The Pac-12 takes a beating nationally at times for its lack of recent football success, but the conference is at the top of the heap among its Power Five peers in at least one category entering the 2021 season: parity. No other league has more competition at the top in its preseason title odds than the Pac-12.
With seven teams enjoying +1500 odds or better to win the league title, the Pac-12 feels wide open compared to other leagues. In fact, the Pac-12 is the only power conference without a preseason favorite who has negative odds. While Clemson (-800), Ohio State (-200), Oklahoma (-140) and Alabama (-140) are clear-cut favorites to win the nation's other premier conferences, the Pac-12's top teams (USC and Oregon at +275) offer more bang for your buck.
So as college football season draws closer, what are the best wagers to make in the Pac-12? Here's a look at the odds from William Hill Sportsbook along with a few recommendations to contemplate.
Best bet -- USC (+275): Roll your eyes if you want, but USC draws Stanford, Washington State, Oregon State and California out of the North this season. In other words, the Trojans have the good fortune of missing both Oregon and Washington. Every other team in the Pac-12 South must play one or both of Oregon and Washington. That's a built-in advantage for a Trojans team that is already the most talented in the division. The favorable conference schedule positions USC for a repeat trip to the Pac-12 Championship Game and makes it a quality investment at +275.
Worst wager -- Arizona State (+450): Arizona State should be a good team and is rightfully receiving a fair amount of hype entering Herm Edwards' fourth season as coach. But the Sun Devils are still just 6-7 in league games over the last two seasons, which makes it a reach to pencil them in as league champions at +450. Back-to-back games against USC and at Washington in November will be particularly challenging for a program looking to break through. Has Arizona State really shown us enough to be grouped with the likes of Oregon, Washington and USC in the Pac-12's upper echelon?
Value pick -- Utah (+1400): Utah represented the Pac-12 South in the 2018 and 2019 league title games, and although the Utes lost both times, the third time could be the charm. With former Baylor quarterback Charlie Brewer under center and 17th-year coach Kyle Whittingham on the sidelines, this team has a high floor. The ceiling may be determined in an Oct. 9 game at USC, but if the Utes can somehow win that one, they will be positioned to make the Pac-12 Championship Game for the third time in four seasons. If you're looking for a Pac-12 South team to bet on aside from USC, Utah brings significantly better value than Arizona State without much of a difference in actual title potential.
Long shot -- California (+4000): Either there is a concerning amount of delusion within Cal's program or the odds here are a miscalculation by Las Vegas, because the Bears believe they have a serious opportunity to make the Rose Bowl. Don't believe me? Go watch their spring game and listen to the interviews and the broadcast, and you'll quickly realize what the standard is this season. This squad bore the brunt of COVID-19 regulations last season during an abbreviated 1-3 campaign that fell well short of lofty expectations, and it feels like those expectations have simply rolled over to this season for those within the program. The defense has been solid under Justin Wilcox and returns some proven veterans in key positions. If the offense can click under second-year coordinator Bill Musgrave, watch out.