Can Trojans Cash in On Odds to win First Pac-12 Title in Ages?
With Sam Darnold favored to win the Heisman Trophy and USC the sexy pick to win the Pac-12 in 2017, the big question surrounding the playoff hopeful Trojans is whether or not they can fulfill their status as the prohibitive favorites to win their first conference crown since 2008?
As usual, thanks to some expert collegiate gridiron analysis you’re going to find out whether USC or one of their conference rivals is offering the best value to cash in on their season-long conference championship futures odds.
Odds & Picks To Win The 2017 Pac-12 Title
The Odds-On Favorite To Win The Pac-12: USC Trojans – Even
USC is absolutely brimming with talent starting with strong-armed redshirt sophomore quarterback Sam Darnold (3, 086 yds, 31 Tds, 9 INTs). Darnold looked like he was completely NFL-ready to me in the Trojans’ insanely thrilling 52-49 Rose Bowl win over Penn State as he passed for 453 yards with five TD strikes and one interception.
Head coach Clay Helton does have some concerns with the Trojans losing three starters and two All-Americans on the offensive line, not to mention 2016 Thorpe Award-winning cornerback Adoree Jackson, top receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and nose tackle Stevie Tu’ikolovat.
The Trojans avoid playing 2016 conference winner Washington during the regular season, but they do have some tough matchups starting with their Week 2 home date against Stanford, along with games at Washington State, Utah and at Colorado. There’s tons of talent, but USC has made a habit out of suffering untimely and inexplicable losses the last few years, so they’ll need to avoid that in 2017 if they want to bag the Pac-12 title.
The Smart Pick To Win The Pac-12: Washington Huskies +250
While I didn’t have much faith in the Huskies a year ago despite the fact that they went 12-2 to win the Pac-12 and reach the four-team College Football Playoff, I’m a believer in Washington and head coach Chris Petersen heading into 2017 and I believe they, not the USC Trojans, are the smart pick to win the conference title this coming campaign.
Washington has a pair of legitimate Heisman Trophy candidates in strangely underrated quarterback Jake Browning (43 Tds, 9 INTs) and elusive running back Myles Gaskin (1,373 yds, 10 Tds) and another next level a star in defensive tackle Vita Vea. The Huskies also have a trio of returning starting linebackers but need to replace three starters in the secondary.
Maybe it’s me, but for a team that ranked a stellar eighth in scoring (41.8 ppg) and equally impressive eighth in points allowed (17.7 ppg) and has one of the best coaches on the planet, I’m a bit stunned the Huskies aren’t getting more love from fans and oddsmakers. Still, I like the Huskies in a big way heading into 2017 and I believe they’ll contend for both, the PAC-12 title – and another appearance in the CFP.
The Long Shot Pick To Win: Stanford Cardinal +600
Despite losing two players that were both drafted inside the top 10 in this year’s NFL Draft, I like David Shaw’s Stanford Cardinal as my top longshot to upset everyone to win the Pac-12 title in 2017.
Yes, Shaw is going to miss superstar hybrid running back/wide receiver Christian McCaffrey and elite defensive end Solomon Thomas and no, he really doesn’t know what to expect out of returning quarterback Keller Chryst after he suffered a significant knee injury in the Sun Bowl, but all is clearly not gloom and doom for Stanford.
First and foremost, Shaw has averaged almost 11 wins per season during his rein at the school, which means he builds perennially powerful teams no matter who’s on the roster.
Stanford has four returning starters on the offensive line and a player that Shaw says is headed for a breakout campaign in running back Bryce Love. The Cardinals need to replace a trio of wide receivers, but they’re also going to be very strong at linebacker and in the secondary.
The Cardinal closed out the 2016 campaign by winning their final six games of the season and I believe that if either USC or Washington falters, it will be the Cardinal that are ready to step in and take the Pac-12 title as a value-packed +500 pick.