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Picking the Pac, Week 6: A Dawg with No Name

Huskies head south in search of a rare desert win

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 30 Washington at UCLA Photo by Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Consecutive 5-1 ATS records in the Pac-12 have me back in the black ATS for the year. My purple-tinted glasses were the cause of my lone ATS and SU loss last week. Will I pick the Huskies to win again in an historically fraught away game? Yes!

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

Utah @ UCLA, Utah -3.5

The Utes have played like a CFP contender since the season-opening loss away to Florida. UCLA is the best team they’ve played since that defeat and DTR offers a reasonable facsimile of Anthony Richardson at QB. On the other hand, Utah’s pass defense has been one of the best in the country, which will take away the easy gains the Bruins got against UW. On the other side, Cam Rising continues to make his case for Pac-12 POTY. The offense doesn’t have a weakness and UW hung 32 on UCLA in a game where the offense was rough around the edges. Utah should score more and offer a lot of resistance, but UCLA definitely has the firepower to keep up if things go their way.

Utah 38 – UCLA 33

Washington State @ USC, USC -12.5

There are two ways to look at this match-up. One is that WSU has a very good defense- good enough to hold four out of five opponents to 17 or fewer points. The other is to look at WSU’s one loss, 44-41 against Oregon, and conclude that the defense can dominate lesser opposition but wilts against top-class offenses. USC will score points. The hiccup in Corvallis looks like the exception and remains their only sub-40 point outing. Cam Ward has been turnover prone for the Cougs with seven picks already (to go along with 5 lost fumbles for the team). Caleb Williams has taken much better care of the ball and turnovers could be a major factor. This game will be a good litmus test for whether WSU’s defense can put the Oregon game behind them and solidify themselves as a borderline top-25 team.

USC 40 – WSU 32

Oregon @ Arizona, Oregon -13

NCAA Football: Arizona at California Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

This game has a very different feel to it than it seemed like it would a week into the season. Arizona’s opening win against San Diego State has been devalued by the Aztecs’ subsequent struggles. Oregon has comprehensively bounced back from the desecration at the hands of Georgia. Put the two together and it appears that Arizona is the best of the conference’s bottom teams while Oregon is the worst of the conference’s top teams (behind Utah and USC, but only marginally). The duo of Jacob Cowing and Tetairoa McMillan are putting up impressive numbers in the Wildcat passing game, and there are yards to be had against Dan Lanning’s defense. But Oregon’s offense is even better and more balanced. Troy Franklin has immediately become a legitimate #1 WR to the great disappointment of Husky fans. There’s always the risk of a backdoor cover with a pretty good offense, but Oregon covering is still my easiest pick of the week.

Oregon 45 – Arizona 28

Stanford @ Oregon St. OSU -7

The Beavers hit the gauntlet of their schedule early by opening conference play against USC and @ Utah. Losing those two certainly doesn’t put them in a tailspin, but they need to hold serve in this one to stay on track. Stanford’s road hasn’t been much smoother with three ranked opponents in four games. One important wrinkle is the OSU QB situation. Ben Gulbranson replaced Chance Nolan after a poor start last week. As of the time of writing, Jonathan Smith has not named a starter for this game. UW and USC carved up Stanford through the air, but those two and Oregon also had a lot of success on the ground, which is more in line with OSU’s tendencies. Deshaun Fenwick should be able to power his way to lots of first downs, but they will need to get some balance from whichever QB starts. Stanford has made a habit of scoring late to make games look artificially competitive. That’s not a recipe to actually win games.

OSU 30 – Stanford 21

UW @ Arizona State, UW -14

Trips to Tempe tend to end terribly for Washington. Whether it’s the stadium, the playing surface, the travel, the heat, or a persistent fear of scorpions, generations of Dawgs have come up short against the Sun Devils. In total, Washington has lost 12 of the last 14 against ASU, including sevens straight on the road. The streak includes (arguably) Jake Browning’s worst performance in a UW jersey in a 13- 7 loss in 2017 when the Dawgs entered at #5 in the country (also known as the “WTF Van Soderberg” game), a blown 17-point lead in 2015, a 53-point offensive explosion by Marion Grice and Taylor Kelly in 2013, and a 50-yard Hail Mary to lose in 2009. The last time the Dawgs won in Tempe, Rick Neuheisel was the coach and Cody Pickett handed off to Rich Alexis and Willie Hurst enough to gobble up 11:52 of game time before John Anderson kicked the game winning FG as time expired.

Idaho Vandals vs. Washington Huskies

I say all of this to remind everyone how odd it is that the Dawgs are favored by 14 points in Sun Devil stadium. That gap has less to do with UW’s quality than it does with ASU’s disorder. It’s not every year that a team has to fire their head coach mid-season, and that type of letdown tends to lower expectations (let me reintroduce you to the 2021 Apple Cup). Still, there are plenty of reasons for optimism between the lines. ASU’s defense has been abysmal this year, and the pass defense has been the main culprit. The Devils have managed only three sacks in five games and rank 126th in defensive success rate against the pass. Both of those stats play into the left hand of Michael Penix, who has been lights out to a variety of receivers when he has time to throw.

On the other side of the ball, ASU’s one area of competence has been the run game, spearheaded by the transfer duo of QB Emory Jones and Scrabble champion RB Xazavian Valladay. As we are all too aware, UW’s primary defensive shortcoming has been in the secondary, an area where ASU prefers not to go. Some of ASU’s season stats are skewed by a challenging early schedule (@ OK St, Utah, and @ USC in the first five weeks). They lost by 21 and 17 the last two weeks to the Utes and Trojans, which are not horrific outcomes. Even if you discount the offense based on playing in a tough road environment that is about three degrees short of bursting into flames, it’s hard to see how an average run offense can exploit an average run defense enough to keep up with the UW passing game. Stranger things have happened in this series, enough that I’m shying away from picking UW to cover, but that curse would have to be even worse than I think in order for ASU to actually win.

UW 30 – ASU 21


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

This poll is closed

  • 38%
    UW wins by more than 14
    (180 votes)
  • 49%
    UW wins by 14 or fewer
    (233 votes)
  • 11%
    ASU wins
    (55 votes)
468 votes total Vote Now