Oregon may be getting quite a bit of preseason College Football Playoff buzz, but the Ducks are not the significant betting favorites to repeat as Pac-12 champions.
According to odds from BetMGM, Oregon has +220 odds to win the Pac-12, but USC and Washington are not far behind at +250 and +280 respectively.
It’s easy to see why Oregon is a team with some hype around it heading into the 2020 season. The Ducks went 12-2 last season, capped by a Pac-12 title and Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin. Oregon returns an excellent collection of talent, highlighted by stud defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux on a stacked defense and star left tackle Penei Sewell anchoring the offensive line.
The lack of a proven quarterback, though, leaves some room for skepticism. Redshirt sophomore Tyler Shough backed up first-round pick Justin Herbert a year ago and will battle Boston College transfer Anthony Brown for the starting role. There’s also a new offensive system under new coordinator Joe Moorhead to install. The lack of a real offseason could make that transition a little bumpy for Oregon and cause you to look elsewhere for a preseason Pac-12 wager.
Full Pac-12 conference title odds, via BetMGM
Washington State: +1400
Arizona State: +1800
Oregon State: +8000
Beyond Oregon, there are a few intriguing options on the board.
USC has been a punching bag for a lot of reasons in recent years, but there’s a lot to like about the Trojans entering 2020 with Kedon Slovis at quarterback. The defense, which will now be led by Todd Orlando, is going to need to take strides forward, though. Utah was on the precipice of the College Football Playoff last year, but ended up blowing its chance in the Pac-12 title game against Oregon. The Utes lose a lot of production, but have South Carolina grad transfer QB Jake Bentley and a very favorable schedule.
Further down the board are teams like Arizona State, Cal and even Stanford at really good value. ASU has a star quarterback in Jayden Daniels, Cal has continually improved under Justin Wilcox and there’s no way Stanford — a program that won an average of 10 games per season under David Shaw before last season — goes 4-8 again.
If you’re confident any of those teams can be surprise conference title contenders, it’s worth throwing down a few bucks when there’s that big of a potential return. And to decrease your risk a bit, you can look to those teams’ odds in their respective divisions.
Washington State: +700
Oregon State: +4000
Arizona State: +600
There are new head coaches in place at both Washington and Washington State with Jimmy Lake taking over for Chris Petersen at UW and Nick Rolovich stepping in for Mike Leach at Wazzu. While Rolovich is dealing with the culture shock of leaving Hawaii for Pullman, Lake is moving into the big office in Seattle, going from defensive coordinator to head coach.
Washington has a lot of talent, but you’d hope for a bigger return on investment to pull the trigger on the Huskies to win the North. WSU is too much of an unknown and I’m frankly surprised to see the Cougars third in the pecking order here.
As previously mentioned, I think there is good value if you like Cal or Stanford as a sleeper pick in the North. David Shaw is too good of a coach for Stanford to play that poorly again.
Best bet: Oregon to win Pac-12 (+220)
If there were a bigger gap between Oregon and USC, I might lean toward USC here just from a value perspective, but I’m going with the Ducks since they’re only favored slightly over the Trojans. Sure, Oregon may be losing Justin Herbert, but I never thought the Ducks used his skillset all that effectively under previous coordinator Marcus Arroyo. Joe Moorhead should bring a more aggressive approach that will get the Ducks’ array of skill players involved. Couple what I believe will be a more dynamic offense with a stalwart defense, and I like Oregon as a smart bet to take home the Pac-12 crown again.
Best value: Arizona State to win Pac-12 South (+600)
Let’s roll the dice with Herm Edwards’ Sun Devils here in the Pac-12 South. I believe in Jayden Daniels at quarterback and have been impressed by the overall talent on the roster so far in Edwards’ tenure. The schedule difficulty worries me, but I don’t think the gap between ASU and programs like USC and Utah is shrinking. With odds like +600, it’s worth a flier.
Sleeper pick: Cal to win Pac-12 North (+1400)
Cal got off to a 4-0 start last year before quarterback Chase Garbers went down with an injury. Without Garbers, Cal lost very close games to the likes of Arizona State and Oregon before winning four of five down the stretch. Entering 2020, the Golden Bears are experienced on both sides of the ball and could be a sleeper team to compete for a division title.
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