Pac-12 picks: All eyes on OSU-Washington, but don’t overlook the two duels in the desert

Oregon State is a slight favorite over Washington as the Huskies look to clinch a spot in Las Vegas

Two games, 100 miles apart, will frame the final stretch of the Pac-12 season on Saturday afternoon along Interstate 10.

Utah travels to Arizona shortly before lunch, with the home team (surprise, surprise) vying for a conference championship spot.

The Wildcats cannot clinch a spot in Las Vegas with a win, but a sixth straight loss to Utah would make the task much more difficult.

After lunch, Oregon plays Arizona State in a stadium that has previously derailed Duck dreams.

A late-November loss to the Sun Devils ended Oregon’s playoff run four years ago. Another defeat would have the same effect, knocking the Ducks out of first place in the Pac-12 championship race.

Washington (7-0 in conference) is the clear favorite and would clinch a spot with a win in either of its final two games.

Oregon (6-1) also has complete control over its destiny: win out, and the Ducks are in.

Arizona (5-2) needs the Ducks to lose in order to sweep their final two games. (Yes, the Wildcats will be cheering on ASU this weekend.)

Not to mention Oregon State (5-2), which must win out and requires assistance due to its head-to-head loss to the Wildcats. (This weekend, the Beavers are rooting for Utah.)

There are numerous scenarios, far too many for the Hotline’s expert research team and cutting-edge supercomputer to calculate.

However, clarity will begin to emerge along the Pac-12’s southern border on Saturday afternoon.

To the picks …

Last week: 2-4 Season: 35-32-1 Five-star special: 6-5

All picks against the spread Lines taken from BetMGM (via

(All times Pacific)

Colorado at Washington State (Friday) Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. on FS1 Line: WSU -4.5 (total: 64.5) Comment: Hello and welcome to the Look Out, Below! Bowl. The Buffaloes have lost four straight, while the Cougars have lost six in a row (but collected a huge victory off the field on Tuesday). Because the loser is officially out of the bowl season, desperation will be palpable. Because of the difficult logistics and short preparation time, we are usually wary of the road team on Friday night. However, CU quarterback Shedeur Sanders is outperforming his WSU counterpart, Cam Ward, and that should be the difference. Pick: Colorado

Utah at Arizona Kickoff: 11:30 a.m. on Pac-12 Networks Line: Arizona -1 (total: 44.5) Comment: We couldn’t help but notice the point spreads’ trajectory in this series, and how it corresponds to Arizona’s nadir and subsequent ascent. In 2019, the Utes were favored by 22 points, and in 2021, they were favored by 24 points. (During the pandemic year, the teams did not meet.) However, the line dropped to 17 last season and has now miraculously flipped completely. The Wildcats are narrow favorites, owing to their four-game winning streak as well as Utah’s extensive injury list. From here, Arizona appears to be well-equipped to deal with Utah at the line of scrimmage — a significant improvement over previous meetings. Pick: Arizona

UCLA at USC Kickoff: 12:30 p.m. on ABC Line: USC -6.5 (total: 65.5) Comment: The last meeting between the crosstown rivals as Pac-12 members appeared to be a pivotal matchup in the conference race. However, with both teams in late-season slumps, the stakes are local rather than national. How far will the Trojans fall in Lincoln Riley’s second season? Will the Bruins put on a show that forces Chip Kelly to resign? If Caleb Williams turns pro and misses the bowl game, this could be his final college appearance. He’s a next-generation talent. Take advantage of him while you can. Pick: UCLA

Oregon at Arizona State Kickoff: 1 p.m. on Fox Line: Oregon -23.5 (total: 53.5) Comment: The Hotline predicted ASU’s stunner in 2019, but we don’t see it happening this week. The Sun Devils aren’t as talented as they once were, and the Ducks are just as good as, if not better than, the Justin Herbert-led squad. Having said that, this should be closer than the point spread suggests. Nobody knows Oregon’s personnel and scheme better than ASU coach Kenny Dillingham, who was the Ducks’ offensive coordinator last season. That advantage won’t be decisive, but it will keep the Devils in the game. Pick: Arizona State

Cal at Stanford Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks Line: Cal -6.5 (total: 55.5) Comment: These future ACC rivals collide a few miles from the Pacific Ocean, with high stakes for one team and a spoiler opportunity for the other. Cal needs to win to keep its bowl hopes alive; Stanford was declared ineligible last week. Troy Taylor, the Cardinals’ first-year coach, will face his former team, which has a shaky defense and an erratic offense (20.9 points per game). Under playcaller Jake Spavital, the Bears are more proficient at scoring (30.9 ppg), but in a rivalry game between rookie quarterbacks, mistakes (or lack thereof) will determine the outcome. Pick: Stanford

Washington at Oregon State Kickoff: 4:30 p.m. on ABC Line: Oregon State -2.5 (total: 63.5) Comment: The Pac-12 game of the day is one of the most important in OSU history, and the fact that his team is favored against an opponent who hasn’t lost in more than a year speaks volumes about coach Jonathan Smith’s work in Corvallis. The strategy is simple: the Beavers will rely on their running game to control the clock and wear down the UW defense, while Michael Penix Jr. and the Huskies’ passing attack will soften the OSU defense, opening up running lanes. Pick: Washington

Straight-up winners: Colorado, Arizona, USC, Oregon, Stanford and Washington

Five-star special: Colorado. Nothing we’ve seen from WSU in the past six weeks suggests the Cougars can make enough big plays, while avoiding crushing mistakes, to end their losing streak.

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