After a couple lighter weeks on the Pac-12 schedule, ten of the conferences twelve teams will match up this week. Only the Huskies and Colorado, who will square off next week, have a bye. While the conference has seemingly started to align in defined tiers, a handful of eyebrow-raising results persist. For example, Cal went back to Devon Modster at QB and nearly doubled their single-game scoring output since Chase Garbers has been out. With five games on the slate, we’re bound to see something weird happen again.
Stanford @ Washington State, WSU -10.5
A double-digit spread seems a little nutty for a WSU team that has lost four of five and has given up at least 33 points in each of those losses. Of course, their only win during that stretch was a whooping of Colorado- the same team that beat Stanford last week. Despite these struggles, most advanced stat engines are still relatively high on WSU due to their penchant to win big when things click. For their part, Stanford could have beaten Colorado- they led in the fourth quarter, out-gained the Buffs, and had a neutral turnover differential. The offense played better with K.J. Costello back in the lineup, but struggled with the finishing quality to put points on the board. Over the last few years, the Cougs have won three straight against the Cardinal, though two of them were very close. My bigger question is about WSU’s motivation. Was the last minute loss to Oregon their last gasp for the year? Their awful defense and 10 penalties against Cal indicate that focus might be an issue, especially with the coach linked to every vacancy that arises. I think WSU ultimately gets it done, but it will be closer than expected since even Stanford’s moribund offense has put up points against the dregs of the Pac defenses.
WSU 41 – Stan 34
Arizona State @ Oregon State, ASU -2.5
At 5-1 and ranked in the top 20, ASU looked like a genuine contender for the conference title. They have lost three in a row since, but it would be hard to call it a tailspin. Utah held them to three points, but they lost competitive games at UCLA and to USC at home. Meanwhile, the Beavers have been on a steadily upward trajectory. If you believe SP+ that the Huskies are a little better than their record, then keeping it close is another step in the right direction (albeit one with less offensive fireworks). Jayden Daniels appears likely to return for the Sun Devils, but he might not represent that much of an upgrade over what they got out of backup Joey Yellen last week. Neither Eno Benjamin not Jermar Jefferson played very well last time out. The team that gets its star running back producing will have the inside track to winning here. Worth noting- ASU is 0-4 ATS this year as a favorite, and now they have to attempt to break that streak on the road.
OSU 27 – ASU 24
UCLA @ Utah, Utah -21
The Utes have been favored in every game this year and are 6-3 ATS, including winning their last five straight. UCLA have somehow won three in a row by double figures. Dorian Thompson-Robinson has rewarded Chip Kelly’s patience with perfectly acceptable QB play and Joshua Kelley has become a bell-cow running back. While their improved offense has come against passable defenses, they haven’t had to match up with anyone quite like the Utes. UW and Utah are the only two teams who have had any luck scoring against Utah and both did it with the passing game. UCLA doesn’t offer the same sort of aerial attack. Tyler Huntley has largely emerged into a very good offensive leader. This game won’t be another 30+ point output for the Bruins. The only question is whether Utah will score enough to cover this gigantic line. I’m backing Utah until they cool off.
Utah 41 – UCLA 17
Arizona @ Oregon, Oregon -27
The challenge for odds-makers is to push this line far enough to convince some bettors to put money on the Wildcats. The line opened at 25.5 and has consistently moved toward the Ducks. It might go even further before game day. There’s a simple explanation for the giant spread. Both teams are coming off a bye, and last time we saw them, the Ducks scored 56 (@ USC) and the Cats gave up 56 (vs. Oregon State). Oregon has not been one of those highly ranked teams who put a team away early and take their foot off the pedal. They beat Nevada by 71, Colorado by 42, and USC by 32. Arizona has had some big offensive outputs, but they have been held under 30 in a majority of their games and are only 2-7 ATS (or 2-6-1 depending on where you bet the Colorado game). Justin Herbert played an efficient game against USC and Oregon’s running back committee has settled into a productive groove. Even though Oregon’s defense has come back to Earth against better opponents recently, the overall trend points to a big Oregon win.
Oregon 48 – Arizona 20
USC @ California, USC -6.5
Cal’s long offensive nightmare might be over. They scored 33 points last week after scoring 17 or fewer in every game since the Chase Garbers injury, and Garbers was cleared to play as of Monday. Even with barely any help from the offense, Cal’s defense stayed very tough against everyone but Utah. Garbers should allow them to restore their preferred ball control approach and their excellent secondary is one of the few in the conference that can create problems for USC’s outstanding receivers. Kedon Slovis has been turnover-prone since his return from injury (5 INTs in his last 3 games). That type of carelessness could create real problems in what should be a lower scoring game. Moreover, teams have had success running the ball against the Trojans, so Christopher Brown should help extend drives. As you would expect from a low-scoring team, Cal hasn’t done well as a favorite, but they are 4-1 ATS as an underdog. I’m going out on a limb and picking them to do the same here.
Cal 24 – USC 21
Last week ATS- 2-2 (0-1 High Confidence)
Season ATS- 35-37 (6-5 HC)
Last week SU- 2-2
Season SU- 51-21