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Pac-12 Football Odds and Picks: The Gamble-Tron, Season Preview Edition

We’re comin’ in like a wrecking ball!

Andrew Kulp

This is the next installment in our series of stories previewing the 2021 Washington State Cougars football season. For other installments, click here.


Hello there! Seems like it’s been a long time since we were together! It’s great to be back! There are a lot of exclamation points here! Anyway, welcome to the dumbest portion of your 2021 Washington State Cougars football preview. We’re here for all of your gambling needs, and are guaranteed to go a sparkling 12-0 (though we really want to go 11-1!) with these predictions.

Wait a minute, make that 13-0/12-1. Why? Well, we came out of hiding for the NCAA Tournament lid-lifter way back in March.

For several reasons — abject laziness and a recognition that nobody cares about what we think principle among them — that was also our last prediction. But guess what? WINNER! So hell yes we’re counting it, meaning the season is already off to an undefeated start.

Now for a little admin: Normally I use Vegas Insider for my odds, but I shopped around a bit this time. Many of the totals are the same among the “Johnny Squareplay” sites, but the juice can vary. I strongly advise all of you bettors — pretend and otherwise — to do the same.

And with that, the fully-vaccinated Gamble-Tron is ready to get going!

Washington State Cougars: 6 (Over -125, Under +100)

Washington State University Football Fall Practice 12 - Cool guy Calvin Jackson Jr. (8)
Wide receiver Calvin Jackson Jr.
Jack Ellis/CougCenter

Right out of the gate, our friends in the casinos are doing their level best to piss me off. How? Well, let me just whisper once more that EVERY WIN TOTAL SHOULD HAVE A .5 ATTACHED TO IT. WHY ARE WE JUST GOING TO SETTLE FOR A PUSH?! DID WE LOSE A WAR??!! Anyway, hat tip to Draft Kings here for juicing the over and giving me tremendous value (even money) on the under.

Even if I thought WSU was going to win seven games this season (they will not), I’d still put my money on the other side. The chances that WSU goes 5-7 are exponentially higher than the chances it goes 7-5.

Verdict: Under

California Golden Bears: 5.5 (Over -121, Under -106)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 05 Cal at Oregon Photo by Brian Murphy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

I saw six in a couple places, but Draft Kings has 5.5, so I’ll jump on that. Cal has a tricky opening to 2021, as it faces a dangerous Nevada Wolf Pack team, then travels to face the TCU Horned Frogs. If they split those two, six wins looks well within reach as two of the crossover games are Arizona and Colorado, and they bookend a home game against Oregon State. On paper, that’s a pretty nice breather after a trip to Oregon. While I see serious bust potential with this team, Chase Garbers and a solid defense are probably good enough to keep six wins within reach throughout the season.

Verdict: Over (I accidentally wrote under at first, probably out of habit)

Oregon Ducks: 9 (Over/Under -113)

Oregon Spring Game
Noah Sewell (left) and Verone McKinley III
Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Another round number! WHY??!! Looking through the schedule, I can find four probable to possible losses (Ohio State, UCLA, Washington, Utah). But what are the odds that they lose every one of those? I’d say not likely, even though Mario Cristobal is a far better coach Sunday-Friday than he is on Saturday. The Ducks have been stacking the roster with highly-ranked recruits, and if they get even average quarterback play, they’ll win 10 without much of a problem. As I will often write when the total is round, the Ducks are much more likely to win 10 than they are eight.

Verdict: Over

Oregon State Beavers: 4.5 (Over -120, Under +100)

Oregon State Spring Scrimmage
Avery Roberts
Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Once again, I was surprised at this total - expecting it to be a tad higher - so it makes sense that 4.5 is juiced to the over. But then I looked at that schedule, and thought about the losses OSU suffered, as well as its — let’s be kind and call it shaky — quarterback situation. I don’t know how good Purdue is (probably bad!) but a road game at a Power Five foe to open the season is rarely easy unless you’re going to Kansas.

The Beavs didn’t get any breaks from the conference schedule makers, as they have back-to-backs against UW/USC, Utah/Cal and ASU/Oregon. Yikes.

Verdict: Under (followed by Jonathan Smith getting another contract extension for losing more than he wins)

Stanford Cardinal: 4 (Over/Under -110)

Washington v Stanford Photo by David Madison/Getty Images

In a rare case of “the oddsmakers need to get their act together” I present to you: David Shaw’s 2021 Cardinal. Stanford’s win total is four, yet a look at the Pac-12 title odds reveals that both WSU (betting total of six wins) and Cal (betting total of 5.5 wins) face longer odds of winning the conference. wut

Credit where it’s due: While there is a paucity of information to be gleaned from the results of 2020, Stanford stood out as a success story. After an ugly 0-2 start - and while displaced from home to the point that they were practicing in a Seattle public park - the Cardinal won their final four games in a row, all on the road. The caveat? Those four wins were by a combined 10 points, which suggests that such fortune will not befall the team again this year, especially with the loss of Davis Mills. Now for the schedule. Can you find more than one sure win on there? I can’t.

Verdict: Under

Washington Huskies: 9 (Over +110, Under -139)

Stanford v Washington Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Sure, Washington was incredibly lucky to win many of the games it did last year (thanks to the refs and Kyle Whittingham’s incompetence). And sure, Jimmy Lake demands as little offensive explosiveness as humanly possible. But still, Washington has a very very manageable schedule, and enough talent to keep it in every game. The contest at Michigan may be tricky, but the Michigan Wolverines are not very good! Looking at the slate, there’s a better than coin flip chance that Washington is 8-0 before Oregon comes to town, and with games against Colorado and WSU after that, a minimum of 10 wins is all but certain.

Verdict: Over

Arizona Wildcats: 2.5 (Over +125, Under -159)

Arizona Spring Game
Jedd Fisch
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

This is a definite “shop around” situation, as Caesar’s has the juice on the opposite side. I don’t know what to expect out of Arizona, as they’re breaking in a new head coach who is, let’s just say, possibly over his skis at the moment. He does seem to be recruiting well, but none of that will matter this season. Heck, if he can just get his guys to not quit during the game, he’s already ahead of the last guy! If the Wildcats can somehow split one of the first two games against the BYU Cougars and San Diego State Aztecs, they just have to scrape out one conference win. I don’t know if they’ll do it, but let’s take a chance, especially at +125.

Verdict: Over

Arizona State Sun Devils: 9 (Over/Under -113)

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: AUG 29 Kent State at Arizona State Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

ANOTHER ROUND NUMBER WHEN WILL THIS MADNESS END. One look at team turmoil’s schedule hints strongly that Herm’s Hooligans will land right on the number. At worst, they should be 5-2 headed into the idle (NOT BYE) week. That leaves five games, two of which are vs. USC and at Washington. The ol’ Tron thinks the likelihood that they win eight is higher than their chances to win 10. If things go south this season — it won’t be due to the feckless NCAA — I look forward to shadow governor Antonio Pierce firing more low-paid assistants in an attempt to save his own ass. Quite the program they’ve got down there.

Verdict: Under

Colorado Buffaloes: 4.5 (Over +100, Under -120)

Colorado State v Colorado Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Credit where it’s due: The Buffs exceeded expectations in 2020, winning their first four games. Karl Dorrell did a magnificent job, having taken over with no chance to recruit anyone and in the middle of a pandemic. However, I think Colorado’s last two games are more indicative of their current state. After beating Arizona’s corpse, they got boatraced by Utah and the Texas Longhorns stomped them in the Alamo Bowl.

They do have a stud in running back Jarek Broussard, but that schedule is daunting. I give them the nod for scheduling both the Texas A&M Aggies and Minnesota Golden Gophers (still led by football’s greatest snake oil salesman). But even if they figure out a way to beat Minnesota, they have to win three conference games, and can’t cough up one of the coin flippers against Arizona, Cal or OSU.

Verdict: Under (The Gamble-Tron’s lead pipe cinch lock of the century of the year)

UCLA Bruins: 7 (Over/Under -110)

UCLA v USC Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

I’m bullish on the Bruins this year. I just don’t know if I’m “8-4” bullish. This seems to be a referendum-type season for Chuck Kelly, as he hasn’t had his team at or above .500 in three seasons (and has NEVER won a non-conference game!!!), despite being unanimously heralded as a savior when he was hired in 2018. While he hasn’t recruited really well, the guys playing for UCLA in 2021 are mostly the same guys who were playing for them in 2019 and 2020.

There is very little to be gleaned from 2020 in the Pac-12, but UCLA looked miles better than they did in 2019. If not for a debacle at the end of the first half, they’d probably have won at Oregon. Their biggest margin of defeat was six, and they even won in Tempe. They’ve also added a few key transfers, including two of Michigan’s best players from 2020. Once again, I’m going with the “they’re more likely to win x than x” philosophy. In this case, I can see UCLA winning six more so than I can see them winning eight.

Verdict: Under

USC Trojans: 8.5 (Over +105, Under -125)

USC Spring Game Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

To be honest, this is a gobsmacking set of odds, so much so that when I saw the number, I immediately assumed USC had a murderous schedule. They...don’t. So what gives? Sure, Clay Helton doesn’t belong anywhere near the head coach’s office. And yeah, Kedon Slovis gets way more hype than his popgun arm deserves. That said, better than even money on USC winning nine? With an opening five of San Jose State, Stanford, WSU, OSU and Colorado? And a crossover lineup bereft of Oregon and Washington? What in the wide world of sports keeps the Trojans from winning nine without breaking a sweat?

Verdict: Over (Co-lead pipe cinch lock of the century of the week)

Utah Utes: 8.5 (Over +100, Under -125)

NCAA Football: Washington State at Utah Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Utah is another great example of why it’s incredibly important to look at several books (and there are a ton out there that I don’t see). You can get even money on the over with Draft Kings, while the over is juiced to -125 at Vegas Insider and -145 at Caesar’s. That leads me to believe that I’m getting immense value with the over at +100. A look at the schedule shows that Utah will likely be favored 8-9 times, and two of its toughest three games are at home. Not even Kyle Whittingham can screw this up! Well ok, he probably can, but still.

Verdict: Over

Cougar 2021 Props

But wait, there’s more! (sorry)

Let’s take a closer look at our favorite team with some Las Vegas-created completely made up prop bets for the 2021 season. As with nearly everything else, it’s tough to get a read based upon 2020, so we’re flying by the seat of our pants here.

WSU opener home crowd: 22,999.5

On the plus side, this is the first time Cougar fans have had a chance to gather, reminisce, drink, drink and, uh, drink outside Martin Stadium in 651 days. 651 days! But it’s Labor Day Weekend, the game starts at 8 p.m., the Cougs aren’t forecast to be contenders and in case you haven’t been paying attention, Cougar fans ain’t exactly a unified bunch at this juncture. Oh, and there’s that tiny matter of a global pandemic that’s still raging. So while there may be many more tickets sold, I’m not optimistic that we’ll see a throng of crimson-clad Coug fans in attendance.

Verdict: Under

Borghi + Harris 1799.5 yards from scrimmage

There will be several factors that impact this, but two stand out. First is Harris’ health. According to many practice reports, the electric receiver has been doing a lot of work on the side during practice. That could just be a case of the coaches being extra cautious with a known quantity (fingers crossed!) or an indication that the Florid Flash has a lingering issue. The quality of the quarterback play also has a huge role here, but we’re bullish on both of these guys.

Verdict: Over

QBs who get meaningful snaps: 2.5

If the over hits, it almost certainly means that the season has careened off the already rickety tracks and fallen into the gulch, due to either terrible play at the position or injury. While there are probably three guys on the roster who have FBS talent, not one has taken the QB1 job by the throat. This is probably the biggest obstacle between the Cougs and a semi-successful season, which is really saying something given the current state of the defensive line and safety position groups.

Verdict: Under (because whomever comes in 3rd will be in the transfer portal before Portland State comes to Pullman)

Games lost due to COVID: 0.5

There’s a very real possibility this can happen, and the Pac-12 has made it clear that if a team can’t play due to virus protocols, a forfeit will be declared and a loss counted. Given that, I think conference administrators will do all they can to get the games in.

Verdict: Under (pass the salt)

Brennan Jackson TFL: 13.5

We’re buying on spec (and some intriguing Instagram photos) here! In only four games last season, Jackson had 3.5 tackles for loss / 1.5 sacks. If he stays healthy, this should be easy, even though we have precious little data from which to draw. So anyway congratulations to Mr. Jackson on his 2021 Ted Hendricks Award, but I’m still not sucking down and raw egg smoothies in his honor.

Verdict: Over

Jaylen Watson Interceptions: 2.5

I really wish locker room gun-toting felon Gilbert Arenas hadn’t sullied the nickname Agent Zero, because that seems perfect for Watson. He may be the most talented cornerback the Cougs have had since Marcus Trufant, and seems to have the most, um, confidence at that position since some guy with two first names barked his way through the conference 18 years ago. The thought here, though, is that quarterbacks will tend to avoid Agent Zero (THAT’S RIGHT I’M CO-OPTING THE NICKNAME SUCK IT, ARENAS!), and Jaylen won’t get that many chances to make game-changing plays.

Verdict: Under

So there you have it, the Gamble-Tron’s wholly subjective and almost certainly despicable predictions for 2021. We’d love to tell you that you won’t hear from us again in the coming weeks, but there are many games to bet, and even more bad beats to be had. Happy gambling, and Go Cougs.

Complete Coverage: WSU vs. Utah

Photo Gallery: WSU football in soul-searching mode after loss to Utah

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The Good, Bad and Ugly of another highly predictable loss

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