Week 12 went according to the script in the Pac. Four out of five home teams won, and the fifth (USC) was a touchdown favorite at Cal. Arizona State continued its descent into mediocrity while Oregon and Utah reminded us why they are the class of the conference with blowout wins that combined to an 83-9 score. Will week 13 have any more surprises in store?
UCLA @ USC, USC -14
USC reversed a trend that was headed in the wrong direction with a dominant win over Cal. After the Trojans looked unconvincing over a 2-1 stretch (narrow wins over Colorado and ASU and a bad loss to Oregon), they needed a bounce-back performance badly. They got just that in the form of 406 passing yards by Kedon Slovis and almost as many TDs (4) as incompletions (6). Meanwhile, Utah made UCLA look like the team we all thought they were earlier in the year with a 49-3 mauling. The Bruins have been outscored by an average of a touchdown per game and have been outgained by almost 50 yards per game, yet remain 4-3 in conference and have a shot to become bowl eligible. The icing on the cake might be the opportunity to end Clay Helton’s tenure at USC here. I don’t expect it will go that way, though. UCLA has a very leaky pass defense. Michael Pittman Jr. and the rest of USC’s excellent receiving corps should have no trouble putting up a big number and UCLA is not built for a shoot-out.
USC 45-UCLA 28
Cal @ Stanford, Stan -3
The other fun rivalry game this week pits more evenly matched teams against each other. Chase Garbers returned for Cal last week but the offensive resurgence did not follow him and he was swiftly reinjured. Likewise, Stanford had a chance to salvage a respectable end to the season in Pullman but their defense caved in again. The Cardinal have scored between 13-23 points in six of their 10 games They have only exceeded 23 against particularly bad defenses and we know Cal is not that. The Stanford QB situation is up in the air, but with Davis Mills coming off a school record for passing yards, it might not matter much. Cal’s offense is almost impossible to predict. Chase Garbers got injured a quarter into his return and Christopher Brown Jr. is also in the concussion protocol. If Devon Modster starts again, Cal will have a tough time. Stanford’s defensive weakness has been against the pass, and Cal’s passing game has been very bad lately.
Stanford 21 – Cal 17
Oregon @ Arizona St., Oregon -14
ASU’s losing streak reached four with their loss to Oregon State last week- the Beavers’ first home conference win since 2016. The defense that kept the Devils in games earlier in the year has given up 42, 31, and 35 points the last three weeks. The ball-control offense built around Eno Benjamin can’t withstand those sorts of onslaughts. Oregon, meanwhile, restored their defensive dominance from earlier in the season against an Arizona team that has at least scored points in most of their big losses. The Duck offense has found a good balance between the run and pass and the synergy has unleashed a very productive version of Justin Herbert. Juwan Johnson has strengthened a thin group of receivers since his debut against Colorado. He has put up 299 yards and 4 TDs in four games.
Oregon 35 – ASU 17
Oregon State @ Washington State, WSU -11.5
It took a 520 yard, 5 TD performance by Anthony Gordon, but the Cougs got the win they needed against Stanford. It left both teams at 5-5 and playing for bowl eligibility before more challenging season finales. Aside from the Beavers’ bizarre 19-7 loss to Washington, both teams have scored and given up big point totals week in and week out. In fact, the 76.5 projected point total is the highest on this weekend’s college football board by 5.5 points. As explosive as Gordon has been all year, the combination of Jake Luton and Isaiah Hodgins can score points with the best of them. With Jermar Jefferson and Artavis Pierce both healthy, the Beaver running attack stacks up well against Max Borghi. Ultimately, the Cougars have more experience winning shoot-outs, but OSU should be able to keep it competitive longer than Stanford did last week.
WSU 41 – OSU 34
Utah @ Arizona, Utah -22.5
The Huskies made Utah’s defense look mortal for about a quarter and a half. Other than that brief intermission, the Utes have stomped on every opposing offense since the USC game. Arizona lost 34-6 in Eugene last weekend, and while it will help them to be back home, I think Utah is an even better squad than Oregon. Tyler Huntley tallied an obscene 335 passing yards on 18 attempts against UCLA. The Utes were mostly content to dominate on the ground, with 38 carries for 201 yards and 4 TDs. Perhaps there’s some way Grant Gunnell can get the Wildcat passing game going, but Utah’s run defense is so stout, it’s hard to see Arizona making hay with their preferred ground attack.
Utah 41 – Arizona 10
Washington @ Colorado, UW -14.5
For the first time all year, six Pac teams play the other six Pac teams. The Huskies have the dubious honor of being the nightcap for that full schedule in Boulder. While Colorado showed signs of life early in the year, their season went by the wayside with a faltering offense over five straight losses. Interestingly, it’s Colorado’s defense that stands out statistically, and not in a good way. At 8.7 yards per attempt and 25 TDs allowed, the Buffs’ pass defense betters only UCLA’s in the Pac. Likewise, their 4.8 yards per rush is better than only WSU. Their 24.7 offensive points per game are third worst in the conference, and they have only exceeded 16 points in one of their last five games.
Individually, Colorado has talent on the offensive side of the ball. Steven Montez is a boom-or-bust QB who can single-handedly win or keep them in games (like ASU and USC) or take them out with multiple interceptions (like Oregon and WSU). Alex Fontenot is a solid lead runner but the team’s overall running attack has been very average. Troy Brown and Laviska Shenault Jr. are a tough receiving combo. Altogether, the UW secondary and emerging pass rush should give Montez enough trouble to force him into mistakes and keep the Colorado offense from breaking out of its funk.
On the other side of the ball, the Husky offense will have to remain disciplined to take advantage of Colorado’s weaknesses. The statistical markers are all positive. UW doubled-down on the rushing attack late against Oregon State and Salvon Ahmed should be vital in this one, as well. Jacob Eason should be able to work in play action or with a relatively clean pocket (Colorado has the second-fewest sacks in the conference). The offense does not have to explode to win this game, so the play-calling can focus on doing the things they do well.
UW 31 – Colorado 14
Oregon -14 (high confidence)
Last week ATS: 3-2
Season ATS: 38-39 (6-5 HC)
Last week SU: 4-1
Season SU: 55-22