Pac-12 College Football Betting Preview 2023: Win Totals, Futures Odds
Welcome to TheLines.com’s next betting guide for 2023 college football odds. Below, we unpack Pac-12 odds, win total projections, the conference’s All-Transfer team, and preview each of its members – USC, UCLA, Oregon, Oregon State, Utah, Washington, Washington State, Arizona, Arizona State, Cal, Stanford, and the debut of Deion Sanders as head coach of Colorado.
Perhaps more than any other conference in the country, the Pac-12 sits in a precarious spot. Its four staple members, Oregon, UCLA, USC, and Washington – and additionally Colorado – are headed to the Big Ten and Big 12 following this season. Commissioner George Kliavkoff failed on an enticing media rights deal, which also prompts rumors surrounding the four corners schools. But through all the uncertainty, Pac-12 football projects to very entertaining, with the favorite in Heisman odds among its star players. And, in response, 2023 Pac-12 odds present a wonderful case study this year.
Pac-12 Odds: To Win The Conference
Pac-12 futures from BetMGM. Compare odds from across the best sports betting sites at the end of this post. Click to bet now.
The Wild West
There’s a clear divide between the haves and the have-nots on Pac-12 odds boards. The top tier includes USC, Oregon, and Washington – unsurprisingly the best-quarterbacked teams in the league – followed by Utah, Oregon State, and UCLA. Washington State sits in a nebulous void and the remaining five schools fall into true longshot territory.
This is the second season Pac-12 odds do not require a handicapper to worry about divisions. Last year, it became among the first conference to ax the format in favor of a Big 12-esque “two best teams” model that will soon be the standard across the country. But balance still remains between the former North and South divisions, with USC, Utah, and UCLA hailing from the South and Oregon, Washington, and Oregon State hailing from the North.
The non-divisional format worked. In 2022, USC finished 8-1 in Pac-12 play, followed by three teams at 7-2 and an additional two at 6-3. This season, prepare for more drama.
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Pac-12 Odds: Projected Wins, Win Totals
Projected wins below are derived from aggregate power ratings, including SP+, FPI, and more. Win totals are pulled from FanDuel Sportsbook as of June 29.
|Team||Proj. Wins||Win Total||Price|
|Oregon State Beavers||8.1||8.5||+130/-160|
|Washington State Cougars||5.8||6.5||+114/-142|
|Cal Golden Bears||4.8||5.5||+118/-148|
|Arizona State Dun Devils||4.2||4.5||-110/-110|
Pac-12 Power Ratings
Table Key (all ranks except power rankings are national):
– Rank (Power ranking, conference)
– Proj. Wins (Projected total wins)
– Return (Returning production, total)
– Ret. O (returning offensive production)
– Ret. D (returning defensive production)
– PPD (Points per drive scored)
– PPDA (Points per drive allowed)
– L5 (Last five years recruiting average, national)
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Pac-12 KFord Ratings
Pac-12 Odds: The Favorites
No surprise here, as USC is the favorite in Pac-12 odds.
The experiment worked and college football will never be the same for it. Lincoln Riley successfully built a team via the transfer portal and turned USC from a four-win disaster into an 11-win team that was on the doorstep of a College Football Playoff berth. He turned another Heisman winner, Caleb Williams, and led the Trojans to top-three national marks in almost every offensive metric. Caleb showed rapport with Mario Williams – a teammate from Oklahoma – who returns this season. Now, USC represents the Pac-12’s highest hopes in college football national championship odds.
The offense was never a question. The defense, however, was the anchor that held USC back. Its lack of any sort of defense caused the Trojans to lose the Pac-12 Championship and ensuing Cotton Bowl by a combined score of 93-69.
The fix? You probably guessed it – the transfer portal. USC landed lauded Georgia youngster Bear Alexander, All-Big 12 linebacker Mason Cobb (Oklahoma State), former five-star Anthony Lucas (Texas A&M), and four-year starter Christian Roland-Wallace (Arizona). Further, they added at least three starters along the offensive line, a new RB1 in Marshawn Lloyd (South Carolina) and a host of talented receivers, because why not?
It’s clear with the right coach at the helm, a CFP contender can be built from the portal. USC was the first to do it, but isn’t the last (see: Colorado). The Trojans play the Pac-12’s third-easiest schedule (64th nationally), including all five of the projected bottom teams in the conference. They handle Utah, Washington, and UCLA at home, but play all three of those plus Notre Dame and Oregon in their final six games.
A quirk in the schedule – and a huge benefit for USC – is its Week 13 bye that gives them a breather between its final six-week gauntlet and a potential Pac-12 Championship.
In his first year in Eugene, Bo Nix finally metamorphosed into the star quarterback Auburn had promised him to be. Perhaps the most dramatic improvement – aside from removing inexplicable and crippling turnovers – was in his completion rate and efficiency, jumping from 59% completion at Auburn to 72% with Oregon. It wasn’t due to an increase in dink-and-dunk passing, either; Nix increased his air yards per attempt from an average 7.0 from 2019-21 to 9.4 in 2022.
Despite a cast list of who’s who on defense (blue-chip linebackers Noah Sewell and Justin Flowe, plus top-15 NFL draft pick Christian Gonzalez at corner), Oregon’s defense stunk last season. The Ducks finished 103rd in passing EPA and second-to-last in third down EPA in the Pac-12, only to Colorado. The scale to which Oregon underachieved defensively with Dan Lanning at head coach was surprising, to say the least.
In response, Oregon hit the transfer portal hard, landing 247Sports’ eighth-ranked class. They bring in South Carolina’s Jordan Burch to bolster a nonexistent pass rush (they finished with the fifth lowest sack rate nationally) and three plug-and-play starters in the secondary, headlined by All-Mountain West safety Evan Williams (Fresno State). The Ducks also landed linebacker Jestin Jacobs from Iowa and at least two starters along the offensive line.
Just once this season does Oregon project to have a single-score spread game at home (+1.5 vs. USC), but three more of those come on the road – at Utah, Washington, and Texas Tech. An additional game, vs. Oregon State, projects to be under 10 points. Despite those tough games, Oregon plays the fourth-easiest schedule in the conference and I project them for 9.7 wins, second-most in the Pac-12.
Was there a team that could usurp Oregon and USC in the “all offense, no defense” category last season? There sure was – Washington. The Huskies ranked No. 1 in EPA per play and No. 2 in points per drive scored, but also 117th in EPA per play defensively and 102nd in points per drive allowed. Teams consistently burnt their secondary, who lacked the usual Washington prowess last season, thanks to an aggressive defensive style that left those corners alone on islands while they stacked the box.
While defense in Seattle was an afterthought for the first time in awhile, Washington scored the eighth-most points nationally (38.7) on the shoulders of a rejuvenated Michael Penix Jr. Penix returns to campus this season alongside two 1,000-yard receivers and All America candidates in Rome Odunze and Jalen McMillan. All five top receivers come back and the Huskies face six teams outside the top-110 in sack rate from 2022.
The Huskies play a backloaded schedule in 2023. They host Oregon and Utah, and visit USC and Oregon State after the bye week, including a run of the Trojans, Utes, Beavers, and Washington State in their final four weeks.
Washington returns its top defenders, headlined by pass rusher Bralen Trice, but failed to add much talent on that side of the ball in the portal. If Washington can turn its defense from catastrophic to merely bad, the Huskies may make a run at the Pac-12 and the College Football Playoff. Even if that side of the ball doesn’t take a step forward, we can count on a 9+ win team again this season.
Pac-12 Odds: The Contenders
Since head coach Kyle Whittingham took over in Salt Lake City, Utah has been a powerhouse. He has more 10-win seasons (7) than those with fewer than nine wins (6), one of the most impressive streaks outside of the primary national blue bloods. He’s led Utah to back-to-back Rose Bowl berths, its first two ever. To make it three straight, Utah would have to make the CFP this season.
The start of the year proves to be uncertain for the Utes. Star QB Cameron Rising suffered a torn ACL in the Rose Bowl and, despite constant affirmations from Rising himself, he’s questionable to start the season. Utah hosts Florida in a rubber match in Week 1, a game the Utes are lined as favorites in, despite Rising’s status. They play the third-toughest schedule this season in the Pac-12, visiting Baylor in Week 2 and going on the road to face Oregon State, USC, and Washington.
Utah returns three starters on the offensive line – a unit Phil Steele names the fifth-best nationally – as well as three of four starters on the defensive front (10th-ranked by Steele). In all phases on defense, Steele ranks Utah 21st or better and only its receiving corps falls outside the top 25.
Should Rising be healthy all season long, Utah might become the first three-peat champion in the Pac-12 since the title game was established in 2011.
For the first time in quite awhile, UCLA will have a new face at quarterback. Gone is Dorian Thompson-Robinson and the QB battle comes down to Kent State transfer Collin Schlee and blue chip recruit Dante Moore. That battle likely won’t be resolved by Week 1. Also gone is star running back Zach Charbonnet, a vacancy to be filled by Ball State recruit Carson Steele – a bruiser who picked up over 1,100 of his 1,500 total yards after contact (76%!!!).
In fact, three of UCLA’s top four inbound transfers come from the MAC: Schlee, Steele, and Bowling Green safety Jordan Anderson. They also added Cal receiver J. Michael Sturdivant, one of the portal’s top pass catchers, as well as USC’s Kyle Ford. Like the three top Pac-12 teams from last season, UCLA is a half-team. They finished No. 3 nationally in EPA per play on offense, but 111th on defense.
UCLA’s 8.6 projected wins come from playing the easiest schedule in the Pac-12 (68th nationally). The Bruins avoid Oregon and Washington in-league and play all six of the projected bottom Pac-12 teams. However, all three of their toughest games come on the road: at Utah, Oregon State, and USC (and, arguably, their four toughest, also visiting San Diego State).
Just once this season is UCLA projected to be an underdog by more than 10 points (at USC) and they’re projected to be underdogs in any respect in just three games. Zero times are they favored by one score.
Longshot In Pac-12 Odds To Consider: Oregon State Beavers
In a conference jampacked with coaching prowess, two names rise to the top: Whittingham and Jonathan Smith. Smith has squeezed every drop of juice from the Oregon State football program and turned the Pac-12’s lowest ranked recruiting team into a real contender. In every season since assuming the role in Corvallis, Oregon State improved on its record (removing 2020). Last year, the Beavers won 10 games for the third time in program history, first since 2006.
Oregon State brings in former blue-chip QB DJ Uiagalelei, who struggled in his two years starting at Clemson. But, on Uiagalelei’s ledger is a two-game stretch which he threw for 781 yards, including 439 against Notre Dame in 2020. Did the Monstars come in and steal his talent? Did DJ U just forget how to play quarterback? Of course not – coaching malpractice from Clemson likely led to his downfall (also see: the Tony Elliott & Brennan Armstrong experience at Virginia).
It’s possible that the Beavers were a quarterback away from truly competing for a Pac-12 title. With DJ U, perhaps they have one.
A Team To Fade in Pac-12 Odds: Colorado Buffaloes
There’s only two ways the Deion Sanders experience can go at Colorado, and both are spectacular. Following a year in which USC went from zero to hero via the portal, Sanders decided to try it out for himself. Only this overhaul for Colorado could have made USC’s look quaint and completely overshadow the fact that Arizona State brought in 30 transfers themselves.
Could top-end players like Travis Hunter and Shedeur Sanders thrive at the Power Five level? Surely – I’d almost bet on them to do so. Plus the added blue chip talent in Cormani McClain and Alton McCaskill should make the Buffs a dangerous team.
At least, at times.
The real concern comes with the depth of this roster, or lack thereof. Behind Sanders at QB is… not a whole lot. The same case can be made for the secondary, which is made up of four blue chip recruits (4+ stars). The offensive line has almost no depth to speak of and also lacks high-end talent and size.
Colorado is going to run its offense fast under new OC Sean Lewis, perhaps the fastest in the country. Games involving Colorado are almost always going to have inflated totals and give scoreboard operators a workout. But defensively, they just lack the bodies and depth to compete. Although BetMGM holds the most liability in Colorado national championship futures, its win total sits at just . Could Colorado surprise and be a top-25 team? Possibly. But I’ll bet on the other 95% of outcomes.
Jayden de Laura returns at quarterback for Arizona, but he loses top target Dorian Singer, who transferred to USC. Jacob Cowing comes back after a second-straight 1,000-yard season, as do all five of the Wildcats’ leading rushers. Jedd Fisch has managed to pull UA up from the depths of hell into a fun product, but that seems to be its ceiling for the foreseeable future. Never count out Arizona for a bizarre upset of USC in Tucson at 10:15 p.m. ET on a Friday, but expectations can be – and are – tempered for 2023.
Arizona State Sun Devils
A select corner of football Twitter raved over the hire of 33-year-old Kenny Dillingham and his unorthodox approach to hiring assistants. He brought in 30 transfers of his own, only overshadowed by Colorado’s historic use of the portal, headlined by Jordyn Tyson (Colorado) and Aaron Frost (Nevada). However, the Sun Devils lost their leading rusher and starting QB, and now have to parse out a QB battle between Drew Pyne, Trenton Bourget, and Jadan Rashada. With as much noise that surrounds the program and the lack of a real answer at QB, Dillingham would need to seriously out-perform expectations to be in any sort of contention this year.
Cal Golden Bears
It’s been six years since Cal fielded even a mediocre offense; they haven’t cracked the top 90 in scoring since 2017 and the top 65 since 2016. In comes Texas State head coach Jake Spavital, who hopes to revive the lifeless offense. Justin Wilcox may be on his last legs with Cal, with a bowl game possibly being his saving grace (Cal last bowled in 2019). They finished 2-4 in one-score games in 2022 (including awarding Colorado its only win) and logged zero wins against top-110 teams. Cal brings in touted QB Sam Jackson from TCU, its hopeful starter this season. However, he must work with a ragtag receiving corps that lost its top player, J. Michael Sturdivant, in the portal this offseason.
Troy Taylor comes to Stanford after leading Sacramento State to a 12-1 mark and an FCS quarterfinals appearance. However, no amount of coaching prowess can outweigh the complete void of talent that is the Stanford roster. They lost 15 players in the portal – including at least 10 potential starters – and brought in almost none due to rigorous academic standards. Starting at quarterback is either – *checks notes* – Ari Patu or Ashton Daniels, two mid-level three starts attempting the impossible task of following up five-star Tanner McKee. The Cardinal get no scheduling breaks, either, visiting USC, Oregon, UCLA, Washington, Oregon State, and Utah (not to mention a road game at Hawaii and taking on Sac State in the FCS).
Washington State Cougars
Washington State was seven total points away from a 9-4 season that would have included wins over Wisconsin, Oregon, and Utah. Hell, they even kept USC’s offense at bay, even leading them 14-10 until two minutes remained in the first half. Cam Ward lacked offensive direction and therefore underwhelmed lofty expectations. This year, he brings in WKU OC Ben Arbuckle (of the Zach Kittley tree), a hire bound to transform this offense. Arbuckle led Austin Reed to 4,700 yards and 40 touchdowns passing in 2022. However, Wazzu loses DC Brian Ward to Arizona State, a coordinator instrumental in its defensive success last year.
Pac-12 All-Transfer Team
QB: DJ Uiagalelei (Clemson to Oregon State), Sam Jackson (TCU to Cal)
RB: Marshawn Lloyd (South Carolina to USC), Carson Steele (Ball State to UCLA)
WR: J. Michael Sturdivant (Cal to UCLA), Dorian Singer (Arizona to USC), Jimmy Horn Jr. (USF to Colorado)
TE: Josh Cuevas (Cal Poly to Washington)
OT: Tyler Brown (Jackson State to Colorado), Emmanuel Pregnon (Wyoming to USC)
IOL: Junior Angilau (Texas to Oregon), Ajani Cornelius (Rhode Island to Oregon), Jarrett Kingston (Washington State to USC)
DL: Bear Alexander (Georgia to USC), Jordan Burch (South Carolina to Oregon), Anthony Lucas (Texas A&M to USC), Jake Heimlicher (Princeton to UCLA)
LB: Mason Cobb (Oklahoma State to USC), Justin Flowe (Oregon to Arizona), Jubar Muhammad (Oklahoma State to Washington)
CB: Travis Hunter (Jackson State to Colorado), Patrick Murphy (San Diego State to Cal)
SAF: Evan Williams (Fresno State to Oregon), Jordan Anderson (Bowling Green to UCLA)
Top Difference Makers To Know
This list very well could be four quarterbacks. Instead, let’s look away from that position at some other impactful players in the Pac-12.
Rome Odunze, WR, Washington: Odunze is potentially on his way to becoming a consensus preseason All American, already having garnered the attention of Phil Steele and Athlon Sports. He pulled in over 1,100 yards as a junior and returns with Penix Jr. at the helm. Perhaps most impressive is his three logged drops on 100 targets last season.
Damien Martinez, RB, Oregon State: As a true freshman, Martinez rushed for almost 1,000 yards at 6.1 yards per carry, fourth most in the Pac-12. Of those 982 yards, 558 of them came after contact and he fumbled just once. Despite DJ Uiagalelei coming to town, Martinez fixes to be the centerpiece of the offense and should be in contention to lead the conference in yards.
Cole Bishop, SAF, Utah: Bishop has been largely overshadowed by NFL talent on the defense around him. He demanded the ball not be thrown his way, covering just 33 targets all season along, and led the Utes in tackles (83). This year, he returns as an All America candidate.
Travis Hunter, AP, Colorado: Even at the FBS level, Hunter projects to be a two-way player capable of taking over a game. The former No. 1 overall recruit was sought after by every major program out of high school, but has since followed Deion Sanders during his college career. If nothing else on Colorado clicks, Hunter will demand All-Conference considerations, at the very least.
Coaching & Coordinator Changes In The Pac-12
Most Impactful Hires
Deion Sanders, HC, Colorado: This one doesn’t need much explaining. Prime Time cleared house in Boulder and brought in an astounding 50 transfers. The entire culture of the program changed overnight and turned a 1-11 Buffs team into the top headline-grabber this offseason. Nobody, not even Wisconsin, will see such a dramatic shift in perception this coming season than Colorado.
Sean Lewis, OC, Colorado: A lauded hire at the time, Lewis may bring just as much change on the field to Colorado as Sanders brings off the field. As shown in its spring exhibition, Lewis brings his trademarked up-tempo offense from Kent State to Boulder. The Buffs may run the most plays per game at the fastest pace of anyone nationally this season. At the very least, even if the Buffaloes’ depth or defense doesn’t hold up, Colorado is going to be appointment television to start the season.
Jake Spavital, OC, Cal: The last time Cal ranked inside the top 90 nationally in scoring was 2017. It’s been six full seasons of basement-dwelling for the Golden Bears, who relied on defense and havoc to win ballgames. While Spav didn’t work out as the head coach in San Marcos, he still boasts a solid resume directing offenses, most recently West Virginia (2017-18).
Ben Arbuckle, OC, Washington State: Arbuckle comes from the Zach Kittley tree and led Austin Reed to almost as gaudy numbers as Bailey Zappe at Western Kentucky. In his last showing at WKU, Arbuckle hung 44 on a South Alabama defense that ranked 22nd in points per drive nationally. Now, he comes to Wazzu, who was desperately in need of an offense with a pulse after finally piecing together a strong defense.
- Kenny Dillingham, HC, Arizona State (Oregon OC)
- Troy Taylor, HC, Stanford (Sacramento State HC)
- Beau Baldwin, OC, Arizona State (Cal Poly OC)
- Will Stein, OC, Oregon (UTSA OC)
- Brian Ward, DC, Arizona State (Washington State DC)
- Charles Kelly, DC, Colorado (Alabama defensive assistant)
- Bobby April, DC, Stanford (Wisconsin LB coach)
- D’Anton Lynn, DC, UCLA (Ravens LB coach)
- Jeff Schmedding, DC, Washington State (former Auburn DC)