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Picking the Pac: Dawgs Go to the Farm

Beavers go for a Conference Win; Ducks host California

Stanford v Washington Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Last week was a bizarre week if you gamble on the Pac. First, Chase Garbers went down early for Cal and tanked their chances to beat Arizona State. On Saturday, Oregon State staged a late comeback to get a backdoor cover against Stanford. Later in the night, Khalil Tate and JJ Taylor were late scratches for Arizona. The Wildcats were still able to beat UCLA, but the loss of their offensive firepower kept them from covering. For my sake, I’m hoping this week will have fewer last minute changes.

Arizona @ Colorado, COL -3.5

This line essentially treats the two teams as equal, but gives Colorado the bump for home field advantage. Colorado most recently beat Arizona State on the road, which remains the Sun Devils’ only loss on the year. Khalil Tate remains questionable for the Wildcats, although it sounds like he was close to ready last week and has a good chance to play this time. There has been a big difference in Arizona’s offensive performance against P5 teams and non-P5 teams: 103 points in 2 games against non-P5 teams vs. 48 in 2 games against P5 teams. Colorado is also confounding with a good road win against ASU and a relatively bad home loss to Air Force. The Buffs have given up at least 30 points in each of their four games. What to make of all that?

Texas Tech v Arizona Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The two teams are close enough that Tate’s status could be crucial to Arizona’s chances to win the game (and the same could be said of JJ Taylor). Steven Montez, Alex Fontenot, and Laviska Shenault are far better triplets than the skill position players at UCLA and Texas Tech that Arizona held in check the last two weeks. Still, the consistently poor performances by the Buffs’ defense worry me enough that I’ll take the points.

Colorado 35 – Arizona 33

California @ Oregon, -18

Cal announced earlier this week that QB Chase Garbers is out “long term” with the injury he suffered against Arizona State. It looked like Cal had a great shot to win that game to get to 5-0 and stay atop the conference, but Devon Modster was a big step down for the Bears and undercuts the positive momentum the program was building. Garbers improved enough from last year to this year for Cal to succeed in their defense and ball control strategy. Now, they’ll have to lean even more heavily on Christopher Brown and Marcel Dancy in the run game.

Oregon built a reputation as a high-octane offense, and having a QB projected to be a high NFL draft pick reinforces that notion. In fact, the Ducks’ defense has carried them in their three wins since the Auburn loss to open the season. They haven’t allowed more than 6 points in any of those three games, and they’ve relied heavily on CJ Verdell and a more conservative pass attack. With Cal’s similarly stout defense, the Ducks will likely avoid major risks in this one. They should have enough offensive firepower to beat the version of the offense led by Modster, but this line is tilted too far.

Oregon 28 – Cal 14

Oregon St @ UCLA, UCLA -5.5

The Beavers nearly got a rare conference win against Stanford last week, but gave up a field goal at the end of the game. Nonetheless, they held on to cover the +5 spread, which makes them 3-1 ATS on the season. UCLA, meanwhile, looked generally competent for the second consecutive week. After their miracle comeback against Washington State the week before, they hung with Arizona on the road. Now they return home, where they were slaughtered by Oklahoma and lost as a favorite against San Diego State. Here are a few things we know about these teams: Oregon State will give up points (at least 31 to every FBS opponent). The Beavers will also move the ball. Jake Luton is a competent QB and the team has been above average running the ball all year. The Bruins have also had more success running the ball, other than 18 magical moments against the Cougars. Oregon State might be the worst defense UCLA has faced all year.

Altogether, it’s hard to see either team running away with this one. UCLA should be able to score enough to win if Dorian Thompson-Robinson finds a happy medium between the WSU game and the rest of his performances on the year. On the other side, I don’t see UCLA keeping the Beaver offense quiet. I’ll give UCLA some of the benefit of the doubt with their recent progress and will pick Joshua Kelley to have a strong game on the ground, but this is a good chance for Oregon State to improve that ATS record and maybe even steal a win.

UCLA 35 – OSU 31

Washington @ Stanford, UW -13.5

First of all, it feels bizarre to see UW as a two-TD favorite in a road stadium that has been a major problem for the last decade. The big spread is justified, though, because this vintage of the Cardinal bears almost no resemblance to the Rose Bowl teams of years past. On the offensive side of the ball, Stanford has been without K.J. Costello and Walker Little. The result has been the same sort of smash-mouth play-calling without the elite running backs or the push up front. The passing offense has been acceptable and a solid performance against Davis Mills was the main reason Stanford was able to win in Corvallis last week. Of course, that mix plays right into UW’s hands. Elijah Molden and Trent McDuffie are emerging as stars in the secondary. Keith Taylor has shown the ability to limit bigger receivers and tight ends like Stanford likes to use. Stanford isn’t in a position like USC where they prefer to pass but have a running attack to fall back on- Stanford has consistently tried to run the ball and failed to average even four yards per carry. The blocking just hasn’t been there.

Oregon v Stanford Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Stanford has been known as a defensive stalwart, and that’s another area where the 2019 team defies history. After a solid performance against Northwestern to open the year, Stanford has given up about 9-12 yards per pass attempt in each of the last four games without generating a single interception (that’s very bad!). Jacob Eason should have a very big game. I would be surprised if he finished with fewer than 250 passing yards and it could go significantly higher. The Stanford run defense has been better than the pass defense, but is still average or slightly worse. I also want to note how nice it is to make UW picks this year without constantly adding the caveat that our special teams could undermine all the good work we’ve done elsewhere.

The line gives me some heartburn. UW could win comfortably and Stanford could still get within 13. As for the result itself, I’m comfortable that UW will take care of business.

Washington 31 – Stanford 14


AZ +3.5

Cal +18 (high confidence)

OSU +5.5

UW -13.5

Last Week ATS – 1-4 (HC 0-1)

Season ATS – 24-20 (HC 5-2)

Last Week SU – 4-1

Season SU- 31-13