2014 Odds to Win the Pac-12 North Division for College Football with Picks and Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 7/23/2014
Between Oregon and Stanford, the Pac-12 North has been where all the action and excitement has been in the Pac-12 for several years now. The South is getting stronger again, with both USC and especially UCLA looking to threaten the northern supremacy. Whether they can do that or not, it remains clear that whichever team wins this Pac-12 North, which is far from an easy task, will be a major player in the conference. To help determine who might come out on top, and if there is any value in betting on them, here are the odds to win the Pac-12 North for college football, with picks and predictions thrown in for good measure:
The odds (from Bovada)
Washington State (12/1)
Oregon State (14/1)
Breaking it all down
Oregon: It all comes down to one factor above all in 2014 - can Marcus Mariota be consistently better (and healthier) than he was in 2014. He is a massive talent and a Heisman favorite, but he needed to carry this team like a superstar last year, and he didn't. If he can't do that then this team is going to have some issues like they did last year. The Mark Helfrich era is only one year old, so it is too soon to make judgments. You can't help but feel, though, that this team lacked some sharpness and intensity last year that they had under Chip Kelly. October 11 is really going to be the defining game for the team this year - that's when they travel to the Rose Bowl to play UCLA. If they can win that one then they are well-positioned in the division. If they struggle there, though, then things could get ugly. If we have learned anything from this team in recent years it's that they don't always shake off setbacks well. Add it all up, and while I certainly wouldn't be surprised if the Ducks were to win the division, I really can't justify betting on them at a price anywhere close to this one. No value to be found, though as you'll see as we go through the division they could almost win by default given the issues with the other teams.
Stanford: David Shaw is the top coach in the Pac-12 - and that is quite a compliment given the amount of coaching talent that the league has assembled in their last several seasons. If he can win the division this year, though, he will have shown off a whole new level of excellence. He has faced a loss of talent before, but this year he sees major holes in his offensive line, his running game, and especially on defense. Guys that were key leaders have moved on. The biggest concern, though, is their schedule. It is just brutal. They play road games at Washington, Arizona State, Oregon and UCLA and have to interrupt their conference schedule for a trip to Notre Dame as well. There are a lot of chances to lose, and that makes it really hard to believe in the team at this price.
Washington: I really, really like the Chris Petersen hire. Steve Sarkisian was a disappointment, and the fanbase should be happy to see him gone to USC. Petersen is an outstanding coach, and he should be able to work magic once he gets his culture in place. He will be able to recruit players he never has before, and he will have many more resources than he has ever dreamed of. It could go very well for the Huskies. The problem, though, is that it is going to take a while. This is a longer-term project, so it is too early to get excited about a price like this. They will make a statement or two but won't be able to sustain it.
Washington State: Mike Leach did some very good things last year - they beat USC on the road and played in a bowl game. Ultimately, though, they just weren't good enough to contend against legitimate foes on a regular basis. Leach found completely empty cupboards when he arrived in town, and it will take quite a while for him to get the type and number of players he needs. They will be better this year than last year, and they will shock someone, but we are still quite a while away from talking about them winning divisions.
Oregon State: I respect Mike Riley as a coach, but I just can't imagine how he is going to compete on a consistent basis with this team in this division. The Beavers can get some special talent - like Sean Mannion at QB right now - but they aren't able to assemble the players they need to be a big player on a consistent basis. It's about small victories for Oregon State these days, and winning the division certainly isn't a small victory.
Cal: My mind is far from made up about the hiring of Sonny Dykes at Cal. Whether he can eventually turn this program around or not, what is clear is that he is in for another very painful season. He inherited a program in a complete mess, and his dramatic transition to a whole new system has only made things worse in the short term. The victory for Dykes this year would be winning more than one conference game. Heck, after going 0-9 last year, even one win would be a victory. Vince Lombardi himself couldn't make this team even respectable this year.
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