Pac-12 football at the midpoint: Reevaluating preseason over/under bets

After this past weekend, every Pac-12 team has played at least half of its regular-season schedule. By this point, we have a pretty good grasp of what these teams are and what they aren’t.

So it’s an ideal time to take stock of what was said in the preseason and see if my thoughts have changed. Back in August, I — along with my colleague Stewart Mandel — made Pac-12 win total picks for every team in the league.

Let’s take a look at those picks and reassess where things stand now.

USC (10 wins)

Preseason take: Push

Now: There were questions about USC’s defense and how it would hold up against one of toughest schedules in the country. But the Trojans (6-1, 4-0 Pac-12) had to scratch and claw to get through the softer portion of their slate undefeated, and the biggest surprise has been how medicore the offense has looked in recent weeks. Even with Caleb Williams on its side, USC seems destined to finish under 10 wins based on what we’ve seen from it so far, most recently an embarrassing loss at Notre Dame.

Preseason take: Over

Now: I thought Oregon (5-1, 2-1) would be a 10-win team in the preseason, and even though the Ducks lost on Saturday, they look to be on pace to hit double-digit wins. Oregon’s defense is ranked in the top 15 in scoring and yards per play allowed, and its offense leads the nation in scoring and is No. 4 in yards per play. The question is whether the Ducks can finish 11-1. The toughest remaining tests are Utah, USC and Oregon State. Utah is the only road game of the three, and who knows if the Utes will have Cam Rising back by then.

Preseason take: Over

Now: With Michael Penix Jr., a loaded group of wideouts — headlined by Rome Odunze — and so many other players returning, the over seemed like a good bet for Washington (6-0, 3-0). The win over Oregon on Saturday was one of the best by any team this season. Now the Huskies are the leader in the Pac-12 title race and seem poised for a potential College Football Playoff run. There’s a tough three-game stretch coming in November — at USC, vs. Utah and at Oregon State — but Washington will likely be favored in every game the rest of the way.

Utah (8.5)

Preseason take: Under

Now: The fact the Utes (5-1, 2-1) are in position to potentially hit the over is a testament to Kyle Whittingham and the resolve of this year’s team. Rising hasn’t taken a snap, and the injury situation has been so bad that safety Sione Vaki has had to play some running back. He rushed for 158 yards and two scores in a win over Cal on Saturday. Bryson Barnes started at QB and threw for 128 yards for a passing game — and an entire offense — that’s been struggling. Games against Oregon and Washington will be uphill climbs with this offense. Whether or not Utah hits nine wins will likely come down to this weekend’s game against USC.

Oregon State (8.5)

Preseason take: Over

Now: The schedule set up so well for Oregon State (6-1, 3-1), which didn’t have to play USC while some of its toughest opponents had to come to Reser Stadium. Ranked Utah and UCLA teams have already lost at Oregon State. Washington still has to travel to Corvallis. The defense has regressed this season, but the offensive ceiling is higher with DJ Uiagalelei making plays to take the focus off of the run game. Oregon State is still firmly in the mix for the conference title and will have to take care of business in its next three games — at Arizona, at Colorado and vs. Stanford — before a big finish against Washington and Oregon. It won’t be easy, but the over is still in play.

UCLA (8.5)

Preseason take: Over

Now: UCLA (4-2, 1-2) still has Stanford, Colorado, Arizona State and Cal — the bottom four teams in the league —  on the schedule, so eight wins seems like the floor. The defense has been really good even though it surrendered 36 points in a loss at Oregon State on Saturday. True freshman quarterback Dante Moore has thrown a pick-six in three straight games. He’ll have to be better if UCLA is going to hit the over. The Bruins will have to beat USC or win at Arizona — a game that looks tougher now than it did in the preseason — to reach nine wins.

Preseason take: Push

Now: The over seemed like a lock two weeks ago when Washington State was 4-0. They’re 4-2 after a loss to UCLA and an ugly, ugly 44-6 home loss to Arizona on Saturday. The offense is struggling and the defense hasn’t been great, but Arizona State, Stanford, Cal and Colorado are still on the schedule. Quarterback Cam Ward has turned it over too often lately but should be good enough to get the Cougars to seven wins.

Cal (5.5)

Preseason take: Under

Now: Cal’s offense is better this season, but its defense has been worse than its typical standard. The Golden Bears (3-4, 1-3) will likely be an underdog in all of their remaining games, with the possible exception of the trip to Stanford. So this seems bound for the under unless the Bears can somehow can find two wins among games against USC, Oregon, Washington State and UCLA.

Arizona (5)

Preseason take: Push

Now: The Wildcats (4-3, 2-2) have been better than expected this season. The defense is noticeably improved and the offense has taken a step forward in recent weeks with backup quarterback Noah Fifita running the show. The remaining schedule is difficult, with games against Oregon State, UCLA and Utah, but Arizona has played Washington and USC tough in recent weeks. The Cats are capable of upsetting any of those teams, and the odds seem good that Arizona will get to six wins and play in its first bowl game since 2017.

Arizona State (4.5)

Preseason take: Under

Now: Arizona State (1-5, 0-3) was going to be a difficult rebuild, so this was expected to be a tough season — and it has been. The Sun Devils have been close lately — two three-point losses and they gave USC a tough game — while battling injuries. In the long term, it might be wise to buy some stock in this new coaching staff, but ASU won’t hit the over this season with games against Washington, Oregon, Utah, UCLA, Arizona and Washington State remaining.

Colorado (3.5)

Preseason take: Under

Now: This one has already been proven wrong with Colorado (4-3, 1-3) earning its fourth win a week ago. The Buffaloes appeared headed to a bowl game after their 3-0 start, but their postseason hopes took a major hit with a stunning double-OT loss to Stanford on Friday. The remaining slate is very challenging — at UCLA, vs. Oregon State, vs. Arizona, at Washington State and at Utah. Colorado might be able to find a win somewhere in there, but two seems like a longshot at this point.

Stanford (2.5)

Preseason take: Under

Now: In the preseason, I wrote that Hawaii and Sacramento State were wins for Stanford while Colorado was a tossup. Well, Hawaii was a win. Sacramento State was a stunning loss and Colorado was a stunning win (after Stanford fell behind 29-0 at the half). The Cardinal showed they are capable of surprising an unsuspecting opponent, but they will face a pretty sizable talent deficit against every team they will play for the remainder of the season. This team might max out at two wins.

(Photo of Giles Jackson: Steven Bisig / USA Today)

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