A quick check of the NCAA football futures odds out west in the Pac-12 finds what is expected to be a 2-team race between the Oregon Ducks and USC Trojans.
Replacing a starting quarterback at any level is never easy; replacing one the caliber of Marcus Mariota is especially difficult.
It's certainly not an impossible task for Mark Helfrich and his staff at Oregon, and the current College Football Futures Odds would seem to suggest the Ducks will make a smooth transition in the post-Mariota era. Oregon is fetching a 2/1 price to take home the Pac-12 crown, the Ducks listed at a more distant 25/1 to win the National Championship.
Mariota departed Eugene pretty much at the top of his game following three seasons guiding the Ducks. The Honolulu native set the career conference record with 135 total touchdowns, along with a half-dozen career and single-season marks at Oregon, wrapping it all up with the 2014 Heisman Trophy. About the only thing missing was a national title, though he did lead the Ducks to a BCS Bowl in as a freshman in 2012 and to the College Football Playoff Championship this past January.
Helfrich has plenty of options to fill Mariota's shoes, including Vernon Adams who is transferring in from Eastern Washington and eligible immediately after finishing his undergraduate degree. Adams put up some monster numbers at EWU in his three seasons there, throwing for nearly 3,500 yards and 35 touchdowns this last year, but he won't just walk in and take over under center for the Ducks.
That's because Mariota's understudy, Jeff Lockie, is already well-entrenched in the system and recently ran the first team offense through its spring scrimmage with solid results. Should Adams beat Lockie for the starting gig in the season opener, it will come against his former Eastern Washington teammates in Eugene.
Helfrich and his staff landed a strong recruiting class in addition to luring Adams away from EWU. The biggest, both literally and figuratively, newcomer is defensive end Canton Kaumatule who many think can step in immediately and be teamed with former high school teammate DeForest Buckner who was fourth on the Ducks in 2014 with 81 total tackles.
Sarkisian, Trojans Score Big On Recruiting Trail
All things considered, it was a pretty successful first season that Steve Sarkisian turned in at USC. Disappointing losses early at Boston College and home against Arizona State, each coming as double-digit favorites in the College Football odds, and the setback to rival UCLA spoiled an otherwise good season that still netted nine wins (7-6 ATS) ending with a Holiday Bowl triumph vs. Nebraska.
It should be an even better campaign ahead after the recruiting class Sarkisian brought in, even more impressive since the Trojans remain in the NCAA doghouse. Southen Cal landed four 5-star newbies, three on the defensive side, to rank second nationally behind Alabama.
The new class might find playing time difficult to come by early on with the Trojans returning starters from a year ago. That group is led by QB Cody Kessler and the entire offensive line. The college football futures have USC just behind Oregon at +210 to win the Pac-12, and ahead of the Ducks at 15/1 for the CFP Championship. The big games on the slate are an early home game vs. Stanford, a trip to Notre Dame in mid-October and a showdown with the Ducks in Eugene the Saturday before Thanksgiving.
Stanford Behind Oregon In North Division, UCLA Trails USC In South
That USC-Oregon contest could either decide things in the conference and on the national front, set up a rematch in the Pac-12 Championship, or open the door for either Stanford or UCLA to work their way into the conference title mix.
Stanford is +550 on the college football futures odds at BetOnline to win the league crown, and David Shaw has his work cut out for him following a step backwards with an 8-5 record. Defense has been the Cardinal's strong suit for several seasons, and they lost six key starters including safety Jordan Richards who went in the 2nd-round of the NFL Draft to New England.
UCLA is going off at 5/1 right now for the Pac-12 trophy, Jim Mora's biggest challenge replacing QB Brett Hundley not to mention three of his top four linebackers. The South Division should prove the toughest, and a nice dark horse College Football Pick might be Arizona State (+650) which is coming off a 10-win season and hosting USC, Oregon and Arizona this year.