2010 College Football Predictions: Pac-10 Conference Odds and Betting Picks
by Robert Ferringo - 8/13/2010
Like Medusa, the Pac-10 is somewhat powerless once the head has been chopped off. With USC embroiled in scandal, suspension, coaching change, and attrition, there is a power vacuum in West Coast football. The mighty Trojans have fallen, and this year will be a free-for-all to claim the vacated throne.
Last year Oregon was able to claim the crown and establish themselves as the Pac-10’s top team. They won the title by two full games – eliminating their in-state rivals, Oregon State, in the process – and earned a trip to the Rose Bowl for the first time in 15 years. However, an offseason full of absurdity has led to the suspension of their quarterback and leader, as well as a number of other suspensions.
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Does Oregon have the goods to become the Pac-10’s next superpower? Or will the parity that permeates this league yield a surprise winner? I have been handicapping this conference for years and I have to say that even I am stumped when it comes to how this shakes out. And at the end of the year I think that any one of six teams – Oregon, USC, Arizona, Stanford, Oregon State or Washington – could head to the Rose Bowl and it wouldn’t surprise me a single bit.
According to Bodog Pac-10 betting odds, the Ducks have been instilled as the favorite to represent the Pac-10 in a BCS bowl this year at +250. Oregon State is second at +300 with Washington (+450), UCLA (+450) and Arizona (+500) close behind. Stanford (+700) and Cal (+800) are also appealing “long shots”. I know I wouldn’t roll the dice with the Ducks. Despite their talent edge this conference lacks a clear-cut dominator. In my opinion that makes the dog prices that much more valuable.
Here is a look at the 2010 Pac-10 Conference with my college football predictions for betting:
The Favorite: Oregon
The Ducks are the defending Pac-10 champions and have the most experienced team (17 returning starters) in the league. Chip Kelly’s first year was a rousing success and now he’s poised to defend his conference crown. One problem: his program is full of dickheads, and last year’s starter and team leader Jeremiah Masoli got himself booted out of the program. With their QB the Ducks would have been a shoo-in to dominate this parity-driven league. However, now the door is at least open for another contender, and as much as I like the roster I get bad vibes thinking about this club’s prospects.
Oregon’s spread-option offense continues to be one of the most effective in college football. And while there will be a drop-off this year, new/old starter Nate Costa has plenty of snaps under his belt. And the biggest boon for this group is that all five starting linemen are back to pave the way.
Defensively, this team was young last year. But eight of its top nine tacklers are back and seven senior starters will lay the foundation. It’s really tough to get a grasp on the schedule because no clear Pac-10 hierarchy exists. But as long as they continue to dominate in Eugene (51-13 over L10 years) and can find three or four road wins this team could be knocking the door of another BCS berth.
The Challenger: USC
So, not much new around the Trojans these days. Well, other than their new coach, new systems, lack of bowl eligibility, and pretty much their total descent from college football royalty into limbo.
This is the first time in seven years that USC won’t open the season as the defending champs. I know I’m not the first, but I just want to get it on record that Lane Kiffin is an absolute joke of a coach. A joke. He can lean on his father, legendary defensive coordinator Monte, but I have little faith that he’ll be a good fit with the Trojans. There is talent on the roster – with those players that stayed – but my biggest question about this group is how they are going to handle their fall from grace.
USC was the gold standard in college football for the last decade. And the players carried the swagger of a champion. But now that times are tough, how will this group hold up? And can Kiffin hold them together? I’m a skeptic. They do host Cal and Oregon, with an extra week to prepare for the Ducks. And a soft opening month could give them some confidence and momentum. Until I see the body, it is hard to believe that USC is dead. We will see.
The Dark Horse: Stanford
I think that Jim Harbaugh has been unbelievable in building up the Cardinal program. They won eight games last year and have brought back a load of proven players on both sides of the ball.
Yes, they will have a hard time replacing Toby Gerhardt. But sophomore quarterback Andrew Luck looks like a keeper. And with a receiving corps that is as deep as any on the West Coast the Cards could actually improve on an offense that averaged around 42 points per game its last six games of the season. But they have to improve on the defensive side of the ball. They were eighth in scoring, eighth in total defense, sixth against the run and ninth against the pass. As a result, they lost three games where they held at least a two-touchdown lead. That can’t happen if you want to take the next step as a program.
A three-game gauntlet at Notre Dame, at USC and at home against Oregon should tell the tale for this group.
The X-Factor: Washington
Right now the biggest problem with Washington is that they are all over everyone’s radar. An upset of USC last year established the Steve Sarkisian Era, and the former USC assistant could be one of the biggest beneficiaries of USC’s fall from grace. The hype around this team starts with Heisman Trophy contender Jake Locker. But Washington will be a player in the Pac-10 this year because 17 returning starters, half of which are of the three-year variety, surround him.
Defensively, the Huskies have to improve if they want to be taken seriously. They were in the bottom of the league in scoring and rushing offense and just got blown off the ball too often. There were some games that they really just didn’t have a chance to win because they were manhandled on the offensive and defensive lines. Washington has dumped 12 straight road games and has to get over that hump.
Finally, the schedule is ridiculous, and that’s been a huge anchor around this program for the last decade. They over-schedule every year and have to tangle with BYU, Syracuse and Nebraska this season.
The Surprise Team: Arizona
Mike Stoops has consistently proven that he’s not a quality coach. But even he can’t screw up the offense that the Wildcats posses this season.
Triggerman Nick Foles leads an explosive group that has playmakers all over the field. This unit sputtered late last season, but with elite back Nic Grigsby and crazy speed at wideout I think Arizona can cause a lot of problems for people. Stop me if you’ve heard this one in the Pac-10, but the issue is on the defense. Only four starters and just three of the Top 11 tacklers are back. But that might not necessarily be a bad thing. This is a feast-or-famine defense, and when they are creating turnovers and making big plays they are a great compliment to the offense. But they aren’t physical and they aren’t tough, so we’ll have to see how they hold up.
I think we’ll know all we need to about this team by the end of September. They host Iowa in a revenge game from last year and then host Cal the next week. After that the Wildcats get two weeks off to prep for Oregon State, which could be worn out by then. If Arizona starts 5-0 it will come down to whether or not Stoops can live up to his famous coaching surname.
The Disappointment: Cal
Last year things were set up perfectly for the Golden Bears to take control of the Pac-10. Losing to Oregon and USC in back-to-back weeks by a combined score of 72-6 showed that they weren’t up for it. And I can’t say that I see a ton on this team to make me think that they’ll be anything more than the perennial underachiever they’ve been the last three seasons (24-15 overall, 18-20 ATS).
The main problem I see is Kevin Riley. After a highly publicized quarterback battle in 2008, Riley has assumed the reins of this offense. And he’s shown time and time again that he’s a moron. Poor throws, poor decisions, and just overall poor leadership have marked his time in Berkley and as long as he’s under center this team is just a snap away from catastrophe. Shane Vereen is a nice back to build around. But he’s not Jahvid Best and he won’t benefit from the same level of line play. The defense has some vets, but they lost their top-end talent and have been hit-or-miss for years.
This team ends with four of six at home. And if they can pick up some momentum they could be OK. But they are being touted as a Pac-10 title threat and I don’t think there is any way they will step up to that level.
Oregon State – Mike Riley is one of the best in the business and is a master of getting the most out of his talent. And there is plenty of it on this roster. The Rodgers Bros. are two of the best players in the conference and are instant offense. And while they lose both starting quarterbacks (don’t ask) that’s probably a good thing, as Sean Canfield and Lyle Moevao never found their way in Corvallis. The defense has seven starters back, which makes it one of the more experienced that Riley has had to work with recently. The Beavers have been on the doorstep of the Rose Bowl in each of the past two years, losing to archrival Oregon both times. If they are in that position again I don’t see them losing it a third time.
UCLA – I want to like this team. I want to think that they are going to be good. But there are just too many indicators working against this group. They lost some quality NFL talent, especially on defense, that they won’t be able to replace. And they play all six of their road games against 2009 bowl teams. They have to open in Manhattan against Kansas State in a tricky game, then they have two tough home games against solid Stanford and feisty Houston before a trip to Texas. A 1-3 or even 0-4 start isn’t out of the question. The great news for this team is that only three of its 22 projected starters are going to be seniors. But that is great for next season, not this one.
Arizona State – Arizona State has been kind of a hard-luck team over the past two years, going 0-6 in games decided by six points or less (0-4 last year). They lost six straight games to close last year and you have to wonder how much of that will carry over to this year. Dennis Erickson has just nine starters back and needs to break in a new quarterback, three new offensive linemen, and five of seven new starters in the defensive back seven. The Sun Devils have a stretch of four of five games on the road, including a trip to Wisconsin, and the home game is against Oregon. That’s trouble. I think that this is a clear rebuilding year for ASU before a possible step forward next year.
Washington State – This team is a horror show. Wazzou has been the worst BCS team in the nation the past two seasons and although they have 15 starters back you have to ask yourself: is that a good thing? During Paul Wulff’s first two seasons the Cougars have experienced injury attrition unlike anything I can remember. That’s given them some depth. But they are facing far superior talent, far superior coaching and in one of the more bizarre scheduling quirks they don’t get a week off during the season but get three full weeks to prepare for the season finale against Washington.
Robert Ferringo is a writer and a professional sports and college football handicapper for Doc’s Sports. Last year his NFL picks brought home +62.5 Units for his clients and he is regarded as one of the top totals players for NFL odds in the sport. He guarantees a winning football season this year or he will work for free until you turn a profit. You can sign up for his college football and NFL picks and get more information here.
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