SportsPac12: Championship Week Predictions
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Championship Week Predictions

November 29, 2018

Levi Stadium in Santa Clara, painted and ready for the Pac-12 Championship Game


Championship Week Pac-12 Football Predictions


 



#17 Utah (9-3, 6-3) vs #11 Washington (9-3, 7-2)
Friday, November 30, 5:00 p.m. PT, FOX
Levi Stadium, Santa Clara, CA

Straight-Up: Utah in a Close Win
Against the Spread: Utah  (+5.5)

Search the Internet far and wide, and you'll be hard-pressed to find a projection that has Utah going to the Rose Bowl. But then, that's the kind of slight the Utes have come to expect since joining the Conference in 2011. 

The ridiculing quips on social media came hard and fast, repeating themselves like mantras every year: Utah never played anyone in the Mountain WestThey've never won their division; They'll never go to the Rose Bowl; They don't belong in the Pac-12.

This year, the story has been different. 

Utah has survived slow starts, crazy turnovers, an early loss to the Huskies, a close loss to the Cougars, an implosion in Tempe, and season-ending injuries to Zack Moss and Tyler Huntley, their powder-keg running back and quarterback tandem. 

The Utes have every reason not to be in the Championship game, yet here they are, expected to lose, and expecting to win.

The Huskies have every reason to feel confident. 

They've been here before, with Jake Browning—a four-year starter, and the winningest quarterback in Conference history—leading an explosive offense. He and senior running back Myles Gaskin will leave deep, lasting marks in the Pac-12 record book once their illustrious careers are over.

But defense is Washington's greatest strength, with its "Death Row" front line, a stout linebacking corp led by Ben Burr-Kirven, and a backfield comprised primarily of future NFL draft picks. 

The Huskies should win, and most believe they will. But for the Utes, as a program still looking to put its stamp on the Conference, it means so much more: It's about proving they belong.

Notes: The Huskies lead the all-time series 11-1, having won this year's matchup 21-7 in Salt Lake City, as well as every other meeting, with the exception of Utah's visit to Seattle in 2015. 

Washington hasn't given up 40 points to anyone in its last 56 games, outscoring opponents 1,906-992 in that span. Burr-Kirven's 155 tackles, which ties him for the nation's best, is 71 more than his 13-game total from 2017. 

Utah is 1-0 at Levi Stadium, having defeated Indiana there in the 2016 Foster Farms Bowl. Britain Covey has led or tied Utah in receiving six times this year, and 11 times in his career.




 



Stanford (7-4, 5-3) at California (7-4, 4-4)
Saturday, December 1, 12:00 p.m. PT., Pac-12 
Memorial Stadium, Berkeley, CA

Straight-Up: California in a Close Win
Against the Spread: California  (+3)

The Bears showed signs of turning the corner last season, but few realized just how dangerous they could be in 2018. 

Granted, Cal hasn't played the strongest schedule, but an upset of the best team on it helps make their case. The Bears not only shut down Washington in Berkeley, but also came within a late interception in the end zone of taking down Washington State. 

The Cardinal still looks like the better team on paper, especially offensively, with nearly 400 yards per game passing. But Stanford has been inconsistent defensively, yielding an uncharacteristic 421 yards per contest. 

While Memorial Stadium hasn't provided much of a home-field advantage for Cal this year, the Big Game should bring it to life. That could be the difference in delivering a win.

Notes: The Cardinal leads the all-time series 63-46-11, and won last year's meeting 17-14 at Stanford. The Bears haven't toppled the Tree since 2009. 

Turnovers have been key for both teams this season: The Cardinal is 7-0 when forcing a turnover, and 0-4 when not; Cal has won all five games in which it enjoyed a positive turnover margin. 

Stanford wideout JJ Arcega-Whiteside ranks third nationally with 14 receiving touchdowns. Jordan Kunaszyk and Evan Weaver lead all FBS duos with 13.7 combined solo tackles per game.