The question facing bettors in Pac-12 championship futures is this: Are you willing to invest in a team that won only four games last season at extremely short odds?
Oddsmakers have installed the Trojans as small +200 favorites in a conference that can easily be won by at least four teams.
USC, which has won the Pac-12 a remarkable 37 times in its storied history, will need the new dynamic connection of Caleb Williams and Jordan Addison to pay immediate dividends. On the defensive side of the ball, Riley needs to shore up a porous unit that surrendered the second-most points per game (31.8) among Pac-12 teams in 2021.
Utah, which won the Pac-12 for the first time in school history last season, slots in with the second-lowest odds at +250. The expectations of a second consecutive conference title appear daunting since three of the Utes’ most-difficult regular-season games against Florida, UCLA and Oregon are all on the road.
The Ducks burned bettors last year despite winning 10 games due to a disappointing 5-9 against the spread (ATS) marks. This season, oddsmakers are high on quarterback Bo Nix taking over for Anthony Brown, who left for the NFL. Oregon (+275) has the third-best odds but is not that far behind USC and Utah.
Washington State +2500
Arizona State +2500
Oregon State +2800
TOP CONTENDERS: USC Aims to Return to Glory
Head coach: Lincoln Riley
Key players: QB Caleb Williams, RB Travis Dye, WR Jordan Addison
2021 records: 4-8 straight-up (SU) / 4-8 ATS
USC is hoping that Riley, who posted a 55–10 record at Oklahoma, will turn around a program that has only won the Pac-12 Championship once since 2009.
Joining him is Williams, his quarterback at Oklahoma, as well Addison, who transferred from Pittsburgh following a sensational 2021 campaign. The potentially lethal duo has oddsmakers listing the Trojans are the Pac-12 favorites after going just 4-8 last season.
The South Division title will likely come down to the Week 7 showdown with defending Pac-12 champion Utah. Oddsmakers have installed the Utes, who are just 3-7 in the last 10 meetings with the Trojans, as 4.5-point home favorites.
Riley’s squad is favored in two of its other biggest games of the year when it heads to the Rose Bowl to face UCLA as a 3.5-point road favorite prior to the regular-season finale against Notre Dame as a 3-point home favorite at the LA Memorial Coliseum.
Utah won its first Pac-12 championship last year and is a strong contender to repeat in 2022. Utah led the Pac-12 in rushing yards per game (216.8), which resulted in the second-most points per game (36.1). The Utes will be solid on the offensive side of the ball with the return of quarterback Cameron Rising, as well as running back Tavion Thomas who led the conference with 21 rushing touchdowns last season.
The Utes possessed the best defense in the Pac-12 last season, surrendering the fewest points per game (20.6).
The Utes open on the road as two-point favorites against Florida, followed by a four-game stretch in which they are favored by double digits ahead of their big Oct. 8 tilt with USC. With all the attention going to Riley’s Trojans, respected money in Vegas has quietly backed Kyle Whittingham’s crew to surpass its win total projection of 8.5.
Head coach: Dan Lanning
Key players: QB Bo Nix, RB Byron Cardwell, WR Dont’e Thornton
2021 records: 10-4 SU / 5-9 ATS
New head coach Dan Lanning brings in Nix, the former Auburn quarterback, to run his offense in his first season at the helm. The former Georgia defensive coordinator knows what to expect from the talented signal-caller after watching him post 57 total touchdowns in just 34 games playing in the SEC with the Tigers.
The Ducks likely start the season on a losing note as Oregon lands as a massive 18-point underdog against the defending national champion in Georgia, who have the second-lowest odds (+300) to win the national championship at SI Sportsbook.
Last season’s Pac-12 North winner gets the benefit of playing both UCLA and Utah at Autzen Stadium in 2022. The luxury of hosting both conference showdowns results in bettors being asked to lay identical two-point spreads.
The action on the Oct. 22 matchup with the Bruins should be all one-sided for oddsmakers as Oregon is 9-1 in the last 10 meetings with UCLA dating back to 2008, including a victory in the 2011 Pac-12 Championship game.
LONG SHOT: UCLA Could Surprise With Talented Quarterback
2022-23 NCAA championship odds: +10000
Regular-season betting win total: 8.5
Despite an 8-4 ATS mark last season, bettors who have backed Chip Kelly’s squad on the moneyline have lost a sizable percentage of their bankrolls since UCLA has only posted a paltry 18-25 mark in his four seasons at the helm.
The production of quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who rushed for a career-high nine touchdowns in 2021, leads to optimism once again.
The Bruins kick off the season as 26-point favorites in their home opener against Bowling Green and are favored to get off to a 5-0 start prior to their first real test Oct. 8 against Utah. UCLA is a 3-point home underdog against the defending Pac-12 champion, and two weeks later hits the road for a pivotal matchup with an Oregon club that has simply dominated the Bruins over the past decade.
Following the clash with the Ducks, UCLA is favored to win four of its last five games. The only game where oddsmakers believe a loss will take place occurs Nov. 19 when the Bruins host USC as 5.5-point home underdogs.
MOON SHOT: Washington Turns to New Coach
Head coach: Kalen DeBoer
Key players: QB Michael Penix Jr., RB Aaron Dumas, WR Rome Odunze
2021 records: 4-8 SU / 3-9 ATS
Respected money in Vegas has backed the over in Washington’s season win total of 7.5 wins, believing the projection was set too low by oddsmakers. Expectations are high for new coach Kalen DeBoer as he inherits a program coming off a 4-8 season.
Dual-threat quarterback Michael Penix Jr. comes to Washington after several seasons at Indiana and should get settled in nicely with two soft games against Kent State and Portland State ahead of a tough Week 3 home tilt with Michigan State.
The double-digit future odds are tempting in this market, but facing both UCLA and Oregon as touchdown-plus underdogs away from the friendly confines of Husky Stadium does not bode well for a potential third Pac-12 title in the last seven years.
REST OF THE FIELD: Arizona State Turns to New Quarterback
Head coach: Jake Dickert
Key players: QB Cameron Ward, RB Nakia Watson, WR De’Zhaun Stribling
2021 records: 7-6 SU / 8-5 ATS
Head coach: Justin Wilcox
Key players: QB Jack Plummer, RB Damien Moore, WR Jeremiah Hunter
2021 records: 5-7 SU / 7-5 ATS
Head coach: David Shaw
Key players: QB Tanner McKee, RB E.J. Smith, WR Brycen Tremayne
2021 records: 3-9 SU / 3-9 ATS
Arizona Wildcats (+25000)
Frankie Taddeo is a successful high-stakes fantasy football player who created the first-ever DFS program ever offered in a Las Vegas sportsbook. Frankie is SI Betting's Senior Analyst and provides his significant experience and resources in the sports betting scene. You can follow Frankie on Twitter @Frankie_Fantasy for his latest betting and fantasy insights from Las Vegas.
More Betting, Fantasy and College Football:
• Fantasy/Betting Impact: Juan Soto Trade
• Massachusetts to Legalize Sports Betting
• Celtics Emerge as Title Favorites
• Fantasy/Betting Impact: Yankees Acquire Montas
• Fantasy/Betting Impact: Astros Trades
• June Betting Recap
• SI Fantasy Draft Kit
• College Football’s 25 Most Intriguing Coaches