Regardless of what happens down the road, 2022 marks one of the last years that the Pac-12 will resemble its current form.
The conference will look very different in a few years with the two Los Angeles schools, USC and UCLA, jumping ship for the Big 10 in 2024.
New to the conference this season is Lincoln Riley, who brings in a bevy of transfers that make USC an instant contender following a 4-8 rock-bottom season a year ago.
Kyle Whittingham and Utah captured their first-ever Pac-12 championship a year ago with an 8-1 conference record and two beatdowns of Oregon, a team good enough to topple Ohio State in the non-conference. Will the Utes repeat as champs?
Here’s our 2022 Pac-12 college football betting preview.
Pac-12 odds 2022
|Team||Odds||Win total O/U|
Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook as of August 23, 2022.
Favorites to win the Pac-12 in 2022
As a testament to how quickly things can change in college football, the USC Trojans are the favorite to win the conference despite going 4-8 a year ago. In the world of NIL and transfers, USC has taken full advantage, reshaping the roster via the portal. Lincoln Riley enters the stage via Norman, Oklahoma, where he led the Sooners to a 55-10 record across five years.
The expectation is for Riley to turn this program immediately — before yet again turning around and heading for the Big Ten in 2024. A year ago, Clay Helton was fired after an embarrassing Week 2 loss to Stanford and the team bottomed out. Riley hit the transfer portal and brought in a number of key acquisitions, including but not limited to Heisman odds contender QB Caleb Williams (Oklahoma), running back Travis Dye (Oregon), and Biletnikoff winner Jordan Addison (Pitt) at receiver along with Mario Williams (Oklahoma).
There are legitimate concerns about a defense that ranked 103rd in opponent scoring a year ago, and the offensive line must improve immediately. Still, this team will score points in bunches and the conference could be there for the taking.
Kyle Whittingham has been the Utes’ head coach since 2005. During that stretch, the team has had only two losing seasons (2012, 2013) while being a model of consistency in the ever-changing landscape of college football. There could not be a bigger discrepancy between two programs than there is among the two favorites in the Pac-12, where Utah is the polar opposite of USC.
Fresh off their first conference championship, the Utes figure to remain dangerous in 2022. Cameron Rising was a revelation at quarterback, taking over for Charlie Brewer after the third game of the season and going 9-1 as the starter before dropping by only three points to Ohio State in the bowl game. This offense will be lethal yet again and could improve upon last year’s 36.1 points per game.
The defense loses star linebacker Devin Lloyd, but defensive back Clark Phillips III is an emerging star who could become the program’s first cornerback selected in the first round of the NFL Draft since 1971. The defensive front played a number of impact underclassmen a year ago (Junior Tafuna, Van Fillinger, Karene Reid) and could be even better this year after allowing just 3.7 yards per carry.
There are really three favorites in this conference, as Oregon is right behind Utah and is the third team with odds below +300. The Ducks won back-to-back conference titles in 2019 and 2020 before falling in the championship game to the Utes last year.
The program will look much different in 2022 with Dan Lanning assuming head coaching duties. He arrives via Georgia and will take over for Mario Cristobal, yet another Oregon head coach who left for the sunny shores of Florida. Kenny Dillingham will install a new offensive scheme as the first-year coordinator. He’s worked with potential starting quarterback Bo Nix in the past, which should help ease the transition as the three-year Auburn starter battles with Ty Thompson for the job.
Lanning figures to bring intensity to a talented defense led by linebackers Noah Sewell and Justin Flowe. There's a wide range of outcomes for the Ducks, but they're still among the league's most talented teams.
Sleeper to win the Pac-12 in 2022
Oregon State (+2,500)
Jonathan Smith doesn’t get enough credit for the coaching job he does at Oregon State. Leading a winning program in Corvallis is far from a simple task, but Smith may have the chops to turn the Beavers around. Last year saw them finish 7-6 including a win over Utah — the eventual champs’ only conference loss.
The defense hasn’t been up to snuff recently, but we should see improvement on that side of the ball considering nine starters return. They rank 28th in returning production defensively, a positive sign, and there has been optimism surrounding improvement in the secondary. The front seven hopes to improve after suffering key injuries a year ago.
Offense isn’t a problem for Smith’s team, as he devises sound gameplans that keep the ball moving on the ground. Running back B.J. Baylor is gone after posting 1,337 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground, but the Beavers have three capable backs ready to step up: the versatile Trey Lowe, the powerful Deshaun Fenwick (former South Carolina transfer), and potential breakout star in true freshman Damien Martinez. Chance Nolan returns as the starting quarterback after averaging 8.4 yards per attempt a year ago.
The Pac-12 scrapped divisions this year, but the Beavers are still playing plenty of beatable teams that used to reside with them in the North. Oregon is the only other team to make a bowl game last year from that division. Both Washington schools are breaking in new systems, and the Bay Area schools (Cal, Stanford) have been lifeless recently. It’s unclear how successful the Ducks will be in Year 1 of the Lanning era, so it’s conceivable that the Beavers make a run in a schedule full of coin-flips and sneak into the 2022 Pac-12 Championship game.
Pick to win the Pac-12: Utah (+250)
I think it’s both disrespectful and inaccurate that the Utes aren’t the favorite to win the conference. Sure, the odds are close — but I still think they’re wrong. It wasn’t a fluke that they won this thing a year ago, it’s just that some folks don’t pay enough attention to West Coast football. Whittingham is one of the best coaches in college football and has consistently produced winners, and now the Utes are stronger than ever.
Rising elevated this offense a year ago and returns along with highly productive running back Tavion Thomas (1,108 rushing yards, 21 touchdowns). They’ll line up with two future NFL tight ends on the field in Brant Kuithe and Dalton Kincaid. Defensively, this team arrived a year early in 2021 and could be even better now that a number of contributors have conference championship experience under their belts.
Both of the other favorites (USC, Oregon) underwent significant turnover this offseason. Utah, meanwhile, remains largely intact and should be a force once again in 2022.
Pac-12 2022 best bets
Best ATS bet: Washington State
I can’t provide the Utes yet again as my answer, so instead, I’ll shift my focus to the Cougars.
Last year was a mess. Head coach Nick Rolovich was in the news for all the wrong reasons, causing a huge distraction for his program until being fired after the seventh game of the season. The team still managed to finish with a 7-6 record and make a bowl game, showing enough life that interim coach Jake Dickert was hired full-time.
Defense has been an issue for this program at times, but Dickert led a respectable unit on that side of the ball last year. They return six starters on that side of the ball while ranking 42nd in returning production, so I’m dubious they’ll regress.
The offense is seemingly a concern as only four starters return to a unit that ranks 128th in returning production. I’m here to quell those concerns, and it’s the reason why I think the Cougars will be undervalued in the betting market in 2022.
Eric Morris was brought in as the new offensive coordinator. As Incarnate Word’s head coach at the FCS level a year ago, Morris engineered an offense that averaged nearly 40 points per game. His quarterback, Cameron Ward, makes the trip to Pullman along with his coach. All he did a year ago was throw for 4,648 yards and 47 touchdowns, so I think this offense will be just fine. There’s receiving talent as Renard Bell returns from injury to pair with emerging star De’Zhaun Stribling.
As long as an offensive line that returns only two starters can hold up, I see no reason why the Cougars shouldn’t be a dangerous out in 2022. They appear undervalued in the betting market but there isn’t much separating the teams in the middle of the Pac-12 standings and I expect the Cougars to pull off a few upsets.
Best Over/Under bet: Washington (Over)
This may seem like an odd choice considering the Huskies were just 3-9 to the Over a year ago, but that’s the exact reason why I’m choosing them. I think there will be some decreased totals this year for a Huskies team that will look much different than a year ago.
New head coach Kalen DeBoer arrives via Fresno State, where he led the program to a 9-3 record a year ago. Let me tell you this with certainty — he wasn’t brought in for his ability to coach defense. A former offensive coordinator, DeBoer is one of the most underrated minds in college football. The Bulldogs scored 33.4 points per game a year ago while toppling UCLA and hanging tight with Oregon.
This team will look much different as Jimmy Lake was a defensive-oriented coach and now the team is looking in a different direction for a reason. Quarterback is a question, but Michael Penix Jr. had the best season of his career in 2019 (68.8% completion percentage, 8.7 yards per attempt) under Indiana when DeBoer was his offensive coordinator. He has a very underrated receiving room to throw to led by Jalen McMillan. This was held back by the prior coaching staff but will now be unleashed, and the betting market may be slow to react.
Best win total bet: Utah Over 9 (-120)
This Utah team is no joke. Whittingham has this team prepped for another big season in 2022 and they’ll be dangerous on both sides of the ball. If this program received more media coverage, I believe this line would look quite a bit different. There’s no reason for them to be underrated — they’re a consistently winning program, return a lot on both sides of the ball, are the reigning conference champions, and are competing in a watered-down Pac-12.
The schedule isn’t a cakewalk, as there are a few potential pitfalls early. Starting the year in the Swamp is never easy, but there’s a reason Utah is favored in that one and it isn’t because of hype. A non-conference game against a 12-win San Diego State team is also tricky, but that’s a revenge spot for Utah and it comes at home. Add in the fact that they host USC at Rice-Eccles Stadium, and I think the schedule sets up pretty well if they handle business.
It’s probable that the Utes slip up with a few tricky spots along the way — but slip up three times? They should be the favorite in every game they play this year with a trip to Autzen to face Oregon as a possible exception, and they beat the brakes off the Ducks twice last year.
Even three losses gets you to a push, which I would be considered nearly a worst-case scenario for this college football win totals bet.
Best 2022 Pac-12 props
Arizona State Under 4.5 Regular Season Conference Wins (-165)
This Sun Devils program is going through some things. Currently, in the midst of an NCAA investigation related to recruiting improprieties, it appears as though Herm Edwards is a dead man walking in Tempe. It’s no sure thing he even makes it through the season and is on a short list of “first coaches to be fired during the 2022 college football season”.
Arizona State started out hot a year ago and then fizzled out. It was a sign of the rotting foundation underneath them. They were hit hard by the transfer portal, losing their starting quarterback, top two running backs, most of the receiving room, and a few impact players on defense. This team could at least rely on roster talent at points last year, but now that’s a question mark to go along with a coaching staff held together by duct tape.
I think there’s a strong case the bottom falls out in Tempe this season.
Utah to make the playoffs (+425)
Might as well continue the theme, right? If Utah has the kind of season I’m expecting, this is definitely a possible outcome. The schedule has some slip-ups along the way as mentioned earlier, but those could also be viewed as potential resume-boosters. A win in the Swamp to start the year? Handling USC in a marquee showdown? Going to Eugene and getting yet another victory over the Ducks?
Those would be big moments for Utah, which has a pathway to the Pac-12 Championship game. It’s been a few years since we saw this conference in the playoffs, but I expect Utah to make a run. The Utes held close to the Ohio State in a 48-45 Rose Bowl loss, proving they can hang close with the big boys. They could be even better in 2022.
Pac-12 2022 Stat to know
Five different teams have won a conference championship since 2015: Stanford, Washington (twice), USC, Oregon (twice), and Utah.
Pac-12 2022 Preview FAQs
USC is the favorite to win the Pac-12 in 2022, followed by Utah and Oregon.
Utah won the 2021 Pac-12 Championship Game, beating Oregon 38-10.
USC has a whopping 37 Pac-12 championships, followed by Washington and UCLA, both of which are at 17.