Each week Peter Loshak from www.sportsbookreview.com breaks down the week's Pac-12 lines exclusively for Pacific Takes.
Cal at UCLA -4, 69.5
UCLA has suffered 2 straight blowout losses, and they have been unlucky in the injury department. Cal is obviously much improved and very impressive this year, and even in their last game, their first loss of the season, they hung with elite Utah on the road, and probably would have won if they hadn't shot themselves in the foot with turnovers.
Still, UCLA is hugely talented all over the field, despite the injuries, and is likely to be much better going forward than what they showed in their last two games. It's very telling that UCLA's favorite line has gotten bet up since opening.
Cal does have a great recent ATS record on the road, at 7-1 ATS in their last 8 road games. The home team in this matchup though, has covered the spread in each of the last 5 meetings.
This could easily be a game that is close the whole way through and goes down to the wire, in which case Cal getting 4 is likely to cash. But the matchup will probably be better for UCLA here than it was in their last two games, as their weakness on defense is defending the run, but they will not face a power running game against Cal like what they faced in their last two losses. The line movement is telling and probably does indicate sharp action on UCLA.
Washington St at Arizona -7.5, 74
Washington St has been strongly outperforming their spreads recently. They're 4-2 ATS overall, but their last 3 games were all covers by double digits against Pac-12 teams. Any way you slice it, that's impressive and eye-opening.
Arizona has also had recent ATS success, coming off of 2 straight covers, but there are also several negatives for them heading into this game. Starting QB Anu Solomon was replaced by backup Jerrard Randall last game, and the starter for this game is still not certain. Arizona is also dealing with a few key injuries, maybe the most important of which is to their best cornerback Devonte Neal, who is questionable. That's particularly problematic because Arizona is young and inexperienced in the secondary even with Neal, which of course plays right into Washington St's strength, their pass-heavy offense led by QB Luke Falk, who is playing in great form right now.
The total for this one opened at 72, which I thought was surprisingly low, and has since gotten bet up 2 points. Washington St struggles against athletic running QBs, which is what Arizona's Randall is, and not Solomon. So Randall will probably get a healthy dose of snaps in this game even if he doesn't start, and should be pretty effective. Add in Arizona's depleted defense, and the Over may still be a decent percentage play even at the higher current line.
Utah at USC -3.5, 61
This line inspired a lot of debate when it opened, which is understandable. Utah is ranked #3 in the nation right now, they're undefeated, and 4-2 against the spread. Their average margin of cover in their 4 ATS wins is huge, while their two ATS losses each came by just 1.5 points. USC is of course a team appearing to be in disarray, suffering through a majorly disappointing season, cringe-inducing turmoil surrounding fired coach Steve Sarkisian, and some key injuries to boot. They've lost 3 of their last 4 games both straight up and against the spread, including an embarrassing home loss to mediocre Washington, where they close as a 17-point favorite. Yet, USC opened as a 3-point favorite over Utah. And has since even gotten bet up a half-point.
There are good reasons for that though, beneath the final scores of recent games. USC was in a tough spot last week on the road against a strong Notre Dame team, yet they still managed to have a lead of a touchdown heading into the fourth quarter. Utah also struggled last week for most of the game at home against Arizona St, but managed to pull away in the fourth quarter. And of course, USC still has one of the most talented teams in the nation, despite their injuries and spotty play this year. With the coaching change and reduced expectations going forward, they'll probably be playing with less pressure as well. In 2013 they finished their season strong under an interim coach after a rough start, and we might see something similar play out this year as well.
Utah is a tough, elite team though, they're legit, and they are also 8-1 ATS in their last 9 road games, which is not a comfortable trend to bet against. But I agree with the line movement on the game so far, and think USC probably had value at -3, and possibly still at 3.5. A USC blowout would not be a surprise either. If they jump out to a lead, they may take out some of their frustrations in this game.
Colorado at Oregon St -2, 59
The dregs of the Pac-12 meet up this week, and neither Colorado nor Oregon St has been one of those bad SU teams that has been decent ATS, as we sometimes do see. Colorado sits at 1-5-1 ATS, while Oregon St is 1-5 ATS.
One of these teams will cover this game though, and the early line movement has favored Colorado, who opened as a 3-point underdog. That could suggest some sharp action on Colorado, it's less likely that strong public action pushed the line down.
Colorado has an injury that could prove to be important, to starting WR Shay Fields. Fields is Colorado's second-leading receiver, and forms a nice tandem with Nelson Spruce, who will now possibly be more coverable. Someone else very well may step up to replace Fields' production, but it's not good news that he's out. On the other hand, a big positive for Colorado last week was adjustments they made to their offensive line, which paid great dividends, at least for that game.
One matchup edge for Oregon St will be in the run game, where they feature a strong running QB, which plays into Colorado's big vulnerability in run defense. If there is a strong late line move on game day, that will likely be caused by sharp action, and might be worth following. If the line holds where it is, it's probably a coin flip.
Washington at Stanford (no line)
As of Thursday morning, there is still no line out on this game, due to injury uncertainty regarding Washington's starting QB Jake Browning. Washington coach Chris Petersen has gotten the most out of Washington's limited roster this year, and they are currently 4-2 ATS. But whether Browning plays or not, there might not be much Petersen and the Huskies will be able to do on the road against tough Stanford.
Stanford's opening-week loss to Northwestern is now far, far in the background, and they have covered each of their 5 games since then, the last two at home each by double-digits. A good argument could be made that Stanford is the best team in the country right now.
If Browning is out, Washington will likely go to a very run-heavy offensive game plan, and if that's the case, we could see a low-scoring game where Washington has a chance to cover or backdoor a large spread. We'll see what Browning's status ultimately winds up being, and what the spread is when it opens, but it's hard to imagine a scenario where Washington has value.
Off: Oregon, Arizona St