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Picking the Pac, Week 9: Have Ranking, Will Travel

Top teams try to avoid slippage in road games

Washington v Arizona Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

It’s a full set of six conference match-ups this week and five of them feature a road favorite. It’s also noteworthy that five of the six games feature at least one ranked team, and the one that doesn’t includes a WSU team that has spent much of the season in the top-25. Without further ado, onto the picks.

All betting lines from DraftKings Sportsbook. Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See for details

Oregon @ Utah, Oregon -6.5

Every year, Utah wins a bunch of games where they’re overlooked and every year, we keep finding reasons not to believe in them. The reasons have been pretty persuasive this year- Cam Rising is out of the season and the rest of the offense has been torn apart by injuries. They have cobbled together an excellent run game with a converted safety and QB behind Bryson Barnes. They used that formula to beat USC, but Oregon’s defense will be a tougher test. As we are very aware, any one of three fourth down conversions could have left Oregon undefeated. They have the run game to grind it out if needed, or the air attack to go over the top of Utah’s excellent defense on occasion.

Oregon 27 - Utah 20

USC @ Cal, USC -11

California v Utah Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images

The Trojans have reached an inflection point in their season. After consecutive losses to Notre Dame and Utah, they are still in the thick of the conference title race. They need to rebound to comfortably beat Cal, but it’s hard to have much faith in their offensive or defensive lines to make that an easy task. For their part, Cal’s defense has not played well lately. Their way to keep the game close will be to punish USC’s defense. Fernando Mendoza has been getting more snaps as the #1 QB, but it will have to be big plays from Jaydn Ott to keep this one close. Consider this pick distrust of USC more than it is trust in Cal.

USC 38 - Cal 28

Colorado @ UCLA, UCLA -17

Deion Sanders in LA would’ve been the most popular story in the country earlier in the season, but the diminished performance for the Buffs has relegated it to also-ran status. The Bruins, meanwhile, are right in the middle of the conference, having beaten only teams below them and lost to teams above them. The UCLA run offense is well-equipped to run over Colorado’s mediocre defensive line and keep the ball away from their explosive offense. I’ll take UCLA and it’s my most confident pick of the week.

UCLA 41 - Colorado 20

Washington State @ Arizona State, WSU -6

The Cougs have wobbled of late and ASU has kept it close against their last three opponents. The have lost their last three by a total of 14 points. Could Kenny Dillingham be closing in on his first Pac-12 win? We saw a dangerous pass rush disrupt UW’s pass attack last week, but between injuries and guys playing hurt, I’m not sure that result will be especially predictive. Cam Ward has enough quick-hitting options to get the ball out before the pressure gets to him. If the Cougs can tackle Cameron Skattebo as well as they normally tackle under Jake Dickert, I like their chances.

WSU 30 - ASU 21

Oregon State @ Arizona, OSU -3.5

UCLA v Oregon State Photo by Tom Hauck/Getty Images

The Beavers can start plotting a path to the conference title game, but they can’t overlook the Wildcats. Trips to Tucson are not pushovers for anyone this year and Arizona needs every win it can get to achieve bowl eligibility. This game presents a highly intriguing matchup between Arizona’s passing offense and Oregon’s ball control, run-and-defend approach. Oregon State might be the toughest opponent yet for Noah Fifita and Oregon State has done well to punish opponents’ mistakes. It will be a tight game that will be decided in the fourth quarter, but my gut trusts Jonathan Smith and the Beavs.

OSU 28 - Arizona 23