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Picking the Pac: Malice in Corvallis

UCLA battles ASU for P12 South and Ducks go climb a tree

NCAA Football: Stanford at Oregon State Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

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

USC (-7.5) @ Colorado

The Trojans have had wild swings from looking great to looking awful. In aggregate, they’re a decent passing offense with turnover problems and a below average defense against the run and pass. Colorado’s pass offense has been almost non-existent. The Buffs would have to play lock-down defense to win this game and they have not done that against competent offenses. With almost 350 rushing yards surrendered over the last two weeks, it might be time to buy stock in Keaontay Ingram.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 25 Oregon State at USC Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

USC 33 – Colorado 24

Oregon (-8) @ Stanford

The Cardinal likely fancy themselves as a contender in the Pac-12 North, but that win over USC is looking less impressive after Oregon State did the same thing. Surprisingly, it took a half for the Ducks to assert supremacy over Arizona. The Oregon pass defense continues to leak more than it should and Stanford has thrown the ball more willingly and effectively under Tanner McKee than their reputation would suggest. On the other hand, when one team rushes for over 200 yards per game (Oregon) and the other gives up over 200 rushing yards per game (Stanford), that’s usually a recipe for one offense to dictate the whole match-up.

Oregon 37 – Stanford 28

Washington State (+7.5) @ Cal

The Bears’ offense has been ahead of their defense so far this season, which goes against script for their program. Their pass defense has been vulnerable at times, but the Cougars haven’t actually thrown the ball very well so far, and the lack of clarity around which QBs will be available to play this week doesn’t help matters. The Dawgs saw firsthand how well Chase Garbers is playing right now and he should be the most impactful player in this game. I think this line is in the right neighborhood, and a one-TD Cal win would not surprise me in the least (even a WSU victory is imaginable). Still, until I see the Cougs put together a complete game against an FBS team, I’m not confident in them.

Cal 31 – WSU 23

Arizona St (+3) @ UCLA

This line indicates that Vegas sees ASU and UCLA as roughly equal on a neutral field. That makes sense, since ASU is the preseason Pac-12 South consensus #2 who has played just a hair below their potential, and UCLA was a Pac-12 South darkhorse who has slightly outperformed their expectations. Both teams have explosive offenses that use dynamic run games to set up deep passing. ASU has averaged slightly more yards per play, but suffered from more turnovers and penalties. UCLA has done an excellent job preventing turnovers, which is important since the defense has been a problem. It might be foolish given ASU’s lack of discipline at times, but I like the Sun Devil defense more than the Bruin defense with two offenses that are both strong.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 25 Colorado at Arizona State Photo by Christopher Hook/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

ASU 33 – UCLA 30

Washington (+2.5) @ Oregon State

Based only on how both teams have played so far this season, Oregon State has been the better team. They have run and passed the ball much more efficiently, especially with Chance Nolan established as QB1. On a per-play basis, the gap between the defenses is not particularly large, although UW has defended the opponents’ air attacks better than the Beavers have. Oregon State has made up for the yardage deficit by intercepting eight passes through four games.

Of course, those resumes come with caveats. Oregon State hasn’t played an opponent as good as Michigan. Depending on how you rate USC, the Beavers’ best opponent to date might be a very average Purdue team, and they looked overmatched in that one. Piling up big offensive totals against Idaho and Hawaii is the equivalent of what UW did against Arkansas State. The raw stats don’t tell the whole story.

More importantly, the Huskies and most of their fans still hope and believe that the resume to date is not a definitive description of the team’s ability. UW has struggled through injuries and self-inflicted schematic woes that have depressed offensive production. If the Dawgs have moved beyond those problems, it’s possible for them to exert physical superiority over the Beavers and win convincingly.

I’m not ready to hand-wave away Washington’s underperformance. If the first half of the Cal game carried over into the second and the Dawgs put the Bears away by 2+ scores and scored 35+ points in regulation, I would feel more confident that our coaches learned tough lessons from the Montana and Michigan games. Instead, we slid back into a predictable, repetitive strategy that made the defense’s job very easy. Oregon State’s offense is good and diverse enough that we can’t sacrifice a half or a quarter of the game with a non-competitive approach.

Oregon State 27 – Washington 21