Pac-12 college football preview: USC, Utah bring intrigue to former South division

Lincoln Riley has his work cut out for him at USC, but he seems like a great fit for the job. Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire

The college football world is changing in quite a few overdue ways. The NIL saga has been made as sloppy and dramatic as possible, in part because of a complete lack of regulation at the NCAA level, but it still represents a huge step forward for the rights of athletes. The expansion of the College Football Playoff ... well ... I'm going to assume that it still happens at some point even if the process for expanding it has turned out every bit as messy as NIL. (It's almost like there's no one in charge of college football or something!)

There are plenty more fights to come when it comes to reshaping the sport's future, but in the meantime we've at least decided to check an easy box. Last week, the NCAA announced it would allow conferences with championship games to ditch divisions and allow its top two teams to play in said title game; within minutes, the Pac-12 announced it would be doing just that and starting in 2022. This year's Pac-12 championship game participants will be the two teams with the best conference record.

For the purposes of this preview series, we'll keep the division structure, however: South this week, North next week. The 2022 schedules are still based on those divisions, after all. So while it's possible (but highly improbable) that no one from this group of six teams plays for the Pac-12 title in Las Vegas on Dec. 2, let's talk about the artist formerly known as the Pac-12 South.

Earlier previews: MWC West | MWC Mountain | AAC (Nos. 6-11) | AAC (Nos. 1-5) | MAC East | MAC West | Sun Belt West | Sun Belt East | Conference USA (Nos. 6-11) | Conference USA (No. 1-5) | Independents