While everyone else was focusing on the bizarre geographic move of USC and UCLA to the Big
Ten, the Pac-12 quietly eliminated divisions for the 2022 season. What does that mean for you as
a bettor? It means that even though the schedule still reflects the North/South split, there’s
now no divisional standings leading to the Pac-12 championship game, which means two teams that
used to be in the same division could meet for the title.
And that makes the draw of the schedule important to pay attention to because certain teams
might have to beat the same team twice in order to claim the title. For example, a team like Utah
might have to take down USC once in October and again in December to clinch this bet. Conversely,
someone like Washington doesn’t play either Utah or USC out of what used to be the South and
could be in a position to make a surprise run to the Pac-12 title game.
With that in mind, here are our best bets for the Pac-12 championship.
Best Bet: Utah +250
The public is all over Lincoln Riley and USC, but he’s not a miracle worker, and he hasn’t
proven himself to be a program builder. On the other hand, Utah has a stable situation with eight
returners on offense, including quarterback Cameron Rising. The Utes came on strong at the end of
last season, and by the end of the year, they had gone from a team that was kind of an
afterthought to one that surprised nobody by pounding Oregon twice to win the league title.
Last year, the Utes started 1-2 with Charlie Brewer under center before making a quarterback
change after losing to San Diego State, which proved to be the catalyst that jump-started their
season. Once Rising took over, Utah scored 34 points or more in nine of its final 11 games, only
losing to Oregon State and Ohio State. This has been one of the most stable programs in the
Pac-12 throughout Kyle Whittingham’s time here, and the Utes should be substantially ahead of
where they started a year ago. With Rising and top running back Tavion Thomas back in Salt Lake
City, the only real problems on Utah’s schedule are a couple of tricky trips to Washington
State and Oregon. As long as the Utes get at least a split in those games, they should be playing
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Best Value Play: Oregon +300
Remember Bo Nix? The quarterback who used to give SEC defenses fits has resurfaced at Oregon,
where he’s reunited with offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham, the man who got the most out
of him in 2019. Auburn won nine games with Nix and Dillingham working together that year,
including an upset of Alabama, and Nix just hasn’t been the same player since Dillingham left
to try to rebuild Florida State’s offense.
If this reunion works out on offense, the Ducks
will be in an excellent position to reach the Pac-12 title game, and depending on the schedule,
Oregon could be set up perfectly to claim the crown. The Ducks draw Utah and UCLA at home and
don’t play USC at all, with their toughest Pac-12 road game coming at Washington State in
September. Oregon returns all of its linebackers and brings in former Georgia defensive
coordinator Dan Lanning as the new man in charge. The Ducks have plenty of talent and a new
defensive mindset, and as long as they can keep the defense healthy down the stretch, they’ll
be in a position to play in Las Vegas in December.