New coaches litter the conference
The Pac-12 has got a lot of talent returning, but the big question is if the conference can get a coveted spot in the College Football Playoff. Washington was spectacular once again last year, but the Huskies went to the Fiesta Bowl where they lost to Penn State. Washington should be in the mix once again and could be joined by Stanford and maybe defending Pac-12 champion USC. College football is a little bit better when the Trojans are relevant.
This article will take a look at every team in the conference and see if I agree with the win total assessment given by the South Point Casino in Las Vegas. Sportsbooks are a lot sharper with the bigger conferences so some of their numbers when it comes to the over/under will be right on the money.
Pac-12 North Division
Over 6 wins -130...Under 6 wins +110
Non-Conference Games: North Carolina, at BYU, Idaho State
This offense could be a lot of fun to watch as Beau Baldwin has 10 starters back. Four of the team's top six receivers return although Demetris Robertson is transferring to Georgia. The questions come on defense where head coach Justin Wilcox needs better production. The unit returns eight starters so things should improve. Last year, the Golden Bears started out 3-0 before things fell off. There's a chance to do so once again. They play at USC while hosting Washington in-conference.
Verdict: Six is a really good number. To me, the deciding games are Washington and Stanford at home. Depending on how you think those go, then you'll pick over or under.
Over 8.5 wins -120...Under 8.5 wins EVEN
Non-Conference Games: Bowling Green, Portland State, San Jose State
There's a lot of optimism surrounding the program with new head coach Mario Cristobal taking over. The Ducks have solid quarterback play coming along with a deep group of receivers. Coordinator Jim Leavitt has done very good work with the defense, which returns seven starters. Oregon is trying to return to its high-scoring days. The Ducks can start really fast with four straight at home, but the closing stretch features four road games over six weeks.
Verdict: Solid number here as I come up with eight or nine wins for the Ducks.
Over 2.5 wins +110...Under 2.5 wins -130
Non-Conference Games: at Ohio State, Southern Utah, at Nevada
It pretty much only goes up from here for the Beavers who won just one game last year. In steps Jonathan Smith as head coach. He was a quarterback for Oregon State in the late 1990s. The offense is underwhelming in terms of talent and experience, but the offensive line is almost intact. The defense returns just five starters after struggling in 2017. The team has six road games and hosts USC and Oregon.
Verdict: I've got the under but the narrowest of margins. I don't recommend it though because of the price and the fact that it's not a slam dunk.
Over 8 wins -125...Under 8 wins +105
Non-Conference Games: San Diego State, UC Davis, at Notre Dame
Bryce Love is going to try to follow up a Heisman Trophy runner-up season by getting back to New York City 2018. He's got one of the nation's top offensive lines to work with and an underrated QB-WR combo in K.J. Costello and JJ Arcega-Whiteside. The questions come on the defensive side of the ball where five starters need to be replaced. The schedule opens up with three straight at home followed by two tough road trips. The Cardinal have three of their final four on the road so it'll be interesting to see how this team navigates that.
Verdict: Eight is a pretty strong number so no play here. You can probably make a case for the under if you think Stanford struggles on the road against the likes of Oregon, Notre Dame, Washington or UCLA.
Over 10.5 wins +115...Under 10.5 wins -135
Non-Conference Games: vs. Auburn, North Dakota, BYU
The Huskies have taken a step up in competition out-of-conference by playing Auburn in Atlanta. The past few years, they've dined on cupcakes and that's hurt them a bit when it came to playoff consideration. The question is if they are ready for a week one contest with an SEC foe. The offense is going to be spectacular with the likes of Jake Browning, Myles Gaskin and Chico McClatcher all returning. The defense lost defensive tackle Vita Vea, but returns nine starters and should be fun to watch.
Verdict: The money move is probably right here with the under. Trips to Utah, UCLA and Oregon are all potential banana peel games besides week one against the Tigers.
Over 6.5 wins -105...Under 6.5 wins -115
Non-Conference Games: at Wyoming, San Jose State, Eastern Washington
It's been a tough offseason for the program following the tragic passing of expected starting quarterback Tyler Hilinski. Gardner Minshew transferred from East Carolina and could seize the starting job in fall camp. We know that Mike Leach is going to throw the ball a ton and his receivers are a little green. The group has varying amounts of experience, but won't be as good as last year. The defense was pretty good last year, but lost its best player. The Cougars will take a step back as this is the conference's least experienced team. Leach will have to work some magic.
Verdict: This is a really tough schedule with Oregon and Washington coming to Pullman. I think six wins is about right so probably no play here.
Pac-12 South Division
Over 8 wins -115...Under 8 wins -105
Non-Conference Games: BYU, at Houston, Southern Utah
Quarterback Khalil Tate was incredible last year after being used sparingly in his freshman season. Tate's legs helped him rush for more than 1,400 yards while also putting up nearly 1,600 through the air. The question is how new head coach Kevin Sumlin and his staff will use the signal-caller. Plenty of skill position players return, but the offensive line will need some re-tooling. Improvement will be needed on defense where nine starters are back. The unit gave up more than 34 points per game. Three of the Wildcats' final four games are at home so down the stretch they could be playing for the division or a potential marquee bowl berth.
Verdict: The over is my favorite play in this conference. I think Arizona can easily get 9 or 10 wins.
Over 4.5 wins -130...Under 4.5 wins +110
Non-Conference Games: UTSA, Michigan State, at San Diego State
This is going to be one of the most fascinating teams in the country as Herm Edwards returns to coaching. Edwards made some headlines off the field involving not knowing the team's mascot at first as well as comments he made about recruiting. Quarterback Manny Wilkins and wide receiver N'Keal Harry are a good place to start on offense. The defense could be an absolute mess with just four returning starters. We'll see how the Sun Devils take to the new 3-3-5 formation that coordinator Danny Gonzales is installing. Getting Michigan State at home will be interesting, but probably a pretty big loss.
Verdict: The under is probably worth a look at this price. I think 3-4 wins are a very realistic finish to the season.
Over 4.5 wins -120...Under 4.5 wins EVEN
Non-Conference Games: vs. Colorado State, at Nebraska, New Hampshire
Steven Montez was pretty solid last year under center for the Buffs. The athletic quarterback had 18 touchdowns to just nine interceptions. Travon McMillan comes over from Virginia Tech to be the primary running back while the team works on finding reliable targets from an inexperienced group of wide receivers. Colorado started off 3-0 last year, but finished with just two wins the rest of the way. The Buffaloes play two teams in-conference off of their bye week. Colorado also closes with three of its final five games at home.
Verdict: The over is worth a look here with Arizona State and Oregon State both coming to Boulder.
Over 5 wins -120...Under 5 wins EVEN
Non-Conference Games: Cincinnati, at Oklahoma, Fresno State
Chip Kelly is back in the conference so the Bruins' offense should be fun to watch. With Josh Rosen leaving, there is a gaping hole at quarterback. Wilton Speight has transferred from Michigan, but it's no guarantee he's the best fit for Kelly's offense. Bolu Olorunfunmi and Soso Jamabo are going to be busy in the backfield. The defense brings back six starters and with better health, should be a solid unit. The Bruins get Washington, USC and Stanford at home, but have one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the Pac-12, highlighted by the trip to Norman to face Oklahoma.
Verdict: I come up with five wins for the Bruins. They have a lot of tough home games so this number could go up or down depending on how well you think they defend the Rose Bowl.
Over 8.5 wins -115...Under 8.5 wins -105
Non-Conference Games: UNLV, at Texas, Notre Dame
Sam Darnold is not walking through those doors, but JT Daniels could win over the fans if he starts at quarterback. The freshman is a highly touted recruit who has the measurements and the talent to make things go. The offense will miss running back Ronald Jones II, but there's plenty of backfield depth to work with. The offensive line will be fantastic too. Defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast has some work to do with a unit that has four returning starters. The secondary is going to be one of the best in the country though. No Washington on the schedule and tough road trips to Stanford and Arizona come in the first month.
Verdict: 8-9 wins seems about right so no play here. USC has a tough opening month with back-to-back road games at Stanford and Texas.
Over 7 wins -120...Under 7 wins EVEN
Non-Conference Games: Weber State, at Northern Illinois, BYU
The offense is going to be very strong with seven starters back and a solid group of running backs. The Utes should find plenty of success thanks in part to a solid offensive line. Utah's defense has to replace some talent up front, but the secondary should remain strong even without Casey Hughes, who transferred to Michigan. Kyle Whittingham is one of the best head coaches in the conference. Utah's conference slate has Washington, Arizona and USC all coming to Salt Lake City.
Verdict: This team has a lot of potential so I see seven wins or more for the Utes. I like the over, but it's not one of my favorite plays in the conference.
-- Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Josephs prefers non-Power 5 college football and may be the only one wagering on the Sun Belt. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.
(Top photo by Don Liebig/UCLA Photography, courtesy of uclabruins.com)