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Oregon, Washington, Utah Dominate Pac-12 Title Futures; Do Stanford, USC Have Value as Longshots?

Stanford Cardinals football at the line of scrimmage
The Stanford Cardinals are considered a sleeper team in the Pac-12 in 2019. Photo by Daniel Hartwig (Flickr) [CC License]
  • Oregon, Washington and Utah are the favorites to win the Pac-12 Conference
  • Stanford and USC are considered Pac-12 sleeper teams by some experts
  • Is there value in a Pac-12 longshot?

Utah’s assault on the Pac-12 Title futures has the 2019 conference race looking like a three-team battle between the rising Utes and the early favorites, Oregon and Washington.

With Utah now even with the Huskies and Ducks at +280 (on average) in the Pac-12 Championship odds, is it creating value elsewhere in what has been, in recent years, a rather balanced conference?

Stanford and USC are considered longshots, based on the current odds. Here’s how BetOnline sets up the Pac-12 this year.

2019 Pac-12 Title Odds

Team Odds to win 2019 Pac-12 Championship at BetOnline
Oregon +275
Washington +275
Utah +300
USC +800
Washington State +900
Stanford +2000
Arizona +2500
Arizona State +2500
UCLA +2800
California +3300
Colorado +6600
Oregon State +25000

*Odds taken 08/13/19.

How Far Can K.J. Costello Take the Cardinals?

The reason to consider Stanford as a legit contender in the Pac-12 is quarterback K.J. Costello. The senior is back after throwing for 3,540 yards and 29 touchdowns against just 11 interceptions in 2018. Costello led the entire Pac-12 with a 65.1 completion percentage last year and can be considered a dark horse candidate for the 2019 Heisman Trophy.

There are concerns with the Cardinals, however, as they lost some key players from the team that went 9-4 last season. That includes star running back Bryce Love, four starting offensive linemen, and their top three pass-catchers from 2018, including JJ Arcega-Whiteside, who’s now catching passes on Sunday for the Philadelphia Eagles. 

Junior Paulson Adebo is a promising player on defense after breaking up 20 passes with four interceptions last season, but there’s a lot of inexperience all over this roster.

I do see some value in Stanford based on Costello and nine-year head coach David Shaw, but I don’t think it’s enough to make them a good bet at +2000. While Stanford doesn’t have to face the best team in the Pac-12 South (Utah) this year, they have a really tough opening stretch: vs. Northwestern, at USC, at UCF, vs. Oregon, at Oregon State, and vs. Washington.

If they can survive the first part of the season, the Cardinals could make a run, but they still aren’t on the same level as Oregon and Washington in the Pac-12 North.

USC Overshadowed by Utah in Pac-12 South

Utah has been gaining ground in the Pac-12 odds — and for good reason. Quarterback Tyler Huntley is returning after throwing for 1,788 yards and 12 touchdowns last season before going down with injury. The Utes have excellent depth at running back behind Zack Moss and a great coach in Kyle Whittingham.

Given the weaker competition in the Pac-12 South, does USC have value at +800?

Coach Clay Helton is heading into his fourth season as coach and is likely on an extremely hot seat after the Trojans posted a disappointing 5-7 record last season. JT Daniels is the favorite to start at quarterback after an up-and-down year where he threw 14 touchdowns to 10 interceptions while completing 59.5 percent of his passes.

The Trojans have loads of talent returning, including Michael Pittman Jr., Tyler Vaughns and Amon-Ra St. Brown at wide receiver. Given the overall strength of the Utes, there are just too many question marks surrounding USC for them to be considered a legit contender in the Pac-12. 

USC’s defence ranks 118th in returning production, Daniels isn’t a sure-fire bet and their schedule is very tough early on. Much like Stanford, we’re going to know a lot about the Trojans in the first half of the season. They open the season at home vs. Fresno State before a tough five-game stretch that sees them host Stanford, travel to BYU, host Utah and then play Washington and Notre Dame on the road.

Verdict on Potential Pac-12 Longshots

The Pac-12 is set to be an intense three-way race in 2019, and I don’t see value in the longshot.

Oregon, Washington and Utah are three powerhouses, and while Stanford and USC may be considered sleeper teams, they just don’t have the same amount of talent and depth to be considered legit contenders.

The Pac-12 is set to be an intense three-way race in 2019, and I don’t see value in the longshot

The Utes earned 33 of 35 first-place votes as the favorite to win the South Division with 206 points in the media’s preseason poll, while Oregon (190) and Washington (189) eached earned 17-place votes in the North. The next team on the list in that division is Washington State, and they received just one first-place vote.

The loaded talent at the top of the Pac-12 makes a surprise team such as Stanford or USC winning unlikely. These two teams could make a run if they get through their early schedules unscathed, but there’s too much uncertainty there to see value with at their current odds.

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