Which will be the Best PAC-12 NCAA Football Odds Teams in 2015?
Be it Oregon’s regular-season loss against Arizona before the Ducks went on to beat the Wildcats in the Pac-12 Championship game, or the Wildcats needing a string of lucky results to reach the Championship game (including a Hail Mary to beat California, a fourth-down stop to beat Arizona State and a clock mismanagement to beat Washington); the Pac-12 was one hell of a tumultuous whirlwind in 2014, shaking College Football betting odds in all kinds of amazing ways. But the 2014 season is in the books now and all focus is on how the 2015 season will shape in the Pac-12.
Let’s Count Down Which will be the Best PAC-12 NCAA Football Odds Teams in 2015?
— FOX Sports (@FOXSports) August 12, 2015
Can Oregon overcome the loss of Marcus Mariota? Will Stanford find its way back to the top after going voicemail when called to action in 2014? What about the good-but-wasteful LA teams (UCLA and USC).., can they finally break out of the cocoon of talented underachievers? Not to forget the Arizona teams (the Wildcats and Sun Devils)… are they good enough to be categorized among the big teams in the Pac-12 Conference? Obviously, there are no easy answers to such questions, but as per our rigorous assessments and projections, here the teams to expect in the best-of-the-best category in the Pac-12 in 2015, given in alphabetical order.
Though they are the defending South Division champions and they bring back a talented breakout star from 2014 in 19-year-old QB Anu Solomon (3,793 passing yards and 28 passing touchdowns as a redshirt freshman last year), the Wildcats had a bit too many “lucky” results go in their favor, as was glimpsed earlier. So although the strong returning unit (that includes talented players like safety Will Parks and standout junior linebacker Scooby Wright) will be very good and tough to contend with in 2015, it’s hard to see them repeat last year’s run this season. Mind you, last year’s appearance at the conference championship game was Arizona’s first in its Pac-12 history. Simply put, expect Arizona to be good enough to place somewhere below the crust of USC and UCLA in South at the end of the season, along with a good bowl eligibility, but nothing more than that.
Arizona State Sun Devils
After making it to the 2013 Pac-12 title game, the Sun Devils couldn’t find their way back there in 2014, something that Todd Graham would want to correct in 2015. Following their impressive win over Texas A&M in Houston, there is a lot of expectations for this program, with some people even projecting a No. 4 seed for them in the playoffs, including a win of this year’s Pac-12 game. And to their credit, the Sun Devils have one of the most aggressive defensive units in the conference, while the explosive combination of QB Mike Bercovici and dynamic slot receiver/running back D.J. Foster will give fits to many defenses this year.
Unfortunately, the conference schedule is far from friendly, with back-to-back conference schedules against UCLA and USC to open their Pac-12 slate, later followed by a trying a mid-October game against Utah, and a Thursday night game before Halloween against Oregon. Add that to the usual Arizona-Arizona State rivalry, you find at least 2 or 3 conference losses, so at their devilish best, the Sun Devils will be probably shine for around 8-10 total wins (plus decent bowl eligibility), but that will probably put them behind USC, UCLA and maybe even Arizona in the South.
I really have to admit that I’ve liked the Ducks for quite some time, especially following everything about them since the mercurial Chip Kelly touched down in Oregon in the late 2000s. Mariota and his fantasy football numbers in 2014 was something I’d already foreseen and predicted severally before the season started. Essentially, that’s the reason it hurts me deeply to say (and predict) that I don’t see the Ducks making a successive appearance in the playoffs this year. I mean, I really like this kid we brought in (Vernon Adams) and, given time, he could even be better than Mariota, based on the kind of numbers he was crunching in the air and on the ground when playing in Eastern Washington.
My problem, however, is that he hasn’t had enough time to acclimatize to the Oregon system, and the remaining QB options are serviceable, at best. With that, I see at least one regular-season loss (most probably to Michigan State, or any of the top-tier Pac-12 teams) and another loss in the Pac-12 Championship game (either to USC or UCLA), making the Ducks at least a two-loss team in the end. So although the Pac-12 North title will probably still go to Oregon and playing in the Pac-12 Championship game will earn them some big bowl (like the Fiesta Bowl), I’d be hesitant to advise my fellow Ducks to ride on Oregon for another berth in the playoffs ‘coz it doesn’t look that promising, unless some mega miracle happens for us.
The Bruins have had a lot going on in their favor, particularly in the LA rivalry where they are streaking with three back-to-back wins over the last three seasons. Unfortunately, Jim Mora and his team have failed to stretch that dominance to the conference or national arena. In 2015, they once again come with a talented team and barely any excuses for them not to impress. For example, true freshman quarterback Josh Rosen is a 5-star recruit that comes with many upsides for the team. Meanwhile, RB Paul Perkins is coming off a solid season where he led the Pac-12 in rushing at 1,575 yards, and if his solid offseason is anything to go by, 2015 will even be a bigger year for him.
Just about the only ceiling to UCLA’s predictions is that Rosen may take some time to get his footing and the middling Bruins defense cannot be fully trusted in big-game scenarios. For such reasons, we believe the Trojans will be good for around 9 wins, but probably with 2 or so regular-season conference losses, putting them below the Trojans in the South Division pecking order, though with a consolatory good bowl appearance.
If you are a Trojan fan, let’s make one thing clear, I am not one of you…but I really like what you squad looks like, and contrary to popular opinion that you guys are full of hot air than will amount to nothing, I choose to stand by you, hoping that you’ll vindicate this painful prediction I am making (against my inner-hearted will). Now, to understand my unwilling but sincere belief that the Trojans will be the team to beat in 2015, here are some of my top reasons. Firstly, senior Quarterback Cody Kessler is the best returning pocket-passing quarterback in the nation, something that is affirmed by the fact that he passed for nearly 70 percent of his passes in 2014 for 3,826 yards and 39 touchdowns against just five interceptions (not even Mariota, Jameis Winston or even Trevone Boykin was that efficient in the air).
Secondly, the Trojans made the best of their offseason, engaging in a strong recruitment (ranked second-best in the country behind Alabama) that included four 5-star recruits (including three in the defense), adding immense potential to the USC team that went 9-4 (6-3) in 2014. Thirdly, there are many strong returning starters on both sides of the ball in USC, including WR Steven Mitchell, outside linebacker/safety Su’a Cravens and CB Adoree’ Jackson, giving the team tons of experience and depth to work with. Fourthly, and very importantly, the Trojans have a superb coach in Steve Sarkisian, who is a master at replenishing talent.
The high drafting of Leonard Williams and WR Nelson Agholor in the 2015 NFL draft is proof enough of his stellar coaching abilities, so raising the next Williams and Agholor shouldn’t be a big issue to him, especially with the strong recruits he already has. If the Trojans can finally find a way of breaking the three-year losing skid to UCLA in the Los Angeles Rivalry, there’s no reason for Sarkisian’s boys to fail in their quest for a playoff berth because winning the South will be nearly guaranteed and Kessler should be good enough to help them win the Pac-12 Championship game.
Predicted Top 5 Finish in Pac-12
5) Arizona State
Just Missed the Cut
Stanford: Good defense, but won’t do much because they lack solid QB play. Utah Utes: Have a good returning quarterback, a VERY STRONG running back and a mean defense, but have too many potholes in their schedule (including Oregon, ASU and the two LA teams). Both teams should, however, still be bowl-eligible at the end of the season.