Usually, a defending conference champion that returns many key players – including the star quarterback – would head into the season as the odds-on favorite. For the Washington Huskies, that is not the case in 2017.
Coming off the school’s first-ever Pac-12 Championship Game victory and inaugural College Football Playoff appearance, the Huskies are listed as the +180 second choice (bet $100 to win $180) to repeat behind the favored USC Trojans at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.
Back under center for Washington is junior quarterback Jake Browning, who was named 2016 Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year after throwing for 3,430 yards with 43 touchdowns and nine interceptions. This will be head coach Chris Petersen’s fourth year leading the Huskies, and he has gone 27-14 (16-11 Pac-12) in the previous three.
However, the public and oddsmakers love the Trojans more, which is one of the main reasons they are the favorites on the odds to win the Pac-12 in 2017. USC handed Washington its lone regular-season loss 26-13 last November 12 as a 9.5-point road underdog.
This year, the teams will not square off unless they both make the Pac-12 Championship Game. The Trojans are led by sophomore signal-caller – and Heisman Trophy odds favorite - Sam Darnold (3,086 yards, 31 touchdowns and nine interceptions last year), and they have only made it to the Pac-12 Championship Game once, falling to Christian McCaffrey and the Stanford Cardinal 41-22 two years ago.
Stanford’s recent success in the Pac-12 as the only school to play in three conference title games since its inception in 2011 gives head coach David Shaw’s squad a shot as well. The Cardinal is the +800 third choice followed by the UCLA Bruins at +900. The Washington State Cougars and Oregon Ducks are each longer shots at +1600.
The Bruins appeared in the first two Pac-12 Championship Games and figured to make it back with highly-touted quarterback Josh Rosen. But Rosen, now a junior, played just six games last year due to a shoulder injury. UCLA and USC are both trying to break through and become the first Pac-12 South Division winner to take the conference title.