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Picking the Pac: Across the Nation

Two Games: Enough info to be dangerous or enough rope to hang ourselves?

Utah v BYU Photo by Chris Gardner/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

Minnesota (+3) @ Colorado

Miami-Ohio v Minnesota Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

The Buffs nearly beat #5 Texas A&M, but the offensive ineptitude on both sides does not inspire a great deal of faith. Colorado has a legit rush attack with Brendon Lewis, Jarek Broussard, and Alex Fontenot. The Gophers have given up some points, but their weak spot has been through the air. Treyson Potts appears to be a viable alternative to Mo Ibrahim in the run-heavy offense. The game should be close. I’ll go with Minnesota based on Colorado’s lack of a pass attack to date.

Minnesota 24 – Colorado 21

Idaho (+23) @ Oregon State

This line is not high enough. Oregon State proved last week that they’re good enough to wallop a bad team with a 45-27 win over Hawaii. Indiana had no trouble controlling the Vandals on the ground and the Beavers will do the same.

Oregon State 41 – Idaho 13

USC (-8.5) @ Washington State

However this game turns out, we will chalk it up to Clay Helton’s firing. If USC wins big, it will be used as evidence that the team didn’t like Helton and was ready to move on. If they underperform, it will be used as evidence that Helton wasn’t the problem and they have a lot more to fix. Both teams have one good performance and one bad performance so far. USC’s bad performance was worse, so I’ll take the points. What a strange quirk it is that USC will play its second conference game before nine teams have played one.

USC 35 – Washington State 28

Utah (-9) @ San Diego State

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 05 Colorado State at San Diego State Photo by Justin Fine/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Utah suffered a big letdown in the Holy War because the pass attack was anemic and the run defense couldn’t get BYU off the field. The Aztecs will follow a similar strategy. They have played weak competition so far in New Mexico State and Arizona, but the 49.5 rush yards allowed per game stands out as an important stat. I was buying all the shares of Utah I could find a week ago. The BYU loss and this specific stylistic match-up have made me skeptical.

Utah 28 – San Diego State 20

Stony Brook (+42) @ Oregon

I already gave my mea culpa on All We Hear Is Purple this week- not only did I overrate UW going into the year, I underrated Oregon. Even without some key defensive pieces, Oregon looks as well-coached as talented. But still, 42 points? They can have a cakewalk win and Stony Brook can still cover.

Oregon 49 – Stony Brook 9

Stanford (-12) @ Vanderbilt

When Stanford got bludgeoned by Kansas State by three scores on a neutral field, it was inconceivable that they would be favored by double digits on the road against a Power 5 team. Vanderbilt is, technically, a Power 5 team. But Vanderbilt is also very, very bad. They’ve scored 27 points in two games and haven’t cracked 200 rushing yards on the year. I’m highly skeptical of Stanford’s offensive breakout against USC, but even more skeptical that the Commodores can make this game any less easy for the Cardinal than a Sunday morning.

Stanford 30 – Vanderbilt 17

Northern Arizona (+23) @ Arizona

If Arizona is going to win a game this year, this week is certainly their best chance. I thought they could hang with San Diego State’s deliberate offense last week. Instead, they trailed 21-0 less than eight minutes into the game. The Wildcats have done nothing well this year. Fortunately, Northern Arizona isn’t even good by FCS standards (consecutive 25+ point losses to FCS opponents). Even so, no way am I picking Arizona to win by 3+ TDs on the evidence of what they’ve done so far.

Arizona 30 – Northern Arizona 14

Arizona State (-3.5) @ BYU

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 11 UNLV at Arizona State Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

While the Cougars might be moving to the Big 12, they have scheduled like an honorary member of the Pac-12 in 2021. Headed into this showdown with the Sun Devils, they have an eight-point win over Arizona and an incongruous nine-point win over Utah. All three Pac-12 games have been played in Provo. One red flag is that BYU has given up more yards than it has gained so far. Meanwhile, ASU has shown no ill effects of a turbulent off-season and has soundly dispatched two lesser opponents. BYU’s pass defense is weaker than its run defense and ASU prefers to run as much as possible. How well the Sun Devils can block up front will be a decisive factor in the final score.

Arizona State 31 – BYU 27

Sacramento State (+28) @ Cal: California 38 - Sacramento State 13

Fresno State (+11.5) @ UCLA: UCLA 37 - Fresno State 21

Arkansas State (+16.5) @ Washington

When a team underperforms against the spread as severely as UW has over the first two weeks, Vegas has to respond to get action on both sides of the bet. As such, most computer models predict the Huskies to be 18-20 points better than the Red Wolves even though the spread is a few points lower. Of course, those same models predict that that Washington will score 35-40 points, and it’s hard to visualize this offense putting on that performance against anyone, even an opponent that gave up 55 points to Memphis last week.

If there’s a defense that Washington can dominate right now, this should be it. Arkansas State has give up over 1000 yards (including 700 in the air) through two games. If UW is willing to open up the playbook and throw the ball 35+ times, it could be a recipe for success. With Terrell Bynum back in the fold, there’s no need to run the ball straight into unblocked defensive linemen 20 times in the first half.

On the other side of the ball, the Arkansawyer offense is one that UW’s defense is built to stop. They threw the ball 66 times last week. With UW’s excellent cornerbacks, that’s a better match-up than one that wants to bludgeon an underperforming front. I’m still not optimistic about the offense, and I think ASU has enough firepower to score some points, but I feel good enough to predict some baby steps for UW going into conference season.

Washington 30 – Arkansas State 21