Of all the Power 5 conferences, the Pac-12 has made the fewest appearances in the College Football Playoff. So it’s probably not a surprise the league’s top teams are receiving the least respect when it comes to contending for this year’s title.
Oregon and Washington are both listed at 30-to-1 odds by the Westgate SuperBook to win the College Football Playoff, and those odds are tied as only the eighth highest.
In front of Oregon and Washington are two SEC teams, two Big 12 teams, two Big Ten teams and a Big 12 team. In fact, the Ducks and Huskies are tied for the eighth spot with Florida and Nebraska (both considered only the third-best team from their respective leagues) and independent Notre Dame.
How can the Pac-12 change the perception that it’s the worst of the Power 5 leagues? The simple answer: win more big games. In 2017, the Pac-12 was 1-8 in bowl games and last year was only slightly better. They went 3-4 in the bowls, but those three victories were by a total of only four points.
The Pac-12 can start changing its narrative this fall, but needs to win out of conference against the other Power 5 teams. The league’s biggest profile games: Oregon vs. Auburn in Arlington, Texas; Arizona State at Michigan State; Oklahoma at UCLA; Nebraska at Colorado; USC at Notre Dame; and Notre Dame at Stanford.
Odds to win 2019 national title via Westgate SuperBook @LVSuperbook for each Pac-12 school:
Washington State 200/1
Arizona State 300/1
Oregon State 10,000/1
Power ratings for each Pac-12 school entering 2019 via The Action Network’s Collin Wilson:
24. Washington State
38. Arizona State
84. Oregon State
The Favorite: Oregon
Oregon returns 10 starters on offense, most importantly quarterback Justin Herbert, who opted to return to Eugene instead of leaving early for the NFL. The Ducks return a ton of talent on defense as well and will be tested early. The Ducks open with Auburn in Arlington, Texas, and in Pac-12 play go on the road against Stanford, Washington, USC and Arizona State. Washington has the same national title odds (30-to-1) as Oregon, but the Huskies have too many holes to fill starting with the departure of quarterback Jake Browning and nine starters on defense. Washington also has a conference-high nine players headed to the NFL Scouting Combine that were on last year’s team.
Dark Horse: Utah
In the Utes’ Holiday Bowl loss to Northwestern, Utah was without starting quarterback Tyler Huntley (broken collarbone) and leading rusher Zack Moss (knee). Both players will be back along with quarterback Jason Shelley, who started five games when Huntley was injured. In all, 16 starters return on offense and defense. New offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig is embracing a more physical style and a commitment to running the football.
The schedule plays out nicely for Utah. It is much easier compared to last season with the Utes replacing games against Oregon and Stanford with Oregon State and Cal. If the Utes don’t stumble out of conference – and they shouldn’t against BYU, Northern Illinois and Idaho State – they could repeat as Pac-12 South champions.
Best Value: Utah
Of all the Power 5 conferences, Utah had the biggest difference between projected conference finish, based on Westgate SuperBook odds and Collin Wilson’s power ratings. Wilson has the Utes rated as his top Pac-12 team and No. 8 nationally, compared with their national title odds, which are 80-to-1 — tied for third-best in the Pac-12.
Utah returns a lot on offense and defense from a team that was plagued by injuries last season. The defense will be stout as always under Kyle Whittingham, but the key for Utah to have a legitimate title shot is starting quick in Pac-12 play. Utah opens conference play against USC on Sept. 20 followed by a home game with Washington State.