Oregon - The class of the Pac-12
Philadelphia, PA – For as solid the Pac-12 has been of late, the conference has not fared well in two key areas: non-conference games (against the spread) and postseason play.
First, the Pac-12 is 31-38-2 ATS the last two years against other conferences, and, second, the conference has not had a winning record in bowl games since 2008, both straight up and ATS. Over the last four years, the Pac-12 is 10-17 SU and 12-15 ATS in postseason play against other conferences.
Time now to take a deeper look into the conference, along with predicted straight- up (overall and conference) records for those wagering on over/unders for total team victories. The over/under number posted is for the entire season, not conference totals. In addition, all statistics provided in the offensive and defensive sections are from conference-only play unless otherwise indicated (all odds to win the league title and totals courtesy of 5Dimes).
6) COLORADO (200-1) - The Buffaloes are 3-13 as road underdogs the last three years.
Offense - Trending up. Colorado came into last season without its top five receiving leaders from 2011. This year, five of the top six return, along with Paul Richardson. The Buffaloes will average 20 points per game for the first time since entering the Pac-12.
Defense - Trending up. Colorado finished last nationally in scoring while allowing a school-record 39 touchdown passes. About 55 percent of the team's lettermen returned for the 2012 season but almost 90 percent come back in 2013, so look for better numbers.
Prediction - The Buffaloes will be much-improved this year, but it might not show in their record, especially with five conference road games. Don't forget, they are 2-26 SU on the road the last five years. Over/under total - 3.5 (2-10, 1-8). Take under 3.5 wins at +120.
5) UTAH (26-1) - The Utes are 38-19 as road underdogs the last 22 years.
Offense - Trending down. Seven of Utah's 31 touchdowns came via the defense and special teams last year. That means the offense averaged closer to 21 points per game rather than 26. In addition, the Utes ranked next-to-last in total offense. Now they have to take on Oregon and Stanford instead of California and Washington.
Defense - Trending down. The Utes defense ranked 11th in red zone touchdown percentage, allowing 69 percent - a far cry from the No. 1 spot held two years ago. It's doubtful the club will improve in that area considering the inexperience in the secondary and the lack of depth on the line.
Prediction - Utah was outgained in nine of its 11 Football Bowl Subdivision games a year ago. Expect another below-.500 season both SU and ATS in 2013. Over/under total - 5.5 (4-8, 2-7). Take under 5.5 wins at -185.
4) UCLA (7-1) - The Bruins are 8-16 as road underdogs the last five years.
Offense - Trending down. The Bruins jumped from 10th to second in scoring behind Brett Hundley and Jonathan Franklin. The former returns but the latter must be replaced, which will take its toll on the offense. Don't forget, last year was the first time UCLA averaged over 30 points per game in a season since 2005.
Defense - Trending down. The Bruins improved their run defense by over a yard and their sacks increased from 10 to 31. They also were 18th nationally in third down efficiency. That defense returned six of its top seven tacklers. This year's crew brings back three of the top seven and loses its entire starting secondary.
Prediction - One year after going 8-6 ATS, look for UCLA to be on the losing end when it comes to covering spreads. Over/under total - 8.5 (6-6, 4-5).
3) ARIZONA (8-1) - The Wildcats are 11-3-1 as home underdogs the last eight years, but just 2-9 as road favorites the last five.
Offense - Trending down. The Wildcats have a lot of things going against them. First, it's doubtful Ka'Deem Carey will rush for over 1,900 yards and 23 touchdowns for a second straight season. Second, they don't have an experienced quarterback to replace Matt Scott. Third, they lose their top two receivers.
Defense - Trending up. The defense was on the field for 740 plays, over 100 more than in 2011. So even though the Wildcats allowed two more points per game, the overall numbers could have been a lot worse. This year, all 11 starters return, so look for a decrease in points allowed.
Prediction - Arizona went 9-3 to the over last year. Expect many more unders in 2013. Over/under total - 7.5 (7-5, 4-5).
2) USC (6-1) - The Trojans are 7-17 as road favorites the last five years, but 7-3 as home favorites the last two.
Offense - Trending down. USC averaged 6.9 yards per play in its first 10 games and 4.4 in its final two with Max Wittek under center. The passing game will falter without Matt Barkley and a receiver to complement Marqise Lee.
Defense - Trending up. USC came into last season with zero returning starters on the line and it took its toll the second half of the season when the Trojans allowed 4.8 yards per carry. To that end, Lane Kiffin brought in new coordinator Clancy Pedergast, who brings in a 5-2-4 formation. Expect better overall numbers in 2013.
Prediction - After going 8-4 ATS in 2011, the Trojans flopped to 3-10. Look for them to be somewhere in the middle this year. Over/under total - 10.5 (10-3, 6-3).
1) ARIZONA STATE (11-1) - The Sun Devils are 25-20 as home favorites the last nine years.
Offense - Trending up. What an amazing job Todd Graham and his staff did with this offense last year. The scoring average did not drop even with the loss of seven starters, including their quarterback. The Sun Devils also were 10th in the league in red zone touchdown percentage. Imagine how potent they will be in Graham's second season with seven starters returning.
Defense - Trending up. Last year, Arizona State lost its top six tacklers but still was No. 1 nationally in tackles for loss and second in sacks. Despite giving up an average of 80 fewer yards per game, the defense allowed just one fewer points per game. Expect a lower mark than last season's 27-point average, particularly with the return of nine of the top 11 tacklers.
Prediction - The Sun Devils should improve off their 7-5 ATS mark of a year ago. Over/under total - 9.5 (10-2, 7-2). They are an excellent bet to win the South at 4-1, and are worth a few dollars to win the national championship at 200-1.
6) WASHINGTON STATE (60-1) - The Cougars are 7-4 as home underdogs the last three years.
Offense - Trending up. It's difficult to win many games when a team averages 18 rushing yards per game on 0.9 yards per carry, but that's exactly what the Cougars did a year ago, going 1-8 in league play. Obviously, 49 sacks had something to do with those numbers. This season should be much-improved in the second year of Mike Leach's system.
Defense - Trending up. Surprisingly, the Cougars more than held their own last season, finishing ahead of four Pac-12 teams in total defense. They also improved their sack total from nine to 27. This year, 16 of the top 18 tacklers return, so look for the lowest-scoring average in seven years.
Prediction - Washington State finished last season 5-6 ATS. This year, the Cougars will be above .500 ATS. Over/under total - 4.5 (4-8, 2-7).
5) CALIFORNIA (60-1) - The Golden Bears are 15-5 as home favorites the last five years, but 4-13 as road favorites the last six.
Offense - Trending steady. If the Golden Bears could find a way to score touchdowns inside the red zone (just 33 TDs in 68 opportunities the last two years), the offense might have a chance to trend upward. However, with new schemes in place and a true freshman starting at quarterback, the odds are slim they will be able to do so.
Defense - Trending up. Speaking of the red zone, last season's defense allowed opponents to score at an 87-percent clip over the final six games. The Golden Bears allowed 20 red zone passing touchdowns in conference play - the most in the Pac-12. This year's secondary should be much stronger with an experienced front seven, so look for better numbers all across the board.
Prediction - California is going through a transition with a new coaching staff, which means the second half of the season should produce more SU and ATS wins than the first. Over/under total - 4.5 (4-8, 3-6).
4) OREGON STATE (10-1) - The Beavers are 14-5 as road underdogs the last four years.
Offense - Trending up. The run/pass ratio was more even last year at 47/53 compared to 39/61 in 2011. That helped the Beavers average 10 points per game more overall in 2012. With eight starters returning, the odds are strong the ppg average will rise even higher. However, Sean Mannion (if he wins the quarterback job) has thrown 31 picks in just 18 starts.
Defense - Trending down. Oregon State allowed just 27 fewer yards per game than in 2011 but gave up a touchdown fewer per game. Logic dictates the Beavers will allow more points per game in 2013, especially with inexperience up the middle with new starters at both defensive line spots and at middle linebacker.
Prediction - Oregon State turned its ATS record around, going 8-4 last season after a 4-7 campaign in 2011. Expect another turnaround back below the .500 mark this year Over/under total - 8.5 (7-5, 4-5). Take under 8.5 wins at +160.
3) WASHINGTON (15-1) - The Huskies are 8-18 as road underdogs the last six years.
Offense - Trending up. A lot of negative 2012 statistics (10th in total offense and third down efficiency, and 11th in red zone efficiency) buried the offense a year ago partly due to a banged-up offensive line. Look for better health and more production from the line this season, which will have a positive effect on the offense as a whole.
Defense - Trending steady. Washington finished fourth in scoring and second in total defense a year ago. The Huskies return 12 of their top 14 tacklers, so the overall numbers should either improve slightly or remain the same.
Prediction - I mentioned in this spot last year that the 2012 season would be a prelude to what could be a very special 2013 campaign. Look for Washington to win at least nine games for the first time since 2000. Over/under total - 7.5 (9-3, 6-3). Take over 7.5 wins at -120.
2) STANFORD (9-2) - The Cardinal are 12-2 as road favorite the last three years.
Offense - Trending down. Kevin Hogan led the offense to five straight victories, but he did so with the help of Stepfan Taylor, who moved on to the NFL. Furthermore, players who caught 18 of the 19 total touchdowns are no longer on the team. The line remains one of the best in the country, so the points per game shouldn't fall deep into the low 20s.
Defense - Trending down. Stanford led the league in scoring and total defense last season. This year's group looks even stronger on paper, but the point total will rise from 17 to the low 20s, especially after last season's defense gave up a touchdown fewer per game despite allowing only 17 fewer yards per game.
Prediction - Stanford has finished .500 or above ATS the last five seasons. The streak will end in 2013. Over/under total - 9.5 (9-3, 6-3).
1) OREGON (8-5) - The Ducks are 7-0 as road favorites the last two years ago.
Offense - Trending steady. It's hard to improve on a 50-point average, so even with eight returning starters, look for the scoring mark to hover in the upper 40s.
Defense - Trending steady. Oregon led the country in turnovers gained with 40. Don't expect that to be the case in 2013 with the loss of the defense's top two tacklers. However, the Ducks still return four of their top seven while only two of the top seven came back last year.
Prediction - The Ducks have finished .500 or above ATS for 10 straight years. They also are in prime position to reach the national championship game with an unbeaten regular season. Over/under total - 10.5 (12-0, 9-0). Take Oregon to win the national championship at 10-1.