Oregon and Arizona should cover against USC and Colorado, respectively
Almost two years after Utah took over the Pac-12, the two-time defending champions make their final stand.
If the Utes lose in Seattle on Saturday, the odds of a three-peat grow as long as their injury list.
A thrilling run of success that began with the demolition of Oregon in November 2021 would come to an end.
The Utes are 4-2 in conference play, trailing Washington by two games. A loss this weekend would create a three-game deficit with two games remaining, effectively eliminating Utah from the No. 1 seed in the Pac-12 championship game.
The outcome of the Oregon-USC game would have a large impact on the likelihood of claiming the No. 2 seed.
A Utes loss and a Ducks (5-1) win would put Utah two games behind Oregon with two games remaining, plus a head-to-head loss.
Furthermore, the Utes would be a game behind Oregon State, which also has the tiebreaker advantage.
At that point, they’d need to beat Arizona and Colorado while hoping for an unlikely series of events elsewhere that results in a three- or four-team tie for the No. 2 seed, then have the tiebreaker fall just right.
Even if Oregon loses to USC (the Ducks are more than two touchdowns favorites), the road to Las Vegas will be extremely narrow.
Granted, the Utes were on the winning end of an unlikely tiebreaker scenario last year, sneaking into the title game and defeating USC for their second consecutive title.
So far, history suggests that it is possible.
But what are the chances of it happening twice?
This, in our opinion, is it. If the Utes lose in Seattle, their quest for a three-peat is over.
To the picks …
Last week: 4-2 Season: 33-28-1 Five-star special: 6-4
All picks against the spread Lines taken from BetMGM (via VegasInsider.com)
(All times Pacific)
Arizona at Colorado Kickoff: 11 a.m. on Pac-12 Networks Line: Arizona -10.5 (total: 54.5) Comment: How will the Wildcats, who made the playoff rankings this week, deal with their newfound success and the role of double-digit road favorite? Yes, the trip to Boulder has lost some luster since CU’s demise, but Arizona’s momentum shows no signs of slowing. We expect the Wildcats’ improved defense to apply consistent pressure to Buffaloes quarterback Shedeur Sanders, while the balanced offense will move the ball effectively. This season, Arizona is 8-1 against the spread. Make it 9-1. Pick: Arizona
Utah at Washington Kickoff: 12:30 p.m. on Fox Line: Washington -9.5 (total: 53.5) Comment: The first of two marquee games in the Pacific Northwest pits UW’s first-rate offense against Utah’s stalwart defense, but our prediction sees the game hinge on the other conflict: Utah’s hit-or-miss offense against UW’s shaky defense. Will Husky Stadium’s raucous atmosphere affect rookie quarterback Bryson Barnes? Will the Utes have a productive rushing attack? A 60 percent chance of rain is predicted. Pick: Utah
Washington State at Cal Kickoff: 1 p.m. on ESPN2 Line: Cal -1.5 (total: 58.5) Comment: The visitors haven’t won since September 23, while the hosts last won on September 30, so one losing streak will end. WSU’s offense has sputtered since its hot start, but it could find its stride against a porous Cal defense. Meanwhile, in their last two home games (against Oregon State and USC), the Bears have scored 89 points. Because both teams are careless with the ball, turnovers will be crucial. There isn’t much separating these desperate teams, but Cal appears to be more demoralized than WSU. Pick: Cal
Stanford at Oregon State Kickoff: 2:30 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks Line: Oregon State -21 (total: 54.5) Comment: Congratulations to the Beavers on reaching a level of success over the last two seasons that includes trap games. Will they generate the necessary urgency to handle the role of heavy home favorite after a road win in Boulder and with Washington looming next week? Stanford’s two conference victories came on the road (at Colorado and WSU), while it fell short at home to Washington and Arizona. In other words, the Cardinal is superior to its appearance. Pick: Stanford
Arizona State at UCLA Kickoff: 6 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks Line: UCLA -17 (total: 44.5) Comment: Because both teams have injured quarterbacks — several of them, in fact — we’ll ignore that aspect of the game and concentrate on the other 21 positions. ASU is coming off a brutal loss at Utah, but it lacks the healthy bodies to recover quickly, and it will face a steep challenge up front against UCLA’s physical defensive line. The game has the feel of a grind, with the Bruins gradually taking control in the second half. Pick: UCLA
USC at Oregon Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. on Fox Line: Oregon -15.5 (total: 73.5) Comment: The second of two marquee clashes has all the hallmarks of a lopsided affair. Oregon should be able to score at will against USC’s turnkey defense, but how will Caleb Williams and company fare? This is dependent on the offensive line of the Trojans, which must carve running lanes and give Williams time to throw. We can’t help but recall USC’s lackluster performance on the line of scrimmage against Notre Dame a few weeks ago. The Ducks should have similar success, adding to the reigning Heisman Trophy winner’s frustration. Choose Oregon
Arizona, Washington, Cal, Oregon State, UCLA, and Oregon were the clear winners.
Stanford is a five-star institution. The Cardinal have covered the spread in four of their last six games. Given OSU’s precarious position (Washington is coming up next week), the visitors should stay long enough to make it five of seven.