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2013 Pac-12 Preview
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Skinny: 5Dimes has installed Oregon as the +190 ‘chalk’ (risk $100 to win $190) to win the Pac-12. The website has the Ducks with the third-shortest odds (10/1) to win the BCS Championship. They have a season win total of 11 (‘under’ -140, ‘over’ +110).

Oregon lost head coach Chip Kelly to the NFL but returns most of its nucleus from a 2012 squad that went 12-1 straight up and 8-5 against the spread. The Ducks bring back eight starters on offense and seven on defense, including a pair of Heisman Trophy candidates in quarterback Marcus Mariota and running back De’Anthony Thomas.

Oregon’s only loss last season came at home to Stanford in overtime (17-14). The Ducks won all 12 of its games by double-digit margins, including a 35-17 win over Kansas St. as 7.5-point ‘chalk.’

Kelly’s offense generated 49.6 points per game thanks to the play of Mariota, who was downright nasty as a redshirt freshman. Mariota rushed for 752 yards and five touchdowns, averaging 7.1 yards per carry. He completed 68.5 percent of his passes for 2,677 yards with a 32/6 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

Oregon loses RB Kenjon Barner, who rushed for 1,767 yards and 21 TDs last season and finished his collegiate career as the Ducks’ second all-time leading rusher. Nevertheless, there is plenty of talent remaining in the backfield.

Thomas rushed for 11 TDs and averaged 7.6 YPC in 2012. He had 45 receptions for 445 yards and five TDs. Thomas also produced a pair of scores on special teams.

Six of Oregon’s top seven pass catchers are back, including Josh Huff and his 32 catches for 493 yards and seven TDs.

Oregon allowed 21.6 points per game last season. Senior DE Taylor Hart is back after registering eight sacks.

There’s no doubt that the Ducks have the talent to win it all. My only questions relate to first-year head coach Mark Helfrich, who takes Kelly’s place after a four-year stint as offensive coordinator.

Stanford has the second-shortest odds to win the Pac-12 with gamblers getting the chance to cash a +480 ticket (risk $100 to win $480). The Cardinal went 12-2 SU and 6-6-2 ATS last year, beating Wisconsin 20-14 as a six-point ‘chalk’ in the Rose Bowl.

David Shaw’s team returns six starters on offense and eight on defense. Kevin Hogan, a third-year sophomore, is poised for his first entire season as the starting signal caller. Hogan completed 71.7 percent of his throws for 1,096 yards with a 9/3 TD-INT ratio.

The school’s all-time leading rusher Stepfan Taylor has moved on to the next level after rushing for 1,530 yards and 13 TDs as a senior. Anthony Wilkerson will move into the starting RB role.

Stanford will have an extremely inexperienced group of WRs after losing its top five pass catchers from last year.

The strength of this team will be its defense. This unit gave up just 17.2 PPG in 2012. There are several future NFL players on this side of the ball, including LB Shayne Skov, LB Trent Murphy, DE Ben Gardner and DE Henry Anderson.

Stanford has a season win total of 9.5 (‘under’ -125, ‘over’ -105). The Cardinal has 27/1 odds to win it all.

Oregon State was the most improved team in college football in 2012, going from 3-9 in 2011 to 9-4. Three of the Beavers’ four defeats were one-possession setbacks (20-17 at Washington, 27-23 at Stanford and 31-27 vs. Texas). They won a pair of games against ranked foes (vs. Wisconsin & at UCLA) and also won two road games (at Arizona & at BYU) against bowl-bound opponents.

Mike Riley’s team returns eight starters on offense and seven on defense. Senior QB Cody Vaz threw 11 TD passes compared to only three interceptions last season. Vaz has a pair of talented RBs and an experienced group of WRs.

Sophomore RB Storm Woods rushed for 940 yards and 13 TDs while averaging 4.9 YPC last year. Terron Ward rushed for 415 yards and six scores while averaging 6.1 YPC.

Junior WR Brandin Cooks is one of the best in the Pac-12. He had 67 receptions for 1,151 yards and five TDs as a sophomore.

OSU’s defense limited foes to 20.6 PPG last season. This unit brings back its top five tacklers. Junior DE Scott Crichton is an All-American candidate after producing nine sacks on his way to earning first-team All Pac-12 honors.

With the way the schedule sets up (Stanford & USC at home on Oct. 26 and Nov. 1), I won’t be shocked if Oregon St. in the national-title conversation in mid-November. Remember, since the Beavers have a potential resume-making victory at Oregon for their regular-season finale, they could be in the hunt with one previous loss.

OSU has a season win total of 8.5 (‘under’ -125, ‘over’ -105). The Beavers own +1050 odds to win the Pac-12 Championship Game.

Steve Sarkisan is entering his fifth season at Washington and it is a critical one. UW returns eight starters on offense and 10 on defense from a 7-6 club.

Washington dropped a 28-26 decision to Boise St. at the Las Vegas Bowl. The highlight of the year was a 17-13 win over Stanford in a Thursday night game on ESPN. UW also beat Oregon St. at home when the Beavers were ranked seventh. However, a 31-28 overtime loss at Washington St. in the regular-season finale was a big downer.

Washington has a season win total of 7.5 (‘under’ -135), ‘over’ +105). The Huskies have 15/1 odds to win the conference.

Senior QB Keith Price is back for his third season as the full-time starter. Price couldn’t duplicate the numbers he produced as a sophomore (67% completions, 33/11 TD-INT) last year when he had a 19/13 TD-INT ratio and connected on 60.9 percent of his throws.

Price has all of his weapons back in the mix. Junior Bishop Sankey rushed for 1,439 yards and 16 TDs while averaging 5.0 YPC in 2012. WR Kasen Williams returns after hauling in 77 receptions for 878 yards and six TDs. Austin Seferian-Jenkins is one of the nation’s top tight ends, bringing down 69 catches for 850 yards and seven scores last year.

The UW offense has got to improve on its meager 24.0 PPG average from 2012. The defense gave up 24.2 PPG.

Washington St. and California will bring up the rear in the Pac-12 North. Both schools are 60/1 longshots to win the conference.

Mike Leach has a Herculean task in rebuilding the Wazzu program, but I’m not sure it’s much more difficult than his assignment in Lubbock more than a decade ago. In other words, the Cougars’ 3-9 results in 2012 were disappointing.

Washington St. returns seven starters on offense and nine on defense. If the Cougars are going to surprise in 2013, they will need much better play from junior QB Connor Halliday (15/13 TD-INT LY).

Jeff Tedford was dismissed following Cal’s 3-9 campaign. Sonny Dykes takes over after a nice three-year run at La. Tech. The Bears are hoping redshirt freshman QB Zach Kline, who was one of the country’s best prep QBs in the class of 2012, can ignite Dykes’s fast-paced offensive attack.

In the Pac-12 South, it looks like a four-team race between USC, UCLA, Arizona and Arizona St.. 5Dimes has the Trojans as the +230 ‘chalk’ to win the division, followed by UCLA (+250), Arizona (+310) and ASU (+400).

USC was the nation’s most disappointing team in 2012. Lane Kiffin’s squad was ranked No. 1 in most preseason polls, yet it limped to a 7-6 record and pulled a complete no-show in a 21-7 loss to Ga. Tech at the Sun Bowl.

Therefore, despite AD Pat Haden’s assertions to the contrary, Kiffin is on a serious hot seat in L.A. The former Tennessee head coach has a monster decision to make at the QB position. There’s redshirt sophomore Max Wittek, a five-star recruit who played poorly (52.5% completions, 3/5 TD-INT) when thrown into the fire late in 2012 when Matt Barkley was injured.

Cody Kessler, a true sophomore, is also in the mix. And then there’s another five-star recruit in true frosh Max Browne, was left high school early and participated in spring practice.

Junior WR Marquise Lee won the Biletnikoff Award as a sophomore when he made 118 receptions for 1,721 yards and 14 TDs. RB Silas Redd, a transfer from Penn St., is back after rushing for 905 yards and nine TDs for the Trojans.

USC returns seven starts from a defense that surrendered 24.3 PPG. Senior OLB Morgan Breslin is the leader of this unit. He produced 13 sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss in 2012. Sophomore DE Leonard Williams was the Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year when he tallied eight sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss.

USC has a season win total of 9.5 (‘under’ -135, ‘over’ +105). Bettors should remember that the Trojans play 13 regular-season games that’ll be applied to their win total. They have +4750 odds to win the BCS Championship Game.

UCLA enjoyed a stellar first season under former NFL coach Jim Mora, who followed it up by bringing in an outstanding recruiting class. The Bruins went 9-5 SU and 8-6 ATS in 2012, dropping a 27-24 heartbreaker to Stanford in the Pac-12 title game.

Mora’s bunch returns seven starters on offense and five on defense. The loss of RB Johnathan Franklin is costly following his monster campaign – 1,734 rushing yards, 13 rushing TDs, 6.1 YPC average, 33 catches for 323 yards and two TDs.

But Frankin’s loss will put more emphasis on true sophomore QB Brett Hundley, and that’s a good thing. Hundley was dynamite as a true frosh, connecting on 66.5 percent of his passes for 3,740 yards with a 29/11 TD-INT ratio. The athletic signal caller, who has great size (6-3, 227), can also get it done with his legs, as evidenced by nine rushing TDs.

If Hundley had been given some help by his receivers, UCLA probably would’ve beaten Stanford to win the league. On the Bruins’ last-minute drive, there were two blatant drops and two more potential plays that could’ve been made. At worst, they would’ve been kicking a mid-range field goal for the tie if two of those plays had been executed.

Hundley’s favorite target is one of the best wideouts in the conference. Shaquelle Evans had a team-high 60 receptions for 877 yards and three TDs in 2012.

On the defensive side, junior LB Eric Kendricks (150 tackles LY) and senior LB Anthony Barr are All-American candidates. Barr had 83 tackles, 13.5 sacks and eight tackles for loss as a junior.

UCLA has a season win total of seven (‘under’ -165, ‘over’ +135). With the +135 value, I think an ‘over’ wager is worth consideration, as I have this squad going 8-4.

Arizona St. finished 8-5 both SU and ATS in Todd Graham’s first season at the helm. The Sun Devils closed the season on a three-game winning streak with a 41-34 victory in their rivalry game at Arizona that they followed up with a 62-28 win over Navy in the Fight Hunger Bowl.

ASU returns seven starters on offense and eight on defense. As a sophomore last season, QB Taylor Kelly completed 67.1 percent of his throws for 3,039 yards with a 29/9 TD-INT ratio. Kelly can run too, rushing for 724 yards (516 after subtracting sack yardage) and one TD.

Kelly has one of the Pac-12 best tight ends in Chris Coyle, who had a team-high 57 receptions for 696 yards and five TDs last season.

The ASU defense gave up 24.3 PPG. This unit features one of the nation’s premier DTs in senior Will Sutton, who produced 13 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss in 2012.

We’ll find out about the Sun Devils early and often. From mid-September to early-October, they face a four-game gauntlet that looks like this: vs. Wisconsin, at Stanford, vs. USC and vs. Notre Dame (at Cowboys Stadium).

Arizona St. has a season win total of eight (‘under’ -150, ‘over’ +120).

Arizona went 8-5 SU and 6-7 ATS in Rich Rodriguez’s first year in Tucson. The Wildcats won a 49-48 decision over Nevada at the New Mexico Bowl.

UA averaged 38.2 PPG but gave up 35.3 PPG. The offense brings back six starters while the ‘D’ returns all 11 of its starters.

Arizona has one of the country’s best RBs in Ka’Deem Carey, who rushed for 1,929 yards and 23 TDs while averaging 6.4 YPC in 2012. Carey also had 36 catches for 303 yards and one score.

QB Matt Scott is gone and will be replaced by senior B.J. Denker, a juco transfer who completed 25-of-37 throws for 259 yards with a 3/1 TD-INT ratio in limited action for the Wildcats last season. Denker has one of the Pac-12’s top WRs in Austin Hill (81 receptions, 1,364 yards & 11 TDs).

UA has a season win total of 7.5 (‘over’ -130, ‘under’ +100).

Utah won at least seven games in each of the first seven seasons on Kyle Whittingham’s watch. In fact, the Utes had three years with double-digit wins. However, in its second season in the Pac-12, Utah fell to 5-7 both SU and ATS.

The Utes return six starters on each side of the ball. Sophomore QB Travis Wilson got seven starts as a true frosh with mixed results. Wilson completed 62.7 percent of his passes for 1,311 yards with a 7/6 TD-INT ratio. He also rushed for four scores.

The Utes have a season win total of 5.5 (‘under’ -150, ‘over’ +120).

Colorado has won three Pac-12 games in its first two seasons in the league. The Buffs went 1-11 SU and 3-9 ATS last year, prompting the dismissal of Jon Embree as head coach.

I love the hiring of Mike MacIntyre, who led San Jose St. to an 11-2 record both SU and ATS in 2012. But MacIntryre faces a huge rebuilding job that isn’t likely to garner results for several years. His first task is to improve a defense that allowed foes to score at 46.0 PPG clip.

CU returns seven starters on offense and nine on defense. 5Dimes assigned the Buffs with a season win total of 3.5 (‘under’ -135, ‘over’ +105).

Fearless Predictions:
Oregon over USC in conference championship

2013 Win-Loss Projections
School Record Win Total (5Dimes) Bowl Projection
North Division
Oregon 11-1 11 BCS Championship Game vs. South Carolina
Stanford 10-2 9 ½ Rose vs. Ohio State
Oregon State 9-3 8 ½ Sun vs. Virginia Tech
Washington 7-5 7 ½ New Mexico vs. MWC #4
Washington State 4-8 4 ½ -
California 3-9 4 -
South Division
USC 9-4 9 ½ Alamo vs. Texas
UCLA 8-4 7 Holiday vs. Texas Tech
Arizona State 8-4 7 ½ Las Vegas vs. MWC #1
Arizona 7-5 7 ½  Kraft Fight Hunger vs. BYU or ACC At-large
Utah 4-8 5 ½ -
Colorado 2-10 3 ½ -

Games to Watch:

1-Oregon at Stanford (Nov. 7) – This is a Thursday game with both schools enjoying open dates beforehand. 5Dimes has Oregon as a three-point favorite (-115). The Ducks, who won 53-30 in Palo Alto two seasons ago, will be seeking revenge after the Cardinal cost them a shot at the national title last year.

2-UCLA at USC (Nov. 30) – There’s a high likelihood that this game will determine whom will advance to the Pac-12 Championship Game. The last time these schools met at the Coliseum, UCLA suffered their worst loss (50-0) in the series since 1930. But the Bruins exacted revenge in last year’s 38-28 win as four-point home underdogs. 5Dimes has the Trojans favored by seven.

3-Oregon St. at Oregon (Nov. 29) – I always believe that games played on a short week of preparation (this year’s Civil War will be waged on Friday) favor the home team. Oregon has won five straight over its in-state rival with four of those victories coming by margins of 17 points or more. The Ducks won a 48-24 decision as 9.5-point road ‘chalk’ last season. 5Dimes has Oregon favored by 16.

4-Stanford at USC (Nov. 16) – This is a letdown situation for Stanford since it hosts Oregon the week before. However, with extra rest because the battle with the Ducks falls on a Thursday, I don’t believe gamblers should put the normal emphasis on ‘letdown’ in this scenario. The Trojans are favored by one.

5-Oregon at Washington (Oct. 12) – We saw the Huskies stun Stanford at home last season and if Oregon doesn’t bring its A-Game, this could be a potential upset spot. Washington has won 11 of its last 13 home games. The Ducks are favored by 13 at 5Dimes.

Players to Watch:

1-De’Anthony Thomas (Oregon RB) – We know Thomas is one of the most explosive players in America, but his lack of size makes it fair to wonder about his durability. Remember, Kenjon Barner carried the load last year and Thomas is going to get at least twice as many touches in 2013.

2-Marquise Lee (USC WR) – Without Matt Barkley, will Lee be able to duplicate the incredible numbers he produced in 2012? With Robert Woods also gone, defenses will be able to give Lee more attention. We’ll see how he responds.

3-Brett Hundley (UCLA QB) – I absolutely love this guy. He has it all – arm strength, accuracy, poise under pressure and elusiveness in the pocket and the open field. Without Franklin, the Bruins will rely on their young QB even more.

4-Will Sutton (Arizona St. DT) – The Sun Devils face stout foes but ones with inexperienced QBs in the aforementioned stretch against Wisconsin, Stanford, USC and Notre Dame. ASU needs Sutton to make those signal callers uncomfortable early and often.

5-Ka’Deem Carey (Arizona RB) – Carey was the catalyst as ‘Zona went from a four-win team to an eight-win squad in 2012. R-Rod needs him to be every bit as good as he was last season.

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