in 2018, parlaying his years of freelance writing into contributions on a number of different topics. He handles the sport of horse racing for GamblingSites.org and the intersection between the worlds of cryptocurrency and online gambling in a weekly blog. For his full-time job, Jim handles the television and track announcing duties at a h ...

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