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Picking the Pac Week 2: Beaver Week!

Plus, Trojans and Ducks look to build on week one wins

Washington v Oregon State Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

2020 Pac-12 Picks

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7 2 2 0 2 2

­­­­USC (-14) @ Arizona

Did a light go on for the Trojans in the last few minutes of their win over Arizona State, or did they have a few breaks go their way at just the right time? Remember, USC faced 4th and 13 at ASU’s 26 with 3:05 remaining, down 27-13. On the other hand, Arizona does not offer the same challenges their in-state rivals presented at the Coliseum. Jayden Daniels controlled the game with his legs because USC consistently played zone defense. On the other side, the Sun Devil defense tackled very well to keep the air raid gains small. Grant Gunnell does not have the same mobility, and the Cats’ defense does not have the skill level or experience of ASU’s defense.

USC 42 – Arizona 21

Colorado @ Stanford (-7)

UCLA v Colorado Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Stanford’s offense struggled against Oregon, due in part to Davis Mills and Connor Wedington missing the game due to Covid contact tracing. Neither has been ruled eligible to play on Saturday, but since they haven’t been ruled out, I am assuming the will play. Colorado and UCLA broke the 1000 yards of total offense barrier, which probably has more to do with poor defense than tremendous offense. Colorado’s offense appears to be above average and Stanford’s defense looked problematic, albeit against a very talented Duck offense. That match-up should be enough to keep the game close, but perhaps not enough to swing the result.

Stanford 35 – Colorado 31

Oregon (-10) @ Washington State

While Jayden De Laura had some notable bright spots in his first college game for WSU, Deon McIntosh’s ability to gash OSU’s defense was the biggest factor in the Cougs’ week one win. He will have a much more difficult time finding that space in the middle of Oregon’s defense, and a veteran Oregon secondary will have an easier time punishing any De Laura mistakes. Tyler Shough looked competent enough to get the ball to Oregon’s offensive playmakers and WSU’s defense did not inspire.

Oregon 38 – WSU 24

California @ Arizona State (-4)

Arizona State v USC Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

This game appears to be in serious jeopardy due to the same Berkeley contact tracing rules that wiped out the Cal-UW game last week. If they do play, the Bears will have to cope with a solid Sun Devil run game led by the aforementioned Daniels. The Cal defense remains a perplexing question with good coaching and talent but hefty roster turnover. It should be a defensive struggle, but the game under ASU’s belt puts them slightly ahead in precision execution.

Arizona State 24 – Cal 17

Utah (-3) @ UCLA

Like Cal, Utah has faces the uphill battle of replacing a big portion of a terrific defense. UCLA isn’t the biggest challenge in the conference, but they will test an inexperienced defense with Dorian Thompson-Robinson’s dual-threat capabilities. One persistent theme has been UCLA’s moribund defense during Chip Kelly’s tenure and before. Utah will introduce a new QB and RB and the Bruins should be a welcoming adversary. There’s room for variability given Utah’s unknowns, but based on the available information, they look like the better bet.

Utah 33 – UCLA 24

Oregon State @ Washington (-14)

While Oregon State didn’t face-plant in their opening loss to WSU, very little from that game would give anyone reason to believe they will upset the Huskies. Offensively, Triston Gebbia executed Jonathan Smith’s gameplan to take what the defense gave him. It resulted in a high completion percentage on short throws, very few explosive plays, and a razor-thin margin for error. Jermar Jefferson is a talented running back and the Dawg defense will have to keep him boxed in to harness the Beavers’ most dangerous big-play threat. As Husky fans know very well, Smith’s offense relies on movement and deception. UW’s talent and experience in the secondary should help negate that advantage, and the play-making ability may punish Gebbia’s middling arm strength. UW annihilated OSU’s offense in last season’s match-up and it’s hard to find new reasons for Beaver optimism.

Hawaii v Washington Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Perhaps the more intriguing match-up will be UW’s new-look offense against OSU’s defense. We still don’t know who will line up under center for the Dawgs. Given the large gaps in the middle of the OSU defense last week, the running game might end up meaning more than the passing game. Deon McIntosh’s power running between the tackles was an almost unstoppable weapon for WSU. Richard Newton and nominal starter Kamari Pleasant both have the size and physicality to replicate McIntosh’s success. If OSU brings safety help into the box, it will present one-on-one matchups for a more physically imposing receiver corps. Puka Nacua and Ty Jones, in particular, should be able to win against man coverage and make some big plays. If Jacob Sirmon starts at QB, a steady run game and some play-action shots down field should be a dangerous combination. It might not be the sexiest way for John Donovan to debut a new offense, but I’ll take effectiveness over style every time.

Washington 38 – Oregon State 21

Update: Due to cancelations and rescheduling, Cal will play UCLA on Sunday. Cal is favored by 2.5. My game prediction is Cal 31 - UCLA 27.