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Picking the Pac: Bowling a Perfect Game

No CFP for Pac-12 but plenty of juicy bowl matchups

Rose Bowl Stadium Seen In Advance of Rose Bowl Game Day Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

There has been so much exciting news leading up to the early signing period that it’s easy to forget that there’s a good deal of Pac-12 football still to be played on the field. Wazzu and Oregon State got an early start to bowl season with divergent results. Today, I will offer picks for the rest of the Pac-12 Bowl Games.

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

Holiday Bowl: Oregon vs. UNC, Oregon -13.5

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. An Oregon game looks like a probable shootout with two elite offenses squaring off against uninspiring defenses. The Ducks swooned late in the season when the defense stopped forcing enough turnovers to make up for the yardage they give up. Drake Maye and Bo Nix are two of the highest-profile and productive QBs in the country and neither should fear the defense lined up across from them. One factor that may play against the Ducks is the departure of play-calling whiz kid Kenny Dillingham for the ASU HC job. I still think they have enough firepower to win, but his departure keeps it within the two-score spread.

Oregon 40 - UNC 31

Sun Bowl: UCLA vs. Pitt, UCLA -4

UCLA v California Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The 9-3 record sounds about right for the Bruins, but they played their way through some big reputational swings. They looked like an undefeated imposter after narrowly surviving South Alabama at home. Wins over UW and Utah elevated them to the status of co-favorites for the conference title. Losing 3 of 5, including a bad one to Arizona, sullied their reputation. Nonetheless, a 10-win season is a great accomplishment. So far, it wounds like ZTR and Zach Charbonnet will suit up for a farewell game for the Bruins. Kedon Slovis has left the Panthers, and that QB mismatch gives UCLA the edge.

UCLA 33- Pitt 27

Cotton Bowl: USC vs. Tulane, USC -2

Tulane might not be a mainstay in NY6 bowl games, but they’re not a fluke, either. RB Tyjae Spears is one of the best in the country at breaking tackles and the Trojans have been susceptible in that area all season. If the Green Wave ground game keeps USC off the field, it could make it much harder for USC to wear down the defense with its own ground attack. I try to avoid reading into a team’s mindset, but could USC feel a bit of a letdown after Utah punched them in the jaw and kept them out of the CFP? Call it sour grapes for their desertion, but I’ll pick the upset.

Tulane 30 - USC 28

Rose Bowl: Utah vs. Penn St., Utah -2.5

In past seasons, the Utes have exceled with an elite defense and an offense that does just enough without typically looking very pretty. This year, that description is a better fit for the Nittany Lions than the Utes. Cam Rising has elevate Utah’s offense, but the defense has come up short at times. Joey Porter Jr. is a star on the PSU defense and will skip the game to prepare for the NFL Draft. PSU plays at a slower pace and tends to keep games low scoring. This game will come down to finishing drives and not leaving points on the board. Does Utah have enough juice to push 30 points against this truly elite defense?

Utah 28 - Penn St. 24

Alamo Bowl: UW vs. Texas, Texas -3.5

The betting line on this game has moved from Texas -6 to Texas -3.5. A multiple-point swing usually favors the team toward which the line moves, but in this case, there’s no secret information driving the trends. Since betting opened, Texas has announced that superstar RB Bijan Robinson would sit out the bowl game to prepare for the NFL Draft. Backup RB Roschon Johnson and LB Demarvion Overshown join Robinson in sitting this one out. Across the field, the Dawgs have seemingly only gained momentum and enthusiasm since their triumphant Apple Cup performance with good news in recruiting, transfers, and players announcing they will return to school.

Baylor v Texas Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Those returns might impact this game more than anything. If Michael Penix, Rome Odunze, or Jalen McMillan announced that they would leave the program, it might have come with a decision to sit out the bowl game. Penix and McMillan are officially in the fold for 2023 and Odunze is at least committed to playing this game. Without those three, it’s hard to imagine how UW would put up enough points to keep their subpar defense in the game. With them, the questions shift to the Longhorns and whether they can get UW’s vaunted pass attack off the field, especially without their do-it-all LB in Overshown.

Of course, one antidote to UW’s passing game is to keep them off the field. Texas has been an excellent running team all year and Robinson took home the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s best rusher. Anyone who has watched Steve Sarkisian’s offenses over the years knows how adept he is at using the run game to set up the pass. Freshman Quinn Ewers has benefitted from that system and often looked poised beyond his years. Without Robinson has a skeleton key to the defense, the responsibility to create space shifts to Ewers. He can probably do it, but can he do it all game without turning the ball over?

Colorado v Washington Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

With Robinson, the Texas game plan is clear- establish the run, keep Penix off the field, and wear out UW’s defense. Without him, the margin of error is smaller. Ewers has to play one of his best games because no defense has been able to squelch the Dawgs’ offensive attack this year. The local Texas crowd and a defense full of talented play-makers could shift the game, but the closer we get to kickoff, the more I like UW.

Washington 38 - Texas 35