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Picking the Pac — Week 10

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In the first week of November, the Pac-12 standings are a hodgepodge of imperfect teams, any of whom looks capable of beating any other.

NCAA Football: Arizona State at Utah Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

With five outright upsets in six games, week nine laid waste to the Pac-12’s pecking order and College Football Playoff prospects. More importantly, it devastated my record against the spread, which had been on the cusp of climbing north of .500 before last week’s bloodbath in which I went a hideous 1–5. This week’s lineup offers a difficult path to redemption, featuring four intradivisional games that should ultimately lend some clarity to the muddled mess that is this year’s Pac-12 standings.

Ryan’s 2018 record straight up / against the spread: 47–19 / 25–30–2

Game of the Week

No. 15 Utah Utes vs. Arizona State Sun Devils (Saturday, 1 p.m., Pac-12 Networks)

Utah -7.0, o/u 56.0

After easily dispatching a suddenly competent UCLA team last week, Utah is the hottest team in the Pac-12 South courtesy of their four-game winning streak and head-to-head victories over division contenders USC and Arizona. On the other end of the spectrum lies Arizona State, who have dropped four of their last six and trail the Utes by a distant 2.5 games in the standings. Nonetheless, Arizona State still boasts one of the Pac-12’s best receiving threats in N’Keal Harry, and his matchup against the Utes secondary (including defensive backs Javelin Guidry and Corrion Ballard) will pit the teams’ two biggest strengths against one another. Where I think the game will ultimately swing is the matchup of Utah’s running backs versus ASU’s front seven: The Utes are on a particularly hot streak at the moment, having rushed for more than 750 yards and eight touchdowns in the last three games. Utah 31, Arizona State 21.

All the Rest

Friday

Colorado Buffaloes vs. Arizona Wildcats (7:30 p.m., FS1)

Arizona -3.0, o/u 57.0

The Wildcats were able to halt a two-game skid last week in their surprisingly dominant victory over Oregon, and look to continue that momentum against a Buffs squad that suddenly looks as vulnerable as any in the conference. After starting the year with five straight victories, the Buffs are in a legitimate search for a sixth victory that will guarantee them bowl eligibility, and it’s hard to think that a team we watched choke away a 31–3 lead against the Beavers will find a way to beat Washington State, Utah or Cal. Thus, this week’s game against the Wildcats might be Mike MacIntyre’s best chance remaining to secure a postseason destination. Unfortunately for CU fans, I think Arizona’s rushing attack behind J.J. Taylor (366 yards and three touchdowns in his last two games) will be too much to overcome in a home game for the Cats. Arizona 35, Colorado 28.

Saturday

UCLA Bruins vs. Oregon Ducks (4:30 p.m., FOX)

Oregon -10.5, o/u 63.0

Chip Kelly’s return to Eugene doesn’t carry nearly the importance that FOX hoped it would when they chose to broadcast this game in the preseason, but thanks to UCLA’s newfound confidence and Oregon’s sudden incompetence, we have a game that feels like it should play out much closer than the 10.5-point spread in the home team’s favor. Considering that Justin Herbert is currently under concussion protocol and is thus uncertain to play in Saturday afternoon’s game, and that UCLA’s passing defense has held opponents 5.7 yards per attempt while gaining five interceptions against allowing three touchdowns in the last three games, I think the table is set for UCLA to earn an impressive upset victory on the road. That’s even more so the case if the Ducks are forced to play backup quarterback Braxton Burmeister, who hasn’t played a single snap since Sept. 8. UCLA 24, Oregon 20.

USC Trojans vs. Oregon State Beavers (7 p.m., FS1)

USC -14.0, o/u 60.5

The Trojans are looking to halt a two-game skid that came at the hands of Pac-12 South foes, and two weeks ago, Oregon State would have looked like the perfect opponent from which to launch a bounce-back. After the Beavers’ incredible second-half surge and overtime victory last week, though, it’s fair to question whether or not Jonathan Smith has another conference victory up his sleeve in his inaugural season as head coach of his alma mater. If the Beavs do in fact have a win No. 2 in store, though, I suspect it won’t come against the Trojans, as USC’s personnel advantage on offense ought to allow them to take control against an Oregon State scoring defense that ranks second-to-last in the Power Five. USC 42, Oregon State 21.

California Golden Bears vs. No. 8 Washington State Cougars (7:45 p.m., ESPN)

Washington State -10.0, o/u 50.0

Fresh off of their upset win over the Huskies, Cal looks to earn back-to-back wins against the Evergreen State this weekend when they take on Wazzu in the Palouse. The Golden Bears’ passing defense has been especially productive this season, racking up 12 interceptions against allowing seven touchdowns and 6.0 yards per attempt, and they’ll be sorely tested by Wazzu quarterback Gardner Minshew II, whose 397.9 yards per game ranks No. 1 nationally. On the ground, Cal’s Patrick Laird will be running into the teeth of one of the conference’s best front sevens, highlighted by linebackers Dominick Silvels and Peyton Pelluer as well as defensive lineman Logan Tago, each of whom has tallied 5.5 tackles for loss on the year. Justin Wilcox was able to earn a signature victory at home last week against the Dawgs by keeping the game a low-scoring affair that turned on a dagger of a pick-six by Washington’s backup quarterback; I don’t see him being able to find the same success on the road against one of the conference’s best passing attacks. Washington State 35, Cal 20.