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Pac-12’s best faces long odds against College Football Playoff’s elite

Oregon players celebrate on field.
Oregon might be the best team in the Pac-12, but are the Ducks a longshot to play or beat LSU, Ohio State, Clemson or Alabama in a College Football Playoff game?
(Abbie Parr / Getty Images)

If Utah or Oregon sneaks into the College Football Playoff, either would be a big underdog to current national superpowers.

That’s the conclusion drawn from oddsmaker Power Ratings of top contenders posted this week by Circa Sports, the first sportsbook to release raw numbers used to make weekly point spreads.

A quick look at Circa’s ratings for the top four teams:

Best four: Ohio State 111.25, Clemson 109.75, Louisiana State 107, Alabama 106.25.

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That quartet is on an island, more than four points better than any other contender. The four have combined for only one loss, Alabama’s defeat at the hands of LSU on Saturday in Tuscaloosa.

How do those powers match up against the best of the Pac-12? Circa posted four Pac-12 teams in its top 25: Utah 97.25, Oregon 95.5, Washington 89.75, Washington State 85.25.

If the Utes and Ducks meet for the Pac-12 championship at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Utah would likely be favored by 1.5 to 2 points. Should the winner earn a bid to the College Football Playoff, it would be about a two-touchdown underdog to Ohio State or Clemson and about a 10-point underdog to LSU or Alabama.

Clancy Pendergast was supposed to resurrect USC’s defense after Justin Wilcox was fired. Instead, the Trojans have been worse under Pendergast’s watch.

Such differentials expose the difficulties faced by the selection committee. Should the “best” teams in terms of talent, coaching and championship potential be invited? Or do lesser teams with identical or better won-lost records deserve the nod?

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A fascinating debate could emerge soon about who deserves a bid — a one-loss Pac-12 champ or a one-loss Alabama? If betting markets were used to make the call, there would be no debate.

Other entries from the top 25 posted by Circa:

Oklahoma 101.75, Georgia 101.50, Penn State 97, Auburn 96, Michigan 95.75, Wisconsin 95.75, Florida 93.75, Iowa State 92.25, Notre Dame 90.75, Texas A&M 89.5, Baylor 89, Minnesota 88.5, Iowa 87.75, Central Florida 87.75, Texas 87.25, Oklahoma State 87, Texas Christian 85.5.

Baylor and Minnesota are 9-0 and capable of crashing the party despite being rated more than two touchdowns worse than the big four. Baylor is a 10-point home underdog Saturday to Oklahoma. Minnesota might be a three-touchdown underdog to Ohio State if they meet for the Big Ten championship.

Market notes

  • UCLA is still projected to close as a 21-point underdog Saturday at Utah. Sharps (professional betters) would likely take the big underdog at +21.5 or more if the public pushes the number higher on game day.
  • USC continues to get sharp support, starting as a 4.5-point favorite at California and being bet up to 6.5 points. It might take the key number of seven to inspire home underdog support.
  • Sharps are taking Chicago +7 against the Rams whenever it’s available. That line is now expected to close at Rams -6.5, barring late-breaking injury news.
  • The Chargers are on the sharps’ radar in Monday night’s game with the Kansas City Chiefs in Mexico City. They got the money at the early opener of +4.5 and continue to do so at stores offering +4. Seems like Philip Rivers is on the field late in a nail-biter every week. Kansas City’s soft defense has trouble protecting leads.
  • In the NBA, Atlanta Hawks scoring phenom Trae Young will make back-to-back appearances at Staples Center on Saturday against the Clippers and Sunday against the Lakers, load management and health permitting. Young scored 42 points Tuesday in the Hawks’ road upset of Denver that covered the spread by 14.5 points.
  • The Lakers and the Clippers closed out their first 10 games with identical 7-3 point-spread records. Only Phoenix cashed more tickets in that span.

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