Pac-12 college football best bets: Is Washington a strong value?
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Our college football conference preview continues with a closer look at the Pac-12 Conference.
The win totals, conference title odds and national championship odds for every FBS team have been released, and below our experts -- Bill Connelly, David Hale, Doug Kezirian, Joe Fortenbaugh and Tyler Fulghum -- give their best best bets for the Pac-12.
Odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook.
Pac-12 best bets
We didn't see much of the Huskies last year -- they played only four games and couldn't compete in the Pac-12 Championship because of COVID protocol. But the defense is deep and more experienced than it was a year ago. Plus, it appears ace pass rusher Zion Tupuola-Fetui
will see the field despite an April Achilles injury, which, with the addition of Oklahoma safety Brendan Radley-Hiles
, should allow Jimmy Lake to get as aggressive as he wants at times. The offense was predictable and not exactly overflowing with big plays in 2020, but experience levels are solid, and getting Oregon at home tilts the division title odds in the Huskies' favor, per SP+. That they are at +350 to win the Pac-12 as compared to Oregon's +250 suggests there might be a little value here.
USC Trojans under 8.5 wins (-125)Hale:
The Trojans were insanely lucky in 2020. They had a 60-point swing in points off turnover margin, the fifth highest in FBS despite an abridged schedule. Additionally, they were 3-1 in games when they trailed in the fourth quarter, and more than a quarter of their offensive drives started in plus territory while just 4% of their defensive drives did. All that adds up to a big regression to the mean, and with a coach already on the hot seat, there's room for the season to go south fast.
UCLA Bruins over 7 wins (-110); +4 over LSU (-110)Hale:
I'm a huge buyer on the Bruins this year. It's a veteran roster that has played a ton and been through the ringer. The team showed real improvement last year, even if the record didn't necessarily reflect it. Chalk much of that up to a 1-4 record in games decided by a TD or less and an injury to starting QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson
midway through the season. And while we're hyping the Bruins, we'll take them +4 against LSU to open the season, too. They'll already have a game under their belt, and the talent actually matches up quite well.
Utah Utes to win Pac-12 (+700), over 8.5 wins (-145)Fortenbaugh:
A total of 19 starters return to a Utes roster that can proudly boast ownership of the most talented offensive and defensive lines in the conference. But the story of Utah's offseason was the addition of former Baylor quarterback Charlie Brewer
via the transfer portal. Brewer is an experienced signal-caller with 44 appearances and a career completion percentage of 63.5 percent under his belt. Additionally, the schedule sets up beautifully for a run at the conference championship, as the Arizona State, UCLA and Oregon games take place at home while the road date at USC comes after a bye week. Throw in very winnable showdowns with Weber State, BYU, San Diego State, Washington State, Oregon State, Stanford, Arizona and Colorado, and you might be looking at one of Kyle Whittengham's most successful campaigns in Salt Lake City.
The Buffs were perhaps the conference's biggest surprise but I expect a season reflecting the team's 30-point loss in the Alamo Bowl. CU should have a respectable offense yet again, despite losing all-Pac-12 quarterback Sam Noyer
to Washington State in the transfer portal. The defense will be a giant weakness, however, and I am unsure head coach Karl Dorrell has turned around this program quite yet. This bet comes down to whether Colorado can capitalize on the altitude and pull off some upsets. Home dates with Minnesota, Arizona, Oregon State and Washington should provide some drama but ultimately, five wins are just too much to ask.