The Pac-12 gets a bad rap sometimes. The conference is generally regarded as the worst of the power conferences thanks to the fact that it hasn't produced a College Football Playoff participant since 2016, but evaluating a conference solely by how many losses its best team has is a pretty flawed approach.
On average, the Pac-12 can be trusted to at least exceed the average production of the ACC.
Average SP+ rating, 2018-20:
• 2018: Pac-12 +6.1, ACC +5.3
• 2019: Pac-12 +5.3, ACC +3.0
• 2020: Pac-12 +5.9, ACC +5.2
The only reason the ACC is generally held in higher regard is that it has Clemson. And in 2021, after last year's abbreviated season, the Pac-12 will boast a higher average of returning production than any other power conference. Lots of teams have top-20 potential, but can one break through and threaten a CFP bid?
The two most likely candidates are in the North. Mario Cristobal's Oregon has recruited like a playoff contender for a few years now, and Washington has top-10 potential and loads of experience. But they both have questions to answer on offense and tricky schedules to navigate. Let's dive into the Pac-12 North.
Every week through the summer, Bill Connelly will preview another division from the Group of 5 and Power 5 exclusively for ESPN+, ultimately including all 130 FBS teams. The previews will include 2020 breakdowns, 2021 previews and a brief history of each team in one handy chart. The series has thus far covered the Conference USA East and West, the MAC East and West, the MWC Mountain and West, the Sun Belt West and East, the top and bottom half of the AAC, the seven Independents, the ACC Atlantic and the ACC Coastal.
Credit Stanford for this: With five down-to-the-wire finishes in six games, the 4-2 Cardinal packed a full season of drama into half a season.