When you are evaluating college football you can't help but compare conferences and their performance. That is especially true at this time of year when conference play, for the most part, hasn't begun yet. In conference play every win by a team means a loss for another team in the conference - it's a zero sum game. Now, though, we see teams playing squads from other conferences, so wins and losses aren't balanced. By looking at how conferences are doing relative to each other we can see where teams aren't meeting expectations and where value could exist as a result.
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Given the expectations that people had for teams heading into the season, there is one conference that is clearly leading the way in one dubious category - how much they have fallen below expectations. It's definitely not the ACC - they are killing it from a betting perspective and have done fine against their shockingly easy schedule. It's not the Big Ten - they are as top-heavy as expected; and Wisconsin and Penn State have disappointed, but Michigan State and Ohio State are strong enough to hide most concerns there, and the middle of the pack has mostly done their jobs. The Big 12 is showing promise at the top end, and Oklahoma has been particularly strong compared to expectations. The SEC has had a few issues, but they are still the class of the country right now. That leaves just one conference - the Pac-12. They have unquestionably and emphatically been the most disappointing compared to expectations.
From a betting perspective the Pac-12 hasn't been a total disaster. Four of the 12 teams have provided a profit this year, and when all is combined a bet on every team in every game played would have produced a small overall profit. The only team that could be termed a giant disappointment from a betting perspective is Arizona State. They entered the season with so much hype and hope but haven't come even remotely close to covering a spread yet. It might be childish to think, but I kind of feel like their struggles are all just karma for hiring Todd Graham as their coach.
It's when you look at the scoreboards of individual teams that the issues start to really stand out. Oregon's loss at Michigan State by just three points is hardly tragic, but it's still a loss. When combined with Vernon Adams' finger injury, there is cause for uncertainty. Stanford had that totally mystifying loss at Northwestern and doesn't seem to have an offense of any kind. Washington has promise but still has a lot of work to do. Oregon State was absolutely crushed by Michigan - especially in the final three quarters - and will struggle to contend with any real teams. Washington State lost to Portland State. Be honest - did you even know that that was possible before it happened? That leaves Cal as the only team in the North that is undefeated through two games - and there are peewee teams that have played tougher schedules than they have through two games. Things have not gone well for the division at all. Hugely disappointing, really.
The South has been better but hasn't really been tested. Josh Rosen and UCLA look good, but Virginia and UNLV aren't exactly elite opposition. Arizona has played an even weaker schedule, and they let UTSA score 32 points. USC has had two exhibition games, so their lopsided wins mean little. Utah has played the toughest schedule of the four unbeaten teams, but they still haven't left home. Colorado managed to lose at Hawaii, so they aren't any better than they have been lately. Arizona State has been far from good - at least for a team that came into the season in the Top 15. Therefore, the South either hasn't been tested at all, has been tested and has failed, or is Utah.
I'm not suggesting that the Pac-12 is totally lousy or without hope. It's just that for a conference that came into the season with a lot of hype - as perhaps the strongest in the country, or at least the strongest outside of the SEC, they have not exactly inspired confidence. They can save things when conference play starts, and there are still five undefeated teams, but it seems less likely that the National Champion will come from here now than it did at the start of the season - and that seemed like a stretch even then.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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