College Football: Pac-12 Betting Guide
Last year, the Pac-12 Conference proved to be dead last among the Power Five conferences. Collectively, its .536 win percentage was well off the SEC's top mark (.621) and trailed the next-closest conference -- the ACC -- by 20 percentage points. And of the four preseason top-25 teams, only two ended the year in such spots.
In the North, Washington State went 11-2 with a bowl win while Washington put together a 10-4 season, one win ahead of Stanford and Oregon. At the same time, Utah took the South division at 9-5 with only one other team -- Arizona State -- finishing above .500. Oregon State brought up the rear in the North, having won just two games, and Colorado finished with a division-low two wins among those in the South.
Overall, the Pac-12 has been inconsistent in the national landscape, but it could make a much greater impact in 2019. FanDuel Sportsbook has three Pac-12 squads -- Oregon, Washington and Utah -- among the top 13 teams in national championship odds. That's promising, but what can we glean from the current conference championship odds?
At the top, it's worth noting that there is no one team at minus-odds, like you see with Oklahoma in the Big 12 and Clemson in the ACC. Instead, the 14th-ranked Utes and 13th-ranked Huskies are tied for the best odds to take this year's title, potentially returning $250 for every $100 laid. In a way, that makes sense because the two are in different divisions, but the fact that Utah's getting the same odds without the hurdle that is Oregon bodes well for their betting value. The two won't face off this season, however, the 11th-ranked Ducks travel to Washington on October 19th.
The Huskies also draw a road meeting against Stanford, a matchup with the Utes on November 2nd, as well as a clash with Washington State to cap off the season. That's to say that the Huskies have the tougher road to the championship game in what is shaping up to be the tougher of the two divisions.
Utah, who was once +850 on FanDuel Sportsbook, has drawn a lot of betting attention throughout the offseason -- and rightfully so. Head coach Kyle Whittingham returns 14 total starters and 7 on each side of the ball. Most importantly, he gets back dual-threat quarterback Tyler Huntley along with senior running back Zack Moss and big-play threat Jaylen Dixon at wideout.
Huntley had his 2018 cut short, but he managed to throw for 1,788 yards and 12 touchdowns on a 64.1% completion percentage, and he added 304 yards and 4 scores on the ground. Moss racked up over 1,000 rushing yards with double-digit touchdowns and an impressive 5.18 highlight yards per opportunity, according to Football Outsiders. Dixon led the team's primary receivers with 13.1 yards per target and a marginal explosiveness of 0.97.
With that at their disposal, and entering with last year's 19th-ranked defense, the Utes' only foreseeable threat -- outside of the Huskies -- are the Washington State Cougars. Looking at it now, though, Utah is the better of the two in Bill Connelly's Projected S&P+, and that's not accounting for their winning ways in Salt Lake. In the past five seasons, Utah has a 68.8% win percentage on their home turf, which jumps to 80.8% when favored, as they likely would be in this instance.
Win or lose against the Huskies (currently favored by four at this time), it looks like Utah should have a shot at redemption in the title game on December 6th. They are -150 to make it there, and the next-closest team in the South is Southern Cal at +300.
In the event Utah's odds aren't appetizing enough, the UCLA Bruins are intriguing as they sit at +2500 for the title but +900 to emerge as the South's representative. They went just 3-9 in their first season under Chip Kelly, but the Bruins will have another year in the scheme and return the most starters (19) of anyone in the Pac-12. Led by signal-caller Dorian Thompson-Robinson and last year's 1,000-yard rusher, Joshua Kelley, the offense could take a big step forward. The 97th-ranked defense will have to show a lot more, but The Power Rank has the Bruins 40th overall and 5th behind the obvious contenders. They might just do a 180 and return big money by season's end.