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Friday night lights return to the Pac-12 Conference this week as the final stretch of the regular season is descending. With Washington State and UCLA being the final two teams to have a bye week, the other five games leave the door open for absolute mayhem.
First, both Arizona State and USC are still in the race for the Pac-12 South despite their weekly inconsistencies. The window of opportunities is quickly shutting, and the game between the two will have a significant impact on how things play out long-term. A loss by Utah would help each team gain some footing, too.
In the North, all it takes is one slip-up from Oregon and the Ducks could be outed from the top spot. Currently, Washington State is sitting half a game behind Oregon and could potentially take the lead in the division when the two square off next week. Not far behind is Oregon State, sitting one game back in the fight for the top spot.
Here’s this week’s slate of conference games, along with kickoff times, betting odds and picks from PHNX Sun Devils’ beat reporters Brittany Bowyer and Shane Dieffenbach.
Utah at Stanford – 7:30 (Fri.)
Currently leading the Pac-12 South, Utah (5-3 overall, 4-1 conference) travels to Stanford (3-5 overall, 2-4 conference) to open up the weekend. Earlier in the year, Stanford quarterback Tanner McKee was able to flex his gun-slinging abilities, but recently the overall offensive production has been lacking. Right now, Stanford’s struggles have hindered them from being able to score, averaging just 24 points per game. The Cardinal is currently No. 109 in the FBS for total offense, racking up just under 340 yards per game. McKee will have the chance to exploit Utah’s defense, which allows an average of 220 yards in the air versus 147 on the ground. Utah will pose a tricky offensive threat too. The Red Rocks are averaging over 190 yards on the ground, while quarterback Cameron Rising is hovering around 225 passing yards per game.
Britt’s pick: Utah
Shane’s pick: Utah
Spread: Utah -10
Moneyline: Stanford +270/Utah-350
Cal at Arizona – 12:00
As of now, the game between Cal (3-5 overall, 2-3 conference) and Arizona (0-8 overall, 0-5 conference) is still set to proceed despite a recently announced COVID-19 outbreak within the Bears’ program. While no specific names were mentioned, the university announced Thursday that multiple players would miss this week’s game against Arizona. In most cases, this would be an absolute nightmare for a team, but Cal still has a chance. It’s challenging to predict how this one will unfold without knowledge of who exactly is impacted by the COVID outbreak. Arizona, looking for its first win in over two years, is hungry to turn the corner and has come close a number of times.
Both teams have a strong overall defense, but Cal comes in at No. 56 on the FBS list, with Arizona 10 spots behind at No. 66. If Arizona wants to win, it’s going to have to be done in the air. Cal’s passing defense is much weaker in comparison to their ability to stop the run. The Bears give up an average of 245 passing yards per game, opposed to only 121 rushing yards. It’s going to be a tall order for Wildcats quarterback Will Plummer, completing 69 of 125 attempts for only 706 yards, two touchdowns and five interceptions this season. Cal, on the other hand, will need to be able to execute the run game. Arizona is ranked No. 107 in the FBS for rushing yards allowed, giving up just under 190 yards a per game.
Could Arizona shock everyone and finally pull off their first win against a fellow Pac-12 opponent? Only time will tell.
Britt’s pick: Cal
Shane’s pick: Cal
Spread: Cal -9
Moneyline: Arizona +270/Cal -350
Oregon State at Colorado – 4:00
Taking much of the conference by surprise this year, Oregon State (5-3 overall, 3-2 conference) will look to stay in the mix for the Pac-12 North Division title with a win at Colorado (2-6 overall, 1-4 conference). While Colorado’s defense is mid-tier, coming in at No. 78 in the FBS for giving up an average of 400 yards per game, the offense can’t match it. Moving the chains has been a struggle for Colorado, as the Buffs currently sit dead-last across the FBS for total yards per game. While Oregon State’s defense isn’t the most prestigious out there, the Beavers should be able to stand strong against Colorado. Looking at Oregon State’s explosive offense this year, they’re currently averaging 437 yards per game and are sitting at No. 39 in the FBS for its production this year. Expect Oregon State’s offense to start slowly but surely, devouring Cal’s defense after wearing them out early.
Britt’s pick: Oregon State
Shane’s pick: Oregon State
Spread: Oregon State -11.5
Moneyline: Colorado +350/Oregon State -475
No. 4 Oregon at Washington – 4:30
Oregon (7-1 overall, 4-1 conference) is the lone Pac-12 team to really make consistent noise on a national scale this year. Even as the lone ranked team in the conference, the Ducks have still looked rather inconsistent. Meanwhile for Washington (4-4 overall, 3-2 conference), consistency also hasn’t been their strong point. Their success largely depends on quarterback Dylan Morris, resembling a classic case of Jekyll and Hyde depending on the week. Right now on the season, he’s completed 156 of 256 pass attempts for 1,011 yards, 11 touchdowns and eight interceptions. The Ducks also aren’t as terrifying on defense as they’ve been in years past, allowing an average of around 395 yards per game. Moreover, Oregon specifically struggles defending the pass, giving up an average of 261 yards per game. If Washington wants to capitalize on it, Morris will have to have success in the air.
It’s a stark contrast from Washington. The Huskies are ranked first in the FBS for fewest passing yards allowed, surrendering only 122 per game. Attacking the run will likely be Oregon’s best option, but the Ducks will be doing so without top running back CJ Verdell. While it’s not the Civil War, the game between Washington and Oregon is a historic rivalry, adding an additional dimension to the game.
Britt’s pick: Washington
Shane’s pick: Oregon
Spread: Oregon -7
Moneyline: Washington +220/Oregon -270
USC at Arizona State – 7:30
Turmoil hit USC (4-4 overall, 3-3 conference) early in the season, but the Arizona State Sun Devils (5-3 overall, 3-2 conference) are currently feeling the pressure as the heat continues to intensify. USC got things back on the rails last week with a win over Arizona, while the Sun Devils were stunned by Washington State in their daytime homecoming game. Oddly enough, the Pac-12 South title is still on the table for both teams.
The Sun Devils dropped the last two in a row in heartbreaking fashion to the Trojans. In 2019, Arizona State fell behind early when hometown kid Kedon Slovis made his return to the Valley. He was able to light up the Sun Devils’ secondary early to give USC a significant lead, while ASU was relying on the talents of then freshman Joey Yellen in his first start at quarterback. In 2020, ASU had a meltdown in the final minutes of the game, giving away the lead and ultimately the win.
If Arizona State plans to get things back on track, it’s likely going to come down to two different factors. First is the return of running back Rachaad White to the lineup this week. ASU currently averages just under 192 rushing yards per game, putting them at No. 38 in the FBS. Pairing that with the Trojans’ run defense, this is his opportunity to shine. USC is currently giving up around 143 yards per game, a number the Sun Devils can likely surpass. The second factor is the secondary’s ability to hinder gunslinger Kedon Slovis and his number of targets. Right now, the Trojans are raking up an average of 315 passing yards per game, but they’ll be short a key man without receiver Drake London. After suffering an injury in last week’s game against Arizona, London has been ruled out for the remainder of the season.
Britt’s pick: Arizona State
Shane’s pick: Arizona State
Spread: ASU -9.5
Moneyline: USC +280/ASU -365