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Picking the Pac: Dawgs on the Farm

UCLA faces Utah in Pac-12 Game of the Week

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 22 Washington at Arizona Photo by Christopher Hook/Icon Sportswire via 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 Betting Lines provided by DraftKings Sportsbook

Washington State (+16.5) @ Arizona State

No Friday games. No non-conference games. It’s the purest a Pac-12 schedule can be these days with six conference games running for about twelve straight hours from noon to midnight pacific. The first game looks like a bit of a mismatch on paper. The Cougs have improved through the year with better QB play from Jayden de Laura and a defense that has gone from atrocious to average. They lost last week to BYU but covered the 4.5 point spread, so you can fit that result to any Nick Rolovich narrative you choose. ASU led Utah 21-7 at halftime with control of the conference firmly in grasp, then gave up four straight TDs in a miserable second half. I like ASU to be able to run the ball enough to control the game, but the Cougar defense should keep it within the generous spread.

ASU 30 – WSU 17

Colorado (+24) @ Oregon

Oregon v Stanford

Oregon doesn’t usually beat teams by 3+ TDs, but Colorado absolutely loses by that amount. Of their five losses, four have been by at least 22 points. Other than the blip on the radar against very bad Arizona, Colorado has been completely inept offensively. Oregon’s defense is solid against the run and the pass and excels at taking the ball away. It’s hard to imagine Colorado cracking 20 points and they could easily finish in single-digits. The question is whether Oregon has the firepower to dominate in a game that will be played at a slower pace. I’m going to take Colorado to narrowly cover, but it won’t be much of a game.

Oregon 35 – Colorado 13

Oregon State (-1.5) @ California

We know that the Beavers run the ball extremely well, which has set up a better pass attack than was projected. Cal’s defense has rounded into form despite mixed results. Cal will rely on their own rush attack, led by Damien Moore and the mobile Chase Garbers, against an Oregon State defense that isn’t on the level of the offensive attack. In the big picture, both offenses should have a minor advantage over the defense. Cal’s homefield advantage at least partially negates Oregon State’s better resume. The game could come down to turnovers (OSU has given and taken more this year) and explosive plays. I’ll take my chances with the Beavers getting the big plays when they need them.

Oregon State 27 – Cal 23

Arizona (+21) @ USC

There can’t be too many 21-point favorites coming off three losses in four games, but playing this Arizona team will do that for you. The Wildcats won’t push the Trojans the same way they did UW last week. It won’t take a full half of football for USC’s coaches to recognize that Arizona has one of the worst pass defenses in the country. USC has its own secondary problems, but Arizona is not equipped to take advantage with Will Plummer running the show.

USC 41 – Arizona 17

UCLA (+6.5) @ Utah

Washington State v Utah Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images

The Utes are the latest team to enter and then exit the revolving door near the top of the Pac-12 power rankings. Cam Rising looked so good against USC and ASU, but the defense surprisingly wilted against Oregon State’s running game. The Bruins also prefer to run, but the spread attack looks very different from the Beavers’ pro style. UCLA’s defensive weakness has been against the pass. While Utah is competent through the air, they’d prefer to run the ball. Those match-ups should keep this game close. I’m picking Utah at home, but it should be highly competitive and could break either way at the end.

Utah 30 – UCLA 27

Washington (DraftKings Line +2) at Stanford

Earlier this week, I rhetorically asked our Slack group how badly UW had underperformed against Stanford in recent history. Max pulled some numbers for me on the actual game result against the Vegas spread. In 2020, UW underperformed the spread by 16.5 points (favored by 11.5, lost by 5). In 2019, it was 23.5; 2018, 6; 2017, 16. On average, UW has performed 15.5 points worse than the spread has anticipated against Stanford in that timeframe. A big part of the gap is stylistic- UW plays a smaller, faster defense designed to stop spread offenses. Stanford plays a bigger, stronger style that is less fashionable but tends to bludgeon our defense. Even before it was fashionable for running backs to gash the Dawgs for 5+ yards per carry, Stanford was blazing that trail.

Oregon v Stanford Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

There are a few reasons to see this game a little differently. Stanford has been a bad run offense (3.5 yards/rush) and a bad run defense (5.0 yards/rush). The days of the bruising, physical Cardinal are more legend than reality at this point. When Stanford has played well, it has been Tanner McKee’s passing prowess that has carried the offense. The defense has generally struggled against whatever the opponent likes to do best. The path for UW to win is for the defensive front to play its best game of the year and allow the secondary to excel against McKee while Dylan Morris plays a full game that looks like the second half against Arizona. Given the historical underperformance, I’m not going to bet on this game being the one where the Dawgs turn it all around this year.

Stanford 28 – Washington 20