The kickoff to college football is now less than a month away, and though betting on futures gets more pub in the NFL, there is value to be had by examining the Power 5 conferences and trying to predict a winner. We’ve looked at the ACC, Big Ten, and Big 12, now let’s dig into the Pac-12. Early projections have this conference lacking drama as it’s full of young teams and big players, but that might not be the case.
Will Washington repeat as title winners or USC continue their strong play from last year’s stretch drive? Or will somebody pull an upset? We take a look at each team and tell you where the best bet can be made. After reading though each team, consider our review of the top five sportsbooks, so you’ll know exactly where you’ll want to place your bet.
2017 PAC-12 TITLE FAVORITES
What sort of 2016 season do you remember the Trojans having? If you tuned out at the end of September, you saw a 1-3 team that got blown out at home by Alabama. From October on, USC was one of, if not the best team in the country. USC won their final nine games and beat Penn State in the Rose Bowl.
Sophomore quarterback Sam Darnold returns after starting the final ten games last season. He is among the top signal callers in the country. Darnold is one of 12 returning starters, with seven on the defensive side of the ball. The Trojans will not be facing Washington or Oregon in the regular season, but will host Stanford and UCLA. It would be an incredible disappointment if USC is not in the Pac-12 Title Game.
Washington is coming off their best season in 25 years. The Huskies blew out Colorado in the Pac-12 Championship game last season and entered the College Football Playoff with an overall record of 12-1 — their lone loss, a 26-13 setback to USC. Alabama beat UW 24-7 in the semis.
Head coach Chris Petersen has 13 starters coming back, with backfield staples Jake Browning and Myles Gaskin anchoring the offense. The Huskies get UCLA and Oregon at home in back-to-back weeks bridging October and November and play at Stanford six day after the Ducks come to town. Assuming Washington’s defense remains strong, their chances of facing USC in the Title Game are high.
David Shaw’s Cardinal won their final six games last year including a narrow victory over North Carolina in the Sun Bowl. In that game though, quarterback Keller Chryst injured his knee and nobody is sure when he’ll return, or how good he’ll be when he does.
Stanford lost three times in 2016, which include blowouts against both Washington schools and a 10-5 loss to Colorado, but they beat USC. Shaw has eight starters back on both sides of the ball. With a veteran offensive line, running back Bryce Love Jr. won’t make people forget Christian McCaffrey, but he should have a very good year. The defensive is also very strong, but not particularly deep. If they win at Washington State in November, the Cardinal could be playing for a berth in the title game against Washington the following Friday.
The Bruins had an unlucky 3-2 start to the season, falling in overtime to Texas A&M and in a relatively tight game to Stanford. Then the wheels came off with four straight setbacks and six losses in their final seven games. Quarterback Josh Rosen, among the best in the West, injured his shoulder in early October. Now that he’s healthy, he’s the primary reason the Bruins can compete this season. Rosen joins 14 other returnees, and needs a better ground game to balance the offense. The defense is highlighted by a strong secondary. If UCLA shocks USC on November 18th, then who knows how far they could go.
THE BEST BET
There are two really good teams in the Pac-12 and it would be surprising if either missed out on the Conference Championship Game. The Huskies path is significantly tougher, and the Trojans dominated them last year. It is certainly intriguing to take Washington at a price, but it feels like it’s USC’s time. Take the Trojans at better than even money while you still can.