The Pac-12 played football last season.

It really did.

Oh, sure; it started late and ended early and without any kind of fanfare.

How could it.

Washington, California, Washington State, Colorado and Arizona State played only four games. 

Cal didn't open its season until Nov. 15.

Washington won the Pac-12 North but could not play in the championship game because of COVID-issues

Oregon won the convoluted Pac-12 championship game over USC and then was overwhelmed by Iowa State in the Fiesta Bowl.

But, as has usually been the case in the seven year history of the CFP system, the Pac-12 has not been a factor.

But that will change says newly hired Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff, who has replaced Larry Scott and made one promise: The Pac-12 will be relevant again in college football and basketball.

We'll see. Pac-12 teams have qualified for the Final Four playoffs only once--Washington in 2016--in the last six seasons.

Unlike, the SEC (Alabama, Georgia), the Big 12 (Oklahoma), the Big Ten (Ohio State) and the ACC (Clemson), the Pac-12 has offered no dynastic teams.

There are no  Pac-12 teams projected in any pre-season Top 10 rankings and  you could make a case for Oregon, Washington, USC or even Arizona State as 2021 division winners.

What the conference needs to do is grab some headlines early, which is why  the first two weekends ( Sept. 4 , 11) loom as make or break dates for Pac-12 contenders.

Consider: LSU at UCLA (Sept. 4) and  Oregon at Ohio State, Washington at Michigan, 

Colorado vs. Texas A&M in Denver, and Utah at BYU on Sept. 11.

The Pac-12 are likely to be underdogs in each of those games.

Yet, there  are reasons for optimism.

Take Arizona State, which has been nothing more than mediocre in Herm Edwards's first three years running the program in Tempe. 

Edwards has 15 starters returning and ASU is coming off a shortened  season in which it led the Pac-12 in offense and defense.

They also have a non-conference schedule which doesn't appear to have much heavy lifting--Southern Utah, UNLV, at BYU.--and are not scheduled to play pre-season favorite Oregon.

What the Pac-12 also needs is to have UCLA and USC both return as contenders, which is a head-scratching problem for both USC coach Clay Helton and UCLA coach Chip Kelly.

UCLA is a bigger mystery because Kelly's return to college football has been a bust--three sub .500 seasons.

Kelly has 19 starters returning from last season's 3-4 team, which can be termed either good news or bad news.

No one is really expecting much from the Pac-12 this year, but that could change quickly with some upsets in September.