I picked all the winners last week. Let’s focus on the winners and not dwell too much on the ATS picks. All Pac-12 teams are in action this week after a cycle of byes, so let’s jump right into six juicy matchups.
As always, the lines come courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook. Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.
Oregon @ Colorado, Oregon -31.5
The Ducks hold the top spot in the Pac-12, but even in going 5-0 in conference, they have not defended like a team that should be favored by almost five touchdowns. Pac-12 teams have scored an average of 28.8 points per game against a Duck defense that has been especially vulnerable against solid passing offenses. Colorado is not a solid offense and their relative strength is on the ground. Still, I don’t see Oregon scoring much more than 50 or Colorado going too far under 20, which makes this gigantic spread a tough sell.
Oregon 49 – Colorado 20
Washington State @ Stanford, WSU -5
Stanford has been inconsistent in a way that makes them hard to predict. After three consecutive low-scoring games, UCLA blew them up for 24 before halftime. The Cougs have had their own downturn of late, failing to crack 20 points in their last three. To their credit, the teams they have played in that stretch are all superior to Stanford. The Cougs had two extra days to prepare for this game after playing at Utah last Thursday. My best guess is that those factors will combine to allow Cam Ward to hang a few more points on the board.
WSU 27 – Stanford 21
Arizona @ Utah, Utah -17.5
Any evaluation of the Utes at the moment has to come with significant health caveats. Kyle Whittingham’s latest updates make it sound like Cam Rising is likely to play this week but Dalton Kincaid is not, among their other walking wounded. The offensive personnel might not make much of a difference because Arizona is giving up 45+ to any team with a pulse. Moreover, Utah’s issues against good running teams probably won’t hurt them as much against an Arizona team that passes far more (see: WSU’s 17 points last week). Lastly, Utah’s best performances have all come in front of a home crowd that makes a real difference.
Utah 41 – Arizona 23
UCLA @ Arizona State, UCLA -10.5
Last week was critical for the Bruins. They bounced back from a lackluster performance against Oregon with a resounding win over Stanford where the defense played uncharacteristically well. On the other side, Arizona State may have stabilized itself with Trenton Bourguet taking snaps. The Sun Devils got their second conference win in Bourguet’s second game as the primary QB. Sure, that was against Colorado, but even a semblance of a balanced offense is a different animal. DTR is going to lead the Bruins to points. The question is whether ASU can keep it reasonably close at home. I’m going to give Bourguet one more week before I fully buy in.
UCLA 41 – ASU 28
Cal @ USC, USC -21.5
Cal has gone off the rails with four straight losses after a 3-1 start. Their key to hanging with the Trojans is for Jaydn Ott to get loose for the big plays that can occasionally make the Cal offense look exciting. USC has given up 79 combined points in their last two games, but Caleb Williams and Travis Dye have remained exceptional during that run. They’re going to need to have another big game to have a chance to cover this big spread. As little faith as I have in Jack Plummer, Cal usually manages to keep games from getting completely out of hand.
USC 40 – Cal 21
Oregon State @ Washington, UW -3.5
In a conference firmly split between haves and have-nots, the Beavers and Huskies have established themselves as the upper-middle class. Both teams enter at 3-2 in the Pac-12 and 6-2 overall. Neither OSU nor UW will threaten to break into the CFP discussion and are unlikely to make the conference title game, but the Beavers are already ranked and the Dawgs would assuredly enter the top-25 with a win.
That’s a long way of saying that this is an even match-up. The teams feature different sorts of players and tendencies, but the overall output has been similar. Oregon State likes to run the ball, ranking 6th in the country in their frequency of run calls relative to passes. Most UW fans would prefer to face a run-heavy attack. Although the run defense has not been perfect, it has been better than the pass coverage. The Beavers feature a three-headed monster (four if you count wildcat linebacker Jack Costello) notable for both its speed and power. Damien Martinez has emerged as the leading rusher with his ability to break big plays. Deshaun Fenwick is a bruiser who rarely loses in short yardage situations. The Huskies will have to wrap up and tackle to avoid yards after contact. QB Ben Gulbranson entered the year as the backup but has usurped veteran Chance Nolan after an injury to Nolan. Gulbranson has limited interceptions, but he throws less, moves less, and gets sacked more. Those qualities might help UW’s pass defense, which requires pressure to limit the damage.
Another dramatic distinction between the squads is OSU’s pass defense. The Beavers have a talented secondary that has been successful against more physically gifted opponents. Holding USC to 17 points was a coup and gives the Beavers reason to believe against Michael Penix and his army of prolific pass-catchers. On the other hand, Penix proved in the second half against Cal that he has the patience and persistence to break down a defense that wants to keep everything in front of it. OSU also struggles against the run. Even if the Dawgs aren’t going to hand it off to Cam Davis 25 times, opportunistic play calling could get some chunks of yardage against a defense that will be geared up to cover.
The other important variable is the weather. Rain is in the forecast for Friday and if we face a deluge, it could do more damage to UW’s pass offense than OSU’s running. The rain could have other effects, too. Peyton Henry missed a makeable FG in Berkley that had a meaningful impact on the game. Those types of breaks could go either way and swing the game. In the end, this is the type of tight matchup where I’m picking home field to swing the outcome, but if the playing surface turns into a Slip-N-Slide, that calculation could be washed away.
Washington 31 – Oregon State 26
What will be the result of the UW-Oregon State game?
This poll is closed
UW wins by more than 3
UW wins by 3 or fewer
Oregon State wins