Nick's Picks: Pac-12 predictions for week 9 of the college football season

Data reporter Nick Hedges predicts how the Pac-12 will fare this weekend

Week eight in college football was eventful to say the least with a slate of games that seemed underwhelming at first yielding some exciting results. Ohio State, formerly No. 2, went down against Purdue, and Washington State pulled off the upset against Oregon.

Here are the predictions for this week:


No. 23 Utah at UCLA (Oct. 26, 7:30 p.m. MST)

Utah is coming off a huge win against USC, and it isn’t hard to predict them cruising to another victory against a struggling UCLA team. UCLA averages just less than 23 points per game, and Utah is ranked 16th in the country in scoring defense. 

Utah has an almost 68 percent chance to win the game, according to the composite index, and this equation alone is enough to predict a Utah win. However, UCLA may have an edge over Utah because they are playing at home, which could make the score closer than expected.

Utah: 67.7 percent chance to win

UCLA: 32.3 percent chance to win

Prediction: Utah 31, UCLA 14


Oregon State at Colorado (Oct. 27, 12 p.m. MST)

There isn’t a whole lot to say about this one, except for the fact the composite index gives Colorado just over a 91 percent chance to win. Oregon State has been playing on par with middle-of-the-road FCS programs this year and are far-and-away the worst team in the conference. 

The Beavers have a negative FPI rating, and their Sagarin rating is below many FCS teams. Colorado has been decent this year, averaging over 400 yards per game — more than enough to beat Oregon State at home.

Oregon State: 8.9 percent chance to win

Colorado: 91.1 percent chance to win

Prediction: Colorado 42, Oregon State 10


Arizona State at USC (Oct. 27, 12:30 p.m. MST)

The Sun Devils come into their meeting with the Trojans after another seven-point loss, and USC was handily beaten by Utah last week. Both teams are struggling, making this a crucial game if either one wants to go to a bowl game. ASU hasn’t beaten USC since the so-called “Jael Mary” in 2014, and USC has pretty much overmatched the Sun Devils in every meeting since then.

The composite index gives the edge to the Trojans, who have an almost 60 percent chance of winning. However, USC ranks 65th in the country in rushing yards against per game, and 58th in the country against the pass. With weapons like Eno Benjamin and N’Keal Harry leading ASU’s offense, USC might struggle. It feels wrong to go against the math and the composite index, but I’m going to do it here.

USC: 59.8 percent chance to win

ASU: 40.2 percent chance to win

Prediction: ASU 27, USC 21


No. 15 Washington at California (Oct. 27, 3:30 p.m. MST)

According to the composite index, Washington is the best team in the Pac-12, coming in 10 points higher than any other school. The Huskies fought hard for a win against Colorado, while California dominated Oregon State. 

Washington’s defense ranks 11th in the nation in scoring defense, and California’s defense is fairly middle-of-the-road in most metrics. This will be the difference in a game that Washington should be able to handle well. The composite index agrees, giving the Huskies just over a 70 percent chance to win. Simply put, California has been inconsistent, and Washington just has more talent.

Washington: 70.2 percent chance to win

California: 29.8 percent chance to win

Prediction: Washington 31, California 17


No. 13 Washington State at No. 24 Stanford (Oct. 27, 4 p.m. MST)

This will be the best game of the week in the Pac-12. Washington State is flying high after a huge win over Oregon last week, and Stanford is back in the AP Top 25 after stumbling out of the gates at the start of the year. 

Additionally, Washington State is the last remaining team in the conference with one loss, theoretically making them the Pac-12’s last hope for a playoff spot. However, the composite index doesn’t favor them, giving Stanford over a 57 percent chance to win. The Cardinal are at home, and a win for them would help them greatly in the hunt for a conference championship. 

However, Washington State comes in ranked second in the country in passing yards per game, while Stanford is 95th in the nation against the pass. It hurts to go against the composite index twice this week, but it’s happening.

Stanford: 57.4 percent chance to win

Washington State: 42.6 percent chance to win

Prediction: Washington State 38, Stanford 27


No. 19 Oregon at UA (Oct. 27, 7:30 p.m. MST)

UA came up just short last week against UCLA, and Oregon couldn’t complete their comeback against Washington State. When the Ducks are at their best, they are extremely difficult to beat, and UA hasn’t been at their best this season. Wildcat quarterback Khalil Tate has struggled as well. Last year, he had the 16th best QB rating in the country. This year, he sits all the way back in 67th. 

Plain and simple, Oregon is the better team, and the composite index confirms this, giving the Ducks just under a 64 percent chance to win. The only thing keeping this match somewhat close is the fact that Oregon tends to struggle in Arizona. The Ducks are only 5-3 in the Grand Canyon state dating back to their National Championship loss to Auburn in 2010, including a three-overtime win against ASU.

Oregon: 63.7 percent chance to win

Arizona: 36.3 percent chance to win

Prediction: Oregon 31, Arizona 13


Heading into this week’s games, here is where each team in the Pac-12 stands in the ESPN Football Power Index, the custom power index and the composite index:

 

Here's where we were wrong last week.

Utah took it to USC

Not only did I wrongly pick USC to win, but I badly missed on the score as well. I predicted a low-scoring affair narrowly won by the Trojans, but Utah dominated. The Utes weren’t far from tripling USC’s offensive yardage, and if it weren’t for a fluke touchdown catch and a scoop-and-score, Utah would have — and probably should have — won by more. 

Both teams put up more points than usual, and Utah especially surprised me and defied the composite index. The index gave them a 48 percent chance to win, so it isn’t shocking that they won. However, Utah should have won by more, which is a result the index would not have come close to predicting.

Washington State beats Oregon

Washington State shut out Oregon in the first half on their way to a huge win at home. Oregon made a solid comeback bid in the second half, but it wasn’t enough to avoid the loss. 

The index predicted this match to be fairly split as well and gave Washington State about a 46 percent chance to win. However, the Cougars’ dominant first half ensured a victory. Much like Utah’s win, I was shocked that this game never really felt that close. 

Washington State converted two-thirds of their third and fourth down conversions, and they also had the ball for nearly 56 percent of the game. These were both huge factors in the Cougars’ exciting win over the Ducks.


Composite Index Record for Week 8: 4-2

The composite index is formed by combining our own “Power Index” with other rankings and ratings. Read below to see specifics about how the composite index is formed.

The primary component of the composite index is a custom "power index" which combines various player/team unit rankings and scores to create one number that tells how good a team is overall. 

However, because the custom index does not account for in-season changes, ESPN's FPI, CPSSports's Top 129, Sagarin rankings and national composite scores are factored in as well.

After each of these scores are found for each team, the median and average of those scores for each team is calculated. The median and averages for each team are then averaged together to find the composite index score.

To predict games, the composite index scores for each team in the game are added together, adding five points for the home team. After that, the composite index score for each team is divided by that total to find win probability.


Reach the reporter at nkhedges@asu.edu and follow @nicktrimshedges on Twitter.

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