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Picking the Pac: (12 Championship Game)

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Who can resist a meaningless USC-Cal reschedule?

NCAA Football: Oregon at Utah Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

2021 Pac-12 Picks

Week ATS W ATS L ATS P SU W SU L Season to date ATS W ATS L ATS P SU W SU L
Week ATS W ATS L ATS P SU W SU L Season to date ATS W ATS L ATS P SU W SU L
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
Bowls

All Betting Lines provided by DraftKings Sportsbook

USC (+4) @ Cal (Saturday)

Last week, I mentioned that this make-up game had an opportunity to become utterly pointless if both teams lost and ended their chances at bowl eligibility. With USC naming Lincoln Riley head coach, the game somehow got even more pointless. Meanwhile, Cal had a disappointing outing last week against UCLA. They led 14-10 early and then gave up then next 32 points unanswered. Despite a mediocre UCLA defense, they struggled to pass or run. The 2.9 yards per rush was a very poor total for a good running team against a bad run defense. USC has less to play for than their cross-town rivals did a week ago. Reports out of LA this week indicated that players were upset that they had to play this game and upset that interim coach Donte Williams was held in limbo after announcing that Riley would be the next head coach. USC’s defense has struggled more and more as the year has progressed. It’s hard to imagine them turning the tide in a meaningless game with the morale already in a crater.

Cal 35 – USC 28

Oregon (+2.5) vs. Utah (Friday, Las Vegas)

Less than two weeks ago, Utah thumped Oregon 38-7 to functionally end the Ducks’ CFP hopes for this season. The game plan for that match-up was for Utah to plug away on the ground with their more efficient rush offense against an Oregon defensive front that has been vulnerable in that area. The Utes had four scoring drives of at least nine plays. The more surprising development was Oregon’s inability to move the ball against Utah’s defense. One of the bets rush offenses in the country averaged 2.7 yards on 23 carries. The short passing game that Anthony Brown has used to keep defenses honest wasn’t productive either. While the Ducks averaged a respectable 6.6 yards per pass attempt, Brown only completed 17/35 passes, which contributed to three punts and two turnovers on downs. With long drives and lots of running, there were relatively few possessions in the game. Oregon only had eight possessions in the entire game, so two missed FGs and two failed fourth-down conversions proved catastrophic.

Utah outplayed Oregon, but lots of little things went their way to make the game as one-sided as it ended up. In addition to the missed FGs and fourth down failures, Utah returned a punt 78 yards for a TD with no time on the clock at the end of the first half. One thing that will remain consistent in the second rematch will be Utah’s desire to run the ball. The 50/18 run/pass ratio was skewed by the big lead, but expect another heavy workload for Tavion Thomas and TJ Pledger. Cam Rising is an effective passer and moves well when flushed from the pocket which mitigates Oregon’s pass rush to an extent. While the Utes don’t have burners who will outrun the Ducks’ secondary, both Brant Kuithe and Brtiain Covey are effective at getting themselves open in the middle of the field and will help prolong drives. Utah will score points, even if there aren’t as many crazy swings in their favor as there were last time around.

On the other hand, I’m confident that Oregon will have a more productive offensive outing. Brown had a nice bounce-back game in the Civil War (23/28, 275, 2/0, 83 rush yards and a TD). It was his best game of the year, and even if Utah will be less accommodating than the Beaver defense, it makes that clunker look more like a blip on the radar. Travis Dye has been the most consistent offensive player for Oregon and his 99 yards and 2 TDs last week are more in line with his year-long production than what he did last time out. Utah’s defense doesn’t have one great weakness to exploit, so the Ducks can play to their strengths. If they don’t fall behind by three scores again, they can grind out drives behind Dye and Byron Caldwell. It has been a winning formula for most of the year.

Altogether, I like Utah to win a much closer rematch. Oregon’s rush offense and rush defense are probably the best and worst units in this game, respectively. Utah is more balanced, but still very good offensively in both the run and pass games. They will be better at exploiting Oregon’s run defense than Oregon will be at exploiting theirs. It will be another game without many possessions. I suspect that this time, Utah will score on a lower percentage of their drives and Oregon on a higher percentage of theirs. Still, the difference will not be large enough to negate Utah’s balanced offense.

Utah 34 – Oregon 28

Poll

Who will win the Pac-12 Championship Game?

This poll is closed

  • 84%
    Utah
    (423 votes)
  • 15%
    Oregon
    (75 votes)
498 votes total Vote Now