Pac-12 picks: Washington’s history of desert doom in spotlight as Huskies visit Tucson

USC and Oregon are huge favorites on the road while Utah visits OSU

It’s not uncommon for Pac-12 teams to struggle in particular venues or against specific opponents. Oregon, for example, has had significant difficulty against Stanford over the years. Washington State has recently dominated its series with Oregon State.

There is an unexpected antagonist in Washington’s case. It is not a sports team or a stadium. It’s a place. UW has a long history of avoiding playing in Arizona.

Guess where the seventh-ranked Huskies will be this week?

The Hotline examined two decades of point spreads and game results in Tucson and Tempe ahead of Washington’s matchup with unranked Arizona.

The picture is even worse than we imagined.

In the last 20 years, the Huskies have played 17 games in the desert and are 4-13 against the spread.

They are just 2-7 against the spread when visiting Arizona and Arizona State since the Pac-12’s expansion began in 2011.

Maybe it’s the heat. Or the journey. Or it could be a lack of motivation. A number of factors could be at work. Perhaps there is no logical explanation.

When the Huskies are the betting favorite at Arizona or ASU, the numbers are even more bleak: they have covered just once in six games (as a six-point favorite in Tucson in 2019).

Last year, they stumbled as double-digit favorites in Tempe in early October, and the loss kept them out of the Pac-12 championship game.

They haven’t lost since and are a 17-point favorite this week.

Give the points at your own risk.

Last week: 3-3 Season: 16-15 Five-star special: 3-1

All picks against the spread Lines taken from BetMGM (via

(All times Pacific)

Utah at Oregon State (Friday) Kickoff: 6 p.m. on FS1 Line: Oregon State -3.5 (total: 44.5) Comment: The first of four Friday night conference games is a tense affair, with the hosts looking to avenge a loss (at WSU) and the visitors looking to remain undefeated. Utah quarterback Cameron Rising’s status is unknown; he hasn’t played all season and will be rusty when he returns. The Utes, on the other hand, are struggling without him and have relied on their defense to save them. Two years ago, the Beavers rushed for 260 yards in an eight-point win at Reser Stadium. Their strategy will be similar on Friday, but will they be able to replicate their success against the conference’s best defense? We are not persuaded. Pick: Utah

USC at Colorado Kickoff: 9 a.m. on FOX Line: USC -21.5 (total: 73.5) Comment: Kudos to USC for agreeing to meet for breakfast in Boulder, turning this highly anticipated match into another ‘Big Noon’ appearance for Colorado. Notably, the point spread is the same as the betting line for CU’s game against Oregon last week. That 21-point performance came against a better team than the one the Buffaloes will face this weekend. We expect Caleb Williams and the Trojans to score early and often, but Shedeur Sanders and the Buffs will do the same. Don’t be surprised if there’s a little high drama in the air. Pick: Colorado

Arizona State at Cal Kickoff: 12 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks Line: Cal -11.5 (total: 47.5) Comment: The third weekend matchup lacks the stakes or the hype of the Friday night and Saturday morning games, but it’s a crucial game for the Bears (2-2) in their quest for a bowl berth. We can’t help but wonder about the Sun Devils’ physical and emotional state following their arduous battle with USC last weekend. Both teams are uncertain at quarterback, with ASU missing injured starter Jaden Rashada and Cal lacking a high-level option. Even though the Bears are desperate, we believe the line is a little too high. Pick: Arizona State

Oregon at Stanford Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks Line: Oregon -27.5 (total: 61.5) Comment: Fresh off a rout of Colorado, the Ducks must summon some urgency to face their next challenge. Yes, they have struggled in the past against inferior Stanford teams, and they lost in overtime two years ago when they were ranked third in the country. However, the Cardinals had more talent and better quarterback play than this version. Unless Oregon commits a string of turnovers, the game should be over with five minutes left. However, the line is too high for our liking and provides a back door for the underdog once both teams’ starters have been removed. Pick: Stanford

Washington at Arizona Kickoff: 7 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks Line: Washington -17.5 (total: 67.5) Comment: This week’s only night game has the makings of a thrilling contest if the Wildcats execute flawlessly and the Huskies finally play like mortals after so many displays of dominance. In the narrow escape at Stanford, Arizona quarterback Jayden de Laura injured his ankle. If he is unable to play, rookie Noah Fifita will have to deal with Washington’s dangerous edge rushers. That appears to be a recipe for disaster, but given the series’ history, we expect a plot twist or two. Pick: Arizona

Straight-up winners: Utah, USC, Cal, Oregon and Washington

Utah is a five-star destination. There aren’t many opportunities to back the two-time defending Pac-12 champions as a favorite. We’ll gladly take the Utes and the points.

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