Updated: Jul 24
2021 Final Standings
As you can see above, it was a massive down year for the conference. Since the inception of the College Football Playoff back in 2014 they’ve consistently been seen as the shallowest conference in terms of talent, as teams that used to hold household names have gone quiet in Southern California, Washington, and even Stanford considering their success with Andrew Luck and Christian McCaffery. With only 2 teams with 10 wins and 4 with 8 or more wins, they are struggling outside of the conference to pick up wins against respectable opposition and recruit with the rest of the power five.
The Championship game was a 38-10 domination, as Utah notched their first ever championship over the Ducks. Utah took over from the first whistle, converting on a 4th and 1 on their first drive then managing to put 7 points on the board. Going into half up 23-0, The Utes were mainly on cruise control as Oregon notched their lone Touchdown late in the 4th quarter. With tons of returning talent for both teams, we very well could see a rematch in Pasadena this coming year.
Looking more in-depth into each of the 12 teams, below you’ll find the standings for offensive YPG and Defensive PPG allowed with additional statistics for all teams:
The 2022 odds-on favorites to win the PAC-12 are USC behind the high-flying, pass first offense returning a ton of starters and key transfers. Chip Kelly’s spread was a close second in offense and the surprise of the season goes to Oregon State, who lit up the conference with their balanced attack.
Herm Edwards put his mark on his team early, tightening up their defense at all three levels and forcing the 2nd most interceptions in the league. Utah as usual is near the top of the league allowing only 22.6 ppg and led the league in sacks. Most notably, Oregon and USC were in the bottom third of the league across the board, not capitalizing on many turnovers nor getting to the quarterback with consistency. If either want to achieve their lofty goals of making the CFP, they’ll need drastic improvement on the defensive side of the ball.
Projected Top 5 Teams in 2022
5. Oregon State Beavers
As stated above, the Oregon State Beavers were one of the most exciting teams within the PAC-12, always flying up and down the field behind their two-headed monster at running back and Chance Nolan slinging the rock fairly well. He’ll need to cut down on his interceptions if they look to take the next step from their 7-6 season, but Jonathan Smith’s team returns a ton of offensive talent including much of his offensive line so improvement should come across the board.
Their defense was a surprise to most, posting numbers in the upper-half of the league. With 78% of their personnel returning including 8 starters in addition to a deep recruiting class, expect them to be another solid group going into 2022.
The Beavers have a surprisingly tough non-conference schedule as they face two of the hardest group-of-5 teams in Boise State and Fresno State in their first 2 games of the season. After that they have a layup against an FCS opponent before welcoming USC to town. Oregon State then has the tall task of traveling to Utah and Stanford but welcomes five of the easier opponents in the conference afterwards, before taking on Oregon to end the season. If they can get through their first half of the season at 4-2 I think they’ll set themselves up with a great chance to compete with Oregon in the final game for a berth to Pasadena.
Win Total: 6.5
Conference Champion Odds: +2500
4. UCLA Bruins
The Bruins under Chip Kelly have steadily gotten better with each year and their first winning season at 8-4 last year was a sign of that. Unfortunately for Kelly and his staff, they’ll be replacing a ton of talent on both sides of the ball. Their second best offense in the league returns quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson and running back Zach Charbonne but has to replace their top three receivers and 3 offensive linemen. Luckily they have one of the best scheme developers in Kelly to get the ball out of Robinson’s hands quickly to avoid the offense getting stagnant because if they do I’m not certain they’ll have much of a defense behind them.
The Bruins defense is returning only 2 starters to the mix. They’re hopeful that their top recruit Kamari Ramsey can come in and produce instantly to clean up the back end of the defense, but they’ve got their work cut out for them. Luckily they have 3 cakewalk matchups to begin their season and begin their conference schedule with Colorado, so they have plenty of time to work out the kinks as they integrate a completely new team. Their toughest test comes on the road to Utah and I’m not sure they’ll be able to handle Oregon well at home either. I believe they get back to 8 wins as a product of their easy schedule, but don’t make any real noise at the top of the conference.
Win Total: 8.5
Conference Champion Odds: +1400
Steph Chambers - Getty Images
3. USC Trojans
Lincoln Riley and his staff bring in one of the smallest classes in the nation (10 players) in an effort to replace 13 starters. Where they’ll find those replacements is in the transfer portal, where they were able to poach some of the best prospects in the nation from Riley’s old stomping grounds in Oklahoma. Quarterback Caleb Williams and wide receiver Mario Williams are two of the top talents in the nation that followed Lincoln to Los Angeles, but they weren’t done picking up transfers there. Jordan Addison from Pittsburgh was a 5-star pickup and linebacker Eric Gentry from Arizona State should slot right into their defense.
Expect the Trojans offense that led the conference in yards to progress even further this year as many of the skill players are already familiar with Riley’s scheme and should slot right in. High totals and shootouts should be frequent because most of their pickups were on that offensive side and given they have to replace 8 defensive starters there will be a lot of room for growth and cohesion.
Luckily for the Trojans, they avoid having to play Oregon in the regular season and their toughest conference tests come away in Utah and Oregon State. If they can pass the early test in the Beavers in week 4, they should be able to cruise until they meet the Utes. They end the season as always with Notre Dame which could provide a stern test for a team that might be in the CFP contention. I think their defense lets them down a few tew many times though and they end short of their goals.
Win Total: 9.5
Conference Champion Odds: +200
Gina Ferazzi - LA Times
2. Utah Utes
The reigning champions have undeniably the hardest schedule of any team this season as they open up with Florida away and play all of the top teams within the PAC-12. It’ll be no easy feat for them to repeat, but with Kyle Whittingham at the helm there is confidence they can. Returning 8 starters on the offense to go along with a solid recruiting class tells me they’ll be ready to continue their balanced offense. Their defense returns only 5 starters but given the track record of Whittingham I have full confidence they’ll fill the parts and have yet another stout defensive year. I think they challenge near the top but come up just short as it’s difficult to go back-to-back as is.
Win Total: 9
Conference Champion Odds: +250
Orlando Ramirez - USA Today Sports
1. Oregon Ducks
The pride of the PAC-12 since 2010 will regain their throne at the top this year led by Bo Nix. The Ducks return 7 starters on offense and defense, setting to improve on what was a middle of the road performance last season. With by far the best recruiting class in the PAC-12 and the 12th best in the nation, they add some pieces that won’t be thrust into the lineup but can make plays as needed and step into holes. They have arguably the best offensive line in football, something Nix never had when at Auburn. With his playmaking ability and intangibles I expect him to pick apart worse defenses than he faced in the SEC with ease. The Ducks will lose their first game against Georgia, but should cruise all the way to a pivotal game against the Utes in late November.
Win Total: 8.5
Conference Champion Odds: +300
Zachary Neel - USA Today
Oregon State o6.5 wins +110 (2u)
The Beavers have the opportunity to get to expand on a fantastic 2021 season in their eyes, and I think they do just that. An experienced team returning much of it's quality defense from a year ago should hit the ground running even with two tough non-conference tests. They face most of their tough opponents at home and with an easy heart of their schedule starting with Washington State and ending with Arizona State, they should get to 7 wins, so I'll take the plus money that they do.
Oregon to win the PAC-12 +300 or better (0.5u)
I already showed my hand here picking them above as the best team in the conference, and I'll double down with them as the 3rd best odds to win the conference. Given that they play Georgia week one and will likely lose, I'd wait to place this until after the 1st week as people will likely overreact and cause that line to go down, even with non-conference having no impact. I could see this getting to +400 or +500 by then. Hold tight and set a reminder for after Week 1.
Be sure to tune in next week for the BIG-12 Preview if you enjoyed!