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Pickin' the PAC: Oregon Tries to Get Back in the Race

It's a full PAC 12 slate on Halloween weekend.

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

It's Halloween weekend, which means that the crazies will be out in full force all across the Pac 12 this weekend.  The madness will kickoff tomorrow night in Tempe, so that is where we will begin our run down of Vegas Odds and Game Predictions.

Featured Matchup

Oregon at ASU (-2.5) - O/U 66

The PAC 12's Thursday Night Football matchup pairs the mystery Ducks against the even-more-of-a-mystery ASU Sun Devils in a game that ought to be a perfect kickoff to a spooky Halloween weekend.

Honestly, I have no idea what to make of this game.  Neither team has met their own lofty expectations halfway into the season and both would float up to the top of the consensus list of "biggest disappointments" in the 2015 season.  Yet both remain talented and highly dangerous teams.

Husky fans know the Ducks story pretty well.  They are still an effective and highly efficient offense that, with the returns of Darren Carrington and Vernon Adams, are even more lethal than what they were when it was just Royce Freeman and everbody else.  But this still isn't the same offense as a year ago.  The offensive line isn't nearly as effective as they once were and their QB, even though he has a great ability to keep a play alive in the pocket, is not the rushing threat Oregon fans are used to seeing out of their signal caller.  The lack of that rushing threat makes it less risky for a defense to pressure the inside gaps.

ASU, however, isn't as stout in their defensive front seven as teams like Utah and Washington have been.  For them to effectively slow down the Ducks, they are going to have to run their blitzing scheme to perfection.  The big advantage that they will have in doing so is that Vernon Adams has very little experience dealing with that kind of well-disguised blitzing.  I expect that he's going to get hit early and often as Todd Graham rings the bell and lets his guys go crazy.  Look for Salamo Fiso, DJ Calhoun and Antonio Longino to all get in on that action.

Still, if there is one thing that we know about Oregon and Vernon Adams is that they are the best in the PAC 12 at improvising under pressure.  I just can't help but to think that Adams is going to stick in there three or four devastating plays that will break the backs of the Sun Devils.  Add to that the fact that ASU and QB Mike Bercovici have been Jekyll and Hyde all season and I'm left feeling this one is going to be a squeaker for Oregon.

Gekko's Pick:  Oregon 43, ASU 38 (OVER, take the upset)

Rest of the PAC

Arizona at Washington - no line

As is our custom, the actual pick for this game will be announced on Friday.  However, I know that everybody is interested in the matchup.  The story line with the Huskies is a familiar one - best defense in the PAC 12 paired with the worst offense.  Arizona is the exact opposite - they have the best scoring offense in the PAC paired with what is likely the worst all around defense.

Unlike UW's offense, the Arizona D has been plagued by excessive injuries that partly explain their defensive failures in 2015.  In fact, the 'Cats have started (not played) 28 different players on D so far this season.  That's an absurd statistic and makes projecting what UA will do on that side of the ball an impossible task.  Still, if there were ever a weekend that UW was going to get "right" on offense, this is the defense to do it against.

How do you think UW will fare?

Colorado at UCLA (-21) - O/U 63.5

UCLA true freshman QB Josh Rosen had the quintessential breakout effort a week ago with 399 yards and 3 TDs in a blowout win over 1-loss Cal.  Now the question becomes whether or not he can sustain that success.  The bar is now set for Rosen and the label of "true freshman" would seem to no longer apply.

Colorado is coming off their first conference win in the last two seasons and are riding a wave of momentum that has Buffs fans thinking of a bowl game.  Unfortunately, the Buffs don't matchup up well against a UCLA team that has a strong offensive line and enough athleticism to shut down Colorado's own rushing attack.  Sefo Liufau should be able to get enough going in the passing game that the OVER looks like a decent bet, but I think UCLA rolls easily.

Gekko's Pick:  Colorado 21, UCLA 52 (OVER, lay the points)

Stanford (-11.5) at WSU - O/U 62

Pay attention, Husky Fans.  The Cuogs are the second place team in the North, they have a QB who has won the conference POW three times in his 10 career starts and the second leading pass offense in the nation (that, in case you are wondering, averages 7.4 yds per attempt on top of their 56 attempts per game).  In short, they are rolling.

But will it be enough against a Stanford team that is flat out balling right now?  The Cardinal have become the standard-bearer for the PAC 12 now that Utah has been knocked off their perch.  Nobody in the nation is playing at as high a level as RB Christian McCaffrey and that Cardinal O-Line has been the best one that I've seen anywhere in college football this season (watch and see how few times a DL actually gets hands on McCaffrey).

Obviously, I like Stanford in this one.  But I'm having a hard time seeing 11.5 points.  The Cardinal don't match up super well against the Cuogs.  The pass rush / pass defense is the weaker part of their defense and the Cuog D-Line is actually one of the better ones in the PAC.  I could see them preventing McCaffrey explosive plays the same way UW did.  If WSU can keep Stanford to around 35 points, I think that they will have a chance in the end.

But I'm not calling it that way.

Gekko's Pick:  Stanford 44, WSU 38 (OVER, take the points)

Oregon St at Utah (-24) - O/U 54

Both OSU and Utah enter their matchup in Salt Lake suffering from a bit of depressed momentum.  For the Beavers, a QB controversy has settled over the team as Gary Anderson looks for answers in the passing game just as the team is contending with a rapidly expanding injury list.  On the Utah sideline, the gloss has dulled on QB Travis Wilson following the blowout at the hands of USC.

Each team has something big to play for.  OSU is trying to nail down that first conference win and show that the learning curve that their young team is going through will eventually lead to results.  Utah still has much to play for with the South Division still very much in their sights and a possible date with the Stanford Cardinal in the PAC 12 Championship game still looking like a possible ticket to the playoffs.

I think the Utes will be just too much for the beleaguered Beavers.  Davonte Booker and that big Ute O-Line will control the line of scrimmage while that dominating Utah front seven should have their way with the Beaver offense.  I like Utah big here.

Gekko's Pick:  OSU 10, Utah 41 (UNDER, lay the points)

USC (-6) at Cal - O/U 69

I know that Crazi thinks that I love Cal, but I probably love USC more.  I was very impressed with how they rallied behind interim head coach Clay Helton in the upset win over Utah.  I was particularly impressed with how that defense raised their output to the level of their talent.  The offense was their same, explosive selves.  If USC can match that kind of output against Cal, this one will become a blowout by the third quarter.

I'm not exactly sure if it will play out that way.  Cal QB Jared Goff has played quite poorly the last two weeks.  I think this mini-slump is bound to end this weekend.  But that won't change the fact that he's getting very little support from his rushing attack.

That, plus the fact that there is no way that the Cal D-Line can stand toe to toe with the USC O-Line is pushing me to take USC by a comfortable margin.

Gekko's Pick:  USC 38, Cal 24 (UNDER, lay the points)