Can Oregon State Make It Another Trap Game For USC? Predictions For All PAC-12 Games

The grand experiment of a pro-style organization in college football ended on Sunday at Arizona State when head coach Herm Edwards and athletic director Ray Anderson agreed that they should part ways. Although many Sun Devil fans hoped that meant Anderson would leave, it was Edwards who exited.

I don’t think the pro mode failed, but rather that Edwards made poor choices in hiring assistant coaches and was not as hands-on in daily operations as most head coaches.

The pro model was called a grand experiment at the time of Edwards’ hiring, and that brought to mind a grand experiment that comedic philosopher Steven Wright once mused: “If toast always lands butter-side down, and cats always land on their feet, what happens if you strap toast on the back of a cat and drop it?”

SMH.

I think Anderson shares much of the blame for the experiment not working because he was aware that Edwards was not as closely involved as most coaches, and there are precedents that tell us that loose management by a head coach is perilous.

We only need to look at Mack Brown when he was hired by Texas. He did well initially, but he began to turn over day-to-day coaching to his assistants while he chummed with boosters and alums. The program atrophied, and Brown was fired. Now that he is back to hands-on coaching at North Carolina, he is flourishing.

Edwards is an affable and likable guy. He’s always loose and looking for fun, but I suspect it is his measure of joy that became the root of the program’s dysfunction, both with players and coaches.

His departure is not a surprise. Rumors of recruiting violations and fan unhappiness have abounded for months, as do questions about the status of athletic director Anderson. He was the subject of fan displeasure most of the weekend.

The timing could scarcely have been worst for ASU players since the Sun Devils now must face nationally ranked Utah without the head coach who recruited them.

Let’s move from there to look at predictions for all PAC-12 from my prediction system (Savvy Index), which has been 80% accurate in predicting winners this season compared to 77% by the betting lines. To predictions for all 66 games this week, please visit here.

We’ll begin with the Utah-at-Arizona State game.

#16 Utah (2-1) at Arizona State (1-2)

Since an opening day loss to Florida, Utah has been rolling. Not only is the Ute defense in the top 25 for fewest points and fewest yards allowed, but the past two games have seen Utah outscore their opponents 108-14.

Leading the way has been junior quarterback Cameron Rising who is completing 67% of his passes and running the ball at nearly seven yards a clip.

What surprises me is Utah’s porous rush defense. All of us expected that rush defense to be near the top one-third of college football as it was last year. Instead, it ranks 107th in yards per carry and 90th for yielding rushing touchdowns in the red zone. That defense is also 107th for sacking quarterbacks.

Arizona State has two running backs with at least six yards per carry behind a surprisingly good offensive line. Staying more on the ground than usual appears to be the best approach for the Sun Devils against Utah.

Even with a good day running the ball, it isn’t likely that ASU can upset the high-flying Utes.

The Savvy Index calls this one 39-13 for Utah.

#11 USC (3-0) at #24 Oregon State (3-0)

Seeing Jonathan Smith’s Oregon State Beavers in the Savvy rankings is a joy.

And there’s even more joy this week because #11 USC is coming to town and college football fans know the trap-game nature of ranked Trojans coming to Corvallis. It makes me wonder if the folks of Corvallis keep their community small and unassuming to elevate the thought among opposing players that “there’s nothing to see here.”

The Trojan defensive approach is pressure, pressure, pressure, and that has resulted in USC leading the nation in team sacks and the top five for interceptions. Those are impressive accomplishments, but then, we have to keep in mind that the Troy defense has been able to load up against the pass since big leads have nearly forced opponents to pass.

Trojans’ most notable advantage is at quarterback, where Caleb Williams is fourth in the nation for completion percentage (74%).

My rating system calls this for USC 35-33, and national experts place the margin even higher.

But, there is one glaring weakness of USC, and Oregon State is just the team to take advantage of it.

Oregon State punt returner Anthony Gould leads college football in yards per punt return (34.7), while Silas Bolden is third in the nation for kickoff return average (36.3).

The Trojans rank 113th in the nation defending kick returns. They won’t fix that problem before kickoff, so the question becomes, how many times can Gould and Bolden get loose?

Also, keep in mind that Gould is one of the top five long-ball receivers in America.

There aren’t many analysts who risk a prediction that favors Oregon State, but there are more than enough elements to view this as an upset waiting to happen. One thing that is for sure is that this will be an exciting football game in an electric atmosphere, only possible at a college football game between two ranked teams.

#9 Oregon (2-1) at Washington State (3-0)

It is so hard to score on Washington State. The Cougars are 11th nationally for stopping the run. Even more impressive is that the WSU rush defense has not given up a touchdown all season.

Opponents have figured out that the best way to get yardage is through the air, and that is likely where Oregon will find itself more often than it desires. Even that is risky, however, as Cougar linebacker Deiyan Henley is among the strongest pass rushers in the nation, averaging more than one sack per game to go with an amazing 7.5 tackles for loss.

The Cougars are weak in their overall pass defense, so I expect the Ducks to do well in the air, with quarterback Bo Nix having a great season. Nix has passed the ball 88 times, and only 16 have not been completed. He has also been effective in running the ball (4.5 ypc), which, along with one of the best offensive lines in the nation, has helped Oregon to reach third in the FBS for avoiding sacks. Let’s see if that continues against the fury of Henley.

Oregon’s inability to get to opposing quarterbacks (110th) is a noticeable problem. Perhaps that will change this week because WSU’s offensive line has been performing considerably less than average.

Historically, Oregon has had some performance issues when traveling to Washington State, which may be why oddsmakers cite Oregon as just a six-point favorite.

The Savvy Index is projecting Oregon will have success through the air and prevail 33-16.

Arizona (2-1) at California (2-1)

Arizona’s defense doesn’t have the linebackers yet to stop the California offense despite that Cal offense being more growl than bite. Expect the Bears to stay on the ground, an appropriate place for fat ol’ bears. This will likely be a slugfest, and I doubt the total points between the two will reach 50.

A big problem looming for Cal against future PAC-12 opponents is pass blocking. If the Bears don’t fix that soon, their chance of making it to a bowl game will greatly deteriorate.

All of that ground game stuff might sound boring, but if you’re a Cal fan, getting to 3-1 is worth a Saturday afternoon full of yawns and occasional hibernations.

Cal should win this by seven.

UCLA (3-0) at Colorado (0-3)

UCLA ranked in my system a week ago. Then, the Bruins struggled against South Alabama and dropped out.

Before last week’s game, I mentioned that South Alabama was a terrific threat to upset the Bruins and UCLA needed to be prepared. The Jaguars came within inches of getting that upset.

I expected more out of UCLA this season. I figured the Bruins for a top 15 season, but the negative trends are mounting on Savvy, and this group is not what it seems. Fans may be ecstatic that their team is 3-0 and will be 4-0 after this week’s 42-14 predicted demolishing of Colorado. But, they will need to rejoice while they can because the next three weeks have games against resurgent Washington and nationally ranked Utah and Oregon.

As I study the trend lines today, I am convinced that by October 23rd, UCLA will go from 4-0 to 4-3.

Stanford (1-1) at Washington (3-0)

Wow, Washington has been spectacular this year. Not only have they produced net-positive trend lines every week, but the number of those positive trends is growing bigger with each game.

The work this new coaching staff has done for these players has been magnificent.

Take quarterback Michael Penix Jr.

Please.

That’s essentially how I saw things when Penix transferred from Indiana and brought his three-year history of throwing too many interceptions with him.

Yet, in just three games, Penix is second in the nation for passing yards, and his touchdown-to-interception ratio is 10-to-1. In his tenure at Indiana, he threw one interception for every 33 attempts. Right now, he has thrown just one interception in 100 attempts.

Whereas Penix was once a Hoosier hazard, he has become a Husky hero.

Coach David Shaw of Stanford is rebranding his scheme as he moves from bully-ball to the finesse of RPO. Changes in the game of college football in the past three years necessitated the Cardinal transition.

Changes of that magnitude take time, but there are already some positive signs, such as an effective running attack that Stanford hasn’t had for years. However, the offensive line needs to do a better job of pass blocking. Quarterback Tanner McKee is not a runner, so without better protection up front, Stanford is facing some trying games.

Washington is an easy 19-point choice with very little chance of an upset.

For the season, the Savvy Index prediction system is 31 games ahead of betting lines in predicting total game points. The system was also ahead of betting lines in predicting spreads, but games last week wiped out the Savvy advantage.

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About Bobby Albrant 120 Articles
Bobby Albrant is a former journalism major at the University of Oregon, creator of Savvygameline.com for college football predictions and rankings, former analyst for Southern Mississippi football games, and twenty years coaching girls basketball for all ages through CIF high school. He has three grown children with his youngest daughter playing on the Ventura (Ca) High School basketball team that defeated Dom Lugo High School and was the last high school game ever played by Diana Taurasi. He can be reached at bobbywildcat@gmail.com.