Pac-12/ MWC/ BYU Predictions

Division Titles are on the line and big games abound. Who has the edge?

Photo: Benko Photographics

Article by Kyle Kollman

Arizona State at Arizona (+12):

  • Arizona is just 8-34 straight up as an underdog since 2015.

  • ASU is just 3-10 ATS as favorites since 2018.

  • The Sun Devils have won 6 of the last 8 matchups in this series.

Prediction: The 94th matchup for the Territorial Cup pins two teams desperate for their first win of the season. The Wildcats have lost a program record 11 straight, which is tied for the 2nd longest active streak in the country. Kevin Sumlin is certainly on the hot seat and there is speculation if this will be his last game in Tucson. The status of Grant Gunnell, Arizona’s starting quarterback, sounds like it will be a game time decision. If he can’t go, Will Plummer will have to start again. Plummer has struggled behind a porous offensive line that has surrendered the most sacks in the conference. Not a good matchup against ASU who has averaged the most sacks per game in the Pac-12. On the other side of the ball, the Wildcat’s have by far the worst rushing defense in the Pac-12, giving up over 270 yards per game and over 6 yards per carry. I would be surprised if the Sun Devils don’t run the ball more than 40 times attempting to exploit this weakness. ASU has the highest yards per carry average in the conference, so Chip Trayanum and Rachaad White should have big days pounding the rock. There is a lot of hate between these in-state rivals and I think U of A will be able to use that motivation to keep this game close at halftime. Ultimately the Sun Devils will pull away in the 4th quarter to win the Territorial Cup for the 4th straight year 28-17.

Utah at Colorado (-1.5):

  • The Utes are 24-10 against the spread on the road since 2014

  • Utah has won 7 of the last 8 matchups in this series. The Utes have also covered the spread the last 4 games against Colorado.

  • Colorado is just 4-7 ATS as a home favorite since 2017. They have lost 4 of those games outright.

Prediction: Colorado needs a win against Utah and a USC loss to win the Pac-12 South. With the cancelation of Washington-Oregon, the Buff’s may still find themselves playing for the conference title. Kickoff of this game has been moved to Saturday morning at 10:00am MST, which should avoid most of the snow showers that were expected for a Friday night game. I expect a hard-hitting, low scoring game. Colorado boasts the best rushing offense in the Pac-12 averaging over 245 yards per game. The Buffs are led by the leading rushing the Pac-12 in Jarek Broussard. It will be strength against strength as Utah has the stingiest rushing defense in the conference. The Utes only allow 104 rushing yards per game and 3.57 rushing yards per carry. The Buffs have been extremely efficient on offense and may need to capitalize on every scoring opportunity. Colorado should be able to do so, as they have the best 3rd Down Conversion percentage and Red Zone TD percentage in conference play. They are also 2nd in Yards Per Play and 2nd in Sacks Allowed Per Game in the Pac-12. If Utah gets down it may be tough to depend on the worst passing offense in the Pac-12 to lead them back. The difference in the game may be Colorado’s ability to convert back breaking plays on the 3rd down and in the redzone. Colorado wins a close one 24-21.

USC at UCLA (+3):

  • The Trojans are 12-19-1 against the spread as a favorite since 2017.

  • UCLA is 15-23-1 against the spread at home since 2014.

  • The Trojans have won 4 of the last 5 games in this series.

  • The Bruins are 3-0 ATS as an underdog this season with 2 outright wins.

Prediction: The Trojans just need a win over their crosstown rival to officially clinch a spot in the Pac-12 championship game. UCLA will be a tough out as the Bruins have exceeded most expectations this season. The primetime game on ABC should be the highest scoring game in the Pac-12 this weekend. USC has relied on their passing offense, the best in the conference. The Bruins have ridden the 2nd best rushing offense in the Pac-12 to their success. UCLA and USC are 1 and 2 respectively in sacks this season. The Bruins are going to need to generate constant pressure to disrupt Kedon Slovis. An upset by UCLA is heavily correlated to a low scoring game. The Bruins are 3-0 in games that went under the expected combined point total, while they are 0-2 in games that hit the over. I believe the difference in the game could be game changing turnovers. UCLA has been susceptible to giving the ball away, while the Trojans have forced the most turnovers in the Pac-12 at 3 per game. UCLA will make it an interesting game, but the Trojans have too much fire power and win 34-28.

Stanford at Oregon State (+3):

  • Since last season the Beavers are 12-3 against the spread as an underdog! The best in the country. (6 of those games they won outright).

  • Stanford has won the last 10 games against Oregon State.

  • The Cardinal are 2-7 ATS as a road favorite since 2017.

Prediction: Stanford is looking for their 3rd straight win, all on the road, after pulling off the upset last week. For the 2nd consecutive week Stanford will practice all week away from home. The Beavers return home where they have been able to consistently pull of the upset. Both teams exert their will in the redzone with their rushing attack. Austin Jones of Stanford and Jermar Jefferson of Oregon State are tied for the most rushing Touchdowns in the conference. Jefferson was out last week due to Covid protocol but is back this week. Stanford was able to stymie Washington last week on the ground. Can they do it again this week? Both teams allow on average over 200 yards per game on the ground so both star running backs should have big days. Chance Nolan was serviceable in his first start last week. Johnathan Smith and his play calling gives the Beavers and his young quarterback a chance to win this game. Stanford put together their best performance of the season last week. Do they have the same motivation this week? Oregon State thrives in the underdog role and Beavers pull off the upset 28-27.

Cal at Washington State (+2):

  • Washington State is 21-13 against the spread at home since 2015.

  • Cal is just 6-12-1 ATS as a favorite since 2016.

  • The home team has won the last 5 meetings in this series.

Prediction: Cal pulled off the upset over Oregon last week for their first win of the season, while the Cougars were blown out by USC. How will both teams respond? Saying Washington State has struggled defending the pass would be an understatement. The Cougars have given up the most passing yards per game in the conference and 5th most in the country. Wazzu is also tied for last in turnovers forced in the conference. This may be the one team they can have success against as Cal has the lowest passing yards per attempt in the Pac-12. Max Borghi was listed on the depth chart for the first time this season for the Cougars and there is some optimism that he could play. Blake Mazza kicks a game winning field on the final play of the game for a 27-24 Cougar victory.

San Diego State at BYU (-16.5):

  • BYU is 23-3 straight up as a home favorite dating back to 2015.

  • SDSU is 9-8 straight up as an underdog since 2015.

  • BYU has won 15 of the last 18 matchups in this series.

Prediction: The unstoppable force faces off against the immovable object in this matchup of old Mountain West foes. San Diego State and their 3rd ranked defense in the country try to slow down BYU and one of the best offenses in the nation. It will be a great test for Zach Wilson and the explosive Cougar play makers. On the other side of the ball, BYU was ran over for 281 yards in their first loss of the season last week. Coastal Carolina was able to control the ball for almost 2/3 of the game. SDSU will try and do the same this week with Greg Bell, the leading rusher in the Mountain West and grind the clock. I think this spread is too high and the Aztec defense will keep them in this game. BYU wins 31-20.

Nevada at San Jose State (-1.5):

  • Nevada has won 15 of the last 17 against San Jose State.

  • The Spartans are 16-4 against the spread as favorites since 2015.

  • The Wolf Pack are 10-6 ATS as an underdog since 2018, winning 8 of those games outright.

Prediction: A lot on the line as the winner of this game clinches a spot in the Mountain West championship game. San Jose State tries to keep their dream season rolling against the Wolf Pack. The Spartans have the best turnover margin the conference and protecting the ball has been a real key to their winning streak. The Wolf Pack have not been disciplined as they are the most penalized team in the Mountain West. In a tight game that could come back to bite them. Nevada will continue to chuck it up to Romeo Dubbs who has been one of the best receivers in the country. Spartans squeak one out in a great game 28-27.

Boise State at Wyoming (+11.5):

  • Boise State is 13-1 against Wyoming all time.

  • The Broncos have won 15 of their last 16 games as a favorite outright.

  • The Cowboys are 9-4 ATS as a home underdog since 2016.

Prediction: Wyoming was the first Mountain West team to lose to New Mexico in 21 games. A very disappointing loss for Craig Bohl and not the team you would like to see to rebound this week. Wyoming and their three turnovers were a death nail last week. Luckily Boise State is dead last in the Mountain West in turnovers forced. It will be a cold game in Laramie with some snow. The weather should limit both offenses. Wyoming will be inspired to knock of Boise State, but the Broncos pull it out 27-17.

Utah State at Colorado State (-13.5):

  • Utah State is just 8-21 against the spread as an underdog since 2016.

  • The Rams are 6-10 ATS as a favorite since 2017.

  • Colorado State has covered the spread the last 4 matchups in this series.

Prediction: The forecast predicts heavy snowstorms for this 6:30 kickoff. That should limit both passing attacks. Should be a benefit for Colorado State who has the best rush defense in terms of yard per carry in the conference. Utah State has been blown out in every game this season, except their one win. The Rams get the win at home 27-20.

Fresno State at New Mexico (-13.5):

  • The Lobos are 2-21 straight up as an underdog since 2018.

  • Fresno State has won 11 of the last 12 games against New Mexico.

Prediction: The Lobos were able to get their first conference win in 21 games. In order to get back-to-back wins, they will have to overcome a big mismatch. New Mexico surrenders the most passing yards per game in the conference and they face Fresno State and the best passing offense in the Mountain West. Jake Haener leads the Bulldogs to over 350 yards per game in the air. The Bulldogs have been able to generate the most sacks in the Mountain West and Fresno State gets the victory 31- 17.

UNLV at Hawaii (-20.5):

  • Since 2017 Hawaii is 12-2 straight up as a home favorite

  • Since 2018 UNLV is just 5-20 straight up an underdog.

Prediction: This game features the two worst rush defenses in the Mountain West. Both teams also allow the most sacks in the conference. Hawaii quarterback, Chevan Cordeiro, leads the team in rushing and I would expect him to put up near 400 yards in total offense this game. Todd Graham has his Warriors as the most disciplined team in conference, with the least penalty yards per game. UNLV has the 2nd most penalty yards. Hawaii blows out the Rebels 34-17.