2014 Odds to Win the Pac-12 South Division for College Football with Picks and Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 7/23/2014
The Pac-12 South is more interesting this year than it has been in the past. There are, at least according to the odds, three teams that have a chance to come out on top and represent the division in the Pac-12 Championship Game. Even better, whichever team wins will have a legitimate shot at winning the conference - not usually the case in the new Pac-12. UCLA, Arizona State and USC all face brutal schedules, but one team is going to come out on top. Can UCLA deliver on hope and run away from the pack? Is USC rising from the ashes? Can Todd Graham maintain momentum in Arizona State? Here are the odds to win the Pac-12 South for college football, with picks and predictions for good measure:
The Odds (from Bovada)
Arizona State (2/1)
Breaking it all down
UCLA: The Bruins have made a science of wasting potential over the last decade or more. Of course, they have never had the kind of potential that they have now - or at least not in the lifetimes of their players. They have a very special talent at QB. Brett Hundley would be getting even more attention in the league than he is if he weren't overshadowed at his position in his conference by Marcus Mariota. Jim Mora is by far the best coach that they have had in decades, and they have plenty of talent on both sides of the ball. It's a sign of how far the program has come that they have lost a player of the caliber of linebacker Anthony Barr and yet we don't really have to be concerned about their ability to survive and thrive without him. The schedule is in their favor, too - at least relatively. It's tough, but that can't be avoided in the Pac-12 right now. They get Oregon, USC and Stanford at home, though - and they have a week off before having to play the last two in consecutive weeks. This is UCLA's division to lose, and I feel good about them. Of course, they are UCLA, so if there is a way to disappoint that can be found they will find it.
Arizona State: The team did a lot of things to like last year, and I would like to believe that they are poised to take another step forward. Their problem, though, is that the schedule makers clearly hate them. On Sept. 25 they host UCLA in a game that has the chance to make or break the season for either squad. The Sun Devils can't dwell on that game, though, because their next three games are at USC, at home against Stanford, and at Washington. They have a bye week in the middle of that gauntlet, but that might not be enough to ease what could be a whole lot of pain if things start to go poorly - and even a very good team could struggle against a slate like that. Things get somewhat easier after that, but that alone makes it really hard to have any faith in this team to win the division - at least at this price. This is an easy pass.
USC: The story we are supposed to believe is that the Trojans are suddenly and decidedly on the rise - a team to reckon with again. I'm just not buying it. They have some talent, but they still aren't fully-loaded - especially not with older players. Their QB situation is still a concern, and depth could be an issue in spots. Of more concern, though, is their coaching. They are less than a year removed from the Lane Kiffin era, and all the damage that did. Steve Sarkisian was an uninspiring hire (to be kind), and it's hard to believe he can quickly work miracles here when he did little beyond underwhelm in Washington. The left side of their offensive line and their secondary are both concerns. So is the schedule, with trips to Stanford, UCLA, and to an Arizona team that is proven to be able to beat the Trojans. I just don't respect this team enough to justify this price.
Arizona: I don't believe that the Wildcats are going to win this division, but there is some relative value in this price. In the third year of this coaching regime they have momentum on their side. The loss of mega-star running back Ka'Deem Carey hurts, but they have some talent, and they have the kinds of players that Rick Rodriguez is looking for. They did some nice things last year - like beating USC - and have plenty to build on. They play at Oregon and UCLA, so nothing is going to come easy. They have some potential, though, and are the most attractive long shot in the league. Put it this way - I would bet them at this price every day before betting USC or Arizona State at theirs.
Utah and Colorado: We'll discuss these two together because neither is worth any real attention. These are two really bad programs going nowhere fast. I could try to find potential bright spots or reasons for hope, but I would be lying. Both teams were once good, but that was long ago, and they have clearly forgotten how they got there. Ugly.
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