The final full week of Pac-12 games has a lot at stake for teams near the top of the standings. USC hosts Notre Dame with a shot at CFP not so far away. Oregon and UW play rivalry games and need wins to stay alive in the conference. It’s the kind of race to the finish the conference hopes to see.
As always, the lines are courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook. Dimensions/lines subject to change. The T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.
Friday: Arizona State @ Arizona, Arizona -4
It’s a good thing it’s a rivalry game because neither team has much to play for yet. Although they took different paths, both teams defended poorly and moved the ball quite well. ASU is slightly heavier, especially when Emory Jones is under center. Arizona spends a lot. Both teams have lost four of their last five games. The match is even enough to take the home team in a tiebreaker.
Arizona 34 – USS 27
Friday: UCLA @ Cal, UCLA -10
After a 6-0 start, UCLA lost three of five to retire from the Pac-12 title game. They haven’t played much differently during this streak, they’ve just encountered offenses that can follow their own fireworks. Jack Plummer has been playing a little better at QB lately, but the Bears are unlikely to be able to keep up offensively. I see a game where UCLA sustains long runs and pulls away despite a good effort from Cal.
UCLA 37 – Cal 24
Oregon @ Oregon State, Oregon -3
Utah’s self-inflicted errors were largely responsible for Oregon avoiding a second straight loss at home last week. The hobbled version of Bo Nix still threw the ball well, but inconsistent Utah running defense mostly stopped Bucky Irving and Noah Whittington. The Duck rushers will need to bounce back against better point defense in Corvallis. Oregon State closed the season strong and can make a major statement (and throw the conference title game into chaos) by closing Pac-12 play with a home win. While my heart will beat for the Beavers, it’s hard to imagine Ben Gulbranson keeping pace with a shootout with a normally explosive Oregon offense.
Oregon 38 – Oregon State 30
Utah @ Colorado, Utah -29.5
The Buffs failed to cover a gap of at least 30 points for the third straight week last week against UW. Somehow that soft outing led to a tighter gap against a very good Utah team. Yes, Cam Rising hit its toe against Oregon in the second half, but the record is still very good. Colorado apparently exited the season emotionally and I don’t see them following a team that remains highly motivated.
Utah 49 – Colorado 10
Notre Dame @ USC, USC -5.5
The Trojans clinched a spot in the Pac-12 title game with their thrilling victory at the Rose Bowl last week. They certainly don’t want to stop there, however, with a CFP berth in sight. Notre Dame’s offense improved dramatically in the second half of the year, so Pac-12 teams that only saw them through games against Stanford and Cal might not recognize this release. . The dynamic rushing duo of Audric Estime and Logan Diggs are exactly the kind of running game problem that gave USC fits. I don’t think it will be enough to beat Caleb Williams and company, but I think the Irish will keep it very close.
USC 35 – Notre Dame 31
BYU @ Stanford, BYU -6.5
BYU would fit into the Pac-12 pretty easily in terms of on-field performance. They have a solid offense led by a dangerous passing game and a defense that struggles to counter the run and the pass. Stanford dreamed up great games at unexpected times, especially the victory over Notre Dame. They pushed Cal hard in the Big Game but missed a TD. I suspect this will be the end of the road for this Cardinal team and more changes may follow after the year.
BYU 35–Stanford 27
Washington @ Washington State, Washington -2
It’s an uncommon feeling in recent Apple Cup history for the game to feel like a real coin toss. Chris Petersen and Pete Kwiatkowski solved Mike Leach’s air raid so well that the game lacked suspense, even in Leach’s best Pullman seasons. Going the other way, the 2021 version of the game was a disaster for the Dawgs before it even started and marked the low point of the Jimmy Lake era, even after Lake was fired. This year is different; coaches, matchups, venue and weather have converged to make the game an even affair.
At 7-4 and already bowl-eligible before the Apple Cup, Jake Dicker’s first full season as WSU head coach has already been a success. Getting a second win over Washington would catapult him to much higher status in Pullman. After a three-game losing streak that dropped the Cougs to 4-4, the team’s offensive focus has changed. While the principles of the air raid are still there, the play call relieved QB Cam Ward and moved him to a stable of running backs, led by Nakia Watson. Simplifying the game for Ward improved his efficiency and led to a three-game winning streak, although you could argue the better team won those six games and the inferior opponents found themselves bunched up towards the end. As a Husky fan, I’d have to say I’d rather deal with an efficient running game than an erratic but explosive passing offense given how the season has gone. We’ll see if I live to regret that wording.
Offensively, UW should be able to fall back on the passing offense that has carried the team all year. WSU’s defense has been one of the best in the Pac all year, but advanced stats show it’s better against rushing (18e in EPA/game) than against the pass (72n/a). As always, Michael Penix and Ryan Grubb will have to find weak points in the defense and calibrate the weapons to exploit them. After two quiet weeks for Roma Odunze, now would be the perfect time to find a way to get the ball to the best playmaker in the team and let him work. While there are reasons to be concerned on the road, in the cold, against a good defense, I’m still confident that Penix will find a way to go over 300 yards and 30 points. Given WSU’s recent offensive performance, I think that may be enough.
UW 31 – WSU 28
What will be the result of the Apple Cup?
UW wins by more than 2
UW wins by 2 or less
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