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Pac-12 picks: Utah, USC cover on the road while Arizona meets the moment against Washington State

By Jon Wilner Bay Area News Group

The penultimate Saturday of the Pac-12’s regular season features overlapping games with implications for all four participants. The USC-UCLA and Utah-Oregon matchups are worth watching, too.

A dash of hyperbole never hurts, right?

With so much attention placed on the showdowns in Eugene and Pasadena, California, the Hotline would remind readers of the other consequential matchups in Week 12.

Our focus, first and foremost, is on Arizona, the only team still in postseason limbo. The Wildcats must beat Washington State on Saturday and Arizona State next week to clinch their first bowl berth since 2017 – an achievement that would come in the second year of Jedd Fisch’s rapid rebuild.

Every other team is locked into, or out of, the postseason.

Two hours up I-10, and 15 minutes later, Arizona State hosts Oregon State with interim coach Shaun Aguano running out of opportunities to make his case for the permanent job.

The Sun Devils are 2-5 since Aguano took over for Herm Edwards. While he retains some support within the program and from high school coaches throughout the state, Aguano hasn’t won enough to position himself as the front-runner. Could an upset of OSU and a victory in the Territorial Cup change that? Perhaps.

Meanwhile, the two desert visitors are playing for postseason position.

Oregon State (7-3) was eliminated from the conference race last weekend but could climb into one of the Pac-12’s top-tier bowl games if it sweeps ASU and Oregon.

Washington State’s ceiling isn’t quite as high, but the Cougars (6-4) must beat either Arizona or Washington to secure a winning season for the sixth time in the past seven years (2020 excluded).

And let’s not overlook a critical game in the top left corner of the Pac-12 footprint, where Washington is alive and well following the upset of Oregon.

The Huskies are one game behind USC, Oregon and Utah and need help to reach the conference championship game – above all, they need UCLA to lose this week – but their pursuit demands wins over Colorado on Saturday and at Washington State next week.

The only Week 12 game with zero postseason implications is Big Game, the 125th meeting between Cal and Stanford


To the picks …

Last week: 3-3

Season: 36-31

Five-star special: 6-5

Spreads taken from BetMGM

Game totals in parenthesis

All times Pacific

Washington State at Arizona

Kickoff: 11 a.m. on Pac-12 Networks

Line: Washington State -4.5 (total: 63.5)

Comment: Arizona quarterback Jayden de Laura called the duel with his former team “personal,” which isn’t necessarily good news for the Wildcats if emotions cause de Laura to make mistakes. The key for WSU? Quarterback Cam Ward and the offense must convert on third down to keep the Cougars’ defense fresh against Arizona’s high-powered attack.

Pick: Arizona

Oregon State at Arizona State

Kickoff: 11:15 a.m. on ESPN2

Line: Oregon State -7.5 (total: 54)

Comment: The Sun Devils have nothing at stake except the pride of Senior Day. Expect the visitors to establish their ground game against an ASU run defense yielding an average of 175.5 yards per game. That should limit the number of possessions and, as a result, the scoring opportunities. The point total feels a bit high.

Pick: Oregon State

Stanford at Cal

Kickoff: 2:30 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks

Line: Cal -4.5 (total: 46.5)

Comment: The 40th anniversary of The Play finds these ancient rivals in downward spirals. The Bears have lost six in a row and just fired offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave. Meanwhile, the Cardinal have dropped three in a row overall and six consecutive November games (over two seasons). Does a team that lost to Colorado deserve to be favored by more than a field goal against anyone? We think not.

Pick: Stanford


Kickoff: 5 p.m. on Fox

Line: USC -1.5 (total: 75.5)

Comment: The Bruins torched USC for 62 points last year, and we fully expect them to top 50 in the sold-out Rose Bowl. The difference this time? Even without injured tailback Travis Dye, USC is plenty capable of matching the hosts touchdown for touchdown. The defenses are comparable (i.e., weak) in preventing third-down conversions, but the Trojans hold a decisive edge in turnover creation. Last touchdown wins … in the third overtime.

Pick: USC

Colorado at Washington

Kickoff: 6 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks

Line: Washington -30.5 (total: 64.5)

Comment: Obvious trap situation for the Huskies after the win at Oregon and with the Apple Cup next week, but Colorado lacks the personnel to take advantage. The point spread and total suggest the expectation of a 48-17 final score, which seemingly gives too much credit to CU’s offense. In fact, the Buffaloes could not cover 31 points against Oregon or 34 against USC, which makes us skeptical this week.

Pick: Washington

Utah at Oregon

Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. on ESPN

Line: Oregon -3 (total: 61.5)

Comment: The second half of the Pac-12’s huge doubleheader could be the game of the day. We wonder about Oregon’s state of mind after the loss to rival Washington and the physical status of quarterback Bo Nix, who suffered a lower-body injury late in the game. Utah has won four in a row, and its balanced attack seems primed to exploit a wobbly Oregon defense. Closer than the two matchups last season, but the same outcome.

Pick: Utah

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

Five-star special: Washington. One of the nation’s best aerial games will make mincemeat of CU’s porous pass defense. In other words, it’s a stat-padding game for quarterback Michael Penix Jr. before he calls it a night at the end of the third quarter.