If you’re a University of Utah football fan hoping to see the No. 11 Utes take home the Pac-12 title this season, I’ve got some good news and I’ve got some bad news.
The good news is that, five weeks into the season, the Utes still have better odds than any other Pac-12 team to win the conference title, according to ESPN.
The bad news is they’ll face stronger opposition than college football experts initially predicted.
The Pac-12 in general — and Utah’s next opponent, UCLA, in particular — is improving, wrote Bill Connelly for ESPN, noting that UCLA’s odds to win the Pac-12 title have jumped from 9% in the preseason to 21%.
“We appear to have a four-way conference title race, per SP+, and it wouldn’t be particularly surprising if Washington is able to jump back in and make it a five-way race in the coming weeks,” he said, highlighting the strength of Utah, USC, Oregon and UCLA.
The unexpected strength of the conference helps explain why Pac-12 schools’ odds to make the College Football Playoff are improving, too, Connelly reported.
Utah’s odds to make the playoff have grown from 7% to 12% since the start of the season, while USC’s have grown from 0.1% to 18%.
“While ESPN’s FPI — the engine for the Allstate Playoff Predictor — isn’t yet sold on UCLA, it thinks both USC and Utah have solid chances of reaching 13-0 or 12-1 and claiming a semifinal spot,” Connelly wrote.
Utah’s odds will likely get even better if the team can score some big wins in the weeks ahead, he said.
The Utes “look like the best team in the conference again, but the Florida loss means they almost certainly have to win out to reach the playoff. That will be difficult with tossup trips to UCLA and Oregon,” Connelly wrote.