It’s safe to assume the PAC-12 could be a complete toss-up again in the 2019 college football season.
But unlike the last couple years, it seems there’s more of a window for them to have a College Football Playoff team. That’s thanks to the constant success of Washington, the resurgence of the Oregon Ducks, and the sneaky strength of Utah.
Today, I’ll be discussing College Football betting sites odds for the over/under win totals of these three teams and determining the best betting play on each one. I’ll also be covering the much-maligned USC program. And for good measure, I’ll likewise throw in Washington State, because they always seem to surprise some folks.
Each of these teams have glaring strengths. Washington and Utah have consistently been two of the better defensive units in the country. Oregon is fielding one of their most complete teams in some time. And USC is expecting QB JT Daniels to take a big leap this year.
The Cougars may not have Gardner Minshew at quarterback anymore. But with Mike Leach as a play-caller, there’s bound to be plenty of points on the board.
These teams also have plenty of questions and plenty of average-or-better teams in their divisions to slip them up. So will they get to “over” in their win totals or not? Here’s a look at these five PAC-12 juggernauts.
Oregon Ducks: Over/Under 9
This could easily be the best Oregon team since Marcus Mariota’s last year (2014) at quarterback.
Justin Herbert is the Heisman candidate under center now, and his return for a senior season is a huge boost for the Ducks. He still has some accuracy issues to deal with, but he’s easily one of the top five most talented QBs in the country.
His receiving group isn’t quite as complete without Dillon Mitchell. It’s always tough losing a guy with nearly ten touchdown receptions and almost 1,200 yards the year before.
There’s a lot of younger receiving talent that could make an early impact though. Juwan Johnson (54 receptions in 2017) is a key transfer. Still, there’s not any definitive No. 1 in this group.
Running back shouldn’t have the same problem with CJ Verdell there. There’s a high ceiling for a young RB group behind him and given the fact this guy was a 1,000-yard back as a freshman.
The experience and results in front of them on the o-line is what separates Oregon from a lot of teams. The Ducks were much more physical as a whole last year, but that all started on the line. Their protection of Herbert and hole-opening for Verdell could be the difference-maker in them winning the PAC-12 North.
On defense, things are much more stable than usual because of Mario Cristobal’s focus on this side of the ball.
The secondary boasts two three-year starters. Not landing high four-star CB Chris Steele is a disappointment, but this is still a complete unit.
With Troy Dye and his 120 tackles returning, the linebackers shouldn’t be bad of either. It’s just a matter of finding who sticks out around him with not a lot of experience in the group otherwise.
The defensive line has some big bodies that could make an impact over the course of the season. How much of a role top recruit Kayvon Thibodeaux plays as a freshman will decide a lot.
Overall, I love the assortment of talent here and the newfound physicality that goes with it. But the Ducks had consistency issues on a week-to-week basis in 2018 and struggled on late downs offensively. These will have to improve.
But I think they will open with a win against Auburn. They have one of the few o-lines that can go toe-to-toe with the Tigers’ ferocious defensive front. They get that win, and they’re more than on their way to double-digit W’s.
USC Trojans: Over/Under 7.5
The Trojans had a rough go of it last year, missing out on a bowl trip with a very young group. But being inexperienced can’t be an excuse for head coach Clay Helton this year, whose job is on the chopping block.
The offense will overgo a makeover that will open it up quite a bit. And JT Daniels should benefit from that change. He has the receiving pieces to make the Trojans’ offense light years better than what it was last season (91st in scoring offense).
But whether the offensive line can hold up is the real question. They failed to finish in the top-60 in terms of sacks allowed and were a big reason why the run game was a doormat at times. That’s never good for the development of a new QB.
And there’s only two returning starters this year on the line, which makes things difficult again. Stephen Carr has plenty of talent coming out of the backfield. But if this unit isn’t figured out up front, I don’t know if he goes to the next level much.
This team will rely on opening up the passing game and giving plenty of downfield attention to guys like 6’4” Michael Pittman Jr., reliable redshirt junior Tyler Vaughns, and another dynamic playmaker in Amon-Ra St. Brown.
Defensively, this team hopes Chris Steele can step in right away. Because of their secondary needs the support. There’s not a lot of play-time or depth at corner. Olaijiah Griffin has plenty of potential but is going to need a big step forward in his second year.
The D-line should cause plenty of bad throws to help those corners. Bringing back five players with multiple sacks last year should equal plenty of pressure this season. A senior-led LB group should complete a front-seven that isn’t the USC-caliber of old but is solid nonetheless.
This team has very few guarantees this year. Fresno State, BYU, and Notre Dame out of the conference is no laughing matter. The PAC schedule is pretty balanced between home and away, but they play every quality conference team aside from Washington State.
I just don’t see them winning even two of the games against Stanford, Utah, Washington, and Oregon. And that’s being nice. Throw in that nonconference schedule, and this USC team should just be happy being back in bowl season.
Utah Utes Over/Under 8.5
There’s more than enough reason to think this Utah team can go back to the PAC-12 Championship this year. They might even be a fair bet to win the conference.
So 8.5 wins is a surprising number here. They play Washington and USC on the road. Besides that, BYU might be their only challenge away from home. Arizona and Oregon State don’t evoke as much concern.
This is a team that is still stacked on defense, even after losing forty percent of their tackles. Most of that production came in the middle, so the linebacking unit will need a little filling out.
The front looks even better. That’s because they’re returning more than enough experience from a group that consistently finds itself in the top-tier of pass-rushing. And there’s also a depth that can rarely be found in places outside Alabama or Clemson at these positions.
The offense has drug behind in the past, or at least when games started to become more crucial in October. But they may have one of the better quarterbacks they’ve had in Tyler Huntley. He may not blow the doors off a defense, but he has the accuracy (64.1%) and scrambling abilities good enough to make him one of the league’s better QBs.
All of the top six pass-catchers return, a continuity few teams inside the conference have. If Zack Moss (1,096 yards, 6.1 average) stays healthy at running back this year, there could ample balance in this offense.
The line was a little hit-or-miss last year. Opponent’s success rate against them was only 23rd, but they had the 102nd ranked standard down sack rate. Protection will be the biggest issue, especially after losing the two strongpoints (Jackson Barton and Jackson Agasiva) of the group.
This team is built to challenge for the PAC again this year. Double-digit wins seem possible considering their favorable schedule.
Washington Huskies: Over/Under 10
This is another program that prides itself on suffocating defense.
And while Washington should retain one of the conference’s better units, it is worth considering the talent that’s gone on that side of the ball. Especially when it comes to the secondary.
Safety Taylor Rapp and corner Byron Murphy were both second-round picks. Another safety, JoJo McIntosh, is now a member of the Washington Redskins.
Throw in the losses of the team’s top tackler (Ben Burr-Kirven), lead sacker (Greg Gaines), and the entire interception production (11 INTs), and it shows this is nearly a complete turnover on D.
Jake Browning also won’t be calling signals for the Huskies this year, which must be weird considering it seemed he’d been there for a decade. Jacob Eason was once a prized recruit. But is he focused and ready to put up the numbers his potential suggests? It may be a little time before we know.
Not having four year-starter Myles Gaskin around to carry some of the load behind him will pressure Eason to succeed early. The running back was extremely reliable all the way through his college career. But Salvon Ahmed doesn’t look like he’s much of a drop-off from him at the position.
The receiving corp. is established well for Eason. Hunter Bryant could be the savior of this passing game at tight end. He could definitely be the X-factor. The TE only played five games last year but had 238 yards and should be a great security blanket for Eason.
Besides him, there are three reliable targets (Aaron Fuller, Ty Jones, and Andre Baccellia) who combined for nearly 2,000 yards last season.
Ten victories still seem like a stretch though. And compiling more than that is next-to-impossible.
Coach Chris Petersen should have the defense playing over their heads, but very few teams can just replace both the numbers and top-end talent that left. They get an easy road schedule, with BYU and Stanford being the only travel tests. Also, their games against Oregon and Utah are split by a bye.
But that doesn’t take away all the pitfalls in this conference. Losing to Cal in 2018, Arizona State in 2017, and unranked USC in 2016 shows they’re susceptible. This team has only gone through the regular season with one loss a single time since the beginning of the century.
Don’t expect the second time to be now, even if Eason is as advertised.
Washington St. Cougars: Over/Under 8
Doesn’t this team always surpass expectation? Just when it seemed again that the Cougars would fall into mediocrity in the PAC, they turned out to be a conference contender.
Gardner Minshew became a legend of sorts at quarterback after transferring to the school. He’s gone now and I’m not sure that Gage Gubrud is going to be another post-grad darling. But he was a record-setting FCS quarterback at Eastern Washington and has offensive guru Mike Leach calling plays.
He could’ve really used James Williams in the backfield this year. The RB skipped his senior year after showing great dual capabilities in and out of the backfield. But Max Borghi was arguably the better back as a true freshman last year anyway, and he should cover Williams’ production and then some this year.
As for the air attack, Minshew spread the ball out incredibly well last season. Four players had over 600 receiving yards, and 10 of them had over 200. And only two of those from the latter group are gone. The returners include 6’4”-220lb Dezmon Patmon (816 yards in 2018), who will create a lot of mismatches.
Andre Dillard will be a crater to fill on the line. Left tackles who go in the first round will usually be just that. But all the other starters are back from a unit that was first in sack rate allowed last season, according to Football Outsiders.
The defense wasn’t particularly daunting in 2018. And now they’re losing Logan Tago and lead-tackler Peyton Pelleur. They are both gone after amounting 21 total tackles for loss last season.
Jahad Woods will be the star on the second level after finishing second in tackles last season. Jalen Thompson is going to be a beast in the secondary. But in between all of this is indecision and inconsistency that as a whole the Cougars will have to overcome against good road opponents.
Having to go to Utah, Oregon, and Washington is as unfair as it gets in this conference. Games against Cal and Arizona State on the road are essentially toss-ups. So as much as I want to pick the OVER here, I’d rather just stay away from this one altogether.
If I had to pick though, I’m not fading Mike Leach.