Conferences in the Crosshairs: ACC, Pac-12 Picks

Ken Cross

October 31, 2017 at 3:21 pm.

Oct 21, 2017; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Hurricanes quarterback Malik Rosier (12) attempts a pass against the Syracuse Orange during the second half at Hard Rock Stadium. Photo Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 21, 2017; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Miami Hurricanes quarterback Malik Rosier (12) attempts a pass against the Syracuse Orange during the second half at Hard Rock Stadium. Photo Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

It’s time to once again throw away those East Coast biases and take the Washington Huskies for what they are – a Top 4 qualifier who should have a shot in college football’s Final Four. Laughably, the skeptics are pointing to their non-conference schedule which includes the usual one FCS squad, Montana. It’s nothing new because generally every Power-5 and FBS team infuses at least one game from the FCS. Montana, at 5-3 and in the tough Big Sky hunt, is probably better than the mid- to bottom of most of the FBS conferences anyway.

I was back in form last week in nailing the overall slate and once again sliding by .500 vs. the spread. In Vegas, that’s all you have to do is slide by .500, right?


Oregon @ Washington – The Huskies are playing an elimination game every week now and their defense does travel. Washington is second in the nation in total defense at 236 yards per game and only giving up 12.1 points per outing. The 71.6 yards rushing for opponents is huge as Oregon has lived by the run all season behind Royce Freeman. It could be a tough outing for Ducks freshman quarterback Braxton Burmeister.
Huskies (-21) 38, Ducks 14.

Arizona @ USC – The Wildcats are the most underrated team in the nation at 6-2 as Rich Rodriguez’s squad started to percolate with the infusion of Khalil Tate at quarterback. He is a speed merchant and paced the Wildcats past Washington State, 58-37. Tate and J.J. Taylor are a strong 1-2 punch that combined for 336 yards in that outing. The ‘Cats need to get physical at the point of attack as USC is still struggling from injuries on both lines. Sam Darnold and running back Ronald Jones torched Arizona State in the 48-17 win over the weekend. Darnold threw for 266 yards and three touchdowns, while Jones netted 216 on the ground. The biggest key is that Arizona is (+6) in turnover ratio and the Trojans have 20 on the season.
Wildcats (+7) 40, Trojans 38.

Stanford @ Washington State – A huge matchup of two-loss teams as the Cougars go back to the Palouse with their second straight huge road loss. The key is the running game where Bryce Love looks to be back for Stanford after missing the Cardinal’s 15-14 win at Oregon State. Stanford was out of sync all night and it nearly cost them heavily. Look for Stanford to control the line of scrimmage as the Cougs are 128th in the nation in rush offense at 84.1 per night. It’s still a glaring weakness despite the fact of Mike Leach’s Air Raid scheme.
Cardinal (+ 2 1/2) 34, Cougars 31.

UCLA @ Utah – At 4-4, it would make sense if the Bruins did shut down Josh Rosen after his hand injury sidelined him last week. He is a potential Top 5 pick and in today’s college football landscape, the powers there have reiterated the uselessness of games after a team gets two losses. (We desperately need a 16-team playoff!) This is where motivation, pride and player’s moxie come heavily into play. The Utes have lost four in a row, are turning the ball over at a rapid rate and lack a return game. Still, Utah looks like a winner at home.
Utes 29, Bruins (+10) 26

Colorado @ Arizona State – So the Sun Devils’ use probably the best defensive effort of the Todd Graham era to stymie Washington and then turn around and give up 607 total yards and 48 points as Sam Darnold looked like he was operating a 7-on-7 drill. The Buffaloes’ Phillip Lindsay has had an excellent season averaging 186 yards per game on the ground. The Sun Devils have a few more offensive playmakers with Manny Wilkins in control at quarterback and should win an entertaining game.
Sun Devils (-4) 36, Buffaloes 31.

Oregon State @ Cal – Give former NFL defensive back and Oregon State’s defensive back coach turned interim-head coach Cory Hall credit in returning the energy and enjoyment to Beavers football last Thursday as this has been severely lacking under Matt Wells. It almost resulted in a win over a Stanford team that was not looking for that enthusiasm last week. Going on the road to Cal will be different as the Bears are 4-5 and looking for six wins and a potential bowl bid in Justin Wilcox’s first season as head coach. The Bears must protect Ross Bowers who has been sacked 30 times this season.
Bears (- 8 1/2) 33, Beavers 20.


Virginia Tech at Miami – The No. 8 Hurricanes host the No. 13 Hokies in a matchup to see who claims the ACC Coastal Division. The BCS Final Four picture is also clearly in focus for the winner. Miami has not played a solid 60 minutes yet and will need this against a cresting Virginia Tech team which is, once again, led by its defense. The Hokies are ninth in the nation, giving up only 284.5 yards per game and only 71.5 yards on the ground. Lopsided wins against Delaware and ODU have pushed these numbers to an extent yet to be seen. Miami converts only 31 percent of its third down conversions, a number which has gone down considerably since the loss of Mark Walton due to injury. The ‘Canes are also plus-10 in turnover margin as they have only turned it over six times. The key is the physicality Miami can bring to the defensive front.
Hurricanes (+ 2 1/2) 23, Fightin’ Gobblers 20.

Clemson @ NC State – Another huge ACC matchup in Raleigh as the winner here likely represents the Atlantic Division in the ACC title game. The question will be whether the Wolfpack is on top mentally after the 35-14 loss at Notre Dame, as a win would have thrown State into the thick of things on a national level. The Tigers rebooted well in the rain at home in a 24-10 win vs. Georgia Tech. This is a battle of possibly two of the top five defensive fronts in the nation. One big pass play could win this game.
Tigers (-7) 28, Wolfpack 20.

Wake Forest @ Notre Dame – Defensive coordinator Mike Elko will be much of the storyline as he moved from Wake Forest to the Fighting Irish in the offseason and has seen major improvement in the Notre Dame defense as he did at Wake. It is an active Deacons defensive front which produces the most athleticism seen in recent memory on that side of the football as the Demon Deacons lead the nation in tackles for loss at 9.3 per game. Notre Dame will use behemoth back Josh Adams and power the ball between the tackles to pull out a tougher than expected win over a much improved Demon Deacons team.
Fighting Irish 27, Demon Deacons (+13) 17.

Georgia Tech @ Virginia – The Cavaliers have come upon tough times the last two weeks after their surprising 5-1 start. The difference has been the physicality in the offensive line of both BC and Pitt as UVa lost those two games by a combined score of 72-24. Georgia Tech will keep it on the ground and attack much the same way. TaQuon Marshall will have a nice bounce back game at quarterback after the Jackets offense struggled in the Clemson loss.
Yellow Jackets (-10 1/2) 30, Wahoos 17.

Syracuse @ Florida State – Obviously with all of the offensive struggles at FSU, it’s hard to pick the Seminoles to win here, there, or on a neutral field. While they haven’t won yet at Doak-Campbell Stadium and it’s November, Florida State still doesn’t have the firepower to match up with improving Syracuse. Quarterback Eric Dungey will use wide receivers Steve Ishmael and Ervin Phillips to get out of the box early, and as it stands to reason, the Orange wants to make FSU play catchup with an inundated offensive line, a weakness that has made its way into other areas of the offense.
Orange (+4) 27, Seminoles 22.

Straight Up
Last week – 10-3
Overall – 80-31

Vs. the Spread
Last week – 7-6
Overall – 54-52

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