Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, September 10, 2016 at 12:39 PM
If the results from Week 1 in college football are any indication, the Pac-12 South could be a very fluid race and that means moneymaking opportunities for smart bettors. The favorites gave reason for concern and set up a Week 2 where the middle of the pack is worth keeping an eye on.
UCLA & USC are the favorites in the Pac-12 South and both disappointed in non-conference tests. The Bruins lost in overtime to Texas A&M 31-24. USC was crushed by Alabama 52-6. In of themselves, neither game offers reason to seriously adjust the landscape. Both opponents - obviously starting with the Crimson Tide are better than any of the four other teams in the Pac-12 South (Utah, Arizona State, Arizona and Colorado). But the way the losses by the Bruins and Trojans played out does cause an eyebrow to be raised.
In the case of UCLA they were playing a beatable opponent in A&M. The core of UCLA's hopes this season rest on sophomore quarterback Josh Rosen - who threw three interceptions against a defense that hasn't exactly reminded anyone of the Legion of Boom. As for USC...while there's no shame in losing to Alabama, no one saw a 46-point demolition coming.
Both games undermined a key reason that UCLA is the 7-5 betting favorite in this division and USC is right behind at 2-1. It's simply talent. When the recruiting rankings come out every spring, these two programs are far and away the best in the division. But when it came time to play football both teams - particularly the Trojans - played drastically below that presumed talent ranking.
Now the question becomes if any of the division rivals can take advantage. For the time being, let's leave out 40-1 longshot Colorado. If the Buffaloes can look competitive at Michigan on September 17 and at Oregon on September 24 they might be worth a look. But not right now.
Arizona is a 10-1 bet to win the South and they have the pedigree, winning the division title in 2014. But they have at least as many current problems as UCLA & USC. The Wildcats lost 18-16 to BYU in Week 1 and were gashed on the ground, giving up 213 yards rushing.
That leaves Utah (4-1) and Arizona State (13-2), each of whom have knocked on the door in this division in recent years. Both have key tests coming up on Saturday…
*Arizona State is a (-3) home favorite against Texas Tech. Early money showed for Tech, as the line dropped from (-4) to a clean field goal. If the Sun Devils can win this game and do it by really muscling up a team notorious for its defensive softness, it would send a good early statement.
*Utah hosts BYU and is a (-3.5) favorite. This game will provide a clean test case for at least comparing the Utes to Arizona against the same opponent.
These games go basically back-to-back on Saturday night. Arizona State-Texas Tech kicks off at 7:30 PM ET on Fox Sports 1. Utah-BYU goes at 10 PM ET on Fox. Both games are worth watching. The Pac-12 South has been a crazy division in its short existence and the play of ASU & Utah on Saturday night provide clues as to whether money is there to be made.