There is only one game in the PAC-12 this week that matches two teams with winning records. That game occurs in Seattle, where Washington (6-2) hosts #22 Oregon State (6-2).
My college football rating system (Savvy Index) has predictions for that game, as well as all others across the nation. Those can be seen here.
I’m quite optimistic about predictions going forward because of a change I made in one module that performed fantastically last week and exceeded bookmakers in all three predicting objectives (declaring favorites, point spreads, and total game points).
Like many good things, the change came after many hours of testing. Testing is important for many things in life, bringing me to the random question: Who were the beta testers for Preparations A through G?
But let’s move on.
For the first time in weeks, every team in the PAC-12 is in action this week.
#22 Oregon State 6-2 at Washington 6-2
Michael Penix Jr. continues to lead the nation’s passers as the talented junior has resurrected his career after a terrible interception history at Indiana. Under the leadership of new head coach Kalen DeBoer, Penix has not only thrown for over 2900 yards with an accuracy rate of 67.8% and an interception rate that is less than half of average but he’s done it while averaging nearly nine yards per attempt.
This will be an interesting game because of the differences between these teams.
We already know that Washington can pass the ball better than nearly any team in America, and it’s clear that Oregon State just doesn’t have a quarterback that comes close to Penix.
Even though Washington’s pass defense leaves much to be desired, OSU quarterbacks have been inaccurate and won’t be able to take advantage of that opportunity.
Conversely, Oregon State’s overall pass defense is mediocre, but its secondary is one of the leaders in the nation for picking off passes. It will be essential for UW’s Michael Penix to stay on target because if OSU can pick its usual number of passes, the advantage will turn significantly to the Beavers.
Choosing between these two is a dicey sort of thing because both have proven themselves to be very competitive through a season that is three-fourths over. Oregon State has established stronger trends against stronger opposition, and they’ve done it through eight games.
Although betting lines favor Washington by 4.5, the Index calls this 32-28 for Oregon State.
#14 UCLA 7-1 at Arizona State 3-5
Players at Arizona State have begun to rise after firing former head coach Herm Edwards. With his departure, chaos and contention have dissipated.
Know what else has also dissipated?
Turnovers and penalties. Edwards’ tenure put ASU in the top 10 for both turnovers and penalties. Those issues were signs of a lack of player discipline, just as alleged recruiting violations were signs of a lack of discipline by coaches.
Arizona State played good football, but turnovers and penalties did the Sun Devils in. Now, ASU is in the top one-third of the nation for taking care of the ball and not committing penalties; Sun Devil fans can expect to see a steady rise in the fortunes of their football team.
However, that won’t happen this week because #14 UCLA is coming to town with a 7-1 record and eyes steeled on getting to the PAC-12 championship and another shot at league-leading Oregon.
The Bruins are loaded and nearly impossible to defend. They rank sixth in the nation for rushing (5.9 ypc), second for highest passing completion rate, and in the top 30 for fewest turnovers.
If Arizona State upsets the Bruins, it will likely come through the air where UCLA has struggled to defend passes.
However, it is unlikely that ASU will capitalize much since the Sun Devils switched to Trenton Bourguet at quarterback. Although Bourguet has composure and is capable of accurate passing, interim head coach Sean Aguano has opted for the long ball, putting Bourget’s interception rate much higher than usual.
When I see a quarterback with a 73% completion rate, a 4% interception rate, and over nine yards per pass, it makes me suspect that defenses gained an advantage by scheming for the long ball.
Bourguet should be okay against UCLA’s pass defense because it hasn’t been very good as a whole and even less when it comes to interceptions. The Bruins are also not very good at bringing pressure, which might be a lurking difference-maker for a strong-armed slinger like Bourget.
Without that, UCLA will win this game handily because its overwhelming offense is overwhelmingly better than Arizona State’s underwhelming defense.
Experts are predicting a 10.5 advantage for UCLA. The Index says 17.
Arizona 3-5 at Utah 6-2
Stoic comedian Steven Wright once said, “When I was in school, teachers told me that practice makes perfect; then they told me that nobody’s perfect. So, I stopped practicing.”
Utah’s defense hasn’t followed the Wright example. Instead, the Utes have been working hard to shore up their defensive ranks that were depleted by graduation, injury, transfers, etc. Despite that depletion, it appeared to me in the preseason that there was enough experience among players moving up that Utah could defend itself well.
That wasn’t the case in the first few weeks, but we now see the defense Ute fans are accustomed to.
With the hardest part of the schedule behind them, Utah is looking for its trip to Oregon on November 19th as the only barrier between them and a 10-2 regular season. A win over the Ducks might be enough to get the Utes into the PAC-12 championship game.
With or without Cameron Rising at quarterback, Utah will win this week’s game in Tucson simply because Arizona’s defense doesn’t have the bodies to get stops. The ‘Cat stoppers have yielded at least 45 points in each of their last three games, and with two more ranked opponents still to go, it is likely that streak will reach six.
(As of Monday afternoon, Rising was still listed as questionable for this week’s game.)
Betting lines say Utah will win by 16.5. Savvy Index thinks it will be Utah by 22, and the game will not likely reach the 67 points that experts predict.
#8 Oregon 7-1 at Colorado 1-7
I still believe interim head coach Mike Sanford would be an excellent choice to become permanent head coach at Colorado. He has a lengthy college coaching resume’, a brief stint as head coach (Western Kentucky), and he’s affordable, something that cash-strapped Colorado might like.
He received early accolades from fans who turned out in season-record numbers for his first game in mid-October. He’s likable, energetic, capable, and brings high energy that revived the spirits of Buffalo players and led to a win over California.
However, I don’t believe he will become the permanent coach at Colorado. I don’t believe fan accolades will continue after the brutal few games to come, and also because I see rumors of Bronc Mendenhall possibly coming to Boulder. If Mendenhall is interested, Sanford is out.
This week’s game against Oregon is the beginning of a torturous part of the schedule for Colorado. After an expected blow-out loss to the Ducks this Saturday, the Buffs travel to USC, then to Washington, and then finish at home against Utah.
It’s hard to find leverage points for Colorado against Oregon this week, although it probably lies in the passing game, where Oregon is struggling.
Oregon has the nation’s third-best offense overall. Colorado has the nation’s fourth-worst defense overall.
Colorado is in the bottom 25 for turning the ball over. Oregon is in the top 25 for not turning it over.
And . . .
One more thing . . .
Oregon has Bo Nix.
Savvy sees this as a 46-17 win over Colorado, with both of CU’s touchdowns coming through the air.
Washington State 4-4 at Stanford 3-5
Remember when Stanford had 300-pound offensive linemen who came to The Farm ready-made for the NFL?
Well, those days are gone.
Coach David Shaw has found it necessary to change his offensive scheme and, along with some off-field barriers created by the University, those elite linemen are choosing to go elsewhere.
As a result, Stanford’s offensive line play rates 101st in the nation. Mix in the nation’s fourth-most fumbling backfield, and you can see why the Cardinal have scored just two touchdowns in the past three games.
Things won’t get better this week against the marauding rampage of Washington State’s terrific defensive pressure.
Indeed, WSU has offensive line problems of its own, but the difference is that Stanford doesn’t have the defensive ability to take advantage of it, whereas WSU does.
Both defenses give up a lot of scores through the air, and neither has a strong offensive line, so whichever quarterback can dodge linebackers long enough to launch into the end zone is likely to emerge as the winner.
That advantage lies with Cameron Ward of Washington State.
Betting experts expect WSU to win this by 4.5. The Index says the margin will be twice that.
There are many reasons to wonder if Shaw will continue at Stanford. The school admins are not sold on the value of college football, and additional health-related restrictions have compounded recruiting difficulties that were already among the most difficult in the nation. Add to that the great disadvantages Stanford faced when the portal was blown open and NIL opportunities created, and you have to wonder why someone of Shaw’s stature would stay and put up with it. He says for the players. But how many more barriers does he need before he realizes that Stanford admins generally don’t value a future in the Power Five?
California 3-5 at #11 USC 7-1
Cal has lost four of its last five games and now has three of its next four against nationally ranked teams. Unless there are some significant surprises along the way, this outfit will finish the season either 4-8 or 3-9. If so, Cal will have completed its third losing season in a row, and we have to wonder about coach Justin Wilcox’s future at Cal.
At the same time, we must wonder if he would stay even if permitted. He faces similar restrictions as David Shaw at Stanford, and Wilcox has already been among the rumored candidates for the Colorado opening, among others.
Both Cal and Southern Cal offenses are in the top 10 nationally in taking care of the ball, and both have solid, although not spectacular, defenses. The difference in this game will be Cal’s inability to match USC’s prolific offense that averages 41 points and amasses 493 yards per game.
The Index, 40-14, favors USC.