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Picking the Pac, Week 7: Raining Dawgs and Cats

Washington hosts Arizona while USC faces stiff test at Utah

NCAA Football: Washington at Arizona Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

My hot streak came to an end with a 2-3 ATS record last week. The week turned on an Oregon St -7 pick that had two things going against it. First, I mis-entered the game in my pick sheet with OSU as the home team (doh!). Second, QB Chance Nolan was ruled out after posting. I can’t control injuries, but suffice to say I double checked the game locations this week.

As always, the lines come courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook. Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See for details.

Cal @ Colorado, Cal -14.5

Should Cal ever by favored by more than two touchdowns on the road in a conference game? Yes! If they’re playing this version of Colorado, I will take them in a heartbeat. The Buffs still haven’t held an opponent under 38 points and Cal showed they at least have the ability for offensive fireworks by hanging 49 on Arizona two weeks ago (we’ll conveniently ignore the egg laid in Pullman last week). Cal’s electric Jaydn Ott will be the offensive key against a defense giving up a stunning 294 rushing yards per game.

Cal 40 – Colorado 20

Stanford @ Notre Dame, ND -16.5

NCAA Football: Notre Dame at Stanford Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Stanford lost on a yakety sax-style TD pass in the closing seconds against Oregon State last week. They still have Arizona State ahead of them on the schedule, but opportunities to get a single FBS win are looking few and far between. The intrigue here is the wider spread. Notre Dame’s three game wining streak has not included a margin of victory over 10 points. Casey Filkins has proven to be a solid rushing option since taking over the job from EJ Smith. Tanner McKee can high point the ball to a cadre of big receivers. Drew Pyne has strung together a couple of solid games under center for the Irish offense, but they have hardly been explosive. While Stanford’s defense is the weakest unit in the matchup, their offense should be able to keep it within the large spread.

Notre Dame 35 – Stanford 21

USC @ Utah, Utah -3.5

Yes, the Utes are coming off a loss away to UCLA that ends any lingering hopes of CFP at the end of the year. It’s still important to remember that this team has dropped two away games against high-quality opponents and dominated at home. USC has not faced this sort of test away from the Coliseum. Utah’s defense has been surprisingly average against quality opponents. Big ground games for UCLA and Florida might point USC toward more Travis Dye this time out. The Trojan defense has also been questionable, but has kept its head above water by forcing turnovers and keeping teams out of the end zone to finish drives. This game should be a barn burner and the stats don’t dictate an easy choice in either direction. I’ll go with the home team in a close game.

Utah 35 – USC 31

Washington State @ Oregon State, OSU -4

Two PNW teams with 4-2 records (1-2 in conference) and a chance to differentiate themselves in a crowded middle of the conference. WSU’s offense has had ups and downs, Most recently, it couldn’t sustain drives after jumping out to an early lead against USC. The Beavers had yet another game that came down to the closing seconds and pulled out a road win against Stanford. It was not the best they have looked this year but Ben Gulbranson led a comeback with Chance Nolan out for the game. Nolan’s status remains TBD going into this one, though his own performances have been uneven. Both teams have defensive strengths that match up well with the opponent’s offensive tendencies- OSU is stronger against the pass, which is WSU’s preferred mode of attack, while WSU defends the run well, where the Beavers like to focus their offense. The line opened at OSU -3 and has moved in the Beavers’ favor despite the uncertainty around Nolan. Perhaps it won’t matter to the players on Saturday night, but the Cougs have won eight straight in this series, including four in Corvallis. If you asked me to pick this game 10 times, I might pick each team five times, but as of right now, I’m taking the Cougs.

Washington State 31 – Oregon State 30

Arizona @ Washington, Washington -15.5

No single stat perfectly describes a player or a team, but some are better than others. One of my favorites to review every week is Expected Points Added from CFBGraphs (@statsowar on Twitter). EPA tracks every play and assigns a point value to the yardage result based on the situation for the offense and defense. By that metric, the Dawgs have the #4 offense in the entire country… and the #115 defense. Going a level deeper, the Husky defense ranks 68th against the run and 101st against the pass. Having watched every snap of the season, all of those numbers echo my impression of the team. The offense is very good and can be elite at times. The run defense isn’t great, but it’s passable, and the pass defense has been maddening.

NCAA Football: Oregon at Arizona Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

With those shortcomings in mind, it’s probably not an ideal time to welcome a pass-happy offense led by QB Jayden de Laura and star WR Jacob Cowing to Montlake. If UW couldn’t slow down Arizona St.’s walk-on, backup QB, couldn’t this week be even worse? I’m slightly more optimistic based on some qualitative factors. First, the Husky defense (especially the pass rush) has looked like a different unit at home than away this season. The reappearance of Bralen Trice, ZTF, Jeremiah Martin, and company could buy the secondary precious seconds where breakdowns were happening. Second, last week felt like an inflection point, both in health and tactics. For the health element, we have to hope that another week helps get more bodies on the field and heal up some of those bodies that were playing hurt last week. In terms of tactics, I have to hope that the coaching staff identified the problems with leaving the likes of safeties Alex Cook and Kam Fabiculanan in one-on-one coverage with wide receivers. Perhaps it’s wishful thinking, but it feels like there should be opportunities for at least marginal improvement this week.

NCAA Football: Stanford at Washington Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The other reason for optimism is that Arizona’s defense is not any better. Remember where I started with the explanation of how this frustrating UW defense ranked 115th nationally? Well, the Wildcats are even worse- 119th. The turnstiles will be open in both directions. The question becomes whether you trust Michael Penix or Jayden de Laura more to avoid mistakes in a Husky Stadium shootout. My faith in Penix and his receiving corps remains high, and even the running game should be able to thrive against this defense. No way am I going close to the 15.5 point spread, but I think the Dawgs will at least get back to the winner’s circle this week.

Washington 41 – Arizona 37


What will be the result of the UW-Arizona game?

This poll is closed

  • 18%
    Washington wins by more than 15
    (60 votes)
  • 61%
    Washington wins by 15 or less
    (205 votes)
  • 19%
    Arizona wins
    (66 votes)
331 votes total Vote Now