clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Picking the Pac Week 6: This Indecision’s Killing Me

Cancelations Interfere with Rivalry Week

UCLA v. USC Photo by Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images

2020 Pac-12 Picks

1 3 1 0 2 2 19 13 0 21 11
2 2 3 0 3 2
3 1 3 0 3 1
4 3 2 0 4 1
5 4 2 0 3 3
6 4 0 0 4 0
7 2 2 0 2 2

Arizona State (-11) @ Arizona

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 05 UCLA at Arizona State Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Circumstances be damned, it’s very weird to see a Territorial Cup between two winless teams. The question is how to contextualize the Sun Devils’ two losses. They outplayed USC before snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. A month later, they looked rusty and ineffective against a surging UCLA team. ASU should benefit from something resembling a normal week of preparation. Picking against Arizona State would mean picking the Wildcats, which is a tough sell. Colorado ran them into the ground last week and ASU might have an even better rushing attack. With Grant Gunnell’s status still uncertain, it’s hard to back Arizona.

(Sidenote: Between ASU’s glorious ‘70s throwbacks last week and the USC/UCLA home v. home uniform matchup, the last couple weeks have been a veritable feast for our eyes. Well done, Pac-12 uniform gods).

Arizona State 30 – Arizona 17

Utah @ Colorado (-2)

The late-arriving Pac-12 members become rivals by default, much like the Mariners and their bitter regional rival, the San Diego Padres. While the record might not show it, Utah should give the undefeated Buffaloes their toughest test so far. Utah’s stingy run defense won’t allow Jerek Broussard to rush for anything close to the 300 yards he piled up against Arizona. Against Oregon State last week, the Utes kept the ball on the ground with their own standout runner, Ty Jordan, and it helped prevent the turnovers that cost them in their first two games. Colorado’s defense has improved through the season, but Utah is better than San Diego State or Arizona. Even if Utah doesn’t go crazy offensively, the steady ground game will produce enough to force Sam Noyer to make more plays than he has the last few weeks.

Utah 27 – Colorado 24

USC (-2.5) @ UCLA

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

This line indicates that Vegas is buying the improved run of form by the Burins. Chip Kelly has led them to three wins in four games and the fourth was a narrow loss to Oregon. The big step forward has come on the defensive side of the ball, where UCLA has allowed 10, 10, and 18 in the three wins. A newfound ability to force turnovers has fueled that defensive improvement. Meanwhile, the Trojans have also rounded into form after a pair of wobbly performances to open the season. Kedon Slovis appears to have cleaned up the mechanical issues that led to his own wobblers in those early games. Amon-Ra St. Brown and the elite receiving corps have helped him turn the Trojan Air Raid into a lethally efficient offense. Altogether, I’m buying UCLA’s growth, but I’m not sleeping on USC’s development, either.

USC 35 – UCLA 30

Stanford (-3) @ Oregon State

Yet again, Stanford’s extreme pro style offense gave UW’s extreme spread-stopping defense fits with size and power up front. Oregon State scored a pair of late touchdowns to make its loss to Utah look respectable, but the Beavers were mostly dominated without Tristan Gebbia (out for the season) and Jermar Jefferson (back this week). The game might turn on whether Oregon State can get Jefferson in space outside the tackles or struggles with the defensive interior like the Dawgs did. Another crucial element will be whether Davis Mills can replicate the precision and efficiency that kept his offense on the field on so many third downs against UW. These teams look quite evenly matched, which means turnovers will matter a great deal. I’ll take the veteran Mills over OSU fill-in Chance Nolan.

Stanford 27 – OSU 23

Cal (-2.5) @ Washington State

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 06 Washington State at USC Photo by John Cordes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This line smacks of an overreaction to a single week. Cal got the win against Oregon, but it required a lot of things to break in its favor. The Bears were outgained by 100 yards, but benefited from the Ducks’ fumbling problems. The Cougars looked rusty after two weeks off. USC passed on the young WSU secondary at will and Jayden de Laura suffered through the worst game of his career. Cal’s offense doesn’t remotely resemble the USC Air Raid and there should be room for Deon McIntosh to capitalize on the “run” part of Run and Shoot.

WSU 33 – Cal 28

UW @ Oregon (-6)

As I make my picks, it looks very unlikely that this game will take place. Even if it does, UW will have missed multiple days of practice and will be without however many players have tested positive for Covid. If the game somehow happens, Oregon will have a big advantage and should win fairly easily. Even if the teams met at full strength, I would have concerns about UW’s ability to stop the three-headed running monster in the Ducks’ backfield. UW is better equipped strategically to handle the mental challenges of the spread than the sheer physical problems Stanford posed. Nonetheless, the Dawgs’ interior defensive line has not impressed all year and would likely struggle to get the kind of penetration that disrupts a spread option-based offense.

Conversely, my faith in Dylan Morris has grown as the year has progressed and the coaches have gradually rolled out a more diverse, unpredictable offense. Oregon’s defense has underachieved all year and UW’s offense has shown more and more explosiveness when pressed. There’s a recipe for a full-strength UW team to win this game- force Tyler Shough into a turnover deficit, pressure the defense early with the intermediate passes to Cade Otton and Puka Nacua that have opened up the offense, and finish drives with TDs. With a depleted roster, the margins are too thin.

Full strength: Oregon 31 – UW 24

UW skeleton squad: Oregon 38 – UW 20