It has been four weeks since I picked a straight-up loser in a Pac-12 game. I’ll take a little bit of credit, but that streak also speaks to the gap between the top and bottom of the conference. We will get more showdowns between various permutations of Utah, USC, UCLA, and Oregon the rest of the way, which will make those picks tougher.
As always, the lines come courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook. Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.
Friday Game: Colorado @ USC, USC -34.5
Last week, I picked Colorado +31.5 at home against Oregon and lost. The Buffs’ offense was too weak to score more than 10 against even a mediocre Oregon defense. This matchup is similar with the twist that USC is uniquely bad at defending the run, which is the only thing that Colorado does non-horribly. USC’s defense even gave up 35 to Cal last week. I know that they say, “once bitten, twice shy,” but I just can’t quit this 30+ point spreads.
USC 45 – Colorado 17
ASU @ WSU, WSU -8
The Cougs have a chance to early bowl eligibility in the only game of the week with a single-digit spread. The Sun Devil offense has awakened since Trenton Bourguet took over at QB. WSU’s defense has had some down moments through the year but has been generally solid. The offense also rushed for an uncharacteristic 306 yards last week against Stanford. They should be able to maintain the ground attack against ASU. The game time temp of 37 degrees also won’t help the visitors from the desert.
WSU 35 – ASU 24
Cal @ Oregon St, OSU -14
OSU’s loss at Husky Stadium last week shouldn’t serve as an indictment of the Beavers. They lost a road game to a comparably-ranked team on a last-second field goal. Likewise, Cal lost a fifth straight, but staying within a score of USC enhances their profile. The Beaver defense should be able to limit Jack Plummer and a talented group of Cal receivers. Nonetheless, OSU is not built to blow teams away. I’ll take them to win comfortably, but I don’t like their chances to push the margin beyond 2 TDs.
OSU 33 – Cal 21
Stanford @ Utah, Utah -24
Stanford played three games in a row decided by one or two points, but has lost its last two by a combined 63. The prospects aren’t much better in Salt Lake City. The teams that have given Utah trouble are those who have been able to run the ball effectively. Stanford lost EJ Smith early in the season and Casey Filkins has now joined him in the MASH unit. Cam Rising returned to the lineup for Utah last week but the offense relied on a committee of running backs. The same approach should work against Stanford’s 130th ranked rush defense (by success rate).
Utah 41 – Stanford 14
Arizona @ UCLA, UCLA -20
Arizona started 3-2, but has lost four straight and now completes a fifth consecutive game against the top five teams in the Pac. It’s hard to imagine that this stretch hasn’t had an impact on the team’s morale. The only game the Wildcats have kept within single-digits in that run was the home matchup with USC. UCLA’s offense has been great and consistent throughout conference play and Arizona’s horrific defense has no chance to slow them down. Arizona’s only chance to cover is to score in bunches themselves.
UCLA 45 – AZ 24
Washington @ Oregon, Oregon -13.5
While the last two decades of this rivalry lean heavily in favor of the Ducks, I’m not sure that history matters much with two brand new coaching staffs. Dan Lanning and Kalen Deboer bring offensive powerhouses to Eugene, each with a defense that can’t keep up with the point-scoring fireworks. There’s little reason to believe that those narratives will shift this week.
One thing that differentiates the squads is Oregon’s willingness and ability to run the ball. Washington hasn’t been hopeless in the run game, but Oregon has been one of the best in the country. Bucky Irving and Noah Whittington have been a deadly 1-2 punch with Sean Dollars as the change-of-pace. The deadly run game has taken the pressure off of Bo Nix to carry the offense by himself. Nix has responded with the best season of his career by a wide margin- his completion percentage and yards per attempt have skyrocketed after staying steady through his time at Auburn. Washington held Cal and Oregon State to 21 points each, but those results took some good fortune and weather. Perhaps the coaches will pick their poison and load the box like they did late against the Beavers to force Bo Nix to throw more. If Nix makes mistakes, it could be enough to swing the game. The probability is low, but letting the Ducks run for 200 yards is a sure path to defeat.
The Dawgs are more likely to hang around with an aggressive offensive attack that can prey on Oregon’s own defensive shortcomings. The Ducks have forced turnovers at a solid clip this season (14 and counting against 7 surrendered), so keeping the pocket clean for Michael Penix will be crucial. The Dawgs have started slowly on offense for the last two games. That trend cannot continue if they want to keep up with Oregon. The combination of the run game and the short passing game have to be enough of a threat to keep the defense from playing so soft that UW can’t make big plays. But the lifeblood of the game plan has to be Penix working the intermediate parts of the field to Odunze, McMillan, and Polk. If that approach clicks for four quarters, the Dawgs have a shot.
For me, the likelier outcome is that the Ducks just have too much offensive firepower. UW’s defense has been more respectable in Husky Stadium. Playing in Autzen puts them at a disadvantage. As good as the passing offense is, asking them to play a flawless four quarters in a hostile environment is a tall task.
Oregon 45 – Washington 31
What will be the result of the UW-Oregon game?
This poll is closed
Oregon wins by 14 or more
Oregon wins by less than 14