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Picking the Pac: Invasion of the Road Favorites

Ducks come to Montlake as favs, but they’re not alone

Washington v Stanford Photo by David Madison/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

Friday Game

Utah (-9) @ Stanford

Utah’s weird yo-yo effect (great against ASU, struggled against OSU, dominated UCLA) is a bit puzzling. One thing that’s clear is that the Ute offense has rounded into form with 34+ points in four consecutive games. Conversely, Stanford has become wholly reliant on Tanner McKee’s arm to move the ball and UW showed how poor their offense looks when air yards are hard to come by. Utah’s pass defense has been good, but not great. Utah will be happy to ride Tavion Thomas and a group of strong runners against a bad Cardinal run defense. The nine-point spread for a road favorite gives me pause, but it’s just too hard to see a path to Utah scoring enough to keep it close.

Utah 31 – Stanford 21

Saturday Games

Cal (-12) @ Arizona

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 25 Cal at Washington Photo by Jeff Halstead/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

What are you, Cal? After a miserable start, the Bears have rounded into form with dominant wins against Colorado and Oregon State. In retrospect, the loss to Washington State looks less bad, though the six total points are still a black eye. Altogether, Cal now looks like the average-ish team we expected them to be- pretty good on the ground, passable through the air, and middle of the pack defensively. Arizona scored thrice in the fourth quarter to make its loss to USC looks closer than it was. Even so, the Wildcats have made some progress. I don’t think the first win comes this week.

Cal 35 – Arizona 21

Oregon State (-10.5) @ Colorado

The good vibes in Corvallis have dissipated a bit with losses on the road against Washington State and Cal over their last three games. Meanwhile, you can’t say the wheels came off Colorado’s season because the wheels were never really on, with the arguable exception of a dominant win over an FCS-caliber Arizona team. The Buffs bizarrely scored 29 points in Eugene last week, which was one of the more least expected point totals of the year. The Beavs were -4 in turnover differential in their two recent losses, which has proven to be the best way to slow down their potent offense. Colorado has forced fewer than one turnover per game. Oregon State’s defense is just average, but the Buffs have a tendency to make average defenses look good. Nonetheless, I’m not going to ignore the fact that OSU has been notably better at home of late.

Oregon State 31 – Colorado 21

USC (+8.5) @ Arizona State

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 02 Southern Utah at Arizona State Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Remember when USC was considered the favorite in the Pac-12 South? With four lopsided losses in eight games, their underachievement is comparable to UW’s. Now, they have lost Drake London to a leg injury, which robs them of one of their two offensive powerhouses (RB Keaontay Ingram being the other). ASU is a game ahead of the Trojans, but has had some downers, as well. Consecutive losses to Utah and WSU have taken them out of the divisional driver’s seat. It will be interesting to see whether Jayden Daniels airs it out earlier in this one because USC’s pass defense has been a sore spot. ASU typically likes to run to set up an efficient pass game. USC’s worst performances have come against teams with a pass defense that can handle the air raid, and ASU’s has been very good in that category. The spread makes me uncomfortable, but I see the Devils pulling it out.

ASU 35 – USC 25

Oregon (-7) @ Washington

We all circled this game on the calendar coming into the year. The early schedule looked favorable and it wasn’t hard to imagine UW entering at 6-2 or 7-1 with a pristine conference record. Of course, the season started about as badly as possible and it has taken UW snatching victory from the jaws of defeat against consecutive lowly opponents to get back to .500.

Colorado v Oregon Photo by Tom Hauck/Getty Images

The Ducks’ offense has rounded into form. The rush offense, led by Travis Dye, has been elite and a foundation for a very good team. Spreading the field and running through the middle has kept them ahead of the chains and allowed them to piece together the sort of long drives that have broken the Huskies’ will multiple times this year. The Huskies have struggled mightily against the run for most of the year. Unless the impressive outings by Carson Bruner, Voi Tunuufi, and Dominique Hampton against Stanford can carry over to a vastly superior opponent, that particular match-up looks like trouble.

The other side of the equation is that Oregon has not been as impressive as its seven wins and victory over Ohio State would imply. Several lesser opponents have tested the Ducks with success in the passing game. UW has shown the ability, albeit inconsistent, to pile up chunks of yardage through the air to talented receivers like Jalen McMillan, Rome Odunze, and Cade Otton. Early in the season, the inhibiting factor was an offensive line that couldn’t give Dylan Morris enough time. Lately, Morris has been seeing ghosts and missing on plays he should make. If we get 60 minutes of the good version of Dylan Morris, the Dawgs can stay in this game. Suffice to say, his recent performances do not give me a high degree of confidence.

Oregon 30 – Washington 24