Pac-12 college football preview: Breaking down the former South Division teams

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Give the Pac-12 credit: Be it hiring coaches willing to test all logical boundaries when it comes to the transfer portal ... or taking a very, very long time to figure out a new media rights deal ... or returning a ton of experience and upside at quarterback in a year when seemingly everyone else doesn't ... this conference can't help but do things a little differently. That's not always a good thing, but it could be quite a bit of fun for viewers in 2023.

Per Total QBR, four of the top eight returning quarterbacks in college football play in the Pac-12. There are six Pac-12 teams in the projected SP+ top 30 and, more importantly from an entertainment standpoint, there are five projected 13th or better on offense.

The competition levels among the top half of this conference could be absolutely dynamite, doubly so if you enjoy a good track meet. In a future that includes a 12-team CFP, super fun conference races like the Pac-12's, which could result in a top-four seed and playoff bye, will become even more significant, something that will be true even with USC and UCLA out of the picture. In 2023, however, it might once again mean loads of entertainment and a two-loss, CFP-less conference champ. Per SP+, no team has a greater than 6% chance of getting to 12-0, and only USC and Oregon have a greater than 10% chance of reaching 11-1.

But hey, it's June. Playoff talk is for November. This is going to be a ridiculously fun and frequently prolific conference in 2023. Let's preview it. The Pac-12 helped to take the lead in the new trend toward division-less conferences, but today we'll talk about the six teams that previously made up the Pac-12 South. Conveniently, that means we'll talk about three of the projected top-30 teams this week and three others next week.

Every week through the offseason, Bill Connelly will preview another division from the Group of 5 and Power 5 exclusively for ESPN+, ultimately including all 133 FBS teams. The previews will include 2022 breakdowns, 2023 previews and burning questions for each team.

Earlier previews: Conference USA, part 1 | Conference USA, part 2 | MAC East | MAC West | MWC Mountain | MWC West | Sun Belt West | Sun Belt East | AAC, part 1 | AAC, part 2 | Independents | ACC, part 1 | ACC, part 2