Examining The Odds To Win The Pac-12 In 2020
The next college football season involves a mystery-filled race in the Pac-12. There is a clear favorite, but not an overwhelming one. This race could break in any of several directions, with a lot of important questions awaiting answers which don’t seem to be very certain.
The Ducks have established themselves as the gold standard in the conference, but one could make the argument that Oregon’s championship in 2019 was more the result of the failures of its opponents than anything the Ducks did especially well. Oregon trailed by 14 points to Washington before coming back in the fourth quarter to win. The Ducks trailed Washington State in the final minutes before rallying to win. Oregon’s offense was contained by California at home. The Ducks stumbled against Arizona State on the road. They rose to the top of the Pac-12 in part because Washington had a horrible season and USC remained relatively disorganized. The Ducks took advantage of a power vacuum in the conference.
This season, that power vacuum might still exist, but if another Pac-12 team gets its act together and doesn’t squander opportunities, Oregon might get caught and passed. The big mystery for the Ducks is that quarterback Justin Herbert has gone to the NFL. The Ducks have to find a replacement and get similar production under center. They might get it, but it’s no sure thing.
Why is Oregon the favorite, you might ask? The Ducks recruit the best offensive linemen in the conference, and it’s not really a close call. Penei Sewell might be the best offensive lineman in the United States next season. He should win a lot of hardware if he is healthy all the way through. The Ducks are the most physical team in the conference, and if they stay that way through the season, they should repeat as Pac-12 champions.
Top Contender To The Favorite: Utah
The Utes have taken advantage of USC struggling in the Pac-12 South Division. They have won two straight Pac-12 South titles and have found a higher level of performance as a program. Worth noting this upcoming season is that after several years of playing the Pac-12 Championship Game in Santa Clara, California, which is closer to the Pacific Northwest, the conference will move its league championship game to Las Vegas, which is a much more Utah-friendly venue. If the Utes can get back to the Pac-12 title game, they would have a decent chance of knocking off Oregon and avenging their loss to the Ducks in the 2019 championship contest.
Long Shot: USC
The reality here in the Pac-12 is similar to the Big Ten. We are not used to thinking of Michigan as a longshot conference title contender, but that is what the Wolverines have become in a Big Ten Conference where Ohio State is goliath and Penn State is the clear top challenger. It is very much like the Pac-12, in which Oregon is the favorite and Utah the number two. USC ought to be a giant in college football, but the Trojans are an outsider under unsteady head coach Clay Helton, whose recruiting class this past cycle was terrible, and has USC in a lot of trouble. The Trojans do have a gifted quarterback, sophomore Kedon Slovis, but they have fallen off the pace in terms of line play and their defense. USC is nowhere near Oregon in terms of strength in the trenches, and that is why the Trojans are a long shot to win the Pac-12.