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September 23, 2014

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Vegas-style college football preview: Pac-12 at the sports book

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

Oregon running back De’Anthony Thomas, left, and Rahsaan Vaughn (10) celebrate after the Fiesta Bowl NCAA college football game, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013, in Glendale, Ariz. Oregon defeated Kansas State 35-17.

Odds to win the Pac-12

  • Oregon: 10-to-11
  • Stanford: 5-to-2
  • USC: 9-to-2
  • Arizona State: 8-to-1
  • Oregon State: 20-to-1
  • UCLA: 20-to-1
  • Washington: 20-to-1
  • Arizona: 20-to-1
  • Utah: 40-to-1
  • Washington State: 100-to-1
  • California: 100-to-1
  • Colorado: 100-to-1
  • Numbers from LVH Superbook

Pac-12 conference win totals

  • Oregon: 11 (over Even, under minus-120)
  • Stanford: 9.5 (over plus-110, under minus-130)
  • USC: 9.5 (over Even, under minus-120)
  • Arizona State: 8 (over plus-130, under minus-150)
  • Oregon State: 8 (over minus-120, under Even)
  • Washington: 7.5 (over plus-110, under minus-130)
  • UCLA: 6.5 (over minus-140, under plus-120)
  • Utah: 5.5 (over plus-130, under minus-150)
  • Numbers from LVH Superbook

Note: Talking Points will preview all of college football's power conferences over the next month leading up to kickoff. This is part two. Check out the Mountain West here and make sure to scroll to the bottom of the page for odds on all the Pac-12 games released so far.

When the Pac-10 extended hastily accepted invitations to Utah and Colorado for the 2011 college football season, many hailed it as the dawning of the age of “super conferences.”

The only thing that’s been super-sized for the West Coast’s preeminent college athletics league through two seasons as the Pac-12, at least on the field, is a side of disappointment. No one armed with a mind argued for the Pac-12 as the best conference after either the 2011 or 2012 seasons, and for good reason.

The teams as a whole were ordinary at best, and downright take-out-a-second-mortgage disgraceful to sports bettors. In nonconference games over the past two seasons, the Pac-12 has gone 37-49 against the spread.

The two new members can take their share of the blame. Utah and Colorado have gone a combined 18-32 ATS (17-33 straight-up) in two Pac-12 seasons, helping make the South division as powerless as a 25-pound tackling dummy.

At the top of the problems last year, though, was the performance of the division’s supposed perennial power. Southern California not only came into the 2012 season with the No. 1 ranking attached to its name, but also with a steam of supporting money in Las Vegas.

Click to enlarge photo

Southern California head coach Lane Kiffin talks to the media during the NCAA college football Pac-12 Media Day on Friday, July 26, 2013, in Culver City, Calif.

Too bad the Trojans turned out to play football about as well as their coach acts like an adult. As one of the worst teams in the country versus the betting line, they went 3-10 ATS and lost three times straight up as a touchdown favorite.

Only a third of the teams in the Pac-12 have posted a winning mark against the spread since the restructuring of the conference. Two are obvious, as Stanford comes in as the best in the country at 20-7 ATS and Oregon 15-10-2. A free apple goes to whoever can guess the other two.

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Washington quarterback Keith Price rolls out during the 2012 Maaco Bowl Las Vegas game against Boise State Saturday, Dec. 22, 2012 at Sam Boyd Stadium. Boise State won their third consecutive Vegas Bowl 28-26.

Give up? It’s the Apple Cup rivals, as Washington is 15-11 ATS with downtrodden Washington State hanging on at 12-11-1.

Now for the upside: This could be the year to turn it all around. Arguably no other BCS conference appears to have the same combination of depth and uncertainty as the Pac-12.

Two teams, Oregon and Stanford of course, are on everyone’s short list for national title contenders. A third, USC, has drawn some attention as a dark horse.

No less than five others — Oregon State, Arizona State, Arizona, UCLA and Washington — think they’ll be improved after already eclipsing their Vegas over/under win totals a year ago.

An absurd average of 15 starters return per team in the Pac-12.

Odds to win the conference illustrate the potential tightness of the race. The eight teams mentioned above are all 20-to-1 or less at the LVH Superbook.

No other BCS conference has more than six teams at 20-to-1 or lower to prevail.

The Golden Nugget posted lines on several Pac-12 nonconference games as part of its Games of the Year release earlier this summer, and the number has moved in 14 of those contests. Nine shifted in favor of the Pac-12 team as opposed to only five against, showing the betting market also leans toward improvement.

Gamblers are particularly bullish on Arizona State under second-year coach Todd Graham as five of six line movements at the Golden Nugget have gone in the Sun Devils favor.

A pick’em for their premier nonconference tilt, a Sept. 14 home date against Wisconsin, has turned into an Arizona State minus-3 line. The Sun Devils are only currently getting three points in a game against Notre Dame at Cowboys Stadium, as opposed to the opening number of four.

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Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey (25) celebrates with teammate Austin Hill (29) during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Colorado at Arizona Stadium in Tucson, Ariz., Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012. Arizona won 56-31.

Head 100 miles South of Tempe, Ariz., to find an in-contention Pac-12 team the betting market has weighed in against. Despite returning the nation’s leading rusher, junior Ka’Deem Carey, bettors have lined up to go opposite Arizona in nearly all of its posted games.

Coach Rich Rodriguez’s trademark horrendous defense — the Wildcats boasted one of the three worst stop units in the country last year — along with questions at quarterback and receiver caused the pessimism.

Arizona remains a favorite in six of the 10 games listed at the Golden Nugget. Arizona State one-ups its rivals at seven, including a minus-5 spread in the season-ending showdown with Arizona.

Gambling opinions seem more divided on the rest of the conference. Expect to pay top dollar to back Oregon at any point of the season, though.

The Ducks are favored in all 11 of their posted games by an average of 22.5 points.

The media seems split between Oregon and Stanford in the North Division. In the Pac-12 preseason poll, Oregon received just four more first-place votes than Stanford.

Oddsmakers are much more comfortable with the Oregon side, as the Ducks are even 3-point favorites at Stanford in the most anticipated Pac-12 game of the year.

The growing sentiment toward Stanford and USC is reflected in the future odds to win the national championship, where public money is known to dominate. The LVH Superbook opened Stanford and USC at 20- and 60-to-1, respectively, but have sliced the numbers down to 15- and 40-to-1.

Despite two early Heisman candidates beloved by the average college football fan in quarterback Marcus Mariota and running back De’Anthony Thomas, Oregon’s odds have taken a hit and moved from 5-to-1 to 7-to-1.

But Oregon is known to reward its bettors in unparalleled fashion. It hasn’t posted a losing record against the spread in 10 years, bringing the Ducks decade total to 75-49-2. The only team in the conference nearly as efficient at the window since 2003 is Utah, which has gone 70-52-2.

Finding a bet-on team in the Pac-12 this season shouldn’t be difficult, but it might also be the wrong idea. It might be the time to bet on this whole conference.

Golden Nugget game lines

Aug. 31: Northwestern -8 at California

Aug. 31: Colorado +2 vs. Colorado State in Denver

Aug. 31: Boise State +3.5 at Washington

Aug. 31: UNR +17 at UCLA

Aug. 31: Washington State +12.5 at Auburn

Sept. 7: Arizona -15 at UNLV

Sept. 7: Oregon -22.5 at Virginia

Sept. 7: Washington State +21 at USC

Sept. 14: Wisconsin +3.5 at Arizona State

Sept. 14: Ohio State -19.5 at California

Sept. 14: Tennessee +23.5 at Oregon

Sept. 14: Oregon State -5 at Utah

Sept. 14: UCLA +7.5 at Nebraska

Sept. 14: Boston College +21.5 at USC

Sept. 14: Washington -12 at Illinois

Sept. 21: Arizona State +9 at Stanford

Sept. 21: Oregon State -6.5 at San Diego State

Sept. 21: Utah +7 at BYU

Sept. 28: Arizona +5 at Washington

Sept. 28: USC +1 at Arizona State

Sept. 28: California +34 at Oregon

Sept. 28: Colorado +22 at Oregon State

Sept. 28: Stanford -18.5 at Washington State

Oct. 3: UCLA -4 at Utah

Oct. 5: Arizona State +3 vs. Notre Dame in Dallas

Oct. 5: Oregon -34 at Colorado

Oct. 5: Washington +11.5 at Stanford

Oct. 10: Arizona +8 at USC

Oct. 12: Colorado +27 at Arizona State

Oct. 12: California +16.5 at UCLA

Oct. 12: Colorado +27 at Arizona State

Oct. 12: Oregon -13 at Washington

Oct. 12: Oregon State -13 at Washington State

Oct. 12: Stanford -12 at Utah

Oct. 19: Utah +11.5 at Arizona

Oct. 19: Washington +5 at Arizona State

Oct. 19: Oregon State -13 at California

Oct. 19: Washington State +35.5 at Oregon

Oct. 19: UCLA +10 at Stanford

Oct. 19: USC +5 at Notre Dame

Oct. 26: Arizona -17.5 at Colorado

Oct. 26: Arizona State -14 at Washington State

Oct. 26: California +17 at Washington

Oct. 26: Arizona -17.5 at Colorado

Oct. 26: UCLA +20 at Oregon

Oct. 26: Stanford -3.5 at Oregon State

Oct. 26: Utah +19.5 at USC

Nov. 1: USC +1.5 at Oregon State

Nov. 2: Arizona -10 at California

Nov. 2: Colorado -22 at UCLA

Nov. 7: Oregon -3 at Stanford

Nov. 9: UCLA +3 at Arizona

Nov. 9: USC -17 at California

Nov. 15: Washington +4 at UCLA

Nov. 16: Oregon State +4.5 at Arizona State

Nov. 16: Washington State +17 at Arizona

Nov. 16: Utah +28.5 at Oregon

Nov. 16: Stanford +2 at USC

Nov. 23: Oregon +12 at Arizona

Nov. 23: Arizona State +2 at UCLA

Nov. 23: California +22 at Stanford

Nov. 23: Washington +6 at Oregon State

Nov. 23: USC -24.5 at Colorado

Nov. 29: Oregon State +16 at Oregon

Nov. 29: Washington State +13 at Washington

Nov. 30: Arizona +5 at Arizona State

Nov. 30: Notre Dame +5 at Stanford

Nov. 30: UCLA +7 at USC

Three early leans: Utah +7 at BYU, Oregon State +3.5 vs. Stanford, Washington +13 vs. Oregon

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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