The name of the game in the Pac-10 this year is parity which makes picking futures extremely difficult. Only Oregon and USC had their lines set above even 7 wins, which perfectly illustrates the belief that there isn’t much to separate the middle of the pack out West. Here are some of the places where I think value can be found. All odds were taken from TheGreek.com (8/16).
Over 9.5 -160
Under 9.5 +140
The Trojans certainly have the talent to finish with the best record in the Pac-10, but there are several question marks surrounding the team. The first question of course has to be how this team will respond to the heavy NCAA sanctions levied against them. If they struggle or lose some tough games in the middle of the season, will they keep on fighting without the possibility of a bowl game at the end? And while the many transfers away from Los Angeles didn’t take away any frontline players (aside from prized OL Seantrel Henderson) it did take a toll on the overall depth. If any team cannot afford injuries in the Pac-10 it is the Trojans. Another key to remember here is that USC plays 13 regular season games meaning an Under pick projects a 9-4 record. It should open 5-0, but then would have to finish the year 5-2 against the meat of the Pac-10 and Notre Dame. Four of those games will be on the road. The Over provides little value at -160 so I would take the Under for a payout of +140.
Over 7 -155
Under 7 +135
The Golden Bears are virtually guaranteed four wins on its schedule: UC Davis, Colorado, at Nevada, and at Washington State. They will also likely be a solid favorite against Arizona State at home. That would leave Cal needing three wins among road trips to Arizona, USC, and Oregon State and home games against UCLA, Oregon State,UCLA, Oregon, and Stanford. Betting on this team to go 2-5 against the meat of the Pac-10 schedule might be hard to imagine, but it only went 3-4 against the same schedule last season. That included a 2 point squeaker against ASU, and a red zone stand in the final minute against Stanford. This year’s team is not improved. There are massive holes to fill on all three levels of the defense along with breaking in a new coordinator. With a weak receiving corps and Jahvid Best no longer available to create explosive plays it will be hard for the Bears to outscore teams this year. I am not a believer in Jeff Tedford who’s greatest accomplishment came 7 years ago in a win against USC. The payoff on the Over gives you less than 50 cents on the dollar at -155 and is a bad value. Having a push at 7 wins and +135 on the Under is a solid pick.
Over 6 +130
Under 6 -150
The Bruins were picked 8th in the media poll, and were one of only 3 Pac-10 teams not to receive a vote in the initial Coaches’ poll (Washington St. and USC – which is ineligible – were the other 2). It is Year 3 of the Neuheisel era which means a more experienced team. There is also more quality depth with Neuheisel having brought in his third highly touted recruiting class. The offense is also expected to be more explosive with quarterback Kevin Prince returning a shift to the pistol formation. While topping last season’s total of six regular season wins might be difficult in the conference, the Bruins will be a much better version than the 2009 edition. The line is set correctly at 6 wins with the over paying out +130. With six wins being a push, the Over is a solid value bet.
The Arizona season line is set at 7 wins with the Over being -300. There is no upside to that pick. The Under seems tantalizing at +240, but the Wildcats have quality experience on both sides of the ball, two easy non-conference games (@ Toledo, Citadel), and the advantage of five Pac-10 home games. My head says take the Over, but at that long price I would stay away.