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Picking the Pac: Predictions, breakdowns, betting odds for this week’s slate of games

Shane Dieffenbach Avatar
November 19, 2021

Only two weeks remain in the Pac-12 regular season, and this weekend will determine which doors close in the postseason picture. The Oregon and Utah game is likely to be a preview of the Pac-12 Championship game next month, but nothing is guaranteed. Oregon State, which hosts Arizona State, will be fighting to keep its hopes for a division title alive, and Cal will look to get back into the swing of things following a Covid-19 outbreak.

Stress levels are high for just about every program in the Pac-12 right now, and from now to Nov. 28 feels like an eternity. In just the last week alone, Washington officially let head coach Jimmy Lake go following a one-week suspension for hitting a player. Lake’s termination makes the Huskies the third program to part ways with their head coach since the season started, an unusual occurrence for any program in the middle of a season. It’s unclear if other programs will be searching for new coaches soon, but a lot likely depends on the next two weeks.

Here’s a breakdown of the upcoming games on the schedule for this week.

*All odds from DraftKings Sportsbook. Use code PHNX at signup.*

Arizona at Washington State: Friday, 7 p.m.

Playing in yet another Friday night game, the Wildcats (1-9 overall, 1-6 conference) will hit the road to take on the Cougars (5-5 overall, 4-3 conference). It’s going to be a chilly night in Pullman, with the chance of snow leading up to kickoff. While nearly everyone counted the Wildcats out last week against Utah, Arizona gave the Utes a run for their money in a much closer game than anticipated.

Comparing the two teams, neither has an exceptionally explosive offense based on average total yardage. The Cougars are ranked no. 88 in the FBS, averaging 374.6 yards per game. The Wildcats come in as the next Pac-12 team at no. 103 with an average of 350.5 yards per game.

Breaking it down further, Washington State averages 261.4 yards per game in the air compared to Arizona’s 216.8. Arizona has a stronger run game, averaging 133.7 yards compared to the Cougars 113.2.

Pivoting to defense, the Wildcats surprisingly have one of the top passing defenses in the conference, ranked no. 20 in the FBS. Arizona is allowing an average of 193.6 yards per game compared to the Cougars’ 221.3. Washington State’s run defense is also slightly weaker, giving up 176.2 yards per game, just four more than Arizona.

This game could end up being closer than people anticipate, especially if the Cougars don’t take the Wildcats seriously.

Britt’s Pick: Washington State

Shane’s Pick: Washington State

Spread: Washington State -15

Total: 52.5

Moneyline: Arizona +475/Washington State -675

Washington at Colorado: Saturday, 1 p.m.

Neither of these teams has a particularly outstanding offense. Washington (4-6 overall, 3-4 conference) has done a slightly better job of moving the ball than Colorado (3-7 overall, 2-5 conference). The Huskies come in at no. 115 in the FBS for total offense, averaging 325.5 yards per game. Colorado is just above dead last, coming in at no. 126 with an average of 275.8 yards per game.

Colorado will find the passing game difficult against Washington. The Huskies lead the FBS in fewest yards allowed per game at 136.3. Colorado is just above dead last in the FBS for passing yards at 137.9.

When it comes to pounding the rock, neither team has a strong run game or the ability to stop the run (which partially explains Washington’s passing defense stats).

The biggest x-factor in this game is, once again, going to come down to who is in at quarterback. While the Huskies dropped last week’s game late to Arizona State, their decision to interchange freshmen Dylan Morris and Sam Huard was successful. Expect Washington to have more than enough to be able to leave Colorado with a win.

Britt’s Pick: Washington

Shane’s Pick: Washington

Spread: Washington -7

Total: 43

Moneyline: Colorado +215/Washington -265

UCLA at USC: Saturday, 2 p.m.

One of the most highly anticipated games of the season for both teams, the 91st annual Crosstown Rivalry is taking over Los Angeles this weekend. The Bruins (6-4 overall, 4-3 conference) will look to extend their winning record against the Trojans (4-5 overall, 3-4 conference), as they currently lead the series 49-32-7.

The Trojans lead the Pac-12 in passing offense, coming in at no. 17 in the FBS with 304.7 yards per game. Meanwhile, UCLA is towards the top of the FBS for rushing yards per game, coming in at no. 22 with an average of 203.9 yards. Comparing the differentials in total offense, the Trojans average slightly more at 441.8 yards per game opposed to the Bruins’ 424.

Both teams are pretty close to dead even on total defense, too. Ranking just four spots above USC, the Bruins come in at No. 77, allowing 391.2 yards per game to the Trojans’ 396.4.

However, the biggest difference here lies in the defensive strengths and weaknesses of each team. UCLA has the worst passing defense in the conference, giving up an average of 267.2 yards per game. USC isn’t much better, giving up an average of 233.3 yards per game.

USC struggles to stop the run. Giving up an average of 163 yards per game, the Trojans are near the middle of the conference. UCLA sits in second in the Pac-12 for rushing yards allowed, averaging just 124 yards per game.

Rivalries always bring an added factor to the game, and this game appears to have all the makings of an exciting back-and-forth affair until the finish.

Britt’s Pick: UCLA

Shane’s Pick: UCLA

Spread: UCLA -3

Total: 65.5

Moneyline: USC +140/UCLA -160

Cal at Stanford: Saturday, 5 p.m.

Despite a Covid outbreak within the program, Cal (3-6 overall, 2-4 conference) is ready to suit up for “The Big Game” against Stanford (3-7 overall, 2-6 conference). While both teams have a mediocre record, the rivalry game always carries meaning.

Cal was just starting to find a rhythm when it was disrupted by the outbreak before a game against Arizona. Down nearly two dozen players and a handful of coaches, Cal gave up a touchdown in the final two minutes to give the Wildcats a 10-3 win. The following week, Cal’s game against USC became the first NCAA football game to fall victim to pandemic-related cancellations this season. It has since been rescheduled for Dec. 4 .

The Bears are still eyeing the possibility of finishing the year with bowl eligibility should they win out, giving them some extra motivation this week. Meanwhile, Stanford appears to be limping towards the end of the season with a battered and bruised roster ready for things to come to a close. It’s hard to figure how this beat beat No. 4 Oregon.

Offensively, Cal is averaging 390.7 yards per game compared to Stanford’s 311.6 yards per game. The Bears also have the upper hand when it comes to defense, giving up an average of 361.6 yards per game compared to Stanford’s 426.9.

While Cal might have had the momentum swept out from underneath it last week, expect the Bears to gain some back with a win.

Britt’s Pick: Cal

Shane’s Pick: Stanford

Spread: Cal -2

Total: 45

Moneyline: Stanford +105/Cal -125

No.4 Oregon at No. 24 Utah: Saturday, 5:30 p.m.

A meeting between the only two ranked teams in the conference, it’s likely a preview of the Pac-12 Championship next month. With both Utah (7-3 overall, 6-1 conference) and Oregon (9-1 overall, 6-1 conference) inching closer to clinching their division titles, this will be the game to watch this weekend.

Comparing offenses, both teams generate nearly the same total yards per game. Oregon has a slight upper hand, putting out 441.3 yards per game to Utah’s 438.1. The Ducks also have a higher ranked rushing offense, churning out 227.4 yards per game compared to the Utes’ 214.5 yards. Utah has a slightly stronger passing offense, averaging 223.6 yards per game compared to Oregon’s 213.9.

Defensively, Utah has given up fewer yards overall per game this year than Oregon. Utah has a strong passing defense, giving up 208 yards per game to Oregon’s 248. The Ducks have done better at stopping the run this year, though, as they’re giving up just over 120 yards per game. The Utes don’t trail far behind, though, only allowing 136 yards. Utah has done a much better job of getting to the quarterback, as they lead the Pac-12 in sacks with 34.

Expect this game to be another close one. Oregon needs this win to stay in the national championship picture.

Britt’s Pick: Oregon

Shane’s Pick: Oregon

Spread: Utah -3

Total: 59

Moneyline: Oregon +135/Utah -155

Arizona State at Oregon State: Saturday, 8:30 p.m.

Heading to Corvallis for the third consecutive year, Arizona State (7-3 overall, 5-2 conference) will face both a mental and physical challenge in Oregon State (6-4 overall, 4-3 conference). The Sun Devils have historically struggled in Corvallis, especially late in the season, and things are shaping up for another wild game. Both teams still have the slightest window of opportunity to win their respective divisions, but it won’t be easy.

Should Oregon State come out victorious over Arizona State while Oregon loses to Utah, they’ll be in the fold for the Pac-12 North title, but they’ll need help. Not only will they have to beat Oregon the following week, too, but they’ll need Washington State to drop one of its final two games.

Arizona State’s gonna need even more luck to sneak away with the Pac-12 South. Not only will Utah need to drop its two remaining games, but ASU must win against Oregon State; A daunting task for the Sun Devils.

Perhaps the greatest example of Arizona State’s struggles are reflected by the outcome of the 2014 game. On the birth of a College Football Playoff appearance, the Sun Devils went into Corvallis on a late November night and fumbled away all hopes in a haunting loss. However, the Sun Devils have shown recently that they have tenacity and grit to get the job done in high-pressure situations, an improvement from the midway point of the year.

If the Sun Devils want to come out victorious, they’re going to have to focus on stopping the run. Oregon State has the seventh-ranked rushing offense in the country, averaging 228.7 yards per game. The Beavers aren’t as strong when it comes to passing the ball, averaging only 215.9 yards per game.

Arizona State’s offense has the potential to be deadly, but penalties and turnovers have plagued the Sun Devils in all three losses. Arizona State has the defensive upper hand over Oregon State in every statistic and the top stats in the Pac-12. The Sun Devils lead the way, only allowing 322.1 yards per game. Should ASU execute, there’s no reason it can’t come out on top.

Expect this game to be the sleeper of the weekend, literally and figuratively. Not only is it likely to be one of the most exciting games, the late kickoff time will ensure at least half of the country misses it.

Britt’s Pick: Arizona State

Shane’s Pick: Arizona State

Spread: Arizona State -3

Total: 58.5

Moneyline: Oregon State +125/Arizona State -145

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