The 2017 college football season is less than three months away with media days starting in mid-July to kickstart prediction season among college football writers and analysts. The sportsbooks, however, don't wait for expert picks or preseason previews to start setting the expectations for the fall, releasing title odds and win totals throughout the offseason.
We're going to be making individual team picks for all of the Power Five conferences using the full 130-team FBS list released by the South Point Sportsbook earlier this month. Today, we turn our focus to the Pac-12.
USC -- 10 (Under): First of all, before I even begin explaining my reasoning here, allow me to complain for a moment. I hate when sportsbooks give you whole numbers for over/unders. Put the hook on it. I'm not sitting here trying to bet on a push, all right? Picking a push is the easy way out, so show some damn spine, sportsbooks. Anyway, as for USC, I'm not picking a push. So if my options are over or under, I have a difficult time going over for a few reasons. One is that there just isn't enough value on the over here, and another is that I've seen USC fail to live up to expectations enough times to know that the under is plenty likely.
Washington -- 10 (Over): Washington is in a similar situation to USC here, but I'm going with the over just because Washington's schedule is significantly easier. Seriously, back in May, and Washington didn't just have the easiest schedule in the Pac-12, but one of the easiest in all the Power Five conferences. While I think 10-2 is far more likely than 11-1 or 12-0, a 9-3 record should be damn near impossible.
Stanford -- 9 (Over): This is one I'm confident in. I know that Stanford lost Christian McCaffrey, but I also know that there's still talent on the roster. Also, David Shaw has coached six seasons at Stanford so far. He's won at least 10 games in five of them. I like that trend to continue.
Colorado -- 7.5 (Under): Colorado was one of my favorite stories of the 2017 season. The Buffaloes seemingly came out of nowhere to go 10-4 and win the Pac-12 South. Unfortunately for the Buffs, I don't see the same kind of magic taking place in 2017. The biggest key to Colorado's turnaround was its defense last season, and not only do the Buffs lose nine starters from last year's team, but defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt left to take the same gig at Oregon. I just don't think Colorado is at a point where it can reload quickly enough to get to 8-4 after so many significant departures.
Oregon -- 7.5 (Over): In my mind, the problem at Oregon lately hasn't been the talent on the field, but rather the utilization of that talent. Oh, and a defense that couldn't stop a brick from rolling downhill didn't help much, either. Well, Oregon has made what I consider an upgrade to its coaching staff in Willie Taggart, and I mentioned new coordinator Jim Leavitt coming from Colorado already. If Leavitt could mold a great defense out of that Colorado team, I imagine he's going to do wonderful things for the Oregon defense as well. I don't think Oregon's going to be competing for the Pac-12 this season, but I do believe the Ducks will take a significant step forward this year.
UCLA -- 7 (Over): Of every team in the Pac-12, UCLA is the most difficult to figure out. This team is just so manic that I don't know which one is going to show up on a weekly basis, let alone a yearly one. I know losing Josh Rosen last year hurt, but it shouldn't have been a big enough blow to drop the Bruins to 4-8. My gut tells me that UCLA is going to be better in 2017, but the problem is figuring out how much better. I think 7-5 is just about right, but I'm going to go with the over because there's still a lot of talent on this team, and I like to believe in talent.
Washington State -- 7 (Over): After going through Wazzu's schedule numerous times, the answer that kept smacking me in the face was 7-5, but unfortunately those cowards in the desert crapped out and didn't put a hook on this total either. I'm going to go with the over though simply because Mike Leach teams always manage to win a game I don't expect them to.
Oregon State -- 5.5 (Under): Oregon State started playing pretty well after you stopped paying any attention to it last year, and given Gary Andersen's track record as a coach, I expect it to continue in 2017. I just don't expect it to continue well enough to get to bowl eligibility. It's possible the Beavers pull off an upset somewhere along the way, but realistically a 5-7 finish is most likely.
Utah -- 5.5 (Over): This is an easy over for me. I understand that the Utes lose a lot of players from last year's team, but as long as Kyle Whittingham is still in charge, that doesn't concern me too much. I don't know if the Utes are going to be competing for the Pac-12 South again, but Whitt's getting this team to a bowl game. Utah could clear this by over two wins.
Arizona State -- 5 (Under): Arizona State's schedule is a damn monster in 2017. It's not just that the Sun Devils draw the unholy trio of Oregon, Stanford and Washington from the North, it's that they have to play them in three straight games (with a bye between the last two). Then, after those three games are done, the Devils get Utah, USC, Colorado and UCLA in consecutive weeks. I just don't see a lot of happy times for Todd Graham's crew this season.
Arizona -- 4.5 (Under): This is another situation that's difficult for me to get a read I'm comfortable with, but I've decided to err on the side of disappointment. I just think Arizona catches some bad breaks in its scheduling this season in that three of its most winnable games (Colorado, California and Arizona State) all come on the road. It's hard to see this team getting to five wins.
California -- 3.5 (Under): I just don't see where the four wins are going to come when I look at this schedule. The Bears have one of the more challenging nonconference schedules in the conference as they'll play both North Carolina and Ole Miss. In conference, they dodge any of the conference's true "power" teams, either. It's possible Cal picks up wins against Oregon State and Arizona in Berkeley, as well as a victory against Weber State, but it's going to need a major upset to find that fourth win somewhere.