Wilner – Pac-12 football: The best (and worst) odds to win the 2023 championship

The Pac-12 is one month away from the unofficial start to the most anticipated football season in eons, with a slew of College Football Playoff hopefuls, at least three Heisman Trophy contenders and a pair of schools participating for the last time.

The conference’s midsummer media extravaganza, which features coaches and players from each school and journalists from across the country, is set for July 21 in Las Vegas.

In connection with the event, the Pac-12 will release the annual preseason media poll.

Fortunately for fans desperate to discuss football — and not the ongoing media rights saga — the oddsmakers have already spoken.

Last month, FanDuel released updated odds to win the 2023 conference championship.

We have a thought — or 20 — on the numbers.

The odds are courtesy of FanDuel and based on $100 bets. If a team is +500, then a winning $100 bet would result in a $500 payout.

(Opinions expressed below are for entertainment purposes only.)

Worst bets
USC: +200. Not much value for your money and, for all of the talent coach Lincoln Riley has amassed, there is some risk to the Trojans even reaching the championship game, much less winning it. They generated an otherworldly turnover margin of plus-1.5 per game last year, the highest by a Power Five team in a full season (i.e., excluding 2020) since Oregon in 2014. The following season, the Ducks reverted to the mean in that crucial metric, and we expect USC to do the same. That could more than offset any offseason personnel upgrades.

Oregon: +290. Not quite enough reward for our liking with the Ducks, either. They have a rebuilt offensive line and a defense that must prove its worth after the November collapses against Washington and Oregon State. Sure, they deserve contender status given the return of quarterback Bo Nix, but that’s a crowded space in 2023. And at least two teams have comparable paths to the championship while offering more enticing value. (See below.)

UCLA: +1800. The Bruins finished fifth last season with a better roster and easier schedule than they possess this fall. (In 2022, they had one tough road game, Oregon; this season, they have three: Utah, Oregon State and USC.) That’s a big number, but the likelihood of cashing the bet is too remote for the outlay.

Best bets
Washington: +380. Obviously, the oddsmakers snoozed through 2022 and based their assessment of UW on the final season of the Jimmy Lake era. (We’re using sarcasm to substitute for incredulity.) With quarterback Michael Penix back to lead the high-octane offense and a defense stocked with elite pass rushers, the Huskies are every bit the contender that USC and Oregon are — only with substantially more value for the $100.

Utah: +500. Hard to believe a two-time defending champion with a returning quarterback — not to mention a 2022 season sweep of the betting favorite (USC) — would carry +500 odds, but such is Utah’s low-profile position in the public wagering realm. That undoubtedly suits coach Kyle Whittingham’s purposes in the motivation game, and it works for us, as well. Quarterback Cam Rising is recovering from a leg injury but should be close to 100 percent by the time conference play begins Sept. 23.

Oregon State: +1000. You can’t convince us that USC is five times more likely to win the Pac-12 than the Beavers, who were in the title chase last year and have upgraded their weakest position, quarterback. Switch OSU’s name to USC or Oregon but keep the roster and 2022 resume, and the Beavers would be no worse than +500. Coach Jonathan Smith and Co. are easily worth a flyer at +1000.

*** Previously published content looking ahead to the 2023 season:

Strength-of-schedule rankings
Assessing the win totals for each team
Our quarterback comfort rankings
Forecasting the conference race
The Hotline’s post-spring top-25 rankings
Final transfer portal power rankings

*** Send suggestions, comments and tips (confidentiality guaranteed) to pac12hotline@bayareanewsgroup.com or call 408-920-5716

*** Follow me on Twitter: @WilnerHotline

*** Pac-12 Hotline is not endorsed or sponsored by the Pac-12 Conference, and the views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the views of the Conference.