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November football brings us the Pac-12 back into the action, the final major conference to get going in this bizarre 2020 season. The Pac-12 was the first to cancel sports seasons over the summer, even going as far as to cancel basketball as well. Other conferences followed suit, but when the Big Ten reversed their decision in September, the Pac-12 quickly did as well.
The Pac-12 will only play a seven-game schedule at most. That puts them behind all their Power five peers who will play anywhere from eight to 11 games. From a national view, that may leave the Pac-12 champion out of playoff consideration from the start. The other thing that may leave them out, like the last three years, is talent. Only the Oregon Ducks and USC Trojans begin the season ranked in the AP poll at No. 12 and No. 20, respectively.
The conference did suffer some player opt-outs as well. Some were due to COVID fears, and others were players avoiding injury to prepare for the NFL draft. Only four teams in the conference return their 2019 starting quarterbacks in USC, Arizona State, California, and UCLA. Meanwhile, Washington, Washington State, and Colorado have new coaches who didn’t get a full slate of practice time to implement their schemes.
The favorites are Oregon in the North and USC in the South, with both at -125 in their division and +200 overall.
The Ducks went 12-2 last year but had to replace first-round draft pick Justin Herbert at quarterback, and the entire starting offensive line. Either sophomore Tyler Shough or senior Anthony Brown will take over at quarterback. CJ Verdell and Travis Dye give coach Mario Cristobal talented options at running back for this season
It seems like USC is always ranked high to start the season before fading. Last year they were 8-5 overall but 5-0 against the South. Clay Helton’s team returns quarterback Kedon Slovis, and the pressure will be on new defensive coordinator Todd Orlando to hold up their end of the bargain with eight starters back. In the original schedule, USC would have played No. 2 Alabama and No. 4 Notre Dame this season in non-conference games.
Washington is next up in the North (+210) and overall at +400. First-year coach Jimmy Lake takes over for retired Chris Petersen and will also have a new quarterback. Defensive tackle Levi Onwuzurike and linebacker Joe Tyron opted out, so the defense will rely on defensive backs, Elijah Molden and Trent McDuffie.
Utah is +210 in the South and +700 to win the Pac-12. The Utes lost the 2019 Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year in running back Zack Moss and quarterback Tyler Huntley. A quarterback battle between Texas transfer Cam Rising and South Carolina transfer Jake Bentley will go a long way in determining the Utes' success in 2020.
Arizona State is +325 to win the South and +1100 overall. Coach Herm Edwards returns quarterback Jayden Daniels, but the Sun Devils lost their top running back and wide receiver to the NFL.
The season gets started this weekend with Arizona State at USC (-11) with a Noon ET kickoff on FOX.
Arizona plays at Utah (-14) at 4:00 p.m. ET on ESPNU.
UCLA (-7) travels to Colorado to start the season with a 7:00 p.m. ET kickoff on ESPN2.
Oregon (-10.5) hosts Stanford at 7:30 p.m. ET on ABC.
Washington plays at California (-1) in a North division clash at 10:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.
Washington State plays at Oregon State (-1.5) at 10:30 p.m. ET on FS1.