Pac-12 picks: Will the ‘Utah effect’ spell Oregon’s downfall? The Ducks’ relentless stretch run continues

Several years ago, the Hotline dug deep into the impact Utah’s physical style had on opponents. Disproportionately, teams struggled the week after playing the Utes.

The “Utah effect” hasn’t been as pronounced this season, in part because the Pac-12 schedule gave several opponents extra rest to recover.

But the impact of 60 minutes against the Utes is relevant as the last Saturday of the regular season approaches.

How will Oregon react?

The Ducks survived a rough affair with Utah last weekend, making just enough defenses to win by three points. As a result, they are one Oregon State win away from a spot in the Pac-12 championship game.

The task seems doubly difficult for the Ducks, who have played two taxing games in a row – each decided by a field goal and both left Oregon battered and bruised.

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, including starting center Alex Forsyth, are questionable this week.

Add to that the emotions involved in consecutive down-to-the-wire games with huge stakes, and the Ducks are physically and psychologically challenged by the triple whammy. Their next foe, Oregon State, is fresh and rested after two great wins.

The storylines run deep in this pulsating piece. Not only have the Huskies and Utes done their part to make Oregon’s task difficult; they would be the main beneficiaries if the Ducks stumble.

Both are still alive in the conference title race, but need Oregon to lose this weekend.

It’s another part of a dramatic final weekend.

To the choices…

Last week: 3-2-1

Season: 39-33-1

Five Star Special: 7-5

Spreads sourced from BetMGM

Game totals in brackets

All times Pacific

State of Arizona in Arizona (Friday)

Kick-off: 12 hours on FS1

Line: Arizona -4.5 (total: 65)

Remark: Emotions swing in Arizona’s favor due to the presence of a permanent head coach and five-game losing streak. (Also, only one of the starting quarterbacks has rivalry experience: Jayden de Laura of Arizona.) Earlier this week, the Hotline delved into the recent history of Territorial Cup betting. We found six instances where the Wildcats were home favorites. They only mated twice (2008 and 2014). On Friday, 2 out of 6 changes to 3 out of 7.

Choose: Arizona

UCLA in Cal (Friday)

Kick-off: 1:30 p.m. on Fox

Line: UCLA -10 (total: 60.5)

Remark: The Bruins have lost two in a row and were knocked out of the Pac-12 title race by USC on Saturday night in an exhausting affair. How much fuel is left for a short week match against an unranked opponent? Our guess: not much. Cal’s playcall in Big Game was bizarre (to put it kindly). If the Bears actually use tailback Jaydn Ott against a vulnerable UCLA defense, they need to move the ball, limit possession and take it to the wire.

Choose: Cal

Oregon in the state of Oregon

Kick-off: 12:30 p.m. on ABC

Line: Oregon -3.5 (total: 58)

Remark: The line opened with Oregon favored by a touchdown and moved quickly towards the Beavers, and we expect 60 minutes of glorious suspense. The matchup favors Oregon, which is better against the run (OSU’s offensive power) than the pass. As we saw last weekend, success in the biggest games depends on the quarterbacks. We believe that Bo Nix has more chance to play and avoid mistakes than Ben Gulbranson.

Choose: Oregon

Utah in Colorado

Kick-off: 1 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks

Line: Utah -29.5 (total: 52.5)

Remark: The Utes will know if they are still alive in the title chase before they take 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 betting line of 30 points (or more) for three consecutive games. Perhaps the Buffs are able to conjure up the effort and execution needed in their finale, but we won’t believe it until we see it.

Choose: Utah

Notre Dame at USC

Kick-off: 4:30 p.m. on ABC

Line: USC -5.5 (total: 64.5)

Remark: The Irish will not make the same mistake as UCLA, which should have relied on tailback Zach Charbonnet to shorten the game and keep USC’s offense on the sidelines. Notre Dame recently rushed for 263 yards against Clemson and will make sure the Trojans stop the ground game before asking quarterback Drew Pyne to carry the offense. If the Irish limit turnover, they might be able to score a fifth consecutive victory over the Trojans.

Choose: Notre Dame

Washington in Washington state

Kick-off: 7:30 p.m. on ESPN

Line: Washington -2 (total: 60.5)

Remark: The Huskies will take the field knowing if a Pac-12 Championship berth is at stake (based on Oregon result). Either way, they haven’t forgotten last year’s embarrassing home loss and WSU’s postgame flag planting. Assuming dry weather, the result depends on UW’s offensive line keeping a clean pocket for quarterback Michael Penix. (WSU’s passing rush is one of the best in the conference.) When it rains or snows, the advantage shifts to the Cougars.

Choose: Washington

Brigham Young at Stanford

Kick-off: 8 p.m. on FS1

Line: Brigham Young -6.5 (total: 58)

Remark: The visitors secured a bowl berth as the hosts were knocked out weeks ago and have rarely been competitive since mid-October. If BYU puts on an early show of strength, Stanford could turn around and start counting down the minutes until the final whistle of yet another miserable season. The emotions of Senior Day only last as long as there are large swaths of empty seats.

Choose: BYU

Straight winners: Arizona, Cal, Oregon, Utah, Notre Dame, Washington and Brigham Young

Five Star Special: Cal. 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.

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