After going 1-1 last week (I wish I included my leans as official plays!), our record here is now 24-14 (63.2%) on the season. As always, SI Gambling will be using current odds (as of Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. EST this week) from New Jersey sportsbooks (FanDuel, DraftKings, William Hill, PointsBet) for best bets every week. There will be more best bets later in the week, however let's start off with two Pac-12 lines that jumped out immediately, though I am keeping my eye on the injury situation in another Pac-12 game in Los Angeles.
Oregon State at Arizona: Oregon State +5.5 (-110) at PointsBet
If Oregon State is still undervalued in the betting market, we will continue to bet on the Beavers.
Oregon State has won its past two Pac-12 road games, pulling off upsets over UCLA and California. The common theme with both has been the Beavers’ ability to generate tackles for loss and force opponents into second- and third-and-longs. Oregon State has a pretty terrible defense otherwise, but obviously the Beavers would have a much better shot at getting off the field by getting stops behind the line of scrimmage.
The Beavers had three sacks and eight TFLs against UCLA, and then posted a remarkable nine sacks and 14 tackles for loss against Cal. Oregon State is tied for fifth in the country in TFLs per game (8.57), a huge jump from its 122nd standing last season (4.42). But what also helped is that UCLA ranks 112th in tackles for loss allowed per game (7.25), while Cal is tied for 117th in that department (7.50).
And the team that Cal is tied with at 117th? That would be Arizona.
Now, the Wildcats also are one of the more explosive teams in the conference. Arizona ranks 18th in yards per play (6.63), is tied for 15th in plays of at least 20 yards (48) and is tied for third in plays of at least 40 yards (18). The Wildcats’ offense, however, has suffered a drop-off in Pac-12 play. After racking up 7.68 YPP against non-conference foes, Arizona is averaging 5.97 YPP vs. Pac-12 opponents. That 7.68 would rank third nationally in yards per play, while the 5.97 would be tied for 57th.
Arizona has been rotating Khalil Tate and Grant Gunnell in at quarterback. Tate is a dynamic dual-threat QB, but he’s been plagued by inconsistency. The old saying is if you have two quarterbacks, you don’t have one, and I wonder if playing with two quarterbacks with completely different styles of play is the optimal set-up for this Arizona offense.
Oregon State’s offense is surprisingly 64th yards per play (5.87), as I honestly would’ve guessed that number would’ve been higher. But the Beavers’ offense has struggled against good defenses, only putting up 3.4 YPP vs. Utah and 4.0 YPP vs. Cal. In two games against subpar Pac-12 defenses, Oregon State has notched 7.0 YPP (Stanford) and 7.7 YPP (UCLA).
Luckily for the Beavers, Arizona’s defense is in a similar class as Stanford and UCLA’s, as the Wildcats allow 6.20 YPP (99th), while the Cardinal and Bruins are at 6.21 (100th) and 6.55 (120th) respectively. In fact, it’s gotten so bad on that end in Tucson that Arizona just fired defensive coordinator Marcel Yates and linebackers coach John Rushing after this past weekend’s 41-31 loss to Stanford. The Wildcats allowed a combined 133 points in their past three games, all losses to Washington, USC and Stanford. Each team crossed the 40-point mark against Arizona, yet those three teams have combined for just one other 40-point performance between them in 14 other Pac-12 games.
I think Arizona is a mess, and I couldn’t believe this line opened with Oregon State as a touchdown underdog. It’s down to 5.5, but I still think there’s good value with the road team. The Beavers are also coming off a bye and have had extra time to prep for this game, while the Wildcats are in transition on both sides of the football. Give me the underdog here.
Colorado at UCLA: OVER 64 Points (-110) at FanDuel
I have no idea why the total for Colorado/UCLA opened at 63. It’s up now to 64, but I would’ve guessed it would be more in line with the 73 that was hung for Oregon State/Arizona.
UCLA averages the most plays per game in the Pac-12 at 74.8. Arizona is second at 74.3, then Colorado is third at 73.1 Not only are you getting two of the fastest-paced teams in the conference, you’re getting the two worst Pac-12 defenses in this game. UCLA is 120th in yards per play allowed at 6.55, while Colorado is 129th at 6.93 (only UMass is worse in college football at 7.71).
The reason why the total is in the 60s compared to the 70s are, you probably guessed, the offenses. Colorado is 73rd in yards per play, while UCLA is 91st at 5.40. The Bruins aren’t a very explosive offense, but they’ve been a lot more efficient overall since their early-season struggles. The big plays are likely to come against Colorado, though, as the Buffaloes have allowed 49 plays of at least 20 yards (123rd in CFB) and 13 plays of at least 40 yards (115th). In fact, Colorado has allowed the most 20-yard, 30-yard and 40-yard plays in the Pac-12.
While UCLA’s defense ranks 120th in yards per play allowed, there’s a clear discrepancy between its run defense (4.13 YPC allowed, tied for 60th in CFB) and its pass defense (9.0 YPA, 126th). UCLA ranks 125th in passing plays allowed of at least 20 yards, 123rd in passing plays allowed of at least 30 yards and 105th in passing plays allowed of at least 40 yards. That’s what made Arizona State’s offensive gameplan so confusing in its 42-32 loss to UCLA this past weekend, Jayden Daniels only attempted 29 passes, and 15 of them came in the fourth quarter when the Sun Devils were down 42-10.
Granted, ASU didn’t run many plays against UCLA because the Bruins dominated time of possessions. UCLA controlled the ball for 38:30, including touchdown drives that lasted 8:27 and 7:14. But while Arizona State is one of the better Pac-12 teams in limiting explosive plays—the Sun Devils have allowed nine plays of at least 30 yards (13th nationally) and four plays of at least 40 yards (14th)—as stated above, Colorado is close to the bottom in that department. So I don’t think you will see many long, sustained drives for UCLA against Colorado, but rather shorter ones with more big plays, which is important for an over bet like this one.
If Colorado throws the ball early and often, its wideouts should eat against UCLA’s secondary. Laviska Shenault was at his best last game against USC, catching nine balls for 172 yards and a touchdown. Fellow receivers K.D. Nixon and Tony Brown are also dangerous weapons. It was also important to see quarterback Steven Montez get his confidence back this past Friday vs. USC. After the worst two-game stretch of his career at Oregon and at Washington State, Montez lit up the Trojans for 324 yards (7.5 YPA) to go along with three touchdowns and zero interceptions.
So you have two of the fastest-paced teams and worst defenses in the conference going up against each other, with two offenses that have the talent to exploit these poor defenses. These are also two of the worst defenses in giving up explosive plays, so expect plenty of big plays in this game. I’m a little surprised this total isn’t in the Oregon State/Arizona range, and if I’m being honest, I think this game finishes with more points than the showdown in the desert.
Season record: 24-14