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Picking the Pac - Shield your Eyes! It’s Ducks vs. Cougs

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No matter who loses, we win

Washington State v Arizona State Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Huskies finally have a long-awaited bye week after eight straight games to open the season. That doesn’t mean the rest of the conference takes a break, with everyone else except Oregon State in action.

USC @ Colorado (Friday), USC -13.5

The Trojans opened as 10 point favorites and the best have come on heavily in their favor. The betting public must like how the USC offense has looked in the two games since Kedon Slovis has returned to the lineup. The 41-14 dismantling of Arizona in the Coliseum was one of the team’s better defensive performances of the year, as well. Some of that credit goes to Khalil Tate, who continued his erratic passing until Grant Gunnell took over and scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns. (Fun digression- Kenan Christon became USC’s fourth different leading rusher in the team’s last four games!) Bettors are also seeing a very negative trend for Colorado. A previously reliable offense

Arizona v USC Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

has been outscored 86-13 over the last two games against Oregon and Washington State. It’s worth noting that both those games were on the road. USC, conversely, has not won on the road all year. There’s a line of thinking that USC won’t get their first road win of the year and do it by two touchdowns. That might be the wise way to go. I fear that Colorado is done for the year and won’t put up a fight going forward.

USC 35 – Colorado 17

Arizona @ Stanford, AZ -1

Anyone care to figure out what’s going on with either of these teams? Stanford’s problems are a little easier to diagnose because they have struggled as the injuries have piled up. Unfortunately, it’s not clear whether either of K.J. Costello or Davis Mills will be healthy for this game or if they’ll be stuck with Jack Sears. Washington fans will remember that Stanford is susceptible to the run game if things stay close. Unfortunately, Arizona’s offense hasn’t been taking many leads lately and has struggled against physical opponents. Tate is scheduled to start again, though he is presumably on a short leash with Gunnell outplaying him of late. J.J. Taylor would seem to be the type of running back that would give Stanford problems, but he alone is not enough to carry Arizona. Picking this game before we know who starts at QB for Stanford is probably foolish, but I’ll give it my best shot.

Stanford 26 – Arizona 24

Arizona State @ UCLA, ASU -3.5

Three straight road favorites to start the week! The Sun Devils are the first of the Pac’s three ranked teams to play this week and can’t afford another loss while the conference cannibalizes itself again. I was ready to write off UCLA’s win in Pullman as the product of a bizarre implosion by the Cougars, but then the Bruins soundly beat Stanford in Palo Alto. That somehow leaves UCLA winless at home against a pair of road wins. For ASU, Jayden Daniels showed steady growth through the year until last week, when he ran into the buzzsaw that is Utah’s defense. UCLA needs to run the ball to succeed and ASU’s run defense has been solid; it even held up reasonably well against Zack Moss. UCLA is moving in the right direction and has a lot more hope than they did at this time last year, but I don’t think they have the type of defense to truly bother the Devils.

ASU 27 – UCLA 21

California @ Utah -21.5

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 19 Arizona State at Utah Photo by Boyd Ivey/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Like the USC-Colorado game, this line has moved heavily toward the favorite since opening at -18. You have to feel a little bad for California and Justin Wilcox. The team got off to a hot start and pulled off the big upset in Husky Stadium, only for their QB to go down and their offense to go completely off the rails. Without Chase Garbers, the Bears somehow managed only 17 points at home against Oregon State’s defense. Translating that performance to Utah means they are like to score negative 20 this week. Ever since the stubbed their toe against the Trojans on a Friday night, the Utah defense has been locked in, holding WSU, OSU, and ASU to an average of 7.7 PPG. The main question is whether this line is simply too high. Cal’s defense has stayed engaged despite the offensive struggles. Utah hasn’t run up big point totals against solid defenses (21 against ASU, 23 against USC). Tyler Huntley is questionable, though he insists he will play. It’s very possible that Utah wins a blowout and fails to cover this spread.

Utah 31 – Cal 10

Washington State @ Oregon, ORE -14

Even in the Ducks’ narrow win over UW, several questions popped up about what we thought were Oregon’s strengths and weaknesses. UW’s 31 points almost doubled what Oregon gave up in their four previous games combined. Will WSU be able to take advantage of the deep pass the same way that UW did? Justin Herbert was erratic and struggled with accuracy, especially on passing downs. Cyrus Habibi-Likio rose up from short-yardage duty to carry the offense for most of the second half. Will Oregon remain committed to the ground game when the Cougars try to pick up the pace? WSU bounced back against Colorado after three bad games in a row. Colorado made it fairly easy for them with three interceptions. Overall, I expect this game to look a lot like WSU’s matchup with Utah-this version of the Cougar offense simply isn’t effective enough to dominant high-quality defenses. Oregon’s offense is finding its form, even if it isn’t the form expected at the start of the year. Who could have imagined a Duck team built on solid run blocking and steady, conservative defense?

Oregon 40 – WSU 24

Picks

USC -13.5

Stan +1

ASU -3.5 (high confidence)

CAL +21.5

ORE -14

Last Week ATS – 2-4

Season ATS – 31-28 (6-3 HC)

Last Week SU – 4-2

Season SU – 41-18