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Pac-12 picks: Arizona and the Oregon schools have been money against the spread; USC and UW, not so much

By Jon Wilner Bay Area News Group

The top team in the Pac-12 standings is near the bottom against the point spread while a bottom feeder is one of the best when the betting line comes into play.

Washington’s struggles with the spread should come as zero surprise to anyone who watched the Huskies struggle as huge favorites against Arizona State and Stanford.

Meanwhile, ASU’s success against the betting line was reflected in narrower-than-expected losses to Colorado and Washington and the upset of WSU last weekend.

With two months down and one remaining, it’s clear which Pac-12 teams are the best on the field and which are simply the best bets.

Here are the records against the spread, taken from

Arizona: 7-1

Oregon: 6-1-1

Oregon State: 5-3

Arizona State: 4-3-1

Colorado: 4-3-1

Utah: 4-3-1

Stanford: 4-4

UCLA: 4-4

Washington State: 4-4

Washington: 3-4-1

Cal: 3-5

USC: 2-7

Will those trends hold down the stretch? Perhaps not.

The betting public and oddsmakers alike will adjust to on-field trends, limiting the number of value plays available each week.

To the picks …

Last week: 4-2

Season: 29-26-1

Five-star special: 6-3

All picks against the spread

Lines taken from BetMGM (via

Arizona State at Utah

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

Line: Utah -11 (total: 41.5)

Comment: The Utes are coming off their worst loss in eons – the 35-6 wipeout against Oregon – but are typically good in this situation: Since the start of the 2018 season, but excluding the shortened 2020 season, Utah is 9-2 following losses in the regular season. Meanwhile, the Sun Devils are fresh off their first conference win and have played well lately in victory and defeat. Their defense is solid and matches up well with Utah’s injury-depleted defense. But can ASU move the ball against a Utes defense that should be spitting blood after being embarrassed by Oregon?

Pick: Utah

Cal at Oregon

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

Line: Oregon -24 (total: 57.5)

Comment: The Bears are better than expected on offense following the switch to freshman quarterback Fernando Mendoza but worse than expected on defense. The Ducks are good on both sides of the ball and are our pick to win the conference title. Cal coach Justin Wilcox typically fares well against his alma mater, at least as the point spread is concerned: The Bears have covered in three of the past four meetings, although they haven’t won in Eugene since 2007. We see a trap game for Oregon after the rousing victory at Utah and before the visit from USC. The forecast: 90% chance of rain.

Pick: Cal

Washington at USC

Kickoff: 4:30 p.m. on ABC

Line: Washington -3.5 (total: 76.5)

Comment: The premier game of Week 10 matches two of the nation’s best offenses and two of the worst defenses. Actually, that’s not fair to the Huskies, who rank 46th nationally in yards-per-play allowed. (It’s plenty fair to USC, which is 94th in the same category.) We expect Washington to ramp up its urgency following the substandard showings against ASU and Stanford but aren’t convinced the Trojans possess a higher gear. The stakes are enormous for the College Football Playoff (Washington), the conference title (both teams) and the Heisman Trophy (USC’s Caleb Williams and UW’s Michael Penix Jr.). The total of 76.5 is astronomical – and yet too low. First team to 45 wins.

Pick: Washington

Stanford at Washington State

Kickoff: 6:30 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks

Line: WSU -13.5 (total: 59.5)

Comment: Massive game for Washington State, which has lost four in a row and faces an increasingly narrow path into the postseason. Just as the Cougars appeared to fix their offensive offense, they went missing in action on defense last week at Arizona State (38 points and 509 yards allowed). The Cardinal pushed Washington to the brink and have proven they can move the ball against the second-tier defenses in the conference. Given the 80% chance of rain, this could be a slog. Neither team possesses a quality running game.

Pick: Stanford

Oregon State at Colorado

Kickoff: 7 p.m. on ESPN

Line: Oregon State -13.5 (total: 62.5)

Comment: This matchup has lost luster following OSU’s loss at Arizona and with Colorado’s October demise, but it carries the potential to be one of the most entertaining games of the week. The stakes are considerable for both: The Beavers must win to maintain a path to the Pac-12 title game while CU needs a victory to make its bowl math manageable. We’re intrigued by the contrast in styles with the run-heavy Beavers facing the pass-happy Buffaloes. The advantage at the line of scrimmage tilts significantly in OSU’s direction, but at some point during the evening, quarterback DJ Uiagalelei must produce big plays from the pocket.

Pick: Colorado

UCLA at Arizona

Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. on FS1

Line: UCLA -2.5 (total: 51.5)

Comment: Hard to believe this Week 10 nightcap matches two of the Pac-12’s best defenses, but both teams feature stout front sevens that have repeatedly flummoxed opponents. UCLA’s success depends on establishing a running game to take the pressure off quarterback Ethan Garbers. For Arizona, the outcome hinges on the offensive line giving quarterback Noah Fifita time to throw in the face of a ferocious UCLA pass rush (31 sacks in eight games).

The Hotline has ridden Arizona’s success against the spread for most of the season. This week, we disembark.

Pick: UCLA

Straight-up winners: Utah, Oregon, Washington, Stanford, Oregon State and UCLA

Five-star special: UCLA. The narrow road favorite is the best of mediocre options this week. We gave serious consideration to picking the Over in the Washington-USC game.