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Picking the Pac, Week 11: Trojans Seek Defense Against Ducks

Oregon State looks go get build momentum toward homestretch

NCAA Football: Washington at Southern California Jonathan Hui-USA TODAY Sports

After a terrible start to the season in against the spread picks, I have rallied back to .500 overall at 30-30. Since full-time conference play started in Week 4, I’m an even better 20-16 ATS, including 11-5 over the last three weeks. The goal is to learn about these teams through the year and apply the acquired knowledge to the picks later in the season. As we move toward the closing stretch, the challenge will be to figure out which teams are still fully committed and which ones are already “on the beach.”

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

Arizona @ Colorado, Arizona -10.5

NCAA Football: Oregon State at Arizona Zachary BonDurant-USA TODAY Sports

The betting public has turned hard against Colorado even though the Buffs covered the spread against UCLA and Oregon State the last two weeks. There is a whiff of dysfunction with the demotion of OC Sean Lewis out of play-calling duties, which went to analyst Pat Shurmur. But the reality is that the team is the same one that started 3-0 and hosted College Gameday. Arizona is on the other side of the momentum spectrum with three consecutive wins ove teams ranked at the time of the game. The Cats have played well away from home (win over WSU and 3OT loss to USC). Holding UCLA to 10 points showed how far they have come defensively. I still expect the Buffs to be able to throw the ball at least enough to keep the game from turning into a demolition.

Arizona 28 - Colorado 20

WSU @ Cal, Cal -1

Both teams hoped for much more than a 1-5 Pac-12 record at this point in the season and had reason to believe they would be much more competitive. WSU, especially, has suffered a series of increasingly disappointing letdowns over the last month. Cam Ward’s hot start feels like ages ago, especially after a loss to Stanford in which he was both inefficient and non-explosive. The Cougs have been terrible against the run, and that’s exactly where Cal will try to beat them. On the other hand, Ca’s pass defense has been uncharacteristically bad all year. Husky fans will remember the touchdown party early in the season and Oregon did the same last week. If Ward and the WSU offense are going to get right before season’s end, this is where it has to happen.

WSU 38 - Cal 35

Stanford @ Oregon State, OSU -21

NCAA Football: UCLA at Stanford Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

The Beavers still control their destiny to the Pac-12 Title Game, but the road gets significantly harder, with Oregon and UW still ahead on the schedule. Will Stanford trip them up first? I am shocked that Troy Taylor took this skeleton crew to even a second conference win in his first year and he deserves a ton of credit for finding ways to win- their two Pac-12 victories were 46-43 and 10-7. While the Cardinal have improved, they have yet to show the ability to score against a defense anywhere near as good as Oregon State’s. On the other hand, the Beavers seldom score enough points to cover a spread this large, largely due to their pace. I don’t expect the game to be very competitive, but it will may move slowly enough for Stanford to cover.

OSU 35 - Stanford 17

Arizona State @ UCLA, UCLA -17

Trenton Bourguet was described as day-to-day earlier this week. His status is quietly important to this game because his replacement went 5/22 for 41 yards and an INT after he went down against Utah. If Jacob Conover starts, UCLA will likely obliterate ASU, as well, who played a lot like a team that completed its season with its upset win over WSU the week before. UCLA played its worst offensive game of the year last week, but I expect the rush offense to get back on track after a rare down week. If Bourguet were a sure thing, the spread would be an interesting number. With his status in question, I’m taking the Bruins.

UCLA 31 - Arizona State 13

USC @ Oregon, Oregon -16.5

NCAA Football: Oregon at Utah Christopher Creveling-USA TODAY Sports

If home field advantage is worth about 3.5 points and UW was favored by 3 last week at the Coliseum, that implies a 10 point UW advantage at home over USC. Does that mean bettors think Oregon is nearly a TD better than the one team that beat them? Of course, there are other factors at play, including USC falling to 2-8 ATS with another terrible defensive performance and the firing (or mercy killing?) of DC Alex Grinch. As bad as USC’s defense has been, they have only been blown out once, by Notre Dame, who has the best defense in the country against drop-back passes by EPA. Still, Oregon is great in this area, too, and I see no reason why USC will have more success against Bucky Irving than they did against Dillon Johnson. In short: USC can score on Oregon’s defense, but Oregon might put up 60.

Oregon 55 - USC 35