Aside from the Apple Cup, the final week of the Pac-12’s regular season is short on high stakes. Because Utah has already clinched the South division berth in the conference championship game, most of the Pac-12’s teams will spend Rivalry Week fighting for bragging rights and/or bowl eligibility. That being said, any week that includes the Holy War, the Civil War, the Territorial Cup and USC vs. Notre Dame is worth paying attention to, if for no other reason than the potential for rivalry games to play out in ways almost no one expected.
Ryan’s 2018 record straight up / against the spread: 57–25 / 34–37–2
Game of the Week
BYU Cougars vs. No. 19 Utah Utes (Saturday, 7 p.m., FS1)
Utah -12.0, o/u 44.0
With the caveat that Friday’s Apple Cup is the Pac-12’s true unquestioned game of the week, this year’s edition of the Holy War holds some intrigue, not least of which is that the Utes will represent the South division in next week’s conference championship game. For a team that’s down its starting quarterback and running back, Utah looked tremendously potent on offense last week, outscoring the beleaguered Colorado Buffaloes 30–7 and and outgaining them 390 yards to 196. Meanwhile, the Utes defense has established itself as arguably the best in the conference, and paces the Pac-12 in rushing defense (95.6 yards per game), yards per play (4.66) and yards per game (312.1).
As for Brigham Young, the Cougars haven’t looked particularly impressive since Washington fans last saw them on Sept. 29, and have dropped games to Utah State, Northern Illinois and Boise State during that stretch. Freshman running back Lopini Katoa had a career day last week in BYU’s runaway victory over New Mexico State, racking up 155 yards and four touchdowns on 19 carries, but there’s a world of difference between running into the Aggie and Ute defensive front sevens.
Utah won’t need to click on all cylinders to beat the Cougars, which is fortunate for the Utes considering that there’s no small chance that they get off to a slow start. After all, they already have the South division clinched, and can be forgiven for watching the Apple Cup that will decide their North division opponent with more interest than their own game against BYU, in which only bragging rights are on the line. But anyone with even a passing knowledge of the Holy War knows just how much those bragging rights mean, and I think there’s a good chance that we see the Utes rout the Cougars accordingly. Utah 31, BYU 13.
All the Rest
Oregon Ducks vs. Oregon State Beavers (1 p.m., FS1)
Oregon -17.0, o/u 69.0
Oregon has certainly regressed from its mid-October high of a No. 12 ranking, having lost three of five games in that stretch of time, but even a Ducks team that isn’t clicking on all cylinders should be able to handle Oregon State’s disastrous defense. Then again, Civil Wars always seem to play out in the craziest way imaginable, which leads me to believe that the Beavers have a puncher’s chance of covering the two-score spread. Oregon 41, Oregon State 31.
Stanford Cardinal vs. UCLA Bruins (12 p.m., Pac-12 Networks)
Stanford -7.0, o/u 57.0
Stanford got an unexpected bye week at the best possible moment last week due to the horrible air quality in Northern California, which could be key in helping them prepare to take on a UCLA program coming off a big emotional win over their crosstown rivals in USC. The Bruins are unquestionably playing better football today than they were in the season’s early weeks, but they don’t have the defense to hang with the Cardinal, particularly if JJ Arcega-Whiteside is ready to go at full speed. Stanford 30, UCLA 24.
Arizona State Sun Devils vs. Arizona Wildcats (12:30 p.m., FS1)
Arizona State -1.5, o/u 65.0
Arizona’s season has been one of fits and starts, including four separate two-game winning and losing streaks. Their current state falls into the “fits” category, considering that their last outing was a 69-28 loss to Washington State that somehow was even more of a blowout than the score suggests. Arizona State no longer has a shot at the Pac-12 title to work toward, but a chance to retain the Territorial Cup for a second consecutive year should prove motivation enough. Arizona State 38, Arizona 27.
Colorado Buffaloes vs. California Golden Bears (4 p.m., Pac-12 Networks)
Cal -12.5, o/u 43.0
It’s hard to believe that just six weeks ago, the Buffs were 5-0 and owners of the No. 19 ranking in the AP poll. Six weeks later, they’re double-digit underdogs on the verge of missing the postseason in their final game, and Colorado is the first Pac-12 program to join the coaching carousel after Mike MacIntyre’s firing was made official earlier this week. With all due respect to interim coach Kurt Roper, I don’t expect CU to rally for a bowl berth against a Cal team that’s playing some of the best defense in the conference. Cal 35, Colorado 13.
No. 3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. USC Trojans (5 p.m., ABC)
Notre Dame -11.0, o/u 54.0
Notre Dame is fighting for a Playoff berth, and USC is fighting for a chance to earn a winning record and a postseason bowl game. With such disparate stakes, it’s a no-brainer to like the Irish to win big. At least Clay Helton’s coming back next year, right? Notre Dame 42, USC 17.