Pac12 Football: Madwed picks the Apple Cup and expected blowouts with Oregon State vs Oregon, Stanford vs Notre Dame, Utah vs Colorado, more
WASHINGTON -7 over Washington State, Friday, 4 PM EST
The Apple Cup does not have nearly as much at stake as it has the last few years. The players and coaches will insist that the will to win this game is as much as any other year, and it’s a somewhat believable trope. There isn’t much else to play for but statewide bragging rights to finish out the regular season. The Huskies and Cougars are both already bowl eligible and can finish no better than a mediocre 7-5. Each team has underlying numbers that suggest they are better than their record. UW and WSU rank 20th and 27th respectively in the country in ESPN’s football power index. Washington has fallen by six points or less in four of their five losses. If a few things had broken differently they could be sitting with two or three losses right now. The main reason why Washington has dominated the Apple Cup since Chris Peterson and Mike Leach took over is the balance that UW has on both sides of the ball. Those differences still exist and I see the result demonstrating that Washington State needs to add some semblance of a defense to keep up. I see the Huskies winning by more than a touchdown.
Oregon State +19.5 over (14) OREGON, 4 PM EST
The Beavers lost a heartbreaker to Washington State last week, going ahead by two scores with just over four minutes left, only to give up two late touchdowns and lose by one. Somehow, Oregon comes off an even more heartbreaking loss. Their loss at Arizona State crushed their playoff hopes. It can be hard to salvage a positive end to the season when you have hopes that high heading into the last few weeks. Oregon State could clinch a bowl game if they can pull off the upset, but they will go into the offseason feeling good regardless. Five wins seemed unattainable in August, but OSU has leaned on a powerful offense to win more games than they have in recent years. I think that the Ducks have too much talent to lose this week, but I think it will be closer than a three touchdown game. Oregon State comes in with a lot of motivation and will keep it relatively close.
(16) Notre Dame -16.5 over STANFORD, 4 PM EST
A close loss to Cal in their rivalry game dashed Stanford’s bowl game hopes, so this will be their last game of the year. Notre Dame has been on a roll since their blowout loss to Michigan in late October. The Cardinal’s anemic offense will have trouble moving the ball on a Fighting Irish defense that has given up 34 points combined in their last three games. It can be difficult to predict the outcomes of games in which the teams do not have many common opponents, but I have a sense this one will be a blowout. Games in which one team is well rounded and the other is not usually end up lopsided.
(6) UTAH -28 over Colorado, 7:30 PM EST
Utah is the last hope for a Pac-12 College Football Playoff participant. Unlike Oregon, they have been holding up their end of the bargain. Outside a narrow win at Washington, the Utes have destroyed six of their last seven opponents. Colorado’s win over Washington was an aberration and will not translate into a second upset. Utah needs to win this game and the conference championship to control their fate. They have one of the most efficient offenses in the country and a suffocating defense to go along with it. Colorado showed toughness on defense against Washington, but that shouldn’t allow us to ignore how they did in most other games this season. Utah will win convincingly, the only question is if they will cover the spread. Based off previous performances against lower-tier conference opponents, the Utes will.
ARIZONA STATE -13.5 over Arizona, 10 PM EST
Another week, another joke of a defensive performance for Arizona. They are giving up 38.1 points per game in conference games this year. Arizona State, led by electric freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels, lit it up against a strong Oregon defense last week. It’s almost inconceivable that they won’t put up 30 or more Saturday night. Arizona won’t be able to keep up and I expect them to lose by multiple touchdowns. This season appears to be a promising jumping off point for an Arizona State team that has been up and down the last few years. I would expect Daniels to compete for Pac-12 player of the year, and possibly the Heisman trophy, before he leaves the school in a few years.
California -1.5 over UCLA, 10:30 PM EST
The Bruins have improved upon the bottom feeder label that they earned in the first few weeks of the season. Back to back losses to USC and Utah won’t change the measured optimism they should have going into the offseason. Cal fell hard after being ranked a month into the season. A large reason for that was the loss of quarterback Chase Garbers their clear MVP. Garbers is back and led the Golden Bears to a win against rival Stanford last week. I think Cal will be motivated to finish strong and end the season with a winning record. Pairing a competent offense with their tough defense will lead to a win in Los Angeles. I am going with Cal.
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