In full disclosure, I had to rush through my picks due to travel issues last week. I planned to write them up in the airport while waiting for a flight, but insane security lines ate up that time and I made my worst picks of the year. I went 1-4-1 against the spread, only hitting on Oregon State’s dominant win over UCLA. I even dropped 3 games SU for my first non-winning week of SU picks all year.. This week, I am in no hurry, so I will have to come up with a new excuse when I go 1-3 ATS.
All betting lines from DraftKings Sportsbook. Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details
Washington State @ Oregon, Oregon -20
Both teams are coming off of disappointing losses, albeit of completely different types. Oregon’s narrow loss at Husky Stadium could have gone either way right up until the final field goal drifted wide. While the Huskies deserved the win and the bragging rights, the outcome is not a major indictment of the Ducks’ skill level as a team. Conversely, the Cougs welcomed Arizona and had one of their worst performances in recent memory. WSU scored first, then gave up 44 unanswered points on their home field to a foe who came into the game at 3-3 (1-2 in conference). Yes, Arizona has taken a big step forward since Noah Fefita replaced the injured Jayden de Laura at QB, but defenses as good as WSU’s would like to be do not give up 500+ yards of offense at home.
So the question is: how much of last week’s collapse by the Cougs was the start of a trend and how much was a blip on the radar? There had been so many positive indicators in WSU’s overall performance up to that point. Cam Ward had only thrown two INTs through five games, then threw another one and fumbled twice. The defense had been a bit leaky, but good enough to sustain the elite passing offense. We saw last week that Oregon can get enough pressure to make the best QB’s struggle without over-committing to the blitz. It’s going to be a difficult game for Ward, but Kyle Williams, Lincoln Victor, and Josh Kelly provide enough receiving depth to break through from time to time. The question on the other side of the ball is whether Oregon will have as easy of a time running the ball between the tackles as they did against the Dawgs. If Bucky Irving controls the game, the Ducks can put it away early. WSU was run over by Arizona a week ago but showed more resistance against UCLA and Wisconsin on the ground. I expect Oregon to ultimately win the game fairly easily, but for WSU to prevent it from being the three-TD blowout the spread requires.
Oregon 41 - WSU 23
Utah @ USC, USC -6.5
While Oregon probably gives up a few extra points this week due to WSU’s poor performance last week, the biggest shift comes here, where Vegas sees Utah much closer to USC after the Trojans capitulated against a similarly-built Notre Dame team. The key to the Irish blowout was USC’s five turnovers. Those are not mistakes I expect Caleb Williams to make repeatedly, nor at home. Despite the 48 points, Notre Dame’s offense didn’t teach us anything new about the USC defense- it is problematic, but with so many short fields and bad situations, they’re hardly to blame for the blow-out.
The part of this match-up that might not be getting enough attention is that Utah has not been near its recent standard from an efficiency standpoint. The Cam Rising injury, accompanied by a generally short-handed offense, has robbed them of their big play ability. They piled up over 300 rushing yards last week, led by a converted safety (Sione Vaki) and a converted QB (Ja’Quinden Jackson). The defense is legit, but the offense is fairly one-dimensional and has not even been great in that dimension in some of the wins. I can’t help but thinking a lot of bettors see this match-up, remember the history between the teams, and give too much weight to USC’s poor performance against Notre Dame. I don’t expect a blow-out, but I do think the Trojans will get the win at home.
USC 30 - Utah 20
UCLA @ Stanford, UCLA -17
Stanford deserves to celebrate after winning in overtime at Colorado after trailing 29-0 at halftime. That win will probably go down as the crowning achievement in Troy Taylor’s first year at the helm. It also showed the kind of offensive fireworks that made Taylor so successful at Sacramento State and at other stops before it. Meanwhile, the Bruins dropped their second game in the last three weeks with a dud in Corvallis. The offense continues to misfire outside of Pasadena and the surprising defense came back to Earth. Once again, Dante Moore struggled with his efficiency away from home. Will that issue surface at Stanford? It could, but with the Cardinal run defense rated 128th national in expected points added, Chip Kelly will likely be able to keep the game on the ground for Moore, Carson Steele, TJ Harden, and the rest of the QB rotation. Oregon State also took the Bruins out of the rhythm by building an early 13-0 lead. I do not expect Stanford to come out of the gates as hot as they did a week ago, which will make it harder for them to force Moore into passing situations. Even if UCLA’s defense proves to be more “pretty good” than “best in the Pac,” Stanford is not the team to take advantage of the slight slippage. The game might be close early, but the Bruins will run the ball until they pull away late.
UCLA 42 - Stanford 20