So much for the possibility of spring football, right? It did not look like the college football season was going to have a full dance card. But with the Pac-12 now set to come back, it seems like we will—which is good.
Now there will be no question marks as to whether someone who did not play could have won it all. However, it remains to be seen if the Pac-12 will factor into the national title picture, anyway. Had Utah beaten Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game last year, they would have likely made it in.
However, with the Pac-12 only playing seven games this season, will the College Football Playoff Committee see enough from the conference champ to give the Pac-12 a seat at the table? To that end, who will the conference champ be?
Pac-12 Championship Odds: It Is Really Anyone’s Conference to Win
Oregon is still the presumed favorite (+200; odds via DraftKings). However, they are far from a lock to get back to the title game, let alone win it. While they have quite a few pieces coming back from last year’s excellent defense, the offense could have some issues.
They have an excellent running back tandem in CJ Verdell and Travis Dye, and a great wide receiver in Johnny Johnson III. But with Penei Sewell opting out, they need a new offensive line along with a new quarterback. Since they are jumping right into conference play, there will be no time to work out the kinks.
If the Oregon offense does struggle to get on track, USC (+200) is expected to be the next team-up. Why? Because they have an excellent quarterback coming back in Kedon Slovis. As for the skill position guys—they lost one, Michael Pittman Jr., to the Indianapolis Colts via the draft.
With the interior of the offensive line coming back, there is reason to believe the Trojans offense can get off to a fast start. But while they have a lot of experience coming back on defense, they have a new defensive coordinator in Todd Orlando.
However, Orlando did not do much with the Texas defense last year. Will he be able to go better with USC?
Can the Huskies Be Top Dog in a Topsy Turvy Year?
Washington (+350) is expected to be competitive this year. But they will have a lot of things working against them in a shortened season. Longtime assistant Jimmy Lake is the new head coach. He tabbed one of his defensive assistants to be the new DC but then went with a questionable choice in John Donovan, a former Penn State assistant working with the Jaguars for the last few years.
He will not have much experience to work with since he has only four returning starters. While they have had some talented recruiting classes, that is a lot of new pieces to work-in while rebuilding the offense. But with much of a talented defense coming back, maybe they will be able to give the offense a helping hand in the first few weeks.
Utah (+650) is not going to make it easy for USC in the South Division. However, after losing their quarterback, running back, and much of a talented defense, it will not be easy for them. But head coach Kyle Whittingham has a great system in place and has had excellent recruiting classes in the last few years.
Without a nonconference opponent or two to work out the kinks, though, the best they may hope to do is play spoiler to someone else’s season.
Herm Edwards has a good team coming back at Arizona State (+1200) led by his quarterback Jayden Daniels. But he has two new coordinators, lost most of his offensive line, and his best wide receiver. His defense will need a few new starters to step up as well—especially on the defensive front.
Stanford (+1400) was not expected to be great last season. It was not expected to be so bad, either, but that sometimes happens when you get hit hard by injuries. With a healthy team of promising young talent and veteran talent coming back, the Cardinal could be something this year. But they will have some work to do once play begins.
The Rest of the Pac-12 Odds
As for the rest of the conference, there is some potential, but each team will need a lot of things to go their way to win the conference. Cal (+2000) was great last year when quarterback Chase Garber was healthy. They struggled when he was not. Washington State (+2000) has some good pieces coming back on offense but not much on defense, and they will have a new head coach running the show with Mike Leach now in the SEC.
UCLA (+2500) could be seeing the end of the Chip Kelly Era soon if the Bruins do not at least show some improvement. The same could be said for Kevin Sumlin in Arizona (+3300). Oregon State (+6600) has some good defensive players coming back but not much on offense. Colorado (+10000) will need quite a few guys to step up, even to be competitive.
So—who is going to win?
It will probably be whoever can get off to a strong start. As we have seen with the other major conferences, several teams will likely struggle to find their footing to start the season. So, whoever can get off to a strong start will probably win the conference—whoever that happens to be.