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Picking the Pac: Just Deserts

Pac teams look in the mirror for week seven games

UCLA v Washington Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

2021 Pac-12 Picks

0 1 0 1 0 48 43 0 63 28
1 4 8 8 4
2 4 6 6 4
3 7 4 7 4
4 3 3 5 1
5 3 2 3 2
6 3 1 3 1
7 3 2 4 1
8 4 2 3 3
9 2 4 3 3
10 3 2 3 2
11 2 3 5 0
12 5 1 4 2
13 2 5 6 1
14 2 0 2 0
15 0 0 0 0

All lines from DraftKings Sportsbook

Friday Game

Washington (-18) @ Arizona

Coming into the year, I expected Arizona’s 2021 to look a little like UW’s 2009. The previous season was such a catastrophic combination of bad coaching, bad play, and bad luck, that the program was unlikely to replicate such depths of performance. So far, Jedd Fisch’s first season at the helm for UA has somehow been just as bad as Kevin Sumlin’s final one. Arizona has had bad luck (they’re down to their third-string QB and a couple of walk-ons) and has played badly, too. I don’t think it changes the program’s long-term outlook much. Fisch will be selling the future to recruits, and there’s plenty of early playing time to go around.

Arizona v Colorado Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

The Husky defense has had enormous trouble getting opposing offenses off the field. The strategy of limiting big plays and forcing opponents to stay ahead of the chains for long drives has backfired; opposing offenses have too often strung together 10+ play TD drives and kept the Husky offense off the field for key stretches. Arizona’s run offense has shown no proclivity to dominate the way Michigan, Oregon State, and UCLA have against the Dawgs. In fact, they run and pass at an efficiency that’s well below-average, made worse by the fact that they don’t take care of the ball.

We have heard whispers that changes are coming for the Washington offense. It’s unclear whether those changes have to do with the play-calling, the play-caller, or the personnel. Assuming the offense looks something like what we have seen to date, I would expect the Dawgs to score in the mid-30s against a poor Wildcat defense. Arizona hasn’t done well against the run or the pass. UW has had more success in the air. Dylan Morris has been erratic under pressure, but decent with time to throw. He should have a somewhat clean pocket on Friday. With a healthy group of pass-catchers, I’d like to see more of the mentality of spreading the ball to multiple play-makers that got traction early against UCLA. A three-score spread for this UW team makes me queasy, but the Dawgs should be able to win comfortably.

Washington 34 – Arizona 17

Saturday Games

Oregon (+2) @ UCLA

With the spiritual lineage of Chip Kelly still present in Oregon’s offensive philosophy, it’s appropriate that these teams would have a lot in common. Both use a dynamic run game to set up a dangerous outside pass attack. Both defend the run very well. Both pulled off a key non-conference win over a blue-blood opponent, but have wobbled a bit in conference play. The biggest difference is that UCLA is willing to take more chances behind Dorian Thompson-Robinson and Oregon has used Anthony Brown as a conservative game manager. Not much separates these teams and the line is in the right place. I’ll err on the side of the home team.

UCLA 31 – Oregon 28

Colorado (+8) @ Cal

Arizona v Colorado Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Both teams must feel like they made progress last week. Colorado got its first win over an FBS team (sort of) by walloping Arizona 34-0. Cal still hasn’t beaten an FCS team, but Oregon needed a red-zone stop in the dying moments to hold off Cal. The match-up favors Cal because Colorado has been unable to throw against competent opposition and Cal defends the run very well. Don’t expect a lot of scoring, but the Bears should be able to do enough to get the win.

Cal 24 – Colorado 14

BYU (-4.5) @ Washington State

COUGARBOWL 2021! WSU has won three straight and BYU has lost two in a row. The recent trends would point to a WSU pick, but how much does their coaching turmoil matter? The team has played under a cloud for most of the season. Does anything change now that Nick Rolovich’s situation has come to its conclusion? I’m going to pick the upset based on Jayden de Laura’s return to form and my own inability to know what the team’s collective mindset will be.

Washington State 33 – BYU 30

USC (+6.5) @ Notre Dame

Notre Dame v Virginia Tech Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

The Trojans have already lost by multiple scores to Stanford, Oregon State, and Utah this year. Keeping the spread within a touchdown must be a tip of the cap to the rivalry nature of the match-up. To be fair, Notre Dame has had some unnecessarily close calls against he likes of Toledo and Virginia Tech. Nonetheless, the Irish defense is very good and I have little faith in USC’s ability to do much against decent opposition.

Notre Dame 31 – USC 21

Utah (-3) @ Oregon State

Let’s call this one the battle of the pleasant surprises. The Utes have surged with wins over WSU, USC, and ASU after a rough start. Oregon State’s four-game win streak ended with a tough loss in Pullman, but the Beavers had the bye week to regroup. If OSU is going to stay in the Pac-12 North race, this game will be an important opportunity to reestablish momentum. Unfortunately, I don’t like the match-up of B.J. Baylor and the run-heavy offense against a stout Utah defense front. Cam Rising has won me over and his dynamic dual-thread ability gives the Utah offense the explosive dimension it needed.

Utah 35 – Oregon State 28