We're all sitting at pretty much the dead middle of the college football off-season. There's 98 days until the September 3rd match-up with Boise State and it's been 137 days since Alabama beat Clemson for the National Championship. This is the special time of year when pre-season rankings and predictions turn ripe and fall off the vine into the internet.
Bleacher Report has WSU at No. 25; ESPN left the Cougs out of Schlabach's "Way Too Early" ranking; Athlon also left Wazzu out; the Cougs squeak in at No. 25 in Sports Illustrated's ranking; Fox Sports analysts are a little more bullish on WSU with Bruce Feldman slotting the Cougs at No. 22 and Stewart Mandel at No. 19 in their rankings; Pro Football Focus places Wazzu at No. 23; Dennis Dodd has the Cougs at No. 25 in his CBS Sports ranking...while his colleague Tom Fornelli from CBS has WSU at No. 5 on his "Most Over-hyped" ranking.
Now, Las Vegas has spoken. VegasInsider.com released their Over/Under win totals for all 128 FBS teams yesterday, this is the earliest Vegas has released totals for all teams . For an O/U bet, Vegas sets a regular season win total and takes bets on whether that team will finish with more or less wins. Pretty simple. The negative line means that's how much money you need to wager to win $100 dollars, a positive line indicates how much you'd win on a $100 bet. Negative lines are considered more likely, so the profit line is lower.
Here's the lines for all PAC-12 teams.
Washington State is given even money on winning either at least eight or at most seven in 2016. Using Vegas win totals as a lens to pick through the season, probable wins include; Eastern, Idaho, ASU, Arizona, Cal, and Colorado. Close games, where WSU would need to win at least two to get the Over include; Oregon, Stanford, and UCLA.
Washington, who has even lines on 9 total wins, is solidly in lead of the conference. Both Stanford (8.5) and UCLA (8.5) have slight favoritism for the under.
Lets just guess at these lines, given what we know right now.
Washington Under 9, -110: First off, congratulations to the Huskies on their off-season conference championship. UW will be really good. Rarely are this many people that wrong in the off-season (unless it's about ASU last year...or UCLA the year before). The Over would have UW as a two-loss North representative, unless someone goes gangbusters and only loses one conference game. I'm still in the camp that thinks UW is still a year away from making their run, but eight or nine wins is definitely likely for them in 2016.
Washington State Over 7.5, -110: The Cougs get Oregon, UCLA, Arizona, Cal, and Washington at home. They won three of those five on the road last year. Counting the six probables listed above as wins, WSU only needs two-of-five from Oregon, Stanford, UCLA, Washington, and Boise State. I like those odds a lot.
Oregon Under 8, -110: The Ducks are trying the FCS Quarterback thing again, this time without Scott Frost...which is sort of not being considered when talking about Oregon's offense right now. And Brady Hoke is installing a 4-3 defense that I'm real skeptical works right out the gate without recruiting scheme-specific athletes, along the defensive front in particular.
Oregon State Under 3.5, -110: Head Coach Gary Andersen will have the Beavs back to decent here shortly, but not next season. Three wins feels right for them.
Cal Over 4, -120: The Bears got Davis Webb and that'll make a huge difference. The defense will still be really shaky but their young receivers looked very impressive this spring. Cal could easily be a five or six win team next year if the offense remains explosive.
Stanford Under 8.5, -120: The Cardinal are still looking for their QB -- and really either one will be fine, just not great in all likelihood -- but that doesn't matter a ton, it'll be the Christian McCaffrey show on offense. The defense is also replacing a bunch. Stanford should still be in the mix in the North, but eight feels right for them. Back-to-back away games at UCLA and Washington before October, and they'll also visit Notre Dame, Oregon, and play the Big Game in Memorial Stadium.
UCLA Over 8.5, +100: The Bruins are one of the toughest to figure out, simply because of all their offensive changes. OC Noel Mazzone left for Texas A&M, who they open the season against, and UCLA is now trying on big-boy-smash-mouth football pants. They're going through a complete shift in offensive philosophy. Will it work? Spotting seven schedule gimme's (which we know don't exist) the Bruins need two out of; @TAMU, Stanford, @WSU, Utah, and USC. That feels doable for them, but there's a lot of shrugging about their new offense until we see it.
USC Under 7.5, -120: The Trojans have a bonkers schedule. They open with Alabama and close with Notre Dame, picking up not-terrible Utah State (who blew out Boise State last year) as their other non-conference. They also play back-to-back away games at Stanford and Utah early in the season, and Washington and UCLA late in the season.
Utah Under 7.2, -120: The Utes are entering the post-Travis Wilson era, and it's still up in the air about who'll take the reigns. They also lost two of their top receivers and one of the best running backs in the conference. The defensive front will still be nasty and should still make them capable of knocking off better teams, but not to the tune of eight wins with that much uncertainty on offense. Some do have Utah as a dark horse Top 25 team because of that defense. (Side note: no idea why that's 7.2 and not 7.5).
Colorado Under 4.5, -110: The Buffs lost wide receiver Nelson Spruce, and quarterback Sefo Liufau has some real injury concerns making it through a whole season. I really like the build Coach McIntyre is doing in Boulder...next season could end up being pretty rough unless they find some play-makers though.
Arizona Over 6, -110: The Wildcats should still be good on offense, but their season really rides on how well their defense switches from Jeff Casteel's 3-3-5 (who'd been with Rich Rodriguez forever) to Marcel Yates' 4-2-5 (formerly of Boise State). Arizona probably won't be pushing to lead the South, but they feel sneaky good enough to find three wins in BYU, UW, @UCLA, @Utah, USC, Stanford, @WSU, and ASU.
Arizona State Under 5, +100: Sparky is also going through some offensive changes after losing OC Mike Norvell. Chip Linsey will run a pretty similar system, but ASU is totally rebuilding a secondary and faces an "oof-da" schedule. After a navigable but tough first seven, they brutally close the season with WSU, @Oregon, Utah, @UW, and @Arizona. Their total depends a lot on running the first four games, which include Texas Tech and Cal.
You see anything worth throwing money at?