By Geoff Schwartz
FOX Sports NFL Analyst
This week’s slate features some really exciting Pac-12 matchups. There’s a showdown between undefeated Pac-12 Conference teams ranked in the top 18 and another contest between the consensus preseason pick in the conference against an always dangerous squad that is looking for a headline-making upset.
The game of the week features the No. 11 Utah Utes playing at the No. 18 UCLA Bruins in a battle of undefeated teams in Pac-12 play.
Washington State, which led Oregon by 12 points midway through the fourth quarter before the Ducks rallied for the win, travels south to take on the No. 6 USC Trojans.
Both games will be broadcast Saturday on FOX.
And in the nightcap, Oregon State plays at Stanford.
Let’s dive into my best Pac-12 bets for Week 6 of the college football season (with odds via FOX Bet)!
Utah @ UCLA (3:30 p.m. ET Saturday, FOX)
I’m rarely without a strong wagering take on a Pac-12 contest, but this game features two teams that I could see covering each side with ease.
Let’s start with the 5-0 Bruins. UCLA had the easiest schedule for a Power 5 team through the first four weeks and there was a concern about their readiness to host a ranked Washington Huskies squad. UCLA showed they were more than ready in a 40-32 smackdown of the Huskies.
UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson had his best game as a Bruins starter, and its roster full of transfer players dominated the contest. It was an eye-opening result for those who doubted the Bruins.
After a Week 1 loss to Florida that Utah will surely regret at the end of the season, the Utes have taken the form that’s been expected of them. They are a fierce defensive squad, rarely allowing points. The team hasn’t allowed more than 16 points in their past four games while tackling better and forcing turnovers.
The defense is led by cornerback Clark Phillips, a lockdown player who had three interceptions last weekend against Oregon State. Utah’s defense ranks eighth in passing success rate and 34th in pressure rate. The Utes have a legitimate defense and can stay in games against anyone.
UCLA is guided by its rushing attack, which ranks 16th in rushing success rate and second in success rate. This gives the Bruins excellent opportunities on third downs because they gain so many yards on early downs. UCLA is also second in third-down success rate.
DTR (Thompson-Robinson) has found a connection with Duke transfer receiver Jake Bobo, who is averaging 14 yards a target and 17 yards a catch. I’d assume Phillips will travel with Bobo, and if Phillips can shut down Bobo, this could slow down the Bruins’ offense. Utah’s defense has had issues with stopping the run, but those “issues” have not been much of a concern since the Florida game.
Since the start of the season, I have believed Utah is a playoff team, and they’ve done nothing to show me otherwise. The Florida loss might prevent that from happening, but the defense, quarterback Cam Rising and the overall play of the team is clicking as expected. While I believe they will win on Saturday, I will take the points in this one. I like UCLA to cover the spread because they have a talented squad to match Utah for most of the game. This will come down to whoever has the ball last.
PICK: UCLA (+4 at FOX Bet) to lose by fewer than 4 points (or win outright)
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Washington State @ USC (7:30 p.m. ET Saturday, FOX)
USC started fast this season, covering its first three games with ease. That pace has slowed down as the Trojans have failed to cover the past two weekends.
Some preseason concerns about the Trojans — particularly their offensive line and the defense — have emerged. It’s not enough to make me concerned they’d lose this weekend, but the Cougars’ squad is pesky enough.
Outside of WSU’s poor defensive performance against Oregon, this Cougars team can bring it on that side of the ball. They have 18 sacks, and that ability to rush the passer can slow down USC. Also, the blueprint to stop this Lincoln Riley offense is out there. Sit in the area and don’t allow big plays. We saw Oregon State do it well two weekends ago. The Cougars have a better defense than Oregon State, and I believe they can slow this Trojans offense down.
However, I have a strong concern about Washington State’s offense. It’s smoke and mirrors. The most points the Cougars have scored in five games was 34 offensive points against Oregon. Their four biggest offensive plays in that game were three trick plays and a long pass completion with a second left down 10 points. That’s just not sustainable each weekend for scoring points.
USC’s defense has forced many turnovers and has played well in the second half of games. The Trojans have the playmakers to make this Cougars passing attack dink and dunk all game long. However, the Cougars, if they should choose, can run the ball on the Trojans. Running the ball moves the clock and if the Cougars don’t finish drives with seven points, running the ball isn’t that helpful. This game will be a battle of the defenses. So I lean strongly toward the under here.
PICK: Under 66 points scored by both teams combined at FOX Bet
Oregon State @ Stanford (11 p.m. ET Saturday, ESPN)
This line reflects Oregon State losing back-to-back games against ranked opponents. Well, Stanford is not ranked, and the Cardinal stink. And that might be putting it nicely.
Stanford has not beaten an FBS opponent in 366 days since it took down Oregon in early October 2021. The last seven losses by Stanford, including three this season, have been by at least 13 points. The team does nothing well, and this is with a quarterback who will be drafted by the end of the third round.
On the other side, Oregon State is solid at 21 of 22 positions. As for the Beavers’ record — well, they don’t have a dynamic quarterback, and that will catch up to you when you play USC and Utah. However, quarterback play becomes less important when you’re playing a Stanford defense that allows opposing offenses to do as they please. The Beavers run the football and play-action pass, and they’ll do whatever they want at Stanford this weekend. Oregon State will be able to run the football and set up easy throws for the QB and will hum on offense.
Defensively, State allowed only 17 points to USC. They did give up 42 to Utah, but two of those touchdowns on Saturday occurred on short fields after Oregon State interceptions.
The Beavers will have a get-right game on the Farm this weekend. Lay the dots.
PICK: Oregon State (-7 at FOX Bet) to win by more than 7 points
Geoff Schwartz played eight seasons in the NFL for five different teams. He started at right tackle for the University of Oregon for three seasons and was a second-team All-Pac-12 selection his senior year. He is an NFL analyst for FOX Sports. Follow him on Twitter @GeoffSchwartz.
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