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Picking the Pac: Coming Home

Familiar Friends Face Off as Conference Season Commences

Stanford v California Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/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

Washington State (+15) @ Utah

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 18 Utah at San Diego State Photo by John Cordes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This line is about where it would’ve been at the start of the season even though both teams have disappointed so far. Utah’s offense showed signs of life when Cam Rising replaced the now-departed Charlie Brewer. The Cougs were non-competitive with a USC team in tumult. Utah’s pass defense has been very good so far, albeit against teams who want to run first. If they keep Wazzu in the vicinity of 20 points, they should come away with a needed win.

Utah 33 – Washington State 21

UCLA (-4.5) @ Stanford

Two teams who have a case for #2 in the PAC have similar resumes- an impressive win over a ranked team, a comfortable win over a bad opponent, and a disappointing loss in their “B” non-con game. Stanford has cracked 40 points in consecutive games with Tanner McKee at QB. UCLA’s offense has lived up to its potential so far- especially Zach Charbonnet (23 carries for 242 yards and 6 TDs!). I’m still a little nervy about Chip Kelly’s struggles against Stanford’s size and power.

UCLA 35 – Stanford 31

Arizona (+28.5) @ Oregon

With Arizona at 0-3 and coming off a home loss to FCS also-ran Northern Arizona, it was going to be challenging for the bookmakers to push the line high enough for anyone to bet against Oregon. The best argument against the Ducks is that they’re 0-2 ATS at home and as a favorite this year. Of course, that includes beating Stony Brook by 41 last week as a 42 point favorite. Arizona has covered some yardage in the air this year (260 ypg) and Oregon is yielding over 300, but with the Wildcats struggling to finish drives, it won’t add up to many points. A backdoor cover wouldn’t be shocking, but the game won’t be close.

Oregon 45 – Arizona 14

Oregon State (+11) @ USC

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 11 Hawaii at Oregon State Photo by Brian Murphy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It sounds like the Trojans are sticking with Kedon Slovis this week even though Jaxson Dart injected a lot more explosiveness in the offense when he relieved Slovis last week. Slovis will have to be on top of his game because the pass defense is Oregon State’s major weakness. The Beavers have played well offensively against lesser opposition, especially with a multi-faceted run attack. USC won’t hold the Beavers to 14 or fewer points as they have done in their two wins this year. To cover this spread, the offense will have to be the version that showed up last week in Pullman.

USC 35 – Oregon State 23

Colorado (+14.5) @ Arizona State

Even when Colorado beat Northern Colorado 35-7 in week 1, I was skeptical due to how one-dimensional their offense was. Since then, they’ve totaled 7 points in two weeks. ASU has defended the run well. They were an undisciplined mess with 17 penalties in last week’s meltdown against BYU. If they can clean up those mistakes at home, they should win fairly easily with an offensive gameplan similar to the one Minnesota deployed against the Buffs last week.

Arizona State 31 – Colorado 14

California (+7.5) @ Washington

Even after a fantastic performance against Arkansas State, it’s easy to find fault with the UW offense. Can the offensive line hold up against a real, experienced Power 5 defensive front? Can we optimize our running back rotation? Most importantly, has the coaching staff learned its lesson about its own team’s strengths and weaknesses? I would have thought that the coaches figured out that a more aggressive, pass-oriented attack was a better fit for its personnel after last year’s comeback win over Utah, but the first half against Stanford was hopelessly conservative again. Of course, we all saw what the Montana and Michigan game plans looked like. The reversion to form is troubling.

Arkansas State v Washington Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

On the other hand, if the coaching staff behaves rationally and learns from its mistakes, it’s hard not to feel pretty good about Cade Otton, Terrell Bynum, and Jalen McMillan against a Bears secondary that has yielded over 300 yards per game and almost eight yards per pass attempt on the year. I can forgive Dylan Morris for getting a bit exuberant and turning the ball over when he finally had the freedom to make plays, but another multi-INT game will be a problem this week or almost any time in conference play.

I’m more concerned about the match-ups on the other side of the ball. While the defense hasn’t hit the depths of failure the offense did in the first two weeks, both Montana and Michigan showed that there are yards to be had on the ground. Cal wants to follow a similar game plan with Damien Moore and Christopher Brooks sharing the load and Chase Garbers moving just enough to extend drives when necessary. The Dawgs have given up a microscopic 123 passing yards per game, but Cal will be perfectly satisfied with that number if they run for 200+. This game will be a big test for the defensive interior- can Carson Bruener and Daniel Heimuli build on promising performances last week? Can Tuli Letuigasenoa anchor the interior defensive line? Will we finally see Eddie Ulofoshio at his 2020 best? These are the questions that will decide the game, and I’m choosing to be optimistic.

Washington 30 – Cal 21