One of my best ever seasons picking games straight up continues to pair with mediocre picks against the spread. Games like UW-Arizona and USC-Colorado where the heavy favorite has a comfortable late lead but doesn’t hold the number are always going to sting for bettors. Either way, the conference continues to sort itself into haves and have nots, which makes some of the SU picks a bit easier. This week features some games between teams that are more evenly matched, which should make for trickier picks and entertaining games.
All betting lines from DraftKings Sportsbook. Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details
Washington State @ UCLA, UCLA -3.5
Both teams come off an early bye week, but had results going into the bye that pointed their trajectories in very different directions. Wazzu continued to do everything it needed to do to surpass expectations with a three-point win over Oregon State at home. Meanwhile, Dante Moore had his first taste of serious adversity with a flop in Salt Lake City. The key matchup will be Cam Ward against the surprisingly good UCLA defense. The Bruins have the 4th best EPA defense in the country so far per cfb-graphs.They also haven’t faced anyone nearly as good as Ward and the Cougar receiving corps. Moore should get back on track at home against a defense that has not been as stout as last year’s version. The Cougars have especially struggled against the run and on early downs.If Moore, Carson Steele, and TJ Harden can bounce back after a bad game, it should take some of Ward’s opportunities away and create more of a “normal” score than the wild shootout WSU would prefer.
UCLA 30 - WSU 24
Colorado @ ASU, Colorado -4
The Sun Devils have quietly strung together respectable performances in losses to USC and Cal the last two weeks. For a team that looked completely dead in the water against Fresno State, the in-conference progress is a good sign. Colorado has trended in the opposite direction as their scheduled has become more difficult. A garbage-time comeback to make the USC score look respectable is all that stands between the Buffs and profound embarrassment. Coming into the year, this game looked like one of maybe two games Colorado could win on its conference schedule. The fact that they’re favored on the road is a testament to the real progress they have made, especially in the pass offense. Unfortunately for Shedeur Sanders and crew, pass defense is the one thing ASU does reasonably well. Despite the recent respectability, there’s very little to like about the plodding Trenton Bourguet-Cameron Skattebo offense. Even in a losing effort, Colorado reminded everyone against USC that they can move the ball against most defenses. I’m not confident that ASU will be able to keep up with their scoring output.
Colorado 35 - ASU 27
Oregon State @ Cal, OSU -9.5
The sliding doors game between WSU and OSU hasn’t only defined the early success for the Cougars, it has also been the most important moment so far for the Beavers. A defense that has smothered everyone gave up an uncharacteristic 38 points to the downfield passing assault from Cam Ward. Suffice to say, OSU won’t have to worry about a big play threat through the area against the ground-bound Bears. Cal needs Jaydn Ott to go crazy to score enough points to win games this year. The Beavers are highly unlikely to give up enough yards on the ground for Ott to beat them by himself. The remaining question is whether DJU can put up enough points to cover a fairly large spread on the road. OSU has not been a high-scoring unit this year. This probably won’t be the week they suddenly start clicking in the passing game, but it might not need to be in order to cover.
OSU 27 - Cal 15
Arizona @ USC, USC -21.5
At 5-0, it’s impossible to say that USC’s season has been a failure so far. But the schedule thus far has been Charmin soft and the defense has still turned in unimpressive performances against San Jose State, Arizona State, and Colorado. It’s meaningful that Jayden de Laura’s status is still up in the air with an ankle injury. Noah Fifita was functional in his first career start against Washignton at home. Still, de Laura offers much more downfield threat and experience against a defense that is not great against confident passing attacks. If de Laura plays, I trust Jacob Cowing and Tetairoa McMillan to make enough plays to keep this game somewhat close. Caleb Williams won’t get a loss yet, but it looks to me like USC will make it halfway through their schedule without answering the question of whether their defense is good enough to actually contend.
USC 49 - Arizona 31