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Picking the Pac, Week 5: Class Warfare

The cream rises to the top and Colorado sinks to the bottom

NCAA Football: Washington at UCLA Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

I always prefer making these picks once we get into conference season. We have a few games of data to learn from. More importantly, there are fewer teams on which to focus. It’s easier to spend time analyzing the matchups and understanding strengths and weaknesses. I went 5-1 ATS in week one of Pac-12 play (6-0 SU) and hope to continue the good run this week.

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

Oregon State @ Utah, Utah -10.5

The Beavers took their first loss of the year on a late TD by USC’s Jordan Addison last week. There’s no shame in that outcome. Still, OSU has played notably better at home the last few years and the defense was less than stellar before a surprisingly good outing against USC. Utah has a balanced offense and it’s only a matter of time before Tavion Thomas adds some long highlight runs to his stat sheet. If there’s a soft spot, it might be that Utah’s run defense has been just ok this year and Oregon State loves to find creative ways to get yardage on the ground. I’m still a believer in Utah, especially at home. I won’t be surprised if OSU keeps it tight.

Utah 31 – OSU 20

Cal @ Washington State, WSU -4

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

Last week’s win over Arizona cemented Cal as the “good bad team.” They’re probably not good enough to break into the top half of the conference, which seems includes some combination of Utah, USC, Oregon, UW, Oregon State, WSU, and UCLA. If Cal wants to squeeze its way into something more than eking out bowl eligibility, they’ll need to steal this one. Jaydn Ott has become the offensive focal point/crutch that Justin Wilcox needs to support another solid defense. The Coug defense blew a late lead against Oregon, which calls into question the progress they had seemingly made to that point. Cam Ward has made strides the last two weeks, so there might be enough points to let a slipping defense off the hook. Things will get tougher for WSU if the pass defense doesn’t improve, but against a run-first team at home, I still like their chances.

WSU 35 – Cal 27

Colorado @ Arizona, Arizona -17.5

I could keep this one very simple and say that I’m not picking Colorado until something changes. If it’s worth going a layer deeper, the fact is that the Buffs are doing nothing well right now. Running, pass, defending the run and pass, making and preventing explosive plays, moving the chains, field position, third and fourth-down conversions. They’re among the worst in the country at all of it. This team looked broken to me a year ago. The performance didn’t bottom out immediately, but it has trended worse and worse. Arizona hasn’t been great, but they can score points and have some weapons in the passing game.

Arizona 37 – Colorado 17

Arizona State @ USC, USC -26

Arizona State hasn’t been quite the calamity Colorado has. To their credit, they recognized how bad things had become and ripped off the band-aid by firing Herm Edwards. As bad as things have been for the Sun Devils, they haven’t lost by 26 points yet, including games against Utah and Oklahoma State. So there’s hope that they could keep this one within four TDs. Despite last week’s role-reversal, expect USC’s offense to remain more dominant than the defense. ASU might actually get some yardage on the ground, which could also help slow the game down and keep the explosive receivers off the field. It won’t be close, but I’m taking ASU to cover.

USC 40 – ASU 17

Stanford @ Oregon, Oregon -16.5

NCAA Football: Oregon at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

The schedule makers didn’t do Stanford any favors. Their conference season has opened against three ranked opponents, twice on the road. To cover, they’ll have to outperform what they did last week at Husky Stadium and EJ Smith will not be coming back to help the running game. UW left points on the field against a poor Stanford defense. If Oregon can finish drives, it could get ugly. Tanner McKee won’t get sacked eight times again this week and that could lead to better overall offensive production, but Oregon is even better equipped to gash a porous Cardinal run defense.

Oregon 44 – Stanford 21

Washington @ UCLA, Washington -3

Is it possible to go 4-0 and lose momentum? It seems like UCLA has done just that. Chip Kelly’s team had some positive vibes in the pre-season- they were 4th in the Pac-12 media poll (UW was picked 6th), received votes in the AP poll, and checked in 29th in the preseason 1-131 ranking at On3 (UW was 50th). The early schedule has been laughably soft- Bowling Green, Alabama State, South Alabama, and Colorado. The Bruins could have sleep-walked to 4-0, but it took a walk-off FG against the Jaguars to maintain a perfect record. If you’re not sure which opponent of the four is the Jaguars, that proves my point.

Despite remaining unblemished through 1/3 of the schedule, the momentum has flipped in UW’s favor. While Michigan State and Stanford might not be national powerhouses when we close the book on 2022, they’re both worthy adversaries and UW had no problem with either one. The Dawgs have also passed the eye test with flying colors. Kalen Deboer and Michael Penix have combined to create an aesthetically pleasing pass offense in which at least four different receivers can take over a game. RB Wayne Taulapapa’s career-best outing against Stanford showed that the ground game can do its part when defenses start dropping more players into coverage. UCLA’s defense has never been a plus under Kelly. New DC Brian McGovern is still largely unproven and this matchup will be a litmus test for how much progress the unit has made. Through four games, the Dawgs have tallied 39+ every time out and it’s hard to imagine UCLA as the team to reverse that trend unless the short week or the road trip have an outsized impact.

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

Instead, this game will turn on how well UW can bottle up the dynamic offensive combination of Dorian Thompson-Robinson and Zach Charbonnet. They provide such a potent run threat that they have made the passing game easier than ever for DTR. Is that progress real or the product of weak competition? UW showed last week that its pass defense relies more on pressure than coverage. The Dawgs will not sack DTR eight times and rushing him the way they rushed Tanner McKee last week is a recipe for scrambling yardage. UW needs to continue to pressure DTR without creating big running lanes for him, cover better downfield, and tackle runners in space when they get the chance. In short, the defense has to execute better than it has all year to make this game comfortable.

In the end, there’s a good reason the Dawgs have leapfrogged the Bruins in the polls and public sentiment. While both teams have won, UW has done it more impressively and against better teams. This game will not be a walkover, and defensive lapses could swing things in UCLA’s favor. But I believe the most likely scenario is a high-scoring affair where UW’s defense makes just enough plays to sustain the offense.

UW 42 – UCLA 37


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

This poll is closed

  • 84%
    UW wins by more than 3
    (570 votes)
  • 4%
    UW wins by 3 or fewer
    (32 votes)
  • 10%
    UCLA wins
    (71 votes)
673 votes total Vote Now