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Pickin' the PAC - Oregon Takes its Shot at the North

The end is near, but there is still some suspense in the PAC 12 divisional races.

Jim Mora has a big game coming up against WSU this weekend.
Jim Mora has a big game coming up against WSU this weekend.
Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

It is true.  Oregon still has a chance ... a slight chance ... at winning the North division.

I know, I feel the same.

There is a lot on the line in this weekend's games.  There are still five teams who are eyeing bowl eligibility with just one (Oregon State) completely eliminated.  In fact, nobody can be eliminated depending on this weekend's outcomes, but the margin for error for a few of those teams can be reduced to nil.

Let's get into our previews for what I'm calling "Sense of Urgency" Weekend.

Featured Matchup

Oregon at #7 Stanford (-10) - O/U 69

While the Ducks still are mathematically in the race, they do not match up very well against the Stanford Cardinal and don't stand much of a chance in this one.

Vernon Adams has breathed new life into what was a struggling Oregon offense.  His return coincides with a big pick up in performance from Oregon receivers like Bralon Addison, Darren Carrington and Dwayne Stanford.  But, let's not pretend it has been all that pretty.  Adams has dealt most of his damage when plays break down and he's not been able to consistently run the Oregon base offense, even in the crazy offensive output that the Ducks had last week versus Cal.  Against a veteran and healthy Stanford defense, there will be fewer opportunities to "escape and create".

On the flip side, I don't see any advantage that Oregon can lean on in trying to shut down the efficient Stanford offense.  The Cardinal are going go pound away at that soft Oregon front seven with their monster O-Line and they are going to look to beat and defile the Ducks in every way.  Kevin Hogan has proven to be the most consistent and efficient QB in the conference this season and RB Christian McCaffrey has been deadly once he gets to the second level as both a receiver and a rusher.

At home, this will be a blowout.

Gekko's Picks:  Oregon 24 vs Stanford 49 (lay the points, take the OVER)

Rest of the PAC

Friday Night - USC (-17) at Colorado - O/U 61

Pity poor Colorado.  They get the pleasure of going back to back weeks against the two most physical offensive lines in the PAC 12, first with Stanford then with USC.  On top of that, they get a short week to recuperate and prepare for the latter.

This is not a good look for the banged up Colorado Buffaloes.

The Buffs are going to take their licks in this one.  USC interim coach Clay Helton has installed a much more run-oriented offense than what Steve Sarkisian had focused on and he is playing to the strengths of that O-Line and his three-headed RB monster with Tre Madded, Justin Davis and Ronald Jones.  He will use this RB battering ram relentlessly to set up big play action shots for WR JuJu Smith.

Colorado won't be able to stop it.  They may be able to keep up for a while with the Sefo Liufau to Nelson Spruce connection, but it won't be enough.  They'll be gassed by the end of the third quarter where I see USC putting on the burners.  That said, 17 points is a big spread for the kind of game I'd expect to see.

Gekko's Pick:  USC 41, Colorado 24 (Take CU and the points, take the OVER)

Oregon State at Cal (-21.5) - O/U 59.5

Cal comes into this one losers of four straight with a Heisman quality QB no longer in the Heisman race and a coach who is on the hottest seat in the PAC 12.  They have injuries to key players on the defense, a regressing group of running backs and an offensive line that continues to underwhelm.  In short, they've devolved significantly from where they were when they opened up with five straight wins.

Oregon State is coming at the right time for the Bears.  Unfortunately for Cal, OSU is coming into town wounded and hungry.  Despite their winless situation, they are still a group of tough guys whose issues are more related to a lack of experience than a lack of fight.

Cal is going to get everything OSU has in this one.  And I'm not completely sure that Cal will come out victorious.  They should.  That's about the best I can say.  I'll take Cal in a close one.

Gekko's Pick:  OSU 13 vs Cal 24 (Take OSU and the points, take the UNDER)

#10 Utah (-6) at Arizona - O/U 62

Arizona is just about out of time to turn around their situation this season.  Unfortunately, Utah is the worst possible kind of matchup for them.  The physical Utes got a bit of a wake up call in their close shave versus UW last week.  The underwhelming UW offense was able to move the ball against the Utes.  Arizona has a better offense and should be able to do more.

But I don't think so.  I look at the WIldcats and see a team that summoned a bit of fight in the first half of last week's game versus USC, but folded (again) late.  I think they want to get to the end of the season and learn about the fate of their coaching staff as RichRod continues to have his name dropped as a candidate for jobs such as Virginia Tech, Miami and South Carolina.  I don't see a blowout here, but I do see Utah taking control early and stiff arming the Wildcats for most of the game.

Gekko's Pick:  Utah 35 vs Arizona 27 (Lay the points, take the UNDER)

UW at Arizona State (-2.5) - O/U 52.5

I won't make a prediction in this one, but I will say that UW has a great chance to end a losing streak that, on a calendar basis, is longer than any other that they've ever suffered in conference play.

UW and ASU enter this one as teams heading in different directions.  The Huskies are clearly a team on the rise who are building a reputation as tough, scrappy players who are dominating on defense and who are opportunistic if not effective on offense.  The Sun Devils are a team who are falling back from where they were a year ago.  Their season has been characterized by inconsistency at QB with Mike Bercovici, struggles at both offensive tackle positions, and the giving up of big plays on defense.

On paper, this is as good a match up for UW as we've seen in a while.  But there are mitigating circumstances.  The health of UW seems to be in worse shape than the Sun Devils - particularly with injuries to Elijah Qualls, Trey Adams and Budda Baker all coming in areas with our least amount of depth.  The other major issue will be that true frosh QB Jake Browning has never seen as diverse and frequent a blitzing defense as what he'll see in Tempe.  He's shown to be very prone to turnovers and it isn't hard to imagine those biting him on the road.

It should be an interesting one.  Tell us what you think will happen in this week's CrowdLine.

Washington State at #19 UCLA (-10.5) - O/U 65.5

This is probably the second most intriguing matchup of the weekend. In a lot of ways, this is the kind of game that will speak to the relative competitiveness of one division versus the other.  Both UCLA and WSU are veteran football teams featuring young, rising QBs.  They also both have relatively stable offensive and defensive lines who are playing ahead of where they were as units a year ago.

That is about where the similarities end.

The Cougs will try to take advantage of the favorable southern California conditions and get their Air Raid fired up.  Luke Falk will spread the ball to his trio of star receivers in River Cracraft, Dom Williams and Gabe Marks.  The big question is whether or not his O-Line can give him the time he needs to break a few long plays or if he'll be forced to work only the short routes in his decision tree.

UCLA will work a different plan.  They'll want to establish a physical advantage with their rushing attack behind Paul Perkins and use that to create big play opportunities for Josh Rosen against man coverage.  The Cougs have been more stout in the front seven than you'd expect.  If they can force UCLA OC Noel Mazzone to work the lateral passing game more frequently, it will be a good signal that the Cougs are playing well enough on their D-Line to change the game plan.

This is a near pick-em to me.  I think that UCLA has enough muscle on their offensive line to impose their will and establish an advantage at home.  Josh Rosen has shown that he is not mistake-prone as you'd expect from a true freshman.  That and the home field is enough for me.

Gekko's Pick:  WSU 38 vs UCLA 45 (take WSU and the points, take the OVER)