It looks early for the elimination games, but it’s not early.
Next week is October.
From the Hotline’s corner of the galaxy, Saturday brings two pairs in the Pac-12 who are approaching elimination status.
One is early; the other late.
Both games against teams with 1-2 records… teams that have let games slip away… who have lost games they did not expect to lose… who are looking for momentum while the meat of the conference game is coming.
At the start: Washington State in Utah.
Late: Cal in Washington.
The losers will slide to the periphery of the bowl image and will need five wins in their last eight games to advance to the playoffs.
All four teams still play in Oregon.
All four are under more pressure than expected.
All four are on the brink.
Last week: 3-4
Five-star special: 3-0
All Choices Against Spread
Lines taken from vegasinsider.com
Washington State +14 to Utah
To start up: 11:30 am on the Pac-12 networks
Comment: The Hotline deserves endless contempt for sniffing out Charlie Brewer’s impact – we thought he might be a mini-Minshew – but the Utes are clearly better off with Cam Rising in command of the offensive. Our expectation is for the defense to improve as well, and the result is the Utes’ first full game of the season. Meanwhile, WSU is reeling from the second-half collapse against USC. Typically, wobbly teams do not find their place in Salt Lake City. Choice: Utah
UCLA -5.5 at Stanford
To start up: 3 p.m. on the Pac-12 networks
Comment: Stanford returns home after seven straight road / neutral games, dating to the start of the COVID season. This is arguably the best clash of the conference weekend and arguably the best UCLA team in years. (The Bruins are finally able to beat Stanford on the line of scrimmage.) That won’t fit into the 2020 thriller, when the Cardinal won in double overtime, but we’d be slightly surprised if the outcome is clear with five minutes remaining. Pick: Stanford
Cal +7.5 in Washington
To start up: 6.30 p.m. on the Pac-12 networks
Comment: The Hotline is sometimes duped (OK, often duped) by the betting lines, but that doesn’t make any sense. Cal’s offense and defense is more like Michigan than Montana or Arkansas State, and UW couldn’t keep up with the Wolverines. We understand that the lines are set to attract money flows from both sides and that the betting public will always look to Washington at home against any enemy in the conference except Oregon and USC. . But that line is two or three points too high. Choice: Cal
Colorado +14.5 to Arizona State
To start up: 7:30 p.m. on ESPNU
Comment: The only drama here is whether Colorado’s scoreless quarterback streak hits double digits (it’s currently at seven). Assuming the Sun Devils halve the errors – and to be clear, that would still be a lot of mistakes – they should easily cross the 20 point mark. Is CU capable of more than a few field goals? Only if the buffs are gifted in premium position on the field. Choice: ASU
Oregon State +12 at USC
To start up: 7:30 p.m. on FS1
Comment: It feels like a trap game for the Trojans after their emotional week and fiery victory at La Palouse. Back home, against an opponent who does not generate an emergency, they are vulnerable to disappointment. Meanwhile, the Beavers are perfectly capable of taking the lead with a running game that averages 194 yards per game. We expect the OSU to cross 200 meters on the ground in the Colosseum. Choice: State of Oregon
Arizona +29 in Oregon
To start up: 7:30 p.m. on ESPN
Comment: How is it not the line of the first half? Arizona’s only chance to cover is through the back door, with a few fourth-quarter touchdowns against Oregon’s fifth string. Choice: Oregon
Five-star special: State of Oregon. The only aspect of that pick that gets us thinking is the potential for USC quarterback Jaxson Dart to create a touchdown or two with his legs. Otherwise the Trojans are in trouble.
Direct winners: Utah, Stanford, Washington, Arizona State, Oregon State and Oregon