Coloma, California. The place is Sutter’s Mill. James Marshall strikes gold and starts the California Gold Rush. Hundreds of thousands flocked west to pursue wealth beyond their wildest imaginations. Here, in my College Football Betting Guide, we also embark west on a journey we too hope yields us riches unimaginable. Let’s dive deep into the Pac-12 preview and see what the west coast has to offer (besides Pac-12 after dark, of course).
My College Football Betting Guide series focuses on how to find an edge and preview each team within the Power 5 conferences and beyond. My goal is to take you on a campus tour throughout each conference and find the value.
I’ll provide you with the favorites, the contenders, the dark horses, and well, the donations you could make by selecting teams within each conference. I’ll give you my thoughts on each respective Team Total future bet you could make, some of the better players you could target for DFS Plays, and I’ll also give you my pick for who will raise the trophy as the conference champion, the MVP of the conference, and the +EV Pick.
The +EV Pick may have you scratching your head a little bit as to what it is, but +EV is short for positive expected value. Expected value in sports betting “is a way to measure the probability gap between a bettor’s expectations and the sportsbook’s.”
In layman's terms, it’s who is going to give you the most bang for your buck: AKA, What’s the most profitable pick if you were to do this over and over again, long term. Because of course, that’s our goal: Long term profit. (and of course, fun!). So say it with me and repeat it to yourself, “Plus EV over everything.”
2022 College Football Betting Guide: Pac-12 Preview
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Pac-12 Conference Odds (via Fanduel)
- USC +150
- Utah +300
- Oregon +300
- UCLA +1000
- Washington +1700
- Washington State +4000
- Oregon State +4100
- Arizona State +5000
- California +5000
- Stanford +6000
- Colorado +15000
- Arizona +50000
The first thing you might notice is that this conference is certainly more up for grabs than the Big Ten. Our favorites in the conference include USC, Utah, and Oregon.
USC Trojans (2021 Record: 4-8)
The first thing that jumps out is that this team went from being 4-8 last season to now being the odds-on favorite to win the conference. It’s not something you see too often. What this tells me is that this team screams volatility and in sports betting, volatility is a good thing. The books, in big markets, have models that are better than yours. Volatility makes predictive accuracy tough. Let’s dig in to discover what all the hype in Hollywood is about.
Lincoln Riley takes control of one of the most prestigious programs in college football, and with him, he brings his own gold rush of recruits and transfer players. The biggest nugget of them all is Caleb Williams Oklahoma. Williams threw for 1,912 yards, 21 touchdowns and four interceptions last year at Oklahoma after taking over the position from Spencer Rattler. The bona fide Heisman contender can do it through the air, on the ground, and should be familiar with Riley’s offensive scheme that can put up points in a hurry.
In addition to Williams, and new to the offense will be a plethora of position players: Travis Dye will likely win the RB job. Jordan Addison, a WR transfer from Pitt who put up gaudy numbers last year has also made his way to L.A. Addison had 1600 yards receiving and a nation-leading 17 touchdowns. Addison will join Jerry Rice’s son and Colorado transfer, Brenden Rice, and Oklahoma transfer and highly touted Mario Williams in this new look, athletic group of wideouts.
The line will also be good, but not great. They’ll definitely look better this year with Williams’ scrambling ability.
The fact is, USC is going to put up points. They’re going to be electric, but at the same token, they’re going to have to learn to play together. The intangible of team chemistry is something predictive statistics struggles to quantify. On paper, USC’s offense can keep pace with any team in the nation, however, there are a lot of question marks, especially with a team that was 4-8 last year.
The new renovations will look nice, but the 4-8 foundation is still there for the Trojans and that includes their defense.
The USC defense was atrocious last year as they gave up 29 points a game and over 400 yards a game to Pac-12 opponents. Let’s look at how the defense fared when attempting to cause havoc. The Havoc statistic measures how often a defense intercepts a pass, deflects a pass, gets a tackle for loss, or forces a fumble. The chart below shows DB Havoc (x-axis) by Front 7 havoc (y-axis). USC was the worst in the Pac-12 in Havoc considering their front 7, and well below average in the DB category.
If the Trojans want to make improvements on defense, they’re going to have to start creating turnovers and havoc. For me, there’s little to no value in this future bet and the public bettors are going to overspend as they get gooey-eyed for that offense that might put up 40 a game (and might have to) to win.
Considering their schedule and the question marks surrounding the situation in LA, I think it’s a lot of hype, but Clay Helton’s skeleton is still holding up the program. Riley will have to slowly change that to get USC back to their standard and it will go faster with the transfer portal, the LA market, and the impending move to the Big Ten. They’re a couple of years out, but by the time they enter the Big Ten, look out.
Prediction: Team Total Under 9.5 Wins
Utah Utes (2021 Record: 10-4)
The Utes are primed for a Pac-12 championship this year and a spot in the college football playoff. The only thing that stands in front of them is a daunting schedule. Their defense is incredible at causing Havoc (see above graph) and their offense is led by an experienced and solid QB in Cameron Rising, who finished 6th in the nation in QBR.
Rising and Kyle Whittingham’s Utes led the Pac-12 in scoring last year, demolished Oregon in the Pac-12 championship, and probably should’ve won the Rose Bowl against Ohio St. The Utes averaged 36 points a game and will have Tavion Thomas back at RB, who had 1,100 yards and 21 touchdowns in a minorly shared role with TJ Pledger last year. The offense will have to replace some pieces in the OL, but they are likely going to have the 2nd best offensive line in the Pac-12 behind the nation’s best, the Oregon Ducks. A new receiver will have to step up for Britain Covey, but that may be the only question mark for this physical team.
The Utes are going to be very good this year, but the schedule will be challenging. The Utes will have to travel to The Swamp to battle the Gators in week 1. They’ll get San Diego State, whom they lost to last year, at Rice-Eccles Stadium as well as USC. They’ll then have to take on the Autzen Zoo and the Ducks later in the year in what should prove to be a critical game.
I think the Utes come out of the Swamp with a victory in week 1, where they’re currently 2.5-point favorites. The Utes will also beat San Diego St and USC. I think their experience and continuity have them ready to beat anyone this year, and I think they’re ready for another Pac-12 championship and run at the national title.
Prediction: Team Total Over 8.5 Wins. Way over 8.5.
Oregon Ducks (2021 Record: 10-4)
After losing to the Utes in the Pac-12 championship, Mario Cristobal has since departed. However, before he left, Cristobal did leave a generous gift for new HC Dan Lanning, the nation’s top offensive line. Cristobal was an O-line coach by nature and this outstanding group will keep the Ducks as a contender in any game. Lanning, from Georgia, will also bring in former SEC QB Bo Nix from Auburn to win the starting position job and lead a team returning 14 starters from last year’s team that went 10-4, losing the Alamo Bowl to Oklahoma.
The Ducks offense will be good obviously behind the line. Kenny Dillingham, who ran the offenses at Memphis, Auburn, and Florida St. will have familiarity with Bo Nix. Ty Thompson and Jay Butterfield will also get a chance at the starting QB spot, but Nix and Dillingham in a familiar offense is where I think the Ducks will go. Additionally, they’ll bring in Bucky Irving from Minnesota as a transfer, and Irving is electric in space. He’ll likely be spelled with a more powerful back in short yardage situations.
The defense will see dramatic improvements with Dan Lanning at the helm. He was the man responsible for one of the greatest college football defenses in history with last year’s Georgia team. Of course, Kayvon Thibodeaux is gone to the NFL, but after averaging 27 points a game to opponents last season, I expect that number to drop significantly. Led by Noah Sewell, the linebacking crew will be strong yet again for the squad for the Ducks and the North is theirs for the taking.
The situation is set up pretty cushy for the Ducks. They are safely situated to coast to a Pac-12 north championship and avoid USC on the Pac-12 schedule. However, they’ll have to play Georgia Week 1, of which they are currently 18-point dogs. They’ll also have to play BYU, who people aren’t talking enough about in my opinion. They open Pac-12 play with Washington St, which sounds like a nice way to start the conference, however, the Cougars for whatever reason always play the Ducks tough. Don't be surprised if they start the season 2-2. After that, however, they should start stringing some wins together and I expect it to be enough to have one of the two highest conference winning percentages and get them into the Pac-12 championship.
Prediction: Team Total Over 8.5.
UCLA Bruins (2021 Record: 8-4)
UCLA is a contender for one main reason. DTR. Dorian Thompson-Robinson led the Pac-12 in player efficiency last year, threw for 2400 yards, passed for 24 touchdowns and ran for 9 touchdowns and 600 additional yards. He’s a do it all player for Chip Kelly and will once again have to do it for the Bruins who finished 8-4 and averaged 36.5 points a game.
The Bruins offense will go under Kelly and put up points. Zach Charbonnet, the transfer from Michigan last year, will lead the RB corps and is tough to bring down. He’s also got pass-catching ability out of the backfield. Speaking of pass-catching, Jake Bobo (Duke transfer) and Kam Brown will lead the WR crew. The defense was average last year and to address that, Kelly brought in 8 transfers to try and patch holes, like the pass defense. Bill McGovern will take over the defense and we should see improvement overall.
UCLA will likely start 4-0 before getting Washington and then Utah at home. They’ll have to travel to Oregon after a bye week and then take on USC in the Battle for LA in the Rose Bowl. UCLA isn't quite in the same tier as the top 3, but they’re close. They also are going to be flooded with athletes, a huge market, money and transfers, and the Bruins will be a force when they leave the Pac-12 for the Big 10 in 2024.
Prediction: Team Total Under 8.5
Washington State Cougars (2021 Record: 7-6)
Washington State enters the Pac-12 as a true dark horse this season many pieces are being replaced, including starting QB Jaydon De Laura, as he has transferred to Arizona. But in true Mike Leach fashion, HC Jack Dickert had his own trick up his sleeve. He brought in Eric Morris from Incarnate Word to run the offense, as well as Incarnate Word QB, Cameron Ward.
As an avid FCS viewer, Cameron Ward is someone the majority of you haven’t heard of. He’s got scrambling ability and can sling it. Ward may need all the extra time he can get, as the Cougs are returning just 26% of their offensive line snaps and are predicted as the 9th best offensive line in the Pac-12. Ward can not only run, but he can throw. He threw for almost 4700 yards, 47 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions. Nakia Watson, a transfer from Wisconsin, will likely help the Cougars replace Max Borghi in the ground game.
New DC, Brian Ward, will have to improve the defense but they’re better than most people think. The schedule is also favorable for the Cougars. Yes, they have USC, Oregon, Wisconsin, and Utah, but every other game is very winnable for the Cougars out in Pullman, Washington
Prediction: Team Total Over 5.5
The Dark Horses
Washington Huskies (2021 Record: 4-8)
Kalen DeBoer takes over the helm from Jimmy Lake after leading a budding program in Fresno St. At QB, former Indiana star, Michael Penix Jr. has transferred in after having DeBoer as a coach in Indiana previously. His injuries have prevented the lefty from thriving the past couple of seasons, however, under DeBoer’s familiar offensive schemes and sets, we should see some improvements to the Washington offense that struggled last year.
The offense managed just over 21 points a game and was power rated 91st in the nation. Deboer will certainly have room to improve this offense if the Huskies want to be a true contender this year.
The defense last year was actually ok. They surrendered only 22.7 points a game, good for 37th in the nation, but will lose their two NFL-caliber cornerbacks, as they’ve since gone to the next level. The Huskies may struggle in pass coverage this year but should do better against the run as a couple of outside linebackers have made their way to Seattle through the transfer portal.
The schedule for Huskies should have them 2-0 before their first true test in having to take on Mel Tucker and Michigan St. They’ll have Sparty at home, which could pave the way for an upset, but I wouldn’t count on it. The Huskies will avoid USC and Utah this season, which should provide the Huskies with an improved record from last season. This will be a good start for Mr. DeBoer in his tenure as head coach at Washington, but they’re a long shot to contend at this price.
Prediction: Team Total Under 7.5
Oregon State Beavers (2021 Record: 7-6)
5th-year HC Jonathon Smith leads the Beavers into a 2022 season with hopes of overachieving like it did in 2021. Going 7-6 and beating the likes of USC and Utah, RS Senior QB Chance Nolan will have the experience and stability against the rivals of the Pac-12 North where quite a few coaching changes are taking place (Oregon, Washington, Washington St). This experience should serve the Beavers well in Corvallis, however, the talent level still may be a class below the aforementioned teams.
QB Tristan Gebbia and Jack Colletto may both see particular packages in the Beavers offense to razzle and dazzle defenses. The Jackhammer package with Colletto is always fun to watch. The Beavs will lose their All-Pac-12 RB from last year but have Deshaun Fenwick and Trey Lowe to be capable replacements. The Beavers Offensive line will also be a strong suit for the Beavers who finished the season averaging 31 points a game. With losing 40% of their production, one would think the Beavers are destined for a step back this year, but their stability and leadership should help to plug players in and keep going with the positive momentum the team is currently experiencing.
New DC Trent Bray will help a Beavers defense after serving as the interim DC last season. Oregon St will ultimately show what it has in its first 5 games. They’ll have top contenders of the Mountain West in Boise St and Fresno St. They’ll then have the Bobcats of Montana St, who are FCS, but absolutely no slouches. Then Oregon St will have USC and Utah in back-to-back weeks. How they fare in those first 5 will tell us a lot about how their season will go. Personally, I think they fall to Fresno, USC, and Utah, but they still get to the 6-win mark as their experience ultimately pays off.
Prediction: Team Total Over 5.5 wins
Arizona State Sun Devils (2021 Record: 8-5)
Herm Edwards leads the Sun Devils into the 2022 season with high expectations, even though hyper-talented Jayden Daniels (QB) is now gone. That’s a big hole to fill, but Herm Edwards seemed up to the task as he went out and got Emory Jones from Florida and Paul Tyson from Alabama. 6 other transfer players have also been added to the offense to potentially make a run at the Pac-12 title, including a bevy of O lineman.
The excellent Sun Devils defense from 2021 will be where the questions remain, as their top core of contributors have since graduated or moved on. The defense allowed only a little over 20 points a game in the Pac-12, which was home to many western-style shootouts. If the defense can rise to the occasion and replicate what they did last year, they’re going to be in good shape with some of the new faces on offense that should gel relatively quickly.
The market is way down on the Arizona St Sun Devils because of impending sanctions, a slew of transfers, and a defense that’s been largely depleted through graduation. I see the Sun Devils getting 3 wins out of their first 6, and taking the remaining 3 from Colorado, Stanford, and Arizona to get to the 6-win mark, and that may be the worst-case scenario.
Prediction: Team Total Over 5.5
California Golden Bears (2021 Record: 5-7)
The Golden Bears will get Purdue transfer and son of Jake “The Snake” Plummer, Jack to start for them this season. That’s a big win already for Justin Wilcox and the Cal offense because they only averaged 23.8 points per game last season. The returning production for the Bears is below 50% on both the offense and the defense, and even though they avoid Utah on the schedule, I don’t think they get close to the posted 5.5 wins.
Prediction: Team Total Under 5.5
Stanford Cardinals 2021 Record 3-9
The Farm wasn’t happy with the Cardinal last year, averaging just 20 points a game and surrendering over 32. The offense is going to be better. 90% of the offense returns for HC Byran Shaw and the Cardinal. Not only that, but their entire offensive line for QB Tanner McKee will also be back.
The only problem with all of these returners is that they have to drastically improve if they are going to win games in the Pac-12, which could happen, considering they’ll also have EJ Smith, Emmitt’s son, in the backfield to aid the run attack. This could potentially free up McKee to live up to the high expectations he had coming in. Stanford will be better, but unfortunately I believe The Game against Cal may be the highlight of the year for this team as it’s always fun to watch, with or without the band on the field.
Prediction: Team Total Over 4.5
Colorado Buffaloes (2021 Record: 4-8)
The good news: Boulder is beautiful and a great place to watch a football game. The bad news: The scenery is good, but this team is bad. It’s been mentioned that their RB is gone, but they’ve brought in JT Shrout from Tennessee at QB in 2021 to help Brendon Lewis and RJ Sneed from Baylor at WR. With Mike Sanford as the new OC for the Buffaloes, who was less than impressive at Minnesota, I’m not high on them at all after only averaging 18 points a game last season.
Prediction: Team Total Under 3.5
Arizona Wildcats (2021 record: 1-11)
They were 1-11 last year and they have one of the toughest schedules in the entire NCAA this year. They go to San Diego St, play Mississippi State after that, and then play FCS powerhouse North Dakota St. I think they start the season 0-3, even with new transfer QB from Washington St Jayden De Laura commanding the offense.
Prediction: Team Total Under 2.5 wins
Postseason Award Ceremony
- MVP: Caleb Williams
Embed from Getty Images
- Pac-12 Champion: Utah Utes
- The +EV Pick: Utah Utes. The new changes to the Pac-12 favorites in coaching, leave the door wide open for the Utes and Kyle Whittingham’s stability. They should be the outright favorite and at +300, the path to the Pac-12 Championship goes through Salt Lake City this year.
- Bonus +EV Pick: Consider taking Washington St at 40-1. The new offense and QB Cameron Ward could be electric to watch and taking a flyer at 40-1 has value
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