The USC Trojans have amassed just one Pac-12 title since their hey-days back in the early 2000s. That however hasn’t stopped DraftKings Sportsbook from installing the Men of Troy the 2-1 favorites to win it all this upcoming college football betting season. With Lincoln Riley and QB Caleb Williams coming over from Oklahoma, those booking the bets seem to be of the belief SoCal is in store for a memorable season. But will it be enough to propel the program to its first appearance in the College Football Playoff come the conclusion of the title game? The conference as a whole has only sent two teams to the CFP with none pulling off the feat since the 2016-17 season. Right now, it doesn’t look to me like any of these teams have it in them to qualify for the four team playoff. I also think it’s a bit premature to bank on USC or Oregon coming through as perceived favorites with brand spanking new coaching staffs now overlooking both programs. With that, I’m looking at teams with battle tested coaching staffs and veteran players for my favorite, underdog, and longshot selections to win the Pac-12.
Pac-12 Title Odds at DraftKings Sportsbook
Arizona State +2000
Oregon State +2500
Washington State +4000
Favorite to Bet: Utah Utes +290
I don’t understand how the defending champs aren’t the decided favorites to win this conference! Unlike the two teams ahead of them on the Pac-12 title odds, the coaching staff pretty much returns intact with Kyle Whittingham back for his 19th season in Salt Lake City. He gets the added pleasure of watching QB Cameron Rising do his thing in his junior campaign. Lest we forget, it was Rising’s insertion under center midway through last season that allowed for the Utes to win their first-ever Pac-12 title. A year removed from throwing for nearly 2,500 yards and a 20:5 TD/INT ratio while also adding another 499 yards on the ground to go along with six scores, Rising’s dual-threat ability opened Utah’s offense up in a big way.
Now with a full offseason to devise more plays catered around his skills, I fully expect the offense to smash last year’s outputs by way of running the ball down the opposition’s throat and taking advantage of a fantastic pair of tight ends in Dalton Kincaid and Brant Kuithe. While the defense will sorely miss Devin Lloyd who is now manning a linebacker position for the Jacksonville Jaguars, the unit will still rank out with the best of the best. It does just about every season under Whittingham’s watch, and I expect 2022 to be no different. CB Clark Phillips III is one to watch in the secondary!
Underdog to Bet: UCLA Bruins +850
The first three seasons of the Chip Kelly regime produced a grand total of 10 wins and no bowl game appearances. The team did however take a step in the right direction a year ago after going 8-4 both SU and ATS which amounted to a Holiday Bowl invite. Unfortunately, COVID derailed their plans of partaking in a bowl game for the first time since 2017 when it got thrashed by K-State in the Cactus Bowl. I’m thinking an even bigger bowl invite will be in the cards this time around provided the Bruins figure out a way to play a semblance of defense. Should it be able to thrive under new DC Bill McGovern’s watch, UCLA is going to win some ball games!
It’s got arguably two of the more dominant players in the Pac-12 returning to the offense in the forms of QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson and RB Zach Charbonnet. The former proved to be another lethal dual-threat a season ago throwing for 2400+ yards and a 21:6 TD/INT ratio while adding another 600+ yards and 9 TD with his legs. The latter rushed for over 1,100 yards and scored 13 TD! UCLA’s offense is going to put points on the board. It’ll be up to the defense to allow for them to come out on the right side of the scoreboard or not. Should the Murphy Twins turn into something special on the edges, you’ll kick yourself for not getting a piece of the Bruins at the current rate of return!
Longshot to Bet: Washington State Cougars +4000
Believe it or not, but Wazzu has gone bowling six of the last seven seasons. Though the team ultimately fell to a MAC opponent in last year’s Sun Bowl, don’t take this team for granted. Jake Dickert did a solid job stepping in for the ineffective and unvaccinated Nick Rolovich, and he did some work in the offseason looking to the FCS ranks to completely change the face of the team. Eric Morris – the new offensive coordinator – overlooked Cameron Ward’s insane freshman year that saw him throw for over 4,600 yards and 47 TD at Incarnate Word. This Ward kid has the talent and physical ability to take the Pac-12 by storm and serve linemakers a healthy serving of humble pie for installing them such big underdogs to make any noise in the Pac-12 title race.
He’s got some fantastic pass catchers to sling the pigskin to in De’Zhaun Stribling and Renard Bell which should have the offense lighting things up through the air right from Week 0! Save for a trip to USC, the Cougars get all the big boys at home. They’ll also get an early run-in with Wisconsin in Camp Randall to thicken the skin. The Cougs can and will be the surprise team in this conference should everything fall into place. If it all comes to fruition, you’ll be thrilled to have bought in now with a beer money investment when the odds are cut dramatically.