Ranking 2021 Pac-12 Football

David Marsh Editorials

The Pac-12 in 2021 is remarkably difficult to rank. It is probably the most competitive conference in all the Power Five — that is “competitive,” not “best.” Trying to accurately rank the Pac-12, especially in the off-season, is an absolute nightmare, as any team can beat anyone in any given week. There is a reason why Pac-12 After Dark is one of the few draws for college football fans outside of the conference’s footprint.

However, one of the few joys of the off-season is the opportunity to rank teams using what little knowledge we have available.


Oregon – Oregon is the most talented team in the entire conference. In addition, the team has been able to have a complete off-season, which has allowed Offensive Coordinator Joe Moorhead and Defensive Coordinator Tim DeRuyter to fully install their systems — something that didn’t happen last year.

Stanford – Stanford takes time to get going and the Cardinal usually depends on a highly veteran team. They will have a more veteran team than what they have had the past few years, which is exactly how a David Shaw Stanford team likes to operate.

Cyrus Habibi-Likio had his best game at Oregon against Washington in 2019.

Washington – As Oregon fans, we love to talk about Washington’s demise, but they will still have a good team. Not good enough to win the Pac-12 North, though.

Oregon State – Is Oregon State is perhaps the biggest wild card in the entire conference? I expect the Beavers to make a bowl game this year, but I’m not sure they are physically gifted enough to beat those ranked above them — especially after a full off-season.

California – Cal could be much better than this ranking, but they are going to have to prove they are more than just a defense. There are also some question marks surrounding the Cal defense this year as DeRuyter is now at Oregon. Though a strong defense is to be expected at Cal as long as Justin Wilcox is in charge.

Washington State – There have been some difficulties in Pullman this off-season — the big one being starting quarterback Jayden de Laura being arrested for DUI. Washington State is a program that is rebuilding, whether or not the fans or administration want to admit it.

The Oregon running game has been dominant against the Cougars all through Verdell’s Oregon career, rebuild or no rebuild.


USC – USC is here more by default than anything else. USC has doubled down on the air raid and has really neglected the trenches. However, USC is the second most talented team in the conference in terms of their recruiting record and that alone will propel them to the upper half of the Southern Division.

Utah – Utah is going to be a good team. They struggled to get going last year after they missed the first two weeks of the season due to COVID-19. They will also have to replace their running back, Ty Jordan, who tragically died at the end of the season.


CJ Verdell and the Oregon offense gutted Utah’s vaunted run defense in the 2019 Pac-12 Championship Game.

UCLA Chip Kelly is starting to show some results at UCLA. Next year he will get the Bruins into a bowl game, but the biggest problem facing the program is Kelly’s inability to recruit a top tier class in Southern California.

Colorado – Colorado was the only other Pac-12 team, besides Oregon, to participate in a bowl game last year. Colorado will continue to improve under second-year head coach Karl Dorrell, though they will need some lucky breaks in order to beat those above them in their division.

Arizona State – Arizona State’s Athletic Department and football head coach Herm Edwards are facing an investigation into some serious recruiting violations. These allegations of bringing recruits on campus during the recruiting dead period during the pandemic are serious enough to bring down the entire coaching staff and maybe even the Athletic Department. If that holds true, this Arizona State team is going to be fighting to stay out of the Pac-12’s basement.

Arizona – Despite Arizona State’s problems, Arizona is probably the worst team in the Pac-12. Jedd Fisch is the new face of the program and he is going to have to build this program from the ground up. This is going to be a multi-year project. However, if Arizona State’s position deteriorates enough then Arizona may sneak ahead of them.

USC was out matched in 2020 by Oregon and that should continue in 2021.

Championship Game

The championship game based off my current rankings would be between Oregon and USC. If this is the case then Oregon would have the advantage as USC is not Oregon’s equal. Oregon could be the first team in the Pac-12 era to notch three consecutive conference championships.

How would you rank the Pac-12 for the 2021 season?

David Marsh
Portland, Oregon
Top Photo By: UO Athletics

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