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Nick's Picks: Predictions for week 12 of Pac-12 football

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


ASU players take the field before the Sun Devils 49-7 blowout win over the UTSA Roadrunners at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona, on Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018. Photo illustration published on Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018.   

As we rapidly approach the end of the college football season, the race to the Pac-12 Championship gets more and more intense. Washington State figures to be running away with the Pac-12 North championship, but the Pac-12 South championship is wide open. UA, ASU and Utah all have realistic chances to win the division. With that said, let’s take a look at this week’s games in the conference:

No. 19 Utah @ Colorado (Nov. 17, 11:30 a.m. MST)

As far as ASU is concerned, this is an important game to watch. ASU fans should be rooting for Colorado because a Utah loss would give the Sun Devils the ability to lose a conference game and still have a path to the conference championship game. However, the composite index doesn’t like Colorado’s chances as the Buffaloes have under a 40 percent chance of winning. 

However, the game is in Boulder and the Utes will be without starting quarterback Tyler Huntley and running back Zack Moss, but Colorado has a middle-of-the-road offense, which ranks 59th in the country in yardage per game. Against a stout defense like Utah, the Buffs will likely struggle. It’ll be closer than people think, but Utah will win and put a lot of pressure on ASU in doing so.

Utah: 62.23 percent chance to win

Colorado: 37.77 percent chance to win

Prediction: Utah 27, Colorado 20

USC @ UCLA (Nov. 17, 1:30 p.m. MST)

USC is already eliminated from division contention, but with a tough game against Notre Dame looming, the Trojans will likely miss out on a bowl game if they lose. That’s a lot to play for and that’s all before discussing the fact that USC head coach Clay Helton would likely lose his job with a loss this weekend.

The composite index favors the Trojans to come through, giving them just over a 65 percent chance to win. The Bruins haven’t won this rivalry game since 2014 and after going through a topsy-turvy season, it’s hard to see them break their losing streak in the series now. UCLA’s defense has especially struggled against the run, giving up more rushing yards per game than 102 other teams. USC will likely exploit that, and in the end this will likely be the difference. Expect it to be entertaining, but USC will come out on top.

USC: 65.66 percent chance to win

UCLA: 34.34 percent chance to win

Prediction: USC 24, UCLA 17

Oregon State @ No. 18 Washington (Nov. 17 2:30 p.m. MST)

Oregon State’s games were pretty easy to predict before their shocking win over Colorado, but now the Beavers are a bit more unpredictable. However, the composite index gives them under a 15 percent chance to win. Unfortunately, on the road against a ranked team, Oregon State just doesn’t seem to have much of a chance. The Beavers have the 127th ranked rush defense per game, and a physical team like Washington shouldn’t have issues gaining ground on them. Oregon State is back to its losing ways, and that won't change against Washington.

Washington: 87.13 percent

Oregon State: 12.87 percent

Prediction: Washington 38, Oregon State 10

Stanford @ California (Nov. 17 5:30 p.m. MST)

This year’s edition of the “Big Game” pits Northern California’s rivals against each other for another installment of this storied rivalry game. Stanford routed Oregon State last week, and Cal is coming off a comeback win at USC. The composite index gives Stanford a just under a 60 percent chance to win, and the Cardinal certainly have the edge in terms of talent. However, Cal comes in with a defense ranked 14th in the country in total defense, and Stanford ranks 65th in the country in total offense. But once again, Stanford will have more talent on the field. Their custom power index score is over five times greater than California’s and while I never like to pick games purely based on talent, I’m going to do that here.

Stanford: 59 percent chance to win

California: 41 percent chance to win

Prediction: Stanford 27, California 20

ASU @ Oregon (Nov. 17 8:30 MST)

By the time this game kicks off in Eugene, ASU will know how much pressure is on them to win. If Utah loses to Colorado the Sun Devils can afford to lose, but if the Utes win, they also need to win to give themselves a good chance to win the division. The composite index gives a slight edge to Oregon, and after a difficult loss to Utah, they’ll be looking to get back on track. However, the Ducks bring the nation’s 66th ranked rush defense and 107th ranked pass defense into the game. ASU has picked apart opposing defenses the last few weeks, and Eno Benjamin and N’Keal Harry have had great games against defenses ranked better than Oregon’s. This, along with ASU’s improving defense, will be the deciding factor. It will be really tough, but ASU will escape from Eugene with a huge Pac-12 win.

Oregon: 52.3 percent chance to win

ASU: 47.7 percent chance to win

Prediction: ASU 34, Oregon 30

UA @ No. 8 Washington State (Nov. 17, 8:30 p.m. MST)

Washington State just keeps chugging along, remaining in the playoff committee’s top 10 and retaining an outsider chance at getting into the playoff. If the Cougars keep winning, they will still have a chance. However, as I’ve said in previous weeks, they have to be really convincing in their victories. The composite index gives Washington State just over a 60 percent chance to win, and at home their chances of winning increase even still. UA’s defense is 85th in the country in passing defense, and the Cougars have the nation’s second-best pass offense in the country. UA will struggle against Washington State’s passing offense, and while UA’s offense has been improving lately behind quarterback Khalil Tate, they just won’t be able to keep up on the road. Washington State will keep on rolling Saturday night. 

Washington State: 62.24 percent chance to win

UA: 37.76 percent chance to win

Prediction: Washington State 41, UA 28

Heading into week 12, let’s see where each team stands in the ESPN Football Power Index, the custom power index and the composite index:

Now, before week 12 falls upon us, let’s take a look at where I was wrong in week 11:

California shocks USC

USC opened up a 14-0 halftime lead, but the Golden Bears scored 15 points in the third quarter to win 15-14. Cal got a safety right off the bat and never looked back, ultimately edging the struggling Trojans. Cal’s offense didn’t really do anything too extravagant either, raising serious questions about the future of USC’s program. Before last Saturday, the Trojans hadn’t lost to Cal since 2003. It’s a difficult one to swallow for USC, and one that throws their bowl eligibility into serious question.

Nick’s Picks record for Week 11: 4-1

Nick’s Picks record for the season: 15-8 

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.

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