A few years ago, the Hotline delved deeply into the impact Utah’s physical style was having on opponents. The teams struggled disproportionately in the week following the game against the Utes.
The “Utah Effect” wasn’t as pronounced this season, in part because the Pac-12 schedule allowed several opponents additional rest periods to recover.
But the ramifications of the 60-minute duel against the Utes are relevant as the final Saturday of the regular season draws closer.
How will Oregon react?
The Ducks survived a punishing affair with Utah last weekend and made just enough plays on defense to emerge with a three-point win. As a result, at Oregon State they are one win away from earning a berth in the Pac-12 championship game.
The task seems doubly difficult for the Ducks, who have played two grueling games in a row – each decided by a field goal and both leaving Oregon battered and injured.
Before Utah there was Washington.
Quarterback Bo Nix injured his foot in the 37-34 loss to the Huskies, limiting his effectiveness against Utah. In addition, two offensive linemen are questionable this week, including starting center Alex Forsyth.
Add in the emotion that comes with back-to-back huge-stakes down-to-the-wire games, and the Ducks are challenged physically and psychologically by the Triple Whammy. Their next opponent, Oregon State, is fresh and rested after two stunning victories.
The storylines run deep in this vibrant stretch. Not only did the huskies and utes do their part to make Oregon’s task more difficult; They would be the main beneficiaries if the ducks stumble.
Both are alive in the conference title race, but Oregon has to lose this weekend.
It’s another ingredient in a dramatic finals weekend.
To the picks…
Last week: 3-2-1
Five Star Special: 7-5
Spreads taken from BetMGM
Game totals in brackets
All times Pacific
State of Arizona in Arizona (Friday)
Kicking off: 12 o’clock on FS1
Line: Arizona -4.5 (total: 65)
Comment: Emotions are in Arizona’s favor due to the presence of a permanent head coach and the five-game series’ losing streak. (Also, only one of the starting quarterbacks has any rivalry play experience: Arizona’s Jayden de Laura.) Earlier this week, the Hotline delved into the recent history of Territorial Cup betting lines. We found six instances where the Wildcats were home favorites. They only covered twice (2008 and 2014). On Friday, 2 out of 6 becomes 3 out of 7.
UCLA at Cal (Friday)
Kicking off: 1:30 p.m. on Fox
Line: UCLA -10 (Total: 60.5)
Comment: The Bruins have lost back-to-back and were eliminated from the Pac-12 title race by USC in a grueling affair on Saturday night. How much fuel is left for a short-week away game against an unranked opponent? Our guess: not much. Cal’s playcalling in the big game was bizarre (to put it kindly). If the Bears actually use jam Jaydn Ott against a vulnerable UCLA running defense, they should move the ball, limit possession and get that to the wire.
Oregon in the state of Oregon
Kicking off: 12:30 p.m. on ABC
Line: Oregon -3.5 (total: 58)
Comment: The line opened with Oregon, favored by a touchdown, moving quickly towards the Beavers and we anticipate 60 minutes of delicious suspense. The matchup favors Oregon, who is better against the run (OSU’s strength on offense) than against the pass. As we saw last weekend, success in the biggest games depends on quarterbacks. We think Bo Nix is more likely to make plays and avoid mistakes than Ben Gulbranson.
Utah near Colorado
Kicking off: 1 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks
Line: Utah -29.5 (total: 52.5)
Comment: The Utes will know if they’re still alive in the title hunt before stepping onto the field – they need UCLA to beat Cal on Friday – but we’re not convinced that will matter in the end. Colorado has failed to cover a 30-point (or greater) betting line in three straight games. Perhaps the buffs are capable of summoning the effort and execution required for their finale, but we won’t believe it until we see it.
Notre Dame at USC
Kicking off: 4:30 p.m. on ABC
Line: USC -5.5 (total: 64.5)
Comment: The Irish won’t make the same mistake as UCLA, which should have relied on Stau Zach Charbonnet to shorten the game and keep USC’s offense on the sidelines. Notre Dame recently rushed 263 yards against Clemson and will see the Trojans stop ground play before asking quarterback Drew Pyne to take the offense. If the Irish limit turnover, they could emerge with a fifth straight win against the Trojans.
Washington in Washington State
Kicking off: 7:30 p.m. on ESPN
Line: Washington -2 (total: 60.5)
comment: The Huskies will take the field knowing if a Pac-12 championship spot is at stake (based on Oregon’s result). Anyway, they haven’t forgotten last year’s embarrassing home loss and WSU’s post-game shenanigans. Assuming dry weather, the outcome depends on whether UW’s offensive line keeps a clean bag for quarterback Michael Penix. (WSU’s pass rush is one of the best in the conference.) When rain or snow rolls in, the advantage shifts to the Cougars.
Brigham Young at Stanford
Kicking off: 8 p.m. on FS1
Line: Brigham Young -6.5 (total: 58)
Comment: The guests secured a bowl spot while the hosts were eliminated weeks ago and have rarely been competitive since mid-October. If BYU muster an early show of force, Stanford could turn around and start counting down the minutes to the final whistle of another miserable season. Seniors’ Day emotions only last so long when there are large areas of empty seats.
Pure winners: Arizona, Cal, Oregon, Utah, Notre Dame, Washington and Brigham Young
Five Star Special: Kal. We don’t have much faith in the Bears, but it’s hard to ignore a double-digit home underdog against an opponent whose season effectively ended last week.