College football predictions: PAC 12 contenders, odds, and best bets
The 2021 college football season is right around the corner, and hopefully it will be less chaotic than 2020. Last year we had reduced schedules, some teams electing not to play at all, game cancellations left and right, and little to no fans in attendance. This time around should be a lot different, and I can’t wait to see the return of raucous crowds to college football.
The PAC 12 was one of the conferences most impacted by COVID-19, as they played only six games per team and didn’t even start until November. Oregon won the PAC 12 Championship Game over USC despite not even winning their own division, because Washington was forced to withdraw due to COVID issues.
The conference has seen their national standing reduced in recent years, and they could really use a strong season to reassert themselves as relevant. Will the Ducks repeat as champs, or do one of the other heavyweights have other ideas?
What will happen in the PAC 12 this coming season? Let’s take a look.
PAC 12 title odds
Many conferences, like the SEC (Alabama), have a clear favorite this season. In the PAC 12 the waters are a bit more muddied, which makes things especially interesting. Oregon is the favorite at around +260, but there are five teams between +260 and +500. That kind of parity always makes for an exciting finish, so this race should be thrilling. Washington, USC, Arizona State, and Utah are all right there. After those five you’ve got UCLA (+1200) in a second tier by themselves, and then the longshots. The longshots consist of Cal, Stanford, Colorado, Washington State, and Oregon State, all in the range of 25/1-45/1. Finally, Arizona brings up the rear at a distant 80/1.
Also check out our Big Ten preview and predictions
PAC 12 best bet: UCLA Bruins +1200
None of the favorites really jump out as having great value. The parity in the PAC 12 is too strong to make a play at +500 or lower worth it. Is this the year Chip Kelly’s UCLA team finally breaks out? I think there’s a good chance that it is. For starters they’ve got one of the most experienced quarterbacks in the conference with Dorian Thompson-Robinson.
DTR has always had all the potential in the world, he was just always mistake-prone as a young player. Now that he’s got three years of starting experience under his belt, we should see a much more mature and confident Thompson-Robinson in 2021. His yards per attempt have gone up each of his three seasons, and his touchdown rate was way up last year. He also was much more efficient with his legs last season, rushing for 306 yards and three touchdowns in only five games.
This offense has the potential to be elite, and if the defense can just be average this team is going to compete for the conference championship. The Bruins lost only one of their starters on defense, so I think they can actually be a bit better than average on that side of the ball. They went just 3-4 last season, but each of those four losses came by six points or fewer. At 12/1, there’s a lot to like.
Don’t forget to check out our SEC preview and predictions
PAC 12 longshot bet: Stanford Cardinal +3000
If you’re looking to sprinkle a few bucks on a PAC 12 longshot at juicier odds, Stanford is the move. Getting 30/1 with a David Shaw-coached team is always going to be appealing. Shaw is one of the most highly regarded coaches in college football, and has established a winning culture. Their odds are so steep just because quarterback Davis Mills left for the NFL, when that’s not the end of the world. Shaw has churned out a lot of successful passers, and it looks like his next one is going to be Tanner McKee.
McKee was very highly recruited coming out of high school, and has reportedly shown well at spring practices. His ceiling is sky-high. All you need for this bet to have a serious shot is for McKee to be as good as advertised, and that’s not that hard to imagine. Shaw has placed an emphasis on improved run defense this year, and inside linebacker Ricky Miezan should be able to help with that. He’s been banged up the past couple of years, and if he can stay healthy this time around will really improve this unit. Don’t sleep on the Cardinal.
Make sure you read our preview and predictions for the Big Ten this season
At Pickswise we offer free expert College Football Picks and College Football Predictions for all games in the Power Five conferences and the top 25 teams outside of Power five, including our College Football Parlay picks each week.