Three coaches, three programs, three gambles gone awry, three giant question marks.

If you’re fans of USC, Oregon, or Colorado football this week, you’re wondering exactly where you go from here.

All the promise from earlier this year, compromised.

All the hope, deflated.

All the joy, robbed.

That’s the thing with gambling. It doesn’t just harm your bottom line, it steals your soul. You don’t just lose — you wonder if you’ll ever win again.

So here are the Trojans, Ducks, and Buffs, all wondering if it’s time to put everything on black.

Here’s a look at three Pac-12 teams in peril, and the wild wagers that got them there …

Dan Lanning, going for broke

Pitted against arguably the best offense in the country, along with the arguably the best quarterback in the country and new Heisman favorite, along with inarguably two of the most innovative offensive minds in the country, Lanning wasn’t about to clam up now.

On 4th-and-goal from the 3-yard line with seconds left in the first half and his team trailing 22-18, Lanning called for a sprint right pass by Bo Nix. Nix’s top option Troy Franklin was bottled up and the play went nowhere. Gamble No. 1. Lost.

Now it’s 4th-and-goal from the 3 for a second time, now midway through the 3rd quarter, with the Ducks trailing 29-18. Again, Oregon goes for it. Again Nix tries to find Franklin. Again no good. Gamble No. 2. Lost.

Flash forward to just before the 2-minute mark in the 4th quarter, and now the Ducks find themselves faced with another 4th-and-3, this one at midfield, and this one with Oregon on top and Lanning looking to end the game right there. This time Nix looks for Tez Johnson, but the result is the same. No good, possession changes on downs, Washington takes the ball and scores in 2 plays to go up 36-33. Gamble No. 3. Lost.

“I’ll always go back and evaluate myself and say, ‘OK, what can I do different?’” Lanning said. “That being said, from a probability standpoint, how we felt about looks that we were getting, we felt like we had a chance to have success and both situations — really all of the situations today where we went for it on 4th (down). We had an opportunity to call timeout if we didn’t like what we saw. There was some confusion on the last play that was handed off. We actually had a check that didn’t get checked or executed properly. So didn’t get that mastered.

“But I’ll certainly go back and evaluate myself. It’s about adapting. The game is about adapting and figuring out where you can be better. You take one of those field goals early on and we are looking at probably a little bit different situation.”

In a vacuum, any of the calls are worth questioning. Until you remember who they were playing. If Oregon does this against Arizona or Washington State, Lanning deserves a lobotomy. But Washington’s quick-strike offense is a threat to score at any time from anywhere. You go for the jugular when you can and take your lumps when you fall short, and that’s what Lanning is doing.

“I think that this game is 100% on me. I don’t think you guys have to look anywhere else besides me. I think every one of us can look at the decisions that were made today, and again, if you can make some of those decisions differently; if you kicked the field goal before half. If you kicked the field goal somewhere else then it could have been a different result. You never know how the rest of the game is gonna play out, so you make those decisions based on the information you have.”

How the Ducks respond to losing the Game of the Year will tell the tale of their season. Half of Oregon’s remaining schedule is currently ranked, and matchups against Utah, USC and Oregon State will not be easy.

But it starts with a reeling Washington State team coming off a 44-6 loss to Arizona, at home this week in the friendly confines of Autzen Stadium.

My money is on the Ducks relishing their coach’s go-for-broke style and responding with a flourish this week.

Lincoln Riley, loyal to the end

People like to joke that Alex Grinch has some kind of kompromat on Lincoln Riley. There has to be something causing this kind of blind loyalty.

What Trojans fans feared for weeks finally came true this past Saturday, as Caleb Williams ran out of magic fair dust and the USC offense for the first time this year failed to atone for a defense bordering on defective.

It wasn’t just that the Fighting Irish won by a 4-touchdown margin, 48-20, it’s that everyone saw it coming. And, no, not 2 weeks ago, when Colorado rebounded from an early 34-7 deficit to make it a one-score final margin. And no, not last week, when the Trojans needed a big comeback just to beat Arizona at home in triple overtime.

There’s not a fan or pundit in the world surprised at USC’s ineptitude. We saw this coming 3,000 miles away, like a meteor slowly falling from the sky.

How did Riley not?

How could he have gambled with Caleb Williams’ swan song, his Heisman re-run? He saw the writing on the wall with Grinch.

In 2020, Year 2 of Grinch’s run as Oklahoma defense coordinator, the Sooners improved their national total defense ranking from 38th in 2019, his first year with the program, to 29th. Things were on the up.

In 2021, Oklahoma regressed to 76th nationally, allowing 390.8 yards per game. That should have been enough of a warning. Heck, 29th should be a warning!

Riley portends to be a championship coach with championship aspirations. He’s certainly a championship offensive coach, and maybe the best quarterback coach in the game.

But to gamble away a chance at a College Football Playoff berth because of blind loyalty to a guy who hasn’t been all that good? Crazy.

Even crazier? USC’s upcoming schedule. The Trojans play 4 currently ranked teams in the next month — Utah, Oregon, Washington and UCLA.

Good luck, Lincoln.

Deion Sanders, walking a delicate line

Taking over a forlorn program that had become the laughingstock of college football? Not a gamble.

Rebuilding a team from scratch and eschewing long-held beliefs about roster construction? Not a gamble.

Treating every cross word and every slight criticism as a grievance worthy of attention, instead of focusing on their mistakes despite a better-than-expected 4-2 start? Huge gamble.

There is so much to appreciate about what Coach Prime has done in short order in Boulder, but I wonder if he’ll look back and wish he toned down some of the rhetoric while his Buffaloes were in the midst of building their team culture. Playing the “us against the world” refrain only works for so long. Sometimes you have to look inward.

Now they’ve got plenty of time for reflection, as Colorado has a bye week this week after the epic Cardinal collapse.

And that’s a terrible thing.

After squandering a 29-0 halftime lead in a 46-43 double-overtime loss to Stanford, the Buffaloes would like nothing more than to get back out there.

“It’s not a good time for a bye week,” Sanders said after watching his team cough up a 29-0 halftime lead in Friday’s loss to Stanford. “I mean, if you’re having problems where you’re injured and you have quite a few injuries, it’s a good time for a bye week, but when you’re playing like you playing, you don’t want a bye week. You want to work it out. You want to make it happen. I wish we could play again next week. I really do.”

Unfortunately for Prime and the Buffaloes, they have time to stew before a final five weeks that includes UCLA, Oregon State and Utah.

Now is the time for Prime to course correct and preach ownership instead of finger-pointing.