The Pac-12 was the last of the Power 5 conferences to release its 2021 college football schedule, as the league dropped the entire slate for the upcoming fall on Tuesday. As expected and similar to every college football conference, the Pac-12 is hoping for a normal and on-schedule start to the '21 campaign. Every team in the schedule release has 12 games and a complete non-conference slate after just Pac-12 contests were played in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic created several scheduling disruptions in the conference last fall. However, all signs point to a normal football season for 2021.
What are the big takeaways, tidbits and things to know for the 2021 Pac-12 season?
Here's what you need to know about the 2021 Pac-12 schedule:
Pac-12 Football: What to Know About the 2021 Schedule
Season Starts in Week 0 on Aug. 28.
A handful of games are slated for Week 0 on Aug. 28, and the Pac-12 has one team (UCLA) in action. The Bruins host Hawaii on Aug. 28 before taking on LSU in Week 1.
The Full Slate for Week 1 Starts on Sept. 2
All 12 Pac-12 programs are slated to play on the first full weekend of action (Sept. 4) in the 2021 college football season. However, two teams – Utah and Arizona State – will begin their slate on Thursday night with matchups against FCS teams. The Utes host Weber State, while the Sun Devils take on Southern Utah. Also, Colorado is slated to play Northern Colorado on Friday, Sept. 3. The other nine teams play on Saturday, Sept. 4.
Back to Nine Conference Games
No Pac-12 team played more than seven games last season, but a normal 2021 slate will get every program back to nine conference matchups.
Non-Conference Games Have Returned
The Pac-12 originally canceled its season in August, only to reverse in September. As a result, no team had any scheduled non-conference matchups when the season began in November. However, due to games canceled during the 2020 season, Colorado played San Diego State on a short week. Outside of that matchup and bowl games, the Pac-12 did not have any other non-conference matchups. That's slated to change in 2021, as every team will return to a normal schedule and play three non-conference games. Which brings us to...
Friday Night Conference Play
Eight conference games (counting the Pac-12 title game) are slated for Friday night in 2021. Oregon State, UCLA and USC are the only teams that won't play a conference game on Friday this season. Also...
Big-Time Non-Conference Games on Tap for 2021
The Pac-12 isn't hurting for big-time non-conference games in 2021. LSU-UCLA, Stanford-Kansas State, Nevada-California, and Arizona-BYU are just a couple of the non-conference matchups slated for Week 1. But the action is even better for Week 2. On Sept. 11, Oregon plays at Ohio State, California takes on TCU, Washington travels to Michigan, and Utah and BYU meet in the Holy War.
With UCLA playing Hawaii in Week 0, coach Chip Kelly's team is the only program with two bye weeks in 2021. The other 11 teams in the conference have one off-date, starting with Arizona and Utah. UCLA's second bye week and Washington State's only open date are the latest (Nov. 6) on the 2021 slate.
Championship Game Slated for Dec. 3
The 2021 Pac-12 Championship Game will take place on Friday, Dec. 3 in Las Vegas at Allegiant Stadium (home of the Las Vegas Raiders). The return to a neutral site comes after the game was played at USC last season. However, from 2014-19 the Pac-12 played its title game in Santa Clara, California, at Levi's Stadium.
The Pac-12's nine-game conference schedule creates an unbalanced home and away slate for all 12 teams. Arizona State, Oregon, Stanford, USC, Utah and Washington all play five home games and five road contests in league play. Arizona, California, Colorado, Oregon State, Washington State and UCLA get five road dates and four home matchups in Pac-12 action.
11 of the 12 Teams Have Back-to-Back Road Trips
How's this for a scheduling quirk? All but one of the 12 Pac-12 programs play back-to-back road dates in 2021. The only team that won't: Oregon.
Here are some other tidbits by team to know about the 2021 schedule:
California: Coach Justin Wilcox's team has a tough start with Nevada and TCU in the first two weeks of the season, along with a date against defending North Division champ Washington on Sept. 25. Three of the team's final five games take place on the road. The Golden Bears miss two of the top three – Utah and Arizona State – from the South but play the North favorites – Washington and Oregon – on the road.
Oregon: The matchup against Ohio State looms large in Week 2 but winning the North Division is going to hinge on how well coach Mario Cristobal's team navigates the back half of the schedule. The Ducks host California on a Friday night, followed by a road trip to UCLA on Oct. 23. The final stretch of the season features tough road treks against Washington and Utah.
Oregon State: Coach Jonathan Smith's team didn't get many breaks in the scheduling department with crossover games against Arizona State, USC and Utah. Also, swing matchups versus Colorado, California and Washington State all take place away from Corvallis. The Beavers get two out of their last three at home.
Stanford: The Cardinal play only Power 5 opponents in 2021. The opener against Kansas State isn't going to be easy, and Stanford plays four out of its first seven on the road. Four of the last five matchups for coach David Shaw's team take place at home, including Washington, Utah, California and Notre Dame.
Washington: Coach Jimmy Lake's team has a favorable draw for 2021. The non-conference matchup against Michigan is a good barometer test in Week 2, but the rest of the slate – Montana, Arkansas State, California and at Oregon State – before the bye is very manageable. The back half of the schedule features a tough back-to-back stretch with games against Oregon and Arizona State. However, both of those are in Seattle and the annual battle against Washington State also takes place at home.
Washington State: The Cougars should start 2-0 with games against Utah State and Portland State to begin 2021. Things get tougher in Week 3 with USC visiting Pullman, followed by road dates against Utah and California. Washington State also has a mid-October non-conference matchup versus BYU and dates against likely top 25 teams (Oregon, Washington and Arizona State) in the last five weeks of the season.
Arizona: The Jedd Fisch era begins with tough non-conference games against BYU and San Diego State, along with a road date at Oregon before the bye week on Oct. 2. Four of the last six games – Washington, USC, Utah and Arizona State – come against teams who could be in the top 25. Three of the final five contests take place on the road.
Arizona State: There's a good chance Arizona State is 6-0 going into its showdown at Utah on Oct. 16. The overall schedule for coach Herm Edwards' team is manageable, but the Sun Devils have a brutal back-to-back (USC and at Washington) in November.
Colorado: After the opener against Northern Colorado, coach Karl Dorrell's team faces a tough four-game stretch. Non-conference games against Texas A&M (in Denver) and Minnesota are up first, followed by Arizona State and USC. The second-half slate features winnable contests against Arizona, California, Oregon State and UCLA. However, road trips to Oregon and Utah, along with a home date against Washington are on tap. Four out of Colorado's last six games are away from Boulder.
UCLA: The Bruins open with a tricky non-conference slate (Hawaii, LSU and Fresno State) before jumping into Pac-12 play. Three of the first four conference games are away from the Rose Bowl, with Arizona State visiting Pasadena in that stretch. The second half of the slate isn't going to be easier. Washington, Oregon, Utah and USC all appear over the final six games. Three out of the last five games come at home.
USC: The Trojans' three non-conference games are spaced throughout the schedule, so coach Clay Helton's team opens the season with five Pac-12 games in their first six matchups. By the time USC has played five league contests, Utah will have only two and Arizona State three. The Trojans close out the regular season with a matchup versus BYU, while the rivalry contest against UCLA takes place on Nov. 20. Missing both Oregon and Washington is huge for hopes of winning the South Division.
Utah: The Utes face a tough first half of the 2021 slate. After the opener against FCS Weber State, Utah plays at BYU and San Diego State, along with matchups versus Arizona State and USC (road) before the midway point of the season. Additionally, coach Kyle Whittingham's team gets three out of the last five at home, including a showdown versus Oregon on Nov. 20.
Colorado, at Arizona, USC, at UCLA
Arizona, at UCLA, Colorado, at Utah
at USC, Utah, at Colorado, Arizona State
at USC, UCLA, at Arizona State, Utah
UCLA, at Arizona, Arizona State, at Colorado
USC, at Utah, at Arizona State, Arizona
at Oregon, Washington, California, at Washington State
Stanford, Washington State, at Washington, at Oregon State
at California, at Oregon, Oregon State, Washington
at Stanford, at Washington, Oregon, California
Stanford, at Washington State, Oregon State, at California
Washington State, at Oregon State, at Stanford, Oregon
Arizona State, Utah
Arizona State, USC
Oregon State, Stanford
Stanford, Washington State
Oregon State, Washington State
(Top graphic courtesy of @pac12)
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