It is the farewell tour in the Pac-12 with many of the teams from the conference headed to either the Big 12 or Big Ten after the season comes to an end. However, those departures shouldn’t impact the NCAA football predictions with Southern California considered the favorite to become the first Pac-12 team to earn a spot in the College Football Playoff field since Washington in 2016.
Utah is the two-time defending Pac-12 champion and regardless of what the NCAA football picks might say, overlook the Utes at your own risk.
Things get going on Aug. 31 when the college football spreads have host USC favored by 31½ points against San Jose State.
USC comes in sixth in both national polls with Washington 10th in the Associated Press poll and 11th in the coaches’ poll.
Looking to Seal the Deal
USC, led by its Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Caleb Williams, was in a position of “win and get in” when it came to the College Football Playoff field in 2022. A loss to Utah in the Pac-12 title game ended those hopes as Ohio State secured the final spot in the playoffs.
Williams and USC want to put the memories of that Utah loss and the defeat to Tulane in the Cotton Bowl out of their minds.
Allowing 83 points and 1072 yards in back-to-back losses leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of the returning USC players.
USC (+200) comes into the season as the favorite to win the Pac-12 title for the first time since 2017.
Playing Washington and Oregon in back-to-back Saturdays in November should decide the fate of this talent-laden USC team. That is followed by the regular-season finale against UCLA.
USC is priced at +275 to make it into the CFP field and that number should draw plenty of action.
How the money falls on Oregon (+500), Washington (+600), and Utah (+800) will speak volumes about how this USC team is viewed by those who bet online.
A Look at the Heisman Candidates
Obviously, any Heisman hype chatter has to start with Williams.
He completed 67 percent of his passes for 4537 yards to go with 42 touchdown passes and two interceptions. Two of those interceptions came in the final two games of the season. Williams added 10 scoring runs during a magical first season after transferring in from Oklahoma.
Williams is the front-runner at +500 to win the Heisman Trophy. However, other Pac-12 quarterbacks are in the mix as well.
Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. comes in at +1600 as does Oregon’s Bo Nix. Former Clemson quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei is now the starter at Oregon State and his Heisman odds are +9000. That would be one player to avoid.
Florida QB Graham Mertz’s stats weren’t impressive at Wisconsin, but what I don’t get is why no one thinks he can improve — when we’ve seen numerous transfer QBs do exactly that.
Michael Penix Jr. at Indiana in 2021 before transferring to Washington –
• 5 games, 53.7% comp… pic.twitter.com/nfwAMc0Vwq
— CFB Kings (@CFBKings) August 24, 2023
Even with the departure of top receiver Jordan Addison to the NFL, it is hard to pick against the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. Williams is also the current leader in the odds to be the No. 1 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.
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Oregon State led the Pac-12 with an 11-2 record against the college football betting lines a season ago with Washington, Washington State, and Oregon all coming in at 8-5. Stanford and Colorado were just 2-10 against the spread in 2022.
Oregon State was 8-1 against the spread as the favorite. USC and Washington combined to go 13-11 as favorites ATS.
USC (11-3) and UCLA (10-3) led the way among Pac-12 teams when it came to games finishing over the total.
Games of the Year
Here are the top five Pac-12 games in 2023.
- Oregon at Washington, Oct. 14: Three of the last four games between the Ducks and Huskies finished under the total. With a pair of prolific quarterbacks leading the offenses, this doesn’t figure to happen again.
- Oregon at Utah, Oct. 28: This has been a pretty even series with each team covering five times over the last 10 games.
- Washington at Southern California, Nov. 4: Not much will be riding on this game except perhaps first place in the Pac-12 standings.
- Southern California at Oregon, Nov. 11: Oregon has won six of the last eight games against USC. Something else to consider is that the winner of this game has also covered in each of the last 13 meetings.
- Utah at Washington, Nov. 11: Five of the last six meetings in this series finished as one-score games. Look for more of the same in 2023.
A Look At the Opener
There are some games when USC figures to be tested. The matchup with San Jose State doesn’t appear to be one of them. The Trojans have won 13 games in a row against Mountain West teams. However, they have covered in just seven of those matchups.
The college football betting lines have USC favored by more than four touchdowns.
New Colorado coach Deion Sanders was true to his word. He openly encouraged the returning Colorado players to consider transferring as he planned to transform the roster. He has done just that. Cornerback Travis Hunter is the top-rated incoming transfer and the headliner as Colorado added 50 transfers.
Oregon added former South Carolina edge rusher Jordan Burch, and Georgia defensive lineman Bear Alexander is now at USC.
USC and Oregon finished with top-10 recruiting classes.
The top incoming freshman is UCLA quarterback Dante Moore while receiver Zachariah Branch gives USC quarterback Calen Wilams another talented pass catcher.
Which of these 5 PAC 12 Transfers will have the best season? 👀👀
⭐️DB Travis Hunter- JSU-> Colorado
⭐️DL Jordan Burch- South Carolina-> Oregon
⭐️WR Dorian Singer- Arizona-> USC
⭐️QB Shedeur Sanders- JSU-> Colorado
⭐️QB DJ Uiagalelei- Clemson-> Oregon State
— The Portal Report (@ThePortalReport) August 25, 2023