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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Pac-12 picks: Utah faces a must-win game at Washington with its three-peat chances at stake

By Jon Wilner Bay Area News Group

Almost two years to the day since Utah took control of the Pac-12, the two-time defending champs make their last stand.

If the Utes lose Saturday in Seattle, the odds of a three-peat would grow longer than their injury list.

A riveting run of success that effectively began with a demolition of Oregon in November 2021 would come to an end.

The Utes are 4-2 in conference play, two games behind Washington. A head-to-head loss this weekend would create a three-game gap with two remaining and mathematically eliminate Utah from the No. 1 seed in the Pac-12 championship game.

The likelihood of claiming the No. 2 seed would depend largely on the outcome of the Oregon-USC game.

The combination of a Utes loss and Ducks (5-1) victory would push Utah two games behind Oregon with two remaining, plus a head-to-head loss.

What’s more, the Utes would be a game back of Oregon State, which also has the head-to-head tiebreaker advantage.

At that point, they would need to beat Arizona and Colorado and hope for an unlikely series of outcomes elsewhere that creates a three- or four-team deadlock for the No. 2 seed, then have the tiebreaker fall just right.

Even if Oregon loses to USC – the Ducks are favored by more than two touchdowns – the road to Las Vegas would be extremely narrow.

Granted, the Utes were on the right side of an improbable tiebreaker scenario last year, sneaked into the title game and blasted USC for their second consecutive trophy.

So recent history suggests it could happen.

Then again, what are the odds of it happening twice?

In our view, this is it. If the Utes lose in Seattle, their three-peat quest is toast.

To the picks …

Last week: 4-2

Season: 33-28-1

Five-star special: 6-4

All picks against the spread

Lines taken from BetMGM (via

(All times Pacific)

Arizona at Colorado

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

Line: Arizona -10.5 (total: 54.5)

Comment: How will the Wildcats, who made an appearance in the playoff rankings this week, handle their newfound success and the role of double-digit road favorite? Yes, the trip to Boulder has lost some luster with CU’s demise, but there are no signs of Arizona’s momentum slowing. We expect the much-improved defense to generate steady pressure on Buffaloes quarterback Shedeur Sanders while the Wildcats’ balanced attack moves the ball effectively. Arizona is 8-1 against the spread this season. Make that 9-1.

Pick: Arizona

Utah at Washington

Kickoff: 12:30 p.m. on Fox

Line: Washington -9.5 (total: 53.5)

Comment: The first of two marquee games in the Pacific Northwest features UW’s first-class offense and Utah’s stout defense, but our outlook envisions the matchup turning on the other conflict: Utah’s hit-and-miss offense against UW’s wobbly defense. Will rookie quarterback Bryson Barnes react to the raucous atmosphere in Husky Stadium? Will the Utes generate a productive running game? The forecast calls for a 60% chance of rain.

Pick: Utah

Washington State at Cal

Kickoff: 1 p.m. on ESPN2

Line: Cal -1.5 (total: 58.5)

Comment: The visitors haven’t won since Sept. 23 while the hosts last experienced victory on Sept. 30, so one losing streak will come to an end. WSU’s offense has tanked since the sizzling start but could find its groove against a porous Cal defense. Meanwhile, the Bears have scored 89 points in their past two home games (against Oregon State and USC). Turnovers will be decisive, as both teams are loose with the ball. There isn’t much to separate these desperate teams, but Cal seems less demoralized than WSU.

Pick: Cal

Stanford at Oregon State

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

Line: Oregon State -21 (total: 54.5)

Comment: Congratulations to the Beavers on reaching a level of success over the past two seasons that brings trap games into the calculation. Following a road win in Boulder, and with Washington looming next week, will they generate the necessary urgency to handle the role of heavy home favorite? Stanford’s two conference wins came on the road (Colorado and WSU), and it lost close games at home to Washington and Arizona. In other words: The Cardinal are better than it looks.

Pick: Stanford

Arizona State at UCLA

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

Line: UCLA -17 (total: 44.5)

Comment: Both teams have injured quarterbacks – several of them, in fact – so we’ll disregard that aspect of the matchup and focus on the other 21 positions. ASU is fresh off a brutal loss at Utah but doesn’t have enough healthy bodies to execute a swift recovery and will face a steep challenge up front against UCLA’s physical defensive line. The feels like a grinder, with the Bruins slowly taking control in the second half.

Pick: UCLA

USC at Oregon

Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. on Fox

Line: Oregon -15.5 (total: 73.5)

Comment: The second of two marquee matchups has all the trappings of a lopsided affair. Oregon should score at will against USC’s turnstile defense, but how will the Trojans perform? That depends on the Trojans’ offensive line, which must carve running lanes and give Caleb Williams time to throw. We can’t help but recall USC’s inept showing on the line of scrimmage at Notre Dame a few weeks ago. The Ducks should have similar success, leading to more frustration for the reigning Heisman Trophy winner.

Pick: Oregon

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

Five-star special: Stanford. The Cardinal have covered a double-digit spread in four of their past six games. Given OSU’s vulnerable position (with Washington looming next week), the visitors should hang around long enough to make it five of seven.