College football conference odds: Can Utah pull off a three-peat in the Pac-12?

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Utah quarterback Cameron Rising (7) throws a pass against Southern California during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

We’ll preview every major conference in the Football Bowl Subdivision between now and the start of college football season on Aug. 26 through the lens of sports bettors. Each preview will include a shallow dive into the favorites, long shots and our favorite pick(s).

We will provide the full list of odds for the conference, as well as links to other conferences, toward the end.

We’ll start with the non-power five conferences and work our way toward the big fish in the pond, finishing with the Southeastern Conference. When the season begins, you’ll have a comprehensive look at the top divisions in the sport.

We’ll continue today with the Pac-12.

Last season

The Pac-12 enjoyed one of its most successful seasons in recent memory in 2022. The conference saw five teams (Oregon, Oregon State, USC, Utah and Washington) win 10+ games and landed six within the final Top 25 poll. While UCLA (9-4) and Washington State (7-6) fell short of the 10-win mark, they still enjoyed varying degrees of success throughout the year.

Furthermore, the Pac-12 was home to the 2022 Heisman Trophy winner, USC quarterback Caleb Williams. The Trojans’ signal caller enjoyed a fantastic season as he led his team to an 11-3 overall record. Unfortunately for him, though, his efforts were not enough to lead USC to a Pac-12 title.

Instead, the Trojans finished as runners-up to Utah. The Utes pummeled USC in the second half of the Pac-12 Championship Game. Utah outscored the Trojans 30-7 in the second half to sink the latter’s hopes of making it into the College Football Playoff.

The conference enjoyed some fantastic overall quarterback play in addition to that of the Heisman winner, Williams. Oregon’s Bo Nix, UCLA’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson, Utah’s Cam Rising and Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. stole headlines week in and week out. Good news for the Pac-12, every aforementioned quarterback — with the exception of Thompson-Robinson — returns in 2023.

Favorites

Given the previous statement, it should come as no surprise to anyone that oddsmakers at Caesars Sportsbook see USC (+170) as the Pac-12 favorite in 2023. Lincoln Riley and Williams link up again to form a nearly unstoppable offensive duo. However, despite getting some help from the transfer portal, the defense is still a big question mark heading into the new campaign.

It’s too close to call, at least as far as Las Vegas is concerned, in the battle to be USC’s biggest adversary. Oregon (+330) and Washington (+330) are dead even on oddsboards.

The questions for the Ducks and Huskies lie in the offensive trenches and, like USC, on the defensive side of the ball. Spectators have seen what Nix and Penix Jr. can do with the ball in their hands, but can they stop other teams from putting up a big number on the scoreboard?

Utah (+450) is the only other team with better than 10/1 odds to win the Pac-12. The Utes will go for a coveted three-peat in 2023 before the conference essentially dissolves in 2024. However, the path to back-to-back-to-back titles won’t be easy. Rising is set to return from a torn ACL, but Utah will have to replace some key members of the receiving and defensive back corps.

Longer shots

There has been a lot of talk about top-tier quarterbacks in the Pac-12 thus far, and we haven’t even touched on the newcomer.

Former Clemson signal caller DJ Uiagalelei will look to compete for his first Pac-12 title with Oregon State (+1100). The Beavers surprised a lot of people last season, but in the end, the lack of a lethal passing game held them back. If Uiagalelei can get Oregon State’s air attack up to the level of his competitors, Jonathan Smith’s team could make some noise once again.

UCLA (+1400) seems to have finally turned a corner under offensive guru Chip Kelly. But just as the Bruins got back to where they feel they belong, Thompson-Robinson departs for the NFL. They will now need to get true freshman Dante Moore caught up to speed fairly quickly.

Kelly will have his work cut out for him as he will have to try and replace nearly the entire offense in DTR and former running back Zach Charbonnet. Funnily enough, the anchor of this Kelly-led team could very well be its defense. The Bruins bring back eight starters from last season on defense, which bodes well for their progression going into another year together.

The only stone that remains unturned that oddsmakers are giving even a remote chance to is Washington State (+2500). The Cougars return quarterback sensation Cameron Ward and a plethora of players on defense. However, they will need to plug some holes in skill positions as nearly every important contributor from 2022 has gone.

Value picks

I am nothing if not honest. Therefore, I’m going to tell you it seems naive to bet against the reigning Heisman Trophy winner and his Trojans. USC (+170) offers no real value as the chalk favorite to win the conference, but they’re there for a reason. Riley nearly reached the College Football Playoff in his first season with the team. He strengthened some weak areas in the transfer portal and that will make the Trojans even tougher to take down in 2023.

If there is a team that can compete with USC, and perhaps even knock them off their preseason pedestal, it’s Oregon (+330). Nix looked like a completely changed man from his days at Auburn as Dan Lanning’s first season in Eugine was a huge success. The Ducks’ schedule is a bit easier than Washington’s, which is why I’m giving them the edge as a value pick to win the Pac-12.

Similarly, if you’re going to place a future on any long shot, let it be Oregon State (+1100). The Beavers aren’t anything flashy, they’re just a solid football squad that buys what head coach Jonathan Smith is selling.

If Uiagalelei can undergo a transformation similar to that of Nix’s out west, Oregon State might just be a dark horse to get into the Pac-12 title game. There’s nothing sexy about the way the Beavers played football last year as they’d run the ball down your throat and stop you on defense. However, this could be a Top 10 team with the implementation of a consistent passing game.

Full Pac-12 odds and win totals

(Odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook, as of Tuesday, August 8)

 Team  Title odds   Win total
 USC  +170  10 (o-125)
 Oregon  +330  9.5 (u-130)
 Washington  +330  9.5 (u-145)
 Utah  +450  8.5 (u-140)
 Oregon State  +1100  8.5 (u-130)
 UCLA  +1400  8.5
 Washington State  +2500  6 (o-120)
 Colorado  +5000  3.5 (u-140)
 Arizona  +5500  5 (u-150)
 California  +6000  5 (o-130)
 Arizona State  +15000  4.5 (o-125)
 Stanford  +30000  2.5 (o-155)

College football conference pieces

July 12: MAC

July 13: Conference USA

July 19: Mountain West

July 26: Sun Belt

Aug. 2: American Athletic

Aug. 9: Pac-12

Aug. 15: Big 12

Aug. 16: ACC

Aug. 22: Big Ten

Aug. 23: SEC

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