Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal watches his team prior to the Fiesta Bowl NCAA college football game against Iowa State, Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
- Oregon (+225) is the favorite to capture a third straight league title over USC (+350) and Washington (+450) in opening 2021 PAC-12 Championship odds
- The Ducks welcome back defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, one of the best defensive players in the country – but have questions at quarterback
- See odds for all teams in the conference as spring ball wraps up below
Oregon backed into the 2020 Pac-12 Championship Game due to COVID-19 issues plaguing Washington, the team that had the best record in the North Division last season. But the Ducks made the most of their opportunity, beating USC 31-24 to earn the program’s second straight win in the league title game.
Now UO is the favorite (+225) to win a third straight PAC-12 championship – something no program has done since the Ducks turned the trick a decade ago (2009-11).
Opening 2021 PAC-12 Conference Championship Odds
|Team||Odds at DraftKings|
Odds as of April 19th
Mario Cristobal’s team features a defense loaded with talent, including Noah Sewell and Kayvon Thibodeaux, but was short on execution in 2020. The Ducks gave up 29 or more points in four of their seven games and opponents posted an average of 32 points per game in UO’s three losses.
USC – the team Oregon beat to earn the 2020 conference crown – returns experienced signal caller Kedon Slovis, but has issues on the offensive line. UCLA, the Trojans’ crosstown rival, might have the best combination of talent on both sides of the ball, but has yet to post a winning record under former UO head coach Chip Kelly.
Which team has the best chance to win the always-intriguing Pac-12 title in 2021? The Conference Championship odds are just now getting set, with a few familiar programs opening as the betting favorites.
2021 Heisman Trophy Odds Tracker
Duck and Cover
Oregon is primed to join perennial college football powers like Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State if two things happen in 2021: 1) The Ducks can settle on a quarterback and 2) The defense vastly improves.
Former Boston College transfer Anthony Brown, who got game reps late in the season and in the Fiesta Bowl loss to Iowa State, may be the early favorite to take over the starting role. But he’ll have plenty of competition from a pair of redshirt freshmen in Jay Butterfield and Robby Ashford along with five-star early enrollee and true freshman Ty Thompson.
UO’s spring game isn’t until May 1, and a starter won’t likely be named until some time in August. Whomever wins the role will have the luxury of handing off to a stable of stud running backs including CJ Verdell and Travis Dye, in addition to exciting newcomer Sean Dollars.
Meanwhile, new defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter has taken on reclamation projects before. He most recently oversaw a massive turnaround in Berkeley, helping the Golden Bears to become one of the country’s top defenses in no time. The veteran assistant certainly has motivated talent in the Willamette Valley.
In Jesus name we pray 🙏🏽 pic.twitter.com/9Si9BVxN1a
— kayvon thibodeaux (@kayvonT8) April 7, 2021
If Oregon is competitive – or even upsets – Ohio State on Sept. 11 in Columbus, look out.
Trench Warfare for the Trojans
As usual, Clay Helton’s roster has plenty of talent (though, not as many top recruits as Trojan Nation would like). But the Men of Troy have serious questions in the trenches – especially in the O-line Dept. That was on full display Saturday in the Cardinal and Gold Spring Game.
Quick spring game update in @keelyismyname terms:
Stock up – Anyone named Drake
Stock down – The offensive line
— Ryan Abraham (@insidetroy) April 17, 2021
Protecting Slovis’ blind side will be a big position battle prior to USC’s first game against San Jose State Sept. 4th. Courtland Ford is a player that Helton has been high on, while Casey Collier is in the mix as well. But both are redshirt freshmen, and a far cry from Alijah Vera-Tucker.
USC has the offensive weapons to make another Pac-12 title run. But do they have the protection?
UCLA fans have been patient with Kelly. But the one-time hottest name in the sport (in either college or NFL ranks) has not posted a winning record since the 2014 season, during his second year as head coach of the Eagles.
That’s five straight sub-.500 campaigns (Kelly sat out the 2017 season). That all could change quickly in 2021.
Embrace the grind.#GoBruins pic.twitter.com/6oeju60DL2
— UCLA Football (@UCLAFootball) April 5, 2021
20 of 22 starters return to Westwood, including quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson. Brittain Brown will have an opportunity to excel as a pass-catching running back, while tight end Greg Dulcich has legit big-play ability. Like the Ducks, the Bruins’ spring game is set for May 1.
As for other contenders, Washington brings in five-star quarterback recruit Sam Huard – son of former Husky QB Damon Huard. Utah should have a stout defense yet again. Plus, there’s always-dangerous Stanford and Arizona State lurking. It would appear, at this point anyway, this is Oregon’s conference to lose.
Blair Johnson is a veteran journalist and seasoned sports content creator. He has been writing and producing content as long as he can remember, with such familiar names as CNN, NFL Media and Yahoo. Blair currently lives and works in the greater Los Angeles area.