Southern Cal is the favorite on the NCAA football futures odds to win the Pac 12 title, but Oregon and UCLA might prove to be too tough for the Trojans in 2015.
Favorites to win the Pac-12 Championship for years, the Oregon Ducks have followed through on the college football futures odds four of the past six seasons. Mark Helfrich's team did it last year by avenging their only regular season loss in the conference title tilt, running away from Arizona to earn an invite to the first College Football Playoff where the Ducks blew out Florida State before bowing to Ohio State in the CFP Championship.
Oregon is once again a favorite to win the Pac 12 crown, but the Ducks are not the favorite this time with those honors going to Southern California. The Trojans are listed at +175 to earn their first league title since 2008, Oregon just behind at +200.
Like four of the Power Five conferences, the Pac 12 crown will be decided in a playoff game between the two divisions, North and South, the winners colliding on December 5 at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara. That's where things get a little dicey for USC since Oregon is a much bigger favorite to make it to that game than the Trojans.
Who Replaces Mariota Under Center In Eugene?
Betting Oregon to win the Pac 12 North means laying five to win one according to the latest NCAA football futures odds. There's not a lot of fun in playing numbers like that, but then, the Ducks really only have one true challenger in the division, and once again it's Stanford (+250 to win division, +500 to win conference).
The biggest question for Helfrich right now is who takes over at quarterback for 2014 Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota, now plying his trade in the NFL for the Tennessee Titans. It really isn't going to be fair to whoever eventually lands the job, since comparisons to Mariota are going to be made, and right now all signs point to 4th-year junior Jeff Lockie. The Ducks also have senior transfer Vernon Adams; if he wins the job in summer camp, Adams begins his Oregon career September 5 against his former Eastern Washington squad.
Stanford should once again be among the nation's best defensive teams with seven returning senior starters, but how far the offense can carry the Cardinal will depend on how well senior QB Kevin Hogan does. Head coach David Shaw will see his team tested early with a mid-September trip to USC, plus there's Notre Dame looming on the final regular season Saturday. The Cardinal do get Oregon at home, however, along with two more key conference games 12 days apart in October vs. Arizona and UCLA.
California and Washington are seen as the next best in the Pac 12 North according to the college football betting chart, each going off at +800 to win the division. Both teams have some huge concerns on defense, though, and the Golden Bears have both Oregon and Stanford on the road while the Huskies are away to play USC and Stanford.
Can USC Follow Through On Preseason Hype?
Where Oregon only has one contender in the North, Southern Cal has three in the Pac 12 South. The Trojans are +150 to win the group, UCLA next on the list at +250. Arizona (+350) and Arizona State (+500) follow.
Arizona defied the football odds last year to represent the South in the conference championship despite losing to both USC and UCLA. The Wildcats begin their Pac 12 slate with back-to-back toughies against UCLA at home before traveling to Stanford. They've also got a road trip to Southern Cal on November 7, and close on the road at rival Arizona State. No Cinderella story for Rich Rodriguez and Company this time.
A tough start to the Pac 12 fixture also awaits the Trojans who have Stanford at home in Week 3 then travel to Arizona State the following Saturday. There's a mid-October trek to Notre Dame and the journey to Eugene to face Oregon a week before closing out the regular season vs. rival UCLA.
Like Helfrich at Oregon, UCLA's Jim Mora is also having to replace a stud signal caller after Brett Hundley exited Westwood. Junior Jerry Neuheisel is penciled in, but I'm expecting true frosh Josh Rosen, the nation's top recruit at QB in the Class of '15, to make a hard push for the job the next few weeks. The Bruins have a tough matchup at Stanford in October, and are officially the visiting team vs. USC, but they're still my college football pick in the South Division.
The run ends there for Mora and his lads, however, who will fall to Oregon in the Pac 12 Championship.