2014 Pac-12 Football Predictions and Futures Odds Picks
by CarbonSports - 8/26/2014
The Pac-12 will once again be one of the better all-around conferences in college football this year as it's the deepest it's been in years. Only three programs (Cal, Washington State, Colorado) are expected to be going through growing pains this year as all three are very big longshots to win the conference (+22500). However, those three schools could surprise some and provide a critical upset or two that could change the landscape of this conference as the rest of the schools battle it out for supremacy. Three schools are above the rest when it comes to claiming the Pac-12 conference and none of them were involved in the championship game a year ago.
Full list of Pac-12 odds at Carbon Sports can be found here
Oregon (-120) comes in as the favorite as they've got their Heisman hopeful QB Marcus Mariotta returning this year to lead the high-flying offense. The Ducks are always one of the most exciting teams in all of college football for how fast they play and their ability to put up points, but it their defense took a huge step last year in allowing 16 points or less in over half of their games. Oregon's used to winning games 45-38, but when they can hold opponents under 20 consistently they might be unstoppable.
Along with Mariotta, Oregon has nine starters returning on offense, including their entire offensive line. Those big boys up front returning can't be understated as they've played significant minutes in the past protecting Mariota and giving their playmakers time and space and with another year under their belt this Ducks offense could be better than ever. Mariotta accounted for 4,380 yards himself last year and although he lost his two favorite weapons in WR Josh Huff and RB De'Anthony Thomas to the NFL, the Ducks have always done a great job recruiting high-level talent and it won't be any different this season.
There are a couple of potential stumbling blocks for Oregon on the schedule with trips to UCLA and Oregon State this year, but they avoid playing USC all together and if they can get through those games with wins, running the table is a distinct possibility.
Speaking of UCLA (+275), they've got their own Heisman candidate QB in Brett Hundley and this program has made great progress over the past few years. They've got eight of their 11 starters on both sides of the ball returning this year and after missing out on the Pac-12 Championship game for the first time last season, Jim Mora's program is hungry to get back there.
They've got a little tougher schedule than Oregon with games against Virginia and Texas in their non-conference slate and must also play the USC Trojans, although that will be a home game for UCLA. They aren't as likely to run the table as the Ducks are but it will be their final two contests (vs. USC, vs. Stanford) that will likely determine whether they can get back to the conference championship game.
USC (+475) is third on the list and new head coach Steve Sarkisian is looking to bring back the prestige to this proud program. The Trojans had been dealing with NCAA sanctions the past few years which hurt their playoff chances, but those are all done with now and USC is looking to make some noise. They were ranked #1 in the country in red zone defense a year ago and bring back seven starters from that unit this year, so look for USC to try and win games with that defense and not get involved in too many high-scoring shootouts with the other top-tier programs in this conference.
Stanford (+1000), Washington (+1500), and Arizona State (+1800) round out the top six on this board after Stanford beat Arizona State in the title game a year ago. Stanford is another defense-first team in this offensive-minded conference and their physical style will be a problem for opponents, while Arizona State is replacing nearly all their starters on defense and their could be some growing pains early for this young unit.
As far as a pick goes, it's tough to go against Oregon even as chalk. The Ducks are loaded from top to bottom and as long as Mariotta remains healthy for the entire season, Oregon should be able to claim this conference crown and be headed to that four-team playoff in early January.
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