The Pac-12 has been one of the more successful conferences in college football during the College Football Playoff era, thanks to the league’s ability to put teams in those four coveted playoff spots. However, the league will be hoping to finally produce a National Champion this year after Oregon and Washington have failed in the conference's previous tries. With odds from BetOnline, here is a look at the odds to win the Pac-12 title.
Chris Peterson and Jake Browning may be the best coach-QB combination in all of college football this season
At the beginning of the College Football Playoff era, Oregon was the gold standard in the Pac-12. Since then, it has been all about Washington. This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, given that the Huskies are coached by Chris Petersen, who led Boise State to a perfect season despite having far less talent than your typical Pac-12 program.
Petersen owes a lot of his success as the Huskies head coach to quarterback Jake Browning. Browning, despite not having the best showing in his College Football Playoff appearance against Alabama as a sophomore, has been among the best in college football during his time in Washington. Now, he enters the season as a senior looking to get back to the playoff and right the wrongs from his first time there.
Browning won’t have to do it all by himself, of course. He will have running back Myles Gaskin at his disposal yet again this season. Gaskin scored 24 total touchdowns for the Huskies last year, and has cracked double digits in that category in each of his first three seasons as a member of Washington’s powerful offense.
As good as they might be offensively, the Huskies may be even better when they don’t have the ball. Washington allowed under 20 points per game last season despite playing in a conference filled with high-octane offenses and dynamic players.
While they did lose nose tackle Vita Vea to the pros, the Huskies are returning a lot of experienced starters. Their secondary was the highlight of their defense last season and it’s largely unchanged coming into 2018, led by senior cornerback Jordan Miller and sophomore Byron Murphy, who had 10 passes defended in only six games as a freshman in 2017.
All eyes will be on true freshman J.T. Daniels, as he'll be the signal caller for the Trojans this season
USC is in an tough spot this season, primarily because of all of the changes that they will have to make from last season. Quarterback Sam Darnold and running back Ronald Jones are pros now, which means that two of the most important offensive positions will need to be replaced by younger and less experienced players.
At quarterback, the Trojans will replace Darnold with true freshman J.T. Daniels, who was just recently announced as the starter after a camp battle against older but similarly inexperienced signal-callers. While Daniels’ talent is immense, it’s yet to be seen whether he will be able to contribute to winning football this season - true freshman rarely do.
Working in USC’s favor is the fact that they return over half of their defensive starters from last season, from a defense that was solid in a strong offensive conference. They’ve got a first-teamer on each level of their defense on Athlon’s preseason All-Conference team; defensive end Christian Rector and inside linebacker Cameron Smith should shore up the front seven, while safety Marvell Tell will be busy preventing the deep ball in the secondary.
However, all of the defense in the world can’t help a team score points if the offense isn’t playing at a high enough level, and that is the concern for USC at this point.
Stanford's Bryce Love is an early Heisman candidate in 2018
If there is one thing that you should know about Stanford this season, it is that they are going to give the ball to Bryce Love a lot. Understandable, given just how good Love has been in his role as the do-everything back in David Shaw’s offense throughout his career. The question now is whether or not Love is good enough to carry Stanford on his back to a conference title.
It looks like KJ Costello will be the quarterback heading into the season for Stanford. Costello was an upgrade over Keller Chryst when he saw action last season, in an offense that just tries to make sure that the quarterback keeps the offense on schedule while it focuses on running the football. Cardinal fans will hope Costello continues to improve this year, to diversify their offense and take some of the pressure off of Love.
As far as Love is concerned, expect him to see a decent amount of pressure in the box this season, as teams would be foolish not to load up to stop him. If defenses force KJ Costello to beat them, things could get difficult for Stanford, whose reliance on their defense and running game are becoming increasingly rare in college football.
Picking chalk to win a conference isn’t the most exciting choice, but the Washington Huskies are the clearly the cream of the crop in the Pac-12. Their ability to score via both the pass and run is rare in this league given how one-dimensional offenses like Stanford’s can be. And while Stanford isn’t to be counted out this season, they haven’t done enough to prove that they can win games where Bryce Love is being shut down.
USC also has a lot of talent, but we simply can't trust the true freshman Daniels enough to bet on them to win the conference. The Trojans will be a force to be reckoned with in 2019 and beyond, but we don't see them taking home the title this year.
The next question will be whether or not Washington can win enough games to make it into the College Football Playoff. Only time will tell, but we think this might be the Pac-12's best shot yet of claiming a national title in the playoff era.
That will do it for the Pac-12 - who do you think will take home the title this season? If you haven't seen our other conference previews, be sure to check out our best bets for the SEC, Big Ten and Big 12.
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Thanks for reading, and we’ll see you back here soon for some more free NCAA Football analysis and wagering advice. Until then, best of luck!
Bow Down to Washington +110?
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