The Pac-12 is a polarizing conference, and I expect this season to really give the Pac-12 a clear direction with major non-conference games this season. By week 3, we should know the direction that the Pac-12 is headed, and it's something to consider when betting on the conference champion.
The Pac-12 has 5 teams very close in odds at the top of the board, but I don't even think the possibilities end here. Without a true power in the conference, we often see surprises in production and performance, and I have no reason to believe that this cannot happen here.
Ducks Back on Top?
That being said, the top of the board is a bit juicy, particularly at the very top. The Oregon Ducks are +250 on MyBookie, and they are pretty easily my favorite here as well.
Oregon has a brutal non-conference schedule with a trip to Columbus to take on Ohio State. I'd be thoroughly impressed if they could escape that game with a win, but I think that's no fault of their own and doesn't dictate their potential success in conference play.
Oregon under Mario Cristobal has made a leap in recruiting, and these efforts should finally show up on the field in a big way this year. Unlike Oregon of old, this team will rely on defense to get it done, but they have the defensive talent of a top 5 team, particularly at the top end. It's possible that Oregon has the best 2 underclassmen linebackers in the country alongside DE Kayvon Thibodaux, who could be the best passer rusher in college football since Chase Young. They even have a corner projected to go in the second round by some outlets. I do think the bottom of the roster isn't all the way there, but I love the top-end talent in a conference that is lacking it.
As I said, the Pac-12 isn't full of elite talent, and I think this is most notable when we look at USC this season. While they have been able to stay alive as a program, they haven't recruited well under Clay Helton, especially with the rumors that he will be canned every single season. USC isn't untalented, but they have been a top 10 school in terms of overall talent per recruiting rankings in recent seasons, and the coaching staff has struggled to pull through on the field. Now with even less talent, I have no interest.
My favorite long shot is UCLA, but at +1200, but is it really worth it? The X factor of Chip Kelly and a talented QB is at least interesting when it comes to drawing up a scenario that gets a unique team to the top of the conference.
I definitely want to pick Oregon here, but if you know the book will keep these posted, I don't want to bet on them until after they lose to the Buckeyes in Week 2. Ohio State has the talent across the board to exploit the 15th -22nd starter on the roster, and it could get ugly in that game. I hope to get a bigger number after a convincing loss in week 2. If you want to get in now, there is absolutely no issue with that either.