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Nick's Picks: Predictions for week 13 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.   

The final week of the college football regular season is upon us, and throughout the Pac-12, there is still plenty to play for. 

Utah clinched the Pac-12 South division title with ASU’s loss to Oregon, but the Pac-12 North is still up for grabs in Friday night’s Apple Cup matchup. Several teams have bowl statuses at stake, and for the first time this season, Nick’s Picks will feature teams from outside the conference. With that said, let’s take a look at this week’s games:

Oregon at Oregon State (Nov. 23, 2 p.m. MST)

The only thing left for Oregon State to play for is bragging rights in their home state, but their rivals from Eugene can put themselves in a much better bowl game with another win. The composite index likes the Ducks' chances of doing so and gives them just under an 80 percent chance to win.

Quite frankly, the Beavers are a bad team. Oregon State's only bright spot has been freshman running back Jermar Jefferson, who is currently the fifth-ranked rusher in the nation. Jefferson will have a good chance to boost his stats in the “Civil War,” but Oregon will cruise to a win. Coming off an impressive performance against an up-and-coming ASU team, the Ducks shouldn’t have any issues running and throwing on the Beavers’ leaky defense.

Oregon: 78.22 percent chance to win

Oregon State: 21.78 percent chance to win

Prediction: Oregon 48, Oregon State 13

No. 16 Washington at No. 8 Washington State (Nov. 23, 6:30 p.m. MST)

This is easily the biggest game for the Pac-12 this week, and its winner will punch a ticket to the Pac-12 Championship Game. Washington State still lurks in contention for the College Football Playoff, and a convincing win over their in-state rivals would surely give the committee something to think about. However, according to the composite index, this Apple Cup will have a result that is far from convincing.

The Huskies are given a slight edge to beat the Cougars, and a win for Washington would give them a great chance to get to the Rose Bowl. However, Washington State boasts the nation’s top passing offense behind Heisman candidate Gardner Minshew. On the other hand, Washington has struggled against the pass recently, ranking 83rd in pass defense over their last three games. Those recent struggles will come back to haunt the Huskies, and the Cougars will keep rolling Friday night.

Washington: 53.63 percent chance to win

Washington State: 46.37 percent chance to win

Prediction: Washington State 35, Washington 31

Stanford at UCLA (Nov. 24, 1 p.m. MST)

Stanford got a surprise bye week when their game against California was postponed due to the wildfires in the state, and UCLA is coming off last week's season-saving win over USC. UCLA has improved the last few weeks, narrowly losing to ASU before beating the Trojans. However, Stanford has proven to be a step up from ASU and USC. Running back Bryce Love hasn’t had the season we were expecting, but the Cardinal are still one of the most talented teams in the conference. The composite index agrees, giving them just under a 70 percent chance to win.

Stanford has made up for Love's lost production by stepping up their passing attack this year. JJ Arcega-Whiteside has proven to be one of the nation’s most effective receivers, and Stanford currently has a top-20 passing offense. UCLA will meet that with a defense that ranks 72nd in the nation against the pass. That’s not a good combination if you’re a Bruins fan.

Stanford: 68.49 percent chance to win

UCLA: 31.51 percent chance to win

Prediction: Stanford 31, UCLA 20

ASU at UA (Nov. 24 1:30 p.m. MST)

A week ago, signs were pointing to this being the Pac-12 South Championship, with the winner clinching the division. After ASU’s loss to Oregon, Utah punched its ticket to the conference championship game, but there is still plenty to play for in this year’s Territorial Cup.

At 5-6, UA needs to win to qualify for a bowl game, and ASU could put themselves in a better bowl if they win. ASU will also be plenty motivated to keep the Wildcats out of the postseason — normal in-state bragging rights set aside. The composite index gives the Sun Devils just over a 55 percent chance to win, and I like their chances against a UA team that gave up 69 points to Washington State last week. UA’s pass defense ranks 115th in the nation, so Manny Wilkins shouldn’t have problems throwing the ball. 

ASU: 56.69 percent chance to win

UA: 43.31 percent chance to win

Prediction: ASU 27, UA 24

Colorado at California (Nov. 24, 5 p.m. MST)

A few weeks ago, Colorado was in the driver’s seat in the Pac-12 South, but injuries and subpar play have knocked them way back in the running. The Buffaloes need to win to qualify for a bowl, and Cal is already bowl eligible with two games remaining. The composite index gives the Golden Bears just over a 60 percent chance to win, and it’s not hard to see why. Colorado’s pass defense ranks 84th in the nation and gives up more points per game than 66 other teams. However, Cal’s offense hasn’t been great recently, but at home after a surprise week off, I expect them to play well.

California: 61.06 percent chance to win

Colorado: 38.94 percent chance to win

Prediction: California 24, Colorado 17

No. 3 Notre Dame at USC (Nov. 24, 6 p.m. MST)

USC’s season has been beyond disappointing, but they have the opportunity to redeem themselves by beating the undefeated Fighting Irish. A win for Notre Dame would seemingly give them one of the four spots in the College Football Playoff, and the composite index likes their chances of doing so, giving them nearly a 60 percent chance to win. Notre Dame comes into this rivalry game with the nation’s 8th best scoring defense, and USC’s offense, led by freshman quarterback JT Daniels, ranks 69th in the country in scoring offense. I just don’t see the Trojans scoring enough to overcome their opponents. That said, Notre Dame will go to Los Angeles and clinch an undefeated regular season, and USC will miss out on bowl season.

Notre Dame: 58.89 percent chance to win

USC: 41.11 percent chance to win

Prediction: Notre Dame 31, USC 17

BYU at No. 17 Utah (Nov. 24, 8 p.m. MST)

Utah’s Pac-12 season ended last week when they beat Colorado, and they later clinched the Pac-12 South division title with ASU’s loss to Oregon. There is still plenty for the Utes to play for in this in-state rivalry game. The composite index gives Utah just under a 65 percent chance to win, and I also like their chances. BYU has the nation’s 77th best rushing offense, and Utah’s rush defense ranks in the top ten. While this will be a hotly contested rivalry game, BYU will likely struggle to move the ball.

Utah: 62.52 percent chance to win

BYU: 37.48 percent chance to win

Prediction: Utah 34, BYU 17

Heading into week 13, let’s see where each team stands in the ESPN Football Power Index, the custom power index and the composite index:

Before we get too caught up with this week’s games, let’s take a look at where we went wrong last week:

UCLA shocks USC

UCLA ran all over the Trojans, beating them 34-27 in a hotly contested rivalry game. Bruins’ running back Joshua Kelley ran for nearly 300 yards against USC, leading them in their comeback victory. At one point in the third quarter, ESPN’s live probabilities gave USC a 90 percent chance to win, but the Trojans still found a way to lose. With Notre Dame on deck, it is difficult to see USC qualify for a bowl game this season. USC head coach Clay Helton’s job is at serious risk at this point. There really isn’t a reason for a team with one of the highest custom power index scores in the country not to go to a bowl game, but it’s looking like that will be the case.

ASU can’t complete the comeback in Eugene

After falling behind early, ASU came inches from tying the game up in the fourth quarter, but receiver Frank Darby was judged to have caught a pass out-of-bounds on a potential game-tying two point attempt. Some will say the officials’ lack of a replay cost the Sun Devils the game, but ASU’s inability to control the Ducks’ offense was a problem all night long. Oregon racked up nearly 450 yards of offense, steamrolling an ASU defense struggling with injuries. Even though they made it close, ASU was well beaten in Eugene, and ultimately, the Ducks win handed Utah a trip to Santa Clara for the Pac-12 Championship Game. 

Nick's Picks Record for Week 12: 3-2

Nick's Picks Record for the season: 18-10

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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