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Nick's Picks: Predictions for Pac-12 football in week 11

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.   

Week 10 was another week filled with games with serious Pac-12 implications. UA jumped back into the race for the Pac-12 South division title when it beat Colorado on Friday night, and ASU’s shocking upset of Utah put it in the driver’s seat in that division. 

Here are the predictions for this week:

UCLA at ASU (Nov. 10, noon MST)

The Sun Devils will look to continue their winning ways against a struggling UCLA team on Saturday. The composite index likes their chances of doing so, giving them just under a 70 percent chance to win. Additionally, UCLA ranks 96th in the nation in yards against per game, and 95th in scoring defense.

Against an ASU offense with weapons like sophomore running back Eno Benjamin and junior wide receiver N’Keal Harry, it might be a rough afternoon for the Bruins’ defense, and their offense hasn’t fared much better. One hundred and nine teams in the country have scored more points per game than UCLA; combine that with an ASU defense that has played well the last few weeks, and there is likely a result that clearly favors the Sun Devils.

ASU: 69.67 percent chance to win

UCLA: 30.33 percent chance to win

Prediction: ASU 41, UCLA 24

No. 8 Washington State at Colorado (Nov. 10, 1:30 p.m. MST)

The Cougars kept their playoff hopes alive with a dramatic win over California last week. However, if Washington State wants to make it to the playoffs, they’ll have to be convincing from here on out. With their margin of error being this slim, it’s difficult to see them displaying the impressive play required. Colorado has been inconsistent to say the least, but a win over the Cougars would give them the marquee win they desperately need.

This game will ultimately come down to Washington State’s passing attack, which currently ranks No. 1 in the country. 

On the flip side, Colorado has a middle-of-the-road pass defense that ranks 69th in the country. The Cougars might not be able to give the playoff committee a reason to put them in the top four, but they’ll win this one regardless.

Washington State: 57.68 percent chance to win

Colorado: 42.32 percent chance to win

Prediction: Washington State 30, Colorado 21

Oregon at Utah (Nov. 10, 3:30 p.m. MST)

As far as ASU is concerned, this game is definitely one to watch. Having already beaten Utah, the Sun Devils would be helped significantly if the Ducks get a win. However, if Utah wins, that puts some serious pressure on ASU when they go to Eugene to play Oregon next week. 

The composite index gives both teams a fair chance to win, and both teams have solid talent. Utah is a tough place to play for any visiting team, and the Utes will be looking to rebound from their tough loss to ASU. 

However, Utah's starting quarterback Tyler Huntley was lost for the season due to a collarbone injury he sustained last week, and backup Jason Shelley had a tough time at the helm. Luckily for them, Oregon’s defense hasn’t been great, ranking 104th in pass defense, 53rd in rush defense and 74th in scoring defense. 

While Huntley is out, Oregon’s porous defense will give Shelley a chance to gain confidence. It’ll be close, but Utah will respond to their loss last week with a win this week.

Utah: 55.43 percent chance to win

Oregon: 44.57 percent chance to win

Prediction: Utah 27, Oregon 24

Oregon State at Stanford (Nov. 10, 7 p.m. MST)

On the road against a tough Stanford team, Oregon State will probably struggle. The Beavers put up a respectable performance against USC given the gap in talent between the two teams, but a similar gap exists this week. 

Stanford could likely put up an average performance and still beat a Beaver team that ranks comparably to several FCS teams in most metrics. The composite index gives Stanford nearly an 85 percent chance to win, and it figures they will cruise. Oregon State may still perform well, but they won’t be good enough to beat the Cardinal.

Stanford: 84.75 percent chance to win

Oregon State: 15.25 percent chance to win

Prediction: Stanford 24, Oregon State 6

California at USC (Nov. 10, 8:30 p.m. MST)

California nearly pulled off an incredible upset against Washington State last week, and they’ll try to do it again in Los Angeles this Saturday. If USC plays up to its potential, this shouldn’t be a tough game for them. 

The composite index favors the Trojans as well, giving them just over a 60 percent chance to win. However, USC notoriously under-performs, and the Golden Bears will look to take advantage of that, led by a defense that ranks in the top 20 in the nation in opponent yards against. This game will be closer than the composite index predicts, but the Trojans should be able to overcome that Cal defense at home.

USC: 60.53 percent chance to win

California: 39.47 percent chance to win

Prediction: USC 27, California 23

Heading into week 11, let’s see where each team stands in the ESPN Football Power Index, the custom power index and the composite index.

Here's where we were wrong last week: 

Arizona edges Colorado:

The Wildcats won for the second week in a row, this time in close fashion against Colorado. Arizona dominated the line of scrimmage on Friday night, holding the Buffaloes to 40 rushing yards while racking up 216 yards on the ground themselves.

Colorado’s star receiver Laviska Shenault also missed the game through injury, leaving the Buffs without their main offensive weapon. The composite index gave Colorado a slight edge to win the game, but Shenault’s absence was enough to tilt the game in Arizona's favor.

Without Shenault, the composite index adjusted by four percent, giving the Wildcats a 51.82 percent chance to win. The prediction would have changed if Shenault had been ruled out sooner, but Colorado announced he would be out hours before kick-off. Nonetheless, it’s a loss in the books.

ASU runs through Utah

ASU put the Pac-12 on notice when they handily beat No. 15 Utah at Sun Devil Stadium on Saturday. Benjamin rushed for 175 yards and two touchdowns against one of the nation’s top rush defenses, and Harry added 161 receiving yards and three touchdowns. 

Impressive performances from freshmen Merlin Robertson and Aashari Crosswell on defense also helped keep Utah’s offense in check. The Utes were already struggling in Tempe without injuries, but when Huntley went down in the third quarter with a broken collarbone, it became apparent that ASU would come away with an upset win. 

Nick’s Picks record for week 10: 4-2

Nick’s Picks record for the season: 11-7

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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