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30 Day Countdown - Day 27: Playing the PAC 12 Sports Book

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More than a few of you are serious sports bettors. Today we look at which PAC 12 teams boast the best all around value.

Look longingly into his eyes and tell me, would you feel comfortable betting on Jeff Lockie to lead Oregon to 10 wins?
Look longingly into his eyes and tell me, would you feel comfortable betting on Jeff Lockie to lead Oregon to 10 wins?
Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

Last season, we took a look in this space at how Vegas oddsmakers were projecting the PAC and debated which teams presented the best value to prospective bettors.  It was a fun exercise that proved a few things:

  1. Gambling is bad for you
  2. Gambling is fun and, based on article hits, very popular
  3. I'm a way better bettor than most of you suckahs out there

The options I presented were UW (14/1), Arizona (25/1) and Utah (66/1) with Arizona being my choice.  In the corresponding poll, 53% of you degenerates picked UW while only 7% of you joined along with me in picking Arizona (which, incidentally, came terribly close to actually being a winning bet for me).  Of course, the only bet that would have mattered would have been a bet on Oregon which, in my mind, is awful boring.

So let's change it up this year.  Instead of looking for value in the odds of winning the conference, let's look for the best odds in over/under win totals.  For your reference, here is how Bovada is currently projecting the P12 on wins.

Oregon 9.5
Stanford 9
Cal 5
Washington St 5
Oregon St 4
Washington 4
UCLA 9.5
USC 8.5
ASU 8.5
Utah 7.5
Arizona 7.5
Colorado 4.5

The idea of betting over/under is simple enough.  You look at where the oddsmaker has drawn the line and you place a bet on either side of that number.  If the team you bet on ends up with a total of wins that aligns with whichever side of the line you bet on, you win!  If that team finishes exactly on that number, its a push and you get refunded your bet.

But its not always quite that simple.  While there is clearly a "wisdom of crowds" affect on the lines after they've been published, oddsmakers will often draw the line artificially lower when it comes to wins and losses knowing that the more novice bettors will often think any given team is "better than" the line.  This will create action on their line, which will creep over time.

The purpose of this exercise is to measure "value" to the bettor given that explanation.  So let's take a look at my top 3 value candidates given this line.

Option 1 - Washington (4 wins)

A very good rule of thumb is to not ever place a bet on your own team.  There is too much emotion and bias associated with your own allegiance to effectively assess the bet based on its own merits.  In this case, however, it might not mean a whole lot.

Vegas is clearly undervaluing Washington with their line in hopes that bettors will be swayed by the fact that UW lost four players to the first two rounds of the NFL draft and that they play in a stacked PAC 12.  The mark of four wins was made specifically to pull in the big bettors who know that there is a lot more going on in Chris Petersen's program and with his 2015 schedule than what a line of four wins would suggest.  Considering the facts that UW plays five home conference games, they miss UCLA, and that Petersen has never had a losing season, this line seems like a clear value play for whomever gets in on it while it is still at 4.

Reasons to Place the Bet: UW prob only has to find two wins in conference to at least push; It's our team

Reasons to Walk Away: You should never bet on your own team; UW fans are used to disappointment; A push is not a win

Option 2 - Oregon (9.5 wins)

I know, I know ... I can hear it all now:

"Mariota is gone!  It's all over for Oregon"

"9.5 is a big number"

"Oregon lover.  Get the hell out of this blog, Landon"

Despite the fact that Oregon is projected to have the most wins of any team in the entire conference, they may still be considered a value play here.  First of all, at 9.5, there is no chance for them to end up in a push.  If you place this bet, you know that you are either going to win or lose.

At 9.5, Oregon has history on its side.  The Ducks haven't lost a non-conference game since they lost to LSU (barely) on a neutral field in 2011.  In the PAC, the Ducks have passed the 7-win mark every year since 2008.  This season they do have to play a difficult road game in East Lansing against Michigan State which could absolutely turn out to be a L.  However, their PAC schedule is almost ideal given that it has five home games, a road game against Colorado and misses against Arizona and UCLA.

Even if they take a big step backwards after their losses at QB, OL and DB, 10 wins looks like a very achievable mark for a team that is still loaded with talent.

Reasons to Place the Bet: History would suggest it is a safe bet; Oregon gets all the damn breaks

Reasons to Walk Away: 9.5 is a pretty steep starting point; Oregon QB situation is very murky

Option 3 - Cal (5 wins)

I already called out Cal as my "breakout" team in the PAC for 2015.  The Bears are stacked on offense with a first-round talent at QB, a bevy of accomplished receivers, and a 1000 yard rusher playing behind an experienced offensive line.  This team looks ready to explode as the next best offense in the PAC behind Oregon.  If it's D can even be serviceable, this could be a pretty competitive team in the North.  Given that much of Cal's defensive woes a year ago were attributable to youth and injury, a reasonable bump is not unexpected.

The line is set at 5 most likely because there is sure to be some question about how Cal will perform on their Week 3 road trip to Texas.  But, let's be honest here.  Texas won't be able to keep pace with Cal's offensive attack at this point in Charlie Strong's rebuild.  If you think Cal finishes the preseason with 3 wins, then you get to a push with just WSU and OSU.  If you think they can win one of UW, Utah or Stanford, you win.

Reasons to Place the Bet: Cal's offense, alone, is probably worth 5 wins;  Sonny Dykes is such an easy guy to root for

Reasons to Walk Away: Cal does have a QB starting at Safety ... so there's that; There could be a high likelihood for a push

The Verdict

Washington

I tried really hard to go with Cal here, but the numbers just don't add up.  Even if you are a pessimist or a Duck fan, it is hard for you to look at even the most obvious facts on hand  - Chris Petersen's track record, the presence of even modest playmakers like Dwayne Washington, Budda Baker and Jaydon Mickens, the strength of UW's special teams, etc - and not get to four wins in pretty short order.  On a team that has very little downside thanks to the competitive depth projected at just about every position, this is the one program that seems to have the most upside relative to any other PAC team on this list.

Though I loathe betting on the home team, my pick is Washington.