Greg McElroy tackled the topic of must-win games for key teams heading into the 2023 season. Though he clarified these games could shift as the season rolls on, McElroy went through some interesting scenarios on his Always College Football podcast.

When it comes to the Pac-12, McElroy had an interesting must-win for the schedule:

“The most important game of the Pac-12 schedule is anybody and their brother over USC and UCLA,” McElroy claimed.

The analyst went on to explain we already know the two programs are bound to depart the Pac-12 after the 2023-24 athletic seasons. That would create an uneasy feeling for the rest of the league if the Trojans or Bruins leave the Pac-12 on the heels of one last title as a lasting memory for the conference.

“Answer me this. We know USC and UCLA are off to the Big Ten. That is done, they’ll be there in 12 months and the Big Ten will expand to 16 teams,” said McElroy. “But, can you imagine as we are fast-forwarding to the end of the season. USC and — possible but unlikely — UCLA, if they’re there in the Pac-12 Championship Game up against an Oregon, Washington, or Utah.

“Can you imagine USC being crowned the Pac-12 champions en route to the Playoff and knowing that they were leaving the league? And the last Pac-12 game in SC history is a Pac-12 championship victory? How do you think the league would feel about that? Probably not so great.”

At the end of the day, Utah is the defending champ but Lincoln Riley’s USC program will be viewed as one of the favorites to compete for the conference crown this fall. We’ll see if any team can knock the Trojans down a few pegs or if USC will leave for the Big Ten victorious one more time in the Pac-12.