The standout events from last week included the top two teams in the conference going on the road as favorites and covering the spread against tricky opponents. While Utah’s one-score win over UW just barely beat the spread, Oregon throttled USC and asserted themselves as a legitimate contender for the CFP. Will this week see more favorites dominating lesser teams, or will it be a return to form for the underdogs?
Washington @ Oregon St (Friday night), UW -10
Friday night games are always difficult to pick. I don’t think the inherently favor favorites or underdogs, nor is there an obvious advantage for the home or road team. The short week simply introduces another variable that can bring more entropy into a game that’s already difficult to predict.
One thing we can say with confidence is that OSU’s defense is not strong. They have shown flashes in run defense and pass defense at times, but rarely against good opponents and never at the same time. Most recently, they have put up respectable numbers against the run versus Arizona and Cal, but the Cats still scored 38 and Cal’s offense has gone completely off track without Chase Garbers. As feeble as the Beaver defense has been, their offense has been nearly as good. Their two talented running backs have them 2nd in the conference in yards per rush, and while they are only 8th in yards per pass attempt, Jake Luton has led them to a 21/2 TD/INT ratio. They can score in multiple ways.
Interestingly, the recent matchups have seen the Huskies put up points against elite defenses, but give too many back on the other end. The Beavers present the opposite problem. Jacob Eason has struggled under pressure, but should have more time against OSU than he did against either Oregon or Utah. Likewise, the emerging young receiving corps should have more room to operate, and Salvon Ahmed should get more than 14 touches in a game that should be more manageable from a coaching standpoint. Losing by four and five to top-10 teams doesn’t mean the Huskies are bad. I am much more concerned about this game than I was at the start of the year, but it should ultimately be a chance for the Dawgs to get right.
UW 38 – OSU 27
Stanford @ Colorado, Stanford -3
Last week, I vacillated between picking Colorado or UCLA on the basis that it was hard to tell if Colorado was still engaged and motivated for the rest of the season. Their three-score loss to the improving Bruins made me believe that they do not have great things in store the rest of the way. The Buffs have now lost five in a row and have given up 30+ points in each of those games. The only saving grace is that they kept it relatively close in their two home games during the skid. Stanford, meanwhile, has a few important factors in their favor. The offense looked much better last time out with K.J. Costello back in the lineup. They also come off their bye, which is of even more importance to a team that has suffered through so many injuries this year. Overall, Stanford has been respectable when they haven’t had to drop down to the bottom of their QB and OL depth charts. They have won three of four and can still make a bowl game, especially if they pull out this win.
Stanford 34 – Colorado 24
USC @ ASU, ASU -2
This line has moved four points in favor of the Sun Devils since it opened at USC -2. Some of that has to do with USC losing badly to Oregon at home. Kedon Slovis struggled with the very good Duck defense and his turnovers let the game get out of hand quickly. It’s still hard to get a handle on this USC team. Both their offense and defense can range from very good to very bad in a given week. Defensively, they have been especially susceptible to QBs who can make big plays with their arms. Fortunately for the Trojans, Jayden Daniels does not appear ready to be that player yet for ASU. As the season goes on, ASU’s resume looks weaker and weaker. Their quality wins look less impressive as those teams- Michigan State, Cal, Washington State- continue to struggle. Eno Benjamin deserves credit as a workhorse and the defense should keep them in games, but they no longer look as tough as they did when they worked their way into the top 20.
USC 27 – ASU 24
Washington State @ California, WSU -7.5
It’s a shame that Cal’s promising season has gone down the drains due to a single injury. Stephen Brash is the latest to try his hand at QB for the Bears and the results were no better for him than they were for Devon Modster. Cal’s offense hasn’t scored more than 17 points in a game since Garbers went down, so even with solid work from Christopher Brown, it will be hard to hang with the Cougs. For their part, WSU comes out of their bye week off a near miss against Oregon. They have still lost four of five, but the competition has been pretty tough and Anthony Gordon, Max Borghi, and the rest of the offense have produced against everyone but Utah. If you’re picking Cal in this game, you’re saying WSU will score 24 or less, or Cal will exceed 17 for the first time without Garbers. Neither one sounds overly promising.
WSU 31 – Cal 21
WSU -7.5 (high confidence)
Last Week ATS: 1-3
Season ATS: 33-35 (6-4 HC)
Last Week SU: 4-0
Season SU: 49-19