There are only two games involving PAC-12 Northwest teams this week. All but one of the teams involved are still contenders for the Conference title. All rankings are based on my own Savvy Index and not from the AP.
#8 Washington State (4-0) at UCLA (3-1)
Both teams are playing above expectations this season and had last week off, so both should be healthy and well-prepared.
This game will come down to Washington State’s unstoppable offense against UCLA’s top-ten defense. WSU is second in the nation for passing yards per game, while UCLA’s defense leads the nation in fewest yards allowed per play.
It’s past time for me to acknowledge the fabulous play of WSU quarterback Cam Ward, who is completing over 75% of his passes and has yet to throw an interception after four complete games. Last season, he threw nine.
UCLA has turned to pure freshman and former five-star quarterback Dante Moore to lead the Bruin offense. Moore has struggled to provide a consistent passing threat. But the Bruins still have a terrific offensive line and a run game among the nation’s best.
UCLA has been climbing in Savvy Index trends but not enough to beat a top-ten team like Washington State. Cougars get this one 31-27.
Experts disagree and have UCLA winning by three. Both agree there will be a total of at least 58 points.
#20 Oregon State (4-1) at Cal (3-2)
Oregon State is riding high after a solid win over two-time Conference champion Utah last week.
As expected, the Beaver defense stymied Utah’s struggling passing attack and forced the Ute’s to the ground. So dominant was the OSU pass defense that it held starting quarterback Nate Johnson to an unheard-of passer rating of just 9.9%.
And OSU’s rush defense wasn’t far behind as it smothered Utah runners so thoroughly that Utah produced less than two yards per carry.
It was a magnificent rebound for a Beaver defense that was a mere toy for Washington State’s prolific offense a week before.
This week against Cal, it will be necessary for Oregon State to continue superb care of the ball because the Bears are one of the best in the nation for taking it away. OSU has not fumbled all year, but the Beavers have not faced a ball-hawking group like the Bears.
OSU will face an effective ground game as Cal has three running backs averaging at least five yards per carry. That group is led by terrific sophomore Jaydn Ott, who has the best first step and cut quickness I’ve seen this year.
Oregon State has a top-10 rush defense (2.3 ypc), but the Beavers haven’t seen a running back this year like Ott. The Beavers managed to contain Ott last year, but Cal’s offensive line run blocking looks better than expected.
The Bears will only go to the air when they have to because their quarterbacks are among the worst in the nation for throwing interceptions. Over 4% of their passing attempts end up in opponents’ hands.
What has surprised me this year is how Cal coaches have restricted quarterback Samuel Jackson V from running the football. Jackson has a sprinter’s speed (4.4) and first-step acceleration. Last year, as a pure freshman at TCU, Jackson rushed for more than seven yards per attempt.
Perhaps they’ll turn him loose against the Beavers.
Bookies say OSU by nine. Savvy originally projected a 16-point spread on the website (savvygameline.com), but that has been revised to 38-21.
Washington and Oregon have byes this week as they prepare for a major clash in Seattle next week.
Washington and USC have dropped in Savvy rankings recently, while Washington State and Oregon have risen. UO is now fourth-ranked on Savvy, and for the first time in six years, the Ducks are posting trend lines that are genuinely worthy of the college football playoff.
Predictions for other PAC-12 games . . .
Colorado (3-2) 38, Arizona State (1-4) 19
#12 USC (5-0) 41, Arizona (3-2) 21
Last week, the Savvy Index was 42-17 in picking winners and now stands 2% better than betting lines, 5 games better in point spreads, and 31 games better in predicting total game points.
You can see all Savvy Index college football predictions for this week’s games here.