Utah desperate but USC is better, WSU wins and Arizona covers – Orange County Register

The middle of the middle month of the football season could mean the end of the road for the defending champion Pac-12.

It’s week seven. Welcome to Utah’s Last Stand.

If the Utes (4-2, 2-1) don’t hit back USC in a primetime showcase on Saturday night, their chances of reaching the conference title game will shrink:

– Lose and they would be two games behind USC and UCLA in the loss column with direct losses to botheffectively pushing the Utes back three games behind the leaders based on the tiebreaker formula.

– Lose and they would also be two games back in Oregon with a disheartening trip to Eugene next month.

It would take a collapse – multiple collapses, in fact – for Utah to make a return trip to Las Vegas for the conference championship game.

Admittedly, the Hotline didn’t expect the situation in Salt Lake City to get so bad so quickly with half the season left to play.

But we didn’t expect the undefeated Los Angeles schools to play as well or the Utes to look as fragile as they do.

When is Utah coming ever look fragile?

Sure, the Utes wobbled with the 42-34 loss at Oregon State midway through last season. But from there, they ripped off six straight wins and brought Ohio State to the brink of the Rose Bowl.

They entered 2022 as Pac-12 favorites and playoff contenders, but the opener — the three-point loss in Florida — showed weakness on the fringes, where titles are claimed and relinquished.

They couldn’t stop the Gators when a stop was essential and couldn’t score when a touchdown was crucial.

They were good in The Swamp but not good enough – the exact position they now face in the Pac-12.

The utes are not dominant on either side of the ball. They don’t overrun their opponents with their running game, dismember them with a playful pass attack, or suffocate them with the defensive ferocity we’re used to.

And here comes USC, the highest-ranking team west of Tuscaloosa, threatening to push the Utes into the backseat.

A win would level Utah’s position relative to other contenders and spark a gigantic game in Eugene next month.

But if they lose on Saturday, the Utes will ride with the pack and not lead it.

Last week: 4-1 | Season: 21-20 | Five Star Special: 4-2

Spreads from BetMGM (as of Wednesday 6:45am). Game totals in brackets. All times Pacific

Neutral: ASU, Oregon, UCLA

Cal in Colorado

Kicking off: 11 am on Pac-12 Networks

Line: Cal -14.5 (total: 48.5)

Comment: The first game for CU interim coach Mike Sanford marks a fresh start for the winless Buffaloes. They had two weeks to adjust to the coaching change, but Cal had the same prep time. We don’t see a competitive advantage and instead view Cal’s unpredictable offense, especially on the street, as the key piece. The Bears don’t have the playmakers to break this up and will be the first team to struggle to put away CU.

Choose: Colorado

Arizona near Washington

Kicking off: 2:30 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks

Line: Washington -14.5 (total: 72.5)

Comment: The Huskies have conceded 85 points in their last two games but have the better of the two defenses in this clash. We’re tempted to get the over, which has been the right choice for UW all season, but that’s a huge number. Emotions will no doubt run high when Arizona quarterback Jayden de Laura returns to the facility’s scene: he rammed the Washington state flag into the turf of Husky Stadium after winning the Apple Cup last year. Over/under for rough pass penalties: 2.5.

Choose: Arizona

USC in Utah

Kicking off: 5 p.m. on Fox

Line: Utah -3.5 (total: 65)

Comment: The line opened with Utah, favored at 3.5, moved to 4.5 and then settled. We expect it to drop as late money pours into the Trojans, but clearly some part of the betting public appreciates the Utes, especially in the din of Rice-Eccles Stadium. The hotline is not convinced that the respect is justified. We see flaws that weren’t there last season. Meanwhile, USC’s defense is improving by the week – Tuli Tuipulotu is a wrecking ball – and the offense has enough balance to leave the Utes in the dark. Showdowns of this kind often have unexpected turning points. To that end, we’d like to point out that Utah’s kickoff coverage was sad… and that USC returnee Raleek Brown can fly.

Choose: U.S.C

https://www.ocregister.com/2022/10/13/pac-12-picks-utahs-desperate-but-uscs-better-wsu-wins-and-arizona-covers/ Utah desperate but USC is better, WSU wins and Arizona covers – Orange County Register

Dais Johnston

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