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Picking the Pac, Week 4: To the Pac-mobile!

Conference play enters full bloom with ranked matchups galore

Washington State v Oregon State Photo by Ali Gradischer/Getty Images

I intentionally leaned into the Pac-12 in non-conference games last week and it did not pay off. Oregon, Oregon State, and Colorado each won, but failed to cover against an inferior opponent. Arizona State wasted one of their last good shots at a win. As we enter full conference play, overall conference strength matters less. Now we will start to see which teams can turn promising starts into real conference contention.

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

Colorado @ Oregon, Oregon -21

The Ducks are ranked just slightly behind UW in most major polls and computer rankings. Colorado is in the top 25 and has five-times better odds than Cal to win the Pac-12. So why is the spread the same for the Huskies and Ducks as they host these two opponents? I have gone back and forth on Colorado but I’m confident this will be the week they go back to being mortal. Travis Hunter is out. Oregon can run the ball and make the sorts of quick passes that Colorado State used to force Colorado to tackle in the open field. Yes, the Buffs will score points. The defense will give them up even faster against an excellent offense.

Oregon 55 - Colorado 30

UCLA @ Utah, Utah -4.5

North Carolina Central v UCLA Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Another matchup between two ranked Pac-12 teams is much tougher for me to call. After he seemed likely to play in the season opener, we still don’t know if we’ll finally see Cam Rising in this one. The Utes have survived without him, but they haven’t thrived. UCLA has been a different team with Dante Moore at QB. Salt Lake City is a very hostile road environment and will be an exceedingly tough place for him to learn on the job. I give Utah the edge here due to the home field advantage, the very strong defense, and the two games under their belt against Power 5 competition.

Utah 31 - UCLA 24

Oregon State @ Washington State, Oregon State -3

Yet another pair of ranked Pac-12 teams will face off in Pullman. Last year, the Cougs failed to build on their momentum after an early season upset over Wisconsin. This year, they will try to right that wrong, but they will have to continue the process in an extremely tough test. The Beavers haven’t faced anyone better than the middle of the Mountain West so far, though they have passed all their tests with flying colors. Sure, it would be nice for DJU to eliminate some of the mistakes and finish more drives (same as it ever was), but they have not been in trouble at any point thus far. I would have taken OSU quickly headed into the season. While WSU deserves credit for beating Wisconsin, I’m not ready to drastically alter my perception of them quite yet. I think the line is in the right place and home field could be decisive. Nonetheless, I’m going to take Oregon State to play enough defense to take Cam Ward out of his rhythm and control the game on the ground.

OSU 28 - WSU 24

Arizona @ Stanford, Arizona -12

Arizona v Mississippi State Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images

If Arizona had pulled out the overtime game in Starkville, we’d probably be talking about them in the same breath as WSU- a developing program on the right track and sneaking into the top 25. There is no shame in losing that game on the road in overtime, so the Cats have done no worse than hold serve. Stanford flattered to deceive in a decisive Week 1 win at Hawaii. Since then, they have looked like the threadbare team that we expected them to be. While I remain a Troy Taylor admirer, he has a lot of roster building to do before this squad can compete in the conference. The question is whether the hints of a better Arizona defense will withstand conference play. That defensive unit will also decide whether Arizona can cover this large road spread.

Arizona 33 - Stanford 20

USC @ Arizona State, USC -34.5

This line is daring us, begging us to take the Sun Devils. I keep thinking that USC won’t score enough points to cover the prodigious spreads the oddsmakers throw on them, and the Trojans just keep scoring in the high-50s and 60s. Meanwhile, ASU laid the egg of all eggs in a 29-0 home shellacking at the hands of Fresno State. It’s difficult to take a team after a catastrophe like that. And yet! Picking only on what happened most recently is a recipe for failure. Of course, USC will win the game. But ASU hasn’t given up 30 yet this year. Is it ever so slightly possible that they keep it within 5 TDs? I suppose. Maybe I’m a prisoner of the moment, but it’s so difficult for me to see ASU scoring enough to keep up with even a mediocre USC offensive performance.

USC 49 - ASU 14