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Sports >  NCAA football

Pac-12 football early projections: Six wins could be a stretch for Washington State

UPDATED: Mon., June 7, 2021

By Jon Wilner Bay Area News Group

The release of the Pac-12’s early season kickoff times consumed all the oxygen across the Pac-12 footprint recently, but it was hardly the only significant news to surface at the end of last month.

In California, an initiative to legalize sports betting qualified for the November 2022 ballot.

As written, the initiative would limit gambling in the nation’s most populous state to horse racing venues and tribal casinos, but the development is yet another sign of the tectonic shift unfolding in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s 2018 decision to allow legalized sports wagering.

Within the Pac-12 borders, Utah will remain a holdout – gambling is against the state’s constitution. But sports wagering is legal in Colorado, Oregon and Washington, with restrictions. And it’s expected to become legal in Arizona this fall.

Now California has taken a significant step.

According to the Los Angeles Times, sports gambling in California could generate “some $1 billion in gross annual revenue without online betting – as the tribal initiative proposes – and $3 billion if the state expanded it to include online wagering.”

With that news as the backdrop, and with an eye on the fall, the Hotline presents the 2021 regular-season win totals for each Pac-12 team (as published recently by DraftKings).

Please note: To make this exercise more interesting, we are selecting only the Over or Under for each team. This space is no place for a Push.

Arizona

Over/Under: 2.5 wins

Our pick: Over

Comment: Our calculation hinges on the opener against Brigham Young (in Las Vegas) and the Week 2 home date with San Diego State. If the Wildcats manage to win one of the two – we believe they will – and parlay that with a victory over NAU, they would need a single conference victory to secure the Over. Chances are, they find a way to win once, if not twice, in league play.

Arizona State

Over/Under: 9 wins

Our pick: Over

Comment: Sure, that’s a lofty bar, but we see a 3-0 non-conference record – BYU was gutted by attrition – and the potential for the Sun Devils to win seven Pac-12 games. Their cross-division misses, Cal and Oregon, are one of several reasons 10-2 (or better) seems slightly more likely than 8-4 (or worse). If the Devils stumble in Provo, this prediction will self-destruct in five … four …

Cal

Over/Under: 5.5 wins

Our pick: Over

Comment: The Bears should beat Nevada and Sacramento State – both are in Berkeley – which means only four league wins are needed for the Over. The schedule oozes opportunity, with Washington State, Colorado and Oregon State at home and Arizona on the road. Three wins from that quartet would set the Bears up for a sixth victory somewhere else. A win at TCU isn’t unthinkable, either.

Colorado

Over/Under: 4.5 wins

Our pick: Over

Comment: We gave strong consideration to the Under, largely because of the schedule: The Buffaloes play two Power Five non-conference opponents (Texas A&M and Minnesota) and draw both Oregon and Washington from the North. But there are three highly winnable games (Northern Colorado, OSU and Arizona in Boulder), which makes Minnesota the key. And we think that Week 3 duel is a win.

Oregon

Over/Under: 9 wins

Our pick: Under

Comment: Truth is, a Push (nine wins on the nose) is the best bet, but our commitment to either the Over or Under holds firm. Given those options, we see eight wins (maximum) as more likely than 10 wins (minimum), especially with the Week 2 trip to Ohio State. Lose in Columbus, and the Ducks would need at least eight victories in league play, which feels steep considering the lack of a proven quarterback.

Oregon State

Over/Under: 4.5 wins

Our pick: Over

Comment: The total becomes vastly more manageable with a victory at Purdue in Week One and subsequent sweep of the non-conference season – a scenario that would vault the Beavers within two league wins of the Over. (They also play Hawaii and Idaho at home.) Purdue has struggled in recent seasons and lacks a standout quarterback, so we view the opener as highly winnable.

Stanford

Over/Under: 3.5 wins

Our pick: Over

Comment: A stunning number for one of the most successful programs in the Pac-12 over the past dozen years … until your attention shifts to the lack of clarity at quarterback and the hellacious schedule: Stanford is the only team in the country that plays 12 Power Five opponents. (Now that win total starts to make some sense.) We don’t have high expectations, but the Cardinal should get to four.

UCLA

Over/Under: 7 wins

Our pick: Under

Comment: A surprisingly high total given the state of play for three years under Chip Kelly and the presence of an A-level non-conference opponent (LSU). The Bruins have no chance to reach the Over without at least two non-conference victories – they also play Hawaii and Fresno State – but any combination requires a major leap of faith to reach eight total wins. We believe a max of six to be far more likely.

USC

Over/Under: 9 wins

Our pick: Under

Comment: Perhaps the easiest call on the board, as the Hotline sees little chance of the Trojans winning 10 games even though they don’t play either Washington or Oregon. Why? Because the offensive line is wobbly, because South Bend awaits and because over the course of three months, the Trojans are a mortal lock to lose at least one game they have no business losing. And that would kill the Over.

Utah

Over/Under: 8.5 wins

Our pick: Over

Comment: If we had real money at stake and one bet to make, the Utes just might be our pick. The roster is stocked with veterans and the schedule loaded with opportunity: Five home games in conference play, a manageable road lineup and no logistical potholes. Even a split of the BYU and San Diego State duels – both games are on the road – wouldn’t completely derail the drive for nine.

Washington

Over/Under: 9 wins

Our pick: Under

Comment: UW’s marquee non-conference date (at Michigan) isn’t nearly as daunting as Oregon’s, but we view the Huskies and Ducks similarly from a faux-wagering standpoint: The likelihood of eight wins (or fewer) is greater than the likelihood of 10 wins (or more). Even though the Huskies get Oregon at home. And miss USC and Utah. And should be favored in all but one or two games.

Washington State

Over/Under: 6 wins

Our pick: Under

Comment: The number feels a tad high considering the muddled quarterback situation, the brutal road schedule (Seattle, Eugene, Tempe and Salt Lake City) and the wrong cross-division misses (Colorado and UCLA). Not even a fairly soft non-conference schedule gives us much confidence in the Over. Were the total instead set at 5.5, we’d consider it. But seven wins? Feels like a stretch.

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