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Best of the West: USC rises to the top with Northwest well represented; Mountain West’s 2 powers are clear

Each week, the Hotline ranks the best major college football teams across the western third of the country — not only the Pac-12 but the Mountain West and Independents — using a formula that’s partly results-oriented and partly subjective.

We will publish a similar ranking once the basketball season begins, incorporating the top teams from the West Coast Conference, Big West, Big Sky and Western Athletic, as well.

Here’s our assessment through the results of Week 12 …

1. USC (10-1/8-1 Pac-12)
Result: won at UCLA 48-45
Next up: vs. Notre Dame (4:30 p.m. on ABC)
Line: USC -5.5
Comment: Caleb Williams is now the betting favorite to win the Heisman Trophy, according to FanDuel. His latest odds are -130, just ahead of Ohio State quarterback CJ Stroud (+110). They are the clear frontrunners entering the final fortnight.

2. Oregon (9-2/ 7-1 Pac-12)
Result: beat Utah 20-17
Next up: at Oregon State (12:30 p.m. on ABC)
Line: Oregon -3.5
Comment: Meanwhile, Bo Nix’s odds have fallen to 100-to-1, even though his performance Saturday in the victory over Utah — while injured — was completely Heisman-esque, just without the glossy stats.

3. Washington (9-2/6-2 Pac-12)
Result: beat Colorado 54-7
Next up: at Washington State (7:30 p.m. on ESPN)
Line: Washington -2
Comment: As for Michael Penix Jr., well, he’s nowhere to be found on the Heisman leaderboard.

4. Utah (8-3/6-2 Pac-12)
Result: lost at Oregon 20-17
Next up: at Colorado (1 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks)
Line: Utah -29.5
Comment: The Hotline has long believed that seasons are defined by four or five plays. In Utah’s case, it’s probably two or three.

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5. Oregon State (8-3/5-3 Pac-12)
Result: won at Arizona State 31-7
Next up: vs. Oregon (12:30 p.m. on ABC)
Line: Oregon State +3.5
Comment: They say good coaches win but great coaches cover. The Beavers are 5-0 against the spread at home.

6. Boise State (8-3/7-0 MW)
Result: won at Wyoming 20-17
Next up: vs. Utah State (Friday, 9 a.m. on CBS)
Line: Boise State -16.5
Comment: Broncos coach Andy Avalos avoided the same fate as Cal’s Justin Wilcox by firing his overmatched offensive coordinator early in the season. It saved BSU’s season.

7. UCLA (8-3/5-3 Pac-12)
Result: lost to USC 48-45
Next up: at Cal (Friday, 1:30 p.m. on Fox)
Line: UCLA -10
Comment: Has coordinator Bill McGovern’s ongoing absence played a role in UCLA’s poor defensive performance? Probably so. But it doesn’t entirely account for the troubles.

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