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Pickin’ the PAC: Can WSU keep it going?

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We got picks. Right here.

Arizona v Washington State Photo by William Mancebo/Getty Images

Who do you got?

Game of the Week

What? You mean other than the game that is attracting ESPN College Gameday to set up shop in Seattle?

Cal at #23 Washington State (-15)

Well, Donald Trump was just elected president. Therefore, we should expect that “the experts” don’t really know anything and that an upset can happen any time, any place. But is there one brewing in Pullman?

The Cougs certainly hope not. They’ve been one of the surprise stories of the 2016 Pac-12 season. They have levered their high-volume passing attack and a +10 turnover margin into an undefeated in-conference record and a clear line of sight to the Rose Bowl.

But there are warning flags, to be sure. Other than Stanford, none of WSU’s competitors to date has a winning record in the PAC. Of them, only ASU even has two wins in conference. That wouldn’t be a huge deal if it weren’t for the fact that so many of those games were close.

In addition, their offensive (4th) and defensive (8th) efficiency stats are middle-of-the-PAC despite not having played any ranked PAC opponents. It opens the question as to what the Cougs’ ceiling really is.

The Cal Bears are a team on the ropes. They will need two of their next three games in order to become bowl eligible. One could look at that absurdly sieve-like defense, especially a secondary rattled by injury, and conclude that this is not a good matchup for the Bears. On the flip side, it is safe to say that the Cougs have not yet encountered an offense as explosive as Cal’s. In fact, Cal runs the multiple-style Air Raid toward which the Cougs themselves aspire.

Forecasting this game is difficult. My heart tells me to lean towards WSU in a game likely to be much closer than the 15 points projected by Vegas. In all facets, though, it really is a tossup. The Cougs’ defense is better than Cal’s, but that is offset by Cal’s offense being more diverse and complete. Cal has better special teams, but that is more than compensated for by WSU’s better overall state of depth and home-field advantage.

WSU is peaking at the right time. They can smell roses and I think they are motivated to get the job done.

The Pick: Cal 40, WSU 42

The Rest of the PAC

#15 Utah at Arizona State (+6)

The Sun Devils need one more win to get bowl eligibility. Truth be told, Pac-12 fans ought to be rooting for that to happen.

Unfortunately, Thursday night does not seem to be the time nor the place for that vital sixth win.

Utah won’t be able to overwhelm the Sun Devils with offense, but they ought to be able to move the ball behind an offensive line that will have an advantage in the trenches. RB Joe Williams will be the best player on the field when Utah is on offense. I doubt that the Devils’ blitzing attack will be much of a bother because I don’t expect the game to be in Troy Williams’s hands very often.

Additionally, the Utah D will have an enormous advantage over a Sun Devil offense that looks more like a M*A*S*H unit than a mashing unit. ASU’s o-line against a Utah front that includes Hunter Dimick and Lowell Lotuleilei is a spectacular mismatch.

I’m going Utes. Big.

The Pick: Utah 31, ASU 10

Stanford at Oregon (+3.5)

It’s now happened a few times this season, but I still have a visceral reaction whenever I see Oregon as a home dog. Still, who can argue?

If you are Stanford, you are elated by the opportunity that this game presents. The second worst rush defense and worst overall defense produce exactly the right elixir for an offense struggling to find its way and a young QB who has yet to inspire any kind of confidence that he “is the man.” Will this be Keller Chryst’s week?

I don’t know about that, but I can see Christian McCaffrey and Bryce Love blowing up for 300+ yards of rushing offense between them. That should be more than enough to get the job done.

The Pick: Stanford 31, Oregon 22

Oregon State at UCLA (-12)

We love games that represent “strength on strength” matchups. The Cal passing offense against the UW pass defense; the USC jumbo offensive line against the Utah mega defensive line; the Oregon rush offense against the Colorado rush defense.

When you pit UCLA’s tragically awful rush offense against OSU’s atrocious rush defense, average fans don’t exactly start salivating in anticipation.

This one has all the trappings of an ugly, ugly football game. That said, UCLA ought to win. They have an overall talent advantage, they have the conference’s third-best defense measured by YPP (4.79 yds), and they have the home field.

Both teams are discombobulated due to injuries and expectations not met at this stage in the season, but UCLA still has a shot at bowl eligibility and I expect that they will rally.

The Pick: OSU 13, UCLA 24

Colorado at Arizona (+16)

Oh, the shame. A RichRod-coached team getting 16 points at home against the Colorado Buffaloes. In a season full of bizarre twists, this is one of those things that nobody would have seen coming just a few months ago.

I have little doubt that the Colorado defense will do its part. The Wildcats are struggling to move the ball with a lethargic passing game and with a RB corps that has more non-RBs in its ranks than actual tailbacks. However, the Colorado offense has definitely taken a plunge into the depths of “below average” since Sefo Liufau was reinstated at QB. I’m not sure it’s all on him, as the Colorado rushing game has seemed to decline precipitously during that same stretch. I’m not terribly optimistic that Colorado is going to scorch the scoreboard. I am optimistic, however, that they will score enough to win handily and do their part in pushing RichRod more squarely on to a Tucson hot seat.

The Pick: Colorado 24, Arizona 13