Can Oregon State upset Utah? Predictions and commentary for all PAC-12 games in week 5

All PAC-12 football teams are in action against each other as we are already near the halfway point of the 2022 season.

The PAC-12 is making quite a name for itself when it comes to offensive line play.

Oregon’s OL is tops in the nation for not giving up any sacks and there are four others in the top 20 (Oregon State, Washington, UCLA, and Utah) and all are ranked ahead of Alabama. Except for Oregon, all of those OLs also rank in the top 20 for not allowing tackles for loss.

Effective line play is an essential for any program that has national ambitions.

I have predictions for all of the PAC-12 games this week as well as predictions for 58 other college games which can be seen here.

In comparing my system to national betting lines, my system (Savvy Index) is one percent better in predicting winners, two games/week worse in choosing over/under point spreads, and 38 games better in determining over/under total game points.

Washington 4-0 at UCLA 4-0

These two are going different directions.

Every fan knows that Washington has been electrifying and much better than expected. The Huskies have yet to post a game with more negative metrics than positive. Indeed, the schedule has been strong but consistency in positive trends tells me the Huskies are here to stay.

UCLA has played a weaker schedule and has yet to post a game with more positive metrics than negative.

Washington will be ranked this week if it can take down UCLA at the Rose Bowl. Despite oddsmakers favoring the Huskies, Savvy metrics point to a toss up except that UCLA gets this one at home.

UCLA has a stronger ground game made possible by an offensive line that has been magnificent and a whole lot better than preseason projections. That line is the only OL in the Conference that is in the top 20 for preventing blitzes, preventing tackles for loss, and rush blocking.

UCLA’s senior quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson is benefiting from that strong front as he is fourth in the nation for completion percentage, he has the nation’s sixth lowest interception rate, and he averages eight yards every time he takes off with the ball.

Zach Charbonnet gets a lot of publicity as UCLA’s lead running back but keep an eye on freshman T. J. Harden who appears to be the next star in the Bruin backfield, especially if he adds some weight. He’s a special talent and one that coach Chip Kelly has been rewarding with plenty of carries.

UCLA’s defense has been better than expected and so has Laiatu Latu who is in the top five of the nation for both delivering sacks and forcing fumbles. Over all, Bruin defenders are allowing just 4.3 yards per play and that is good enough to lead the PAC-12 and fit in the top 15 of America.

Washington coaches have done a terrific job in getting the Husky offense to work and building it around resuscitated quarterback Michael Penix Jr. who leads the nation in passing yards and has dropped his three-year interception problem down to less than one-half the national average.

Since a winner must be predicted, the Index is calling this for the home team: UCLA 31-30.

Oregon State 3-1 at #9 Utah 3-1

These two programs have only met two times since 2015 and each time, the home team won.

Except for Utah’s surprising loss at Florida to start the season, both teams have produced a hefty number of positive trends on the Index.

A big problem for Oregon State is quarterback Chance Nolan whose interception issues appear to be compounding. Last year, Nolan was intercepted 42% more than normal and that has now skyrocketed to 159% above normal. How long will coaches risk the season on a quarterback who struggles to read elite secondaries?

Utah has that kind of secondary as the Ute defense has already come up with five interceptions.

Oregon State will find success running the football since the Beaver front is strong and performing well and because Utah is only about average when it comes to stopping the rush.

The Beavers have a chance to finish this season in the national rankings but that is not going to happen if coaches can’t solve the interception issue.

Betting lines favor Utah by 10.5 with 56.5 total points. The Index is calling this 35-24 for the Utes. I think both are too high on total points which I think will come in around 54.

Stanford 1-2 at #13 Oregon 3-1

Oregon’s dismal defensive showing against Washington State last week was enough to drop the Ducks four spots in the Savvy national rankings.

Even so, ducks fly higher than cardinals and that will lead to a 28 point win for Oregon over Stanford.

The problem for Stanford is turnovers, particularly fumbles. It’s absurd that any FBS team would fumble the ball four times PER game. Of course, four fumbles per game is a lot but the true Cardinal sin is that they lose three per game. Pile on a quarterback who throws twice as many interceptions as the national average and you can see why head coach David Shaw is buying stock in Bayer aspirin.

Oregon’s offense has been like the lightning of lore with the ball being distributed in space. That is a welcomed relief to previous years in which former coach Mario Cristobal chose a scheme that negated his own team speed by pounding the middle and former-former coach Willie Taggart who didn’t seem to have chosen a scheme at all.

The Ducks are back in the top 25 in both overall offensive effectiveness as well as scoring. Oregon has also shown a great deal of character in its ability to bounce back after a horrendous loss at Georgia and an almost-loss at Washington State. Oregon still ranks in the bottom half of the nation in committing penalties but the progress that has been made under new head coach Dan Lanning is impressive.

Of course, Oregon must be favored in this game but it’s also important to note that Stanford has a good history of upsetting ranked Oregon teams when the Ducks are in the top 25 but not in the top 10. At the moment, Oregon is in the Savvy top 25 but not in the top 10.

Stanford will get things turned around. Shaw is on the right track by transitioning from power ball to speed and finesse. There are some good signs here and he isn’t in danger of being fired while he makes the transition.

California 3-1 at Washington State 3-1

Washington State’s fourth quarter collapse last week was as costly as it was inexplicable. The Cougars had everything under control and were about to take the reigns in the North division. But, disaster came in the form of three, late game, quick Quack scores.

WSU is the real deal and the Cougars will rebound. They’ll have a great season and possibly hit the rankings in October. The rebound starts this week with a projected 30-21 win over visiting Cal.

It’s important however to also point to some profound WSU trends that are turning more negative by the week and will lead to three straight losses in October if not solved.

The problem I am referring to is the WSU offensive line which just cannot seem to get the job done for running backs or quarterback Cameron Ward. I didn’t expect much from this OL group. I had the WSU offensive line projected for 99th in the nation but it has not reached that level yet this year and right now, it projects to 111th so things are indeed getting worse.

The Cougars have a turnover problem (ranked 123rd) but much of that would reverse if the OL wouldn’t panic under pressure and miss so many assignments. Linemen seem easily fooled by defensive stunts and I’m beginning to think that it might be time to change schemes or change offensive line coaches.

Wow, is Cal freshman running back Jaydn Ott something!

Not only is Ott the highest rated recruit to come to Cal under coach Justin Wilcox, but he is averaging more than 100 yards per game and he has become the Bears’ starting running back. Ott is tough and he has a heckuva lot of speed. He’s already being talked about as a nationally elite running back. That is well deserved since he averages 8.27 yards per carry and more than one touchdown per game.

But, Washington State is the better team. Oddsmakers say the Cougars are four points better. I like Savvy saying WSU is at least nine points better.

Arizona State 1-3 at #12 USC 4-0

It’s okay if you feel sorry for the kids at Arizona State. They’ve been through a lot and it’s going to be a hard road coming back.

How bad has it been?

Their program has been under investigation for recruiting violations. That problem has led to a ton of players transferring out including starting quarterback Jayden Daniels, almost all coaches leaving, and a head coach who was on a short, short leash only to be fired 10 days ago.

There were analysts who projected this outfit as a contender for the PAC-12 title. I never did figure out what they based those opinions because Savvy only projected six wins and now it appears ASU won’t even reach that. Those analysts said the ASU game against USC would decide the South title.

Now they say ASU won’t come within 23 points.

Arizona State has yet to score as many as 22 points against an any FBS opponent and, in fact, the Sun Devils haven’t even beaten an FBS opponent this year.

USC has been ahead of schedule. The Trojans have some shortcomings but over all, they have been as impressive so far as I projected in the preseason. But, I also projected that the Trojans were likely to lose nearly half of their final seven games.

For now, USC leads the nation in turnover margin (plus 3.5 average) and is the only team in college football to not have turned the ball over one time even after four games.

Betting lines have the Trojans winning this by at least 22 points with 61.5 total points between the two teams. My system says 42-14. I feel confident Savvy has the “under” total points predicted well however I’m much less confident that USC will win by 28.

Colorado 0-4 at Arizona 2-2

Arizona is a long way from having PAC-12 caliber talent but it certainly has proven to have the coaching. That will be enough for Arizona to win this game 46-24.

As much as I like Carl Dorrell of Colorado, if his Buffs lose to Arizona by 22 points, I can’t imagine him being retained as head coach.

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