We actually have two Pac-12 games this week. The Big Game between the California Golden Bears and the Stanford Cardinal will take place tomorrow after it was delayed due to the terrible wildfires in California. We will pick that one first before we dive in depth to the Pac-12 Championship Game between the No. 17 Utah Utes and No. 11 Washington Huskies.
AJ - Cal
Alex - Cal
Shane - Stanford
With that out of the way, let’s dive into what you all came here to read, the Pac-12 Championship Game predictions. The winner gets a trip to the Rose Bowl. If UW wins, it will be their first Rose Bowl birth since 2000. If Utah wins, they will go to the Rose Bowl for the first time in school history.
I’m taking Utah over Washington. The Utes played them closer than the final score indicated in October. Limiting turnovers and maintaining a consistent offensive attack should translate to success on the field.
Final score: Utah 23 - Washington 21
I’ve gone back and forth on this game all week. There are many reasons to pick Washington: they won the first meeting, they are healthier than ever, Utah is playing with backups at the two most important positions on offense, etc. but this Utah team feels different. They overcame so much this season, and a win tonight would be the ultimate culmination of this is a “team of destiny” as Shane alluded to in his pick. These two teams are so similar and just a few plays swung the last meeting. It was Utah’s sloppiest game of the season. The offense has played far better than they did on that Saturday in September, and the scheme from Troy Taylor has improved as well. But, I think the Huskies pull this one out. UW’s secondary will be by far the best Jason Shelley has faced in his Utah career, and I think players like Byron Murphy, Jordan Miller, and Taylor Rapp can bait Shelley into some mistakes that will be too much for Utah to overcome.
Final score: Washington 23 - Utah 16
Final score: Washington 24 - Utah 17
I’m rolling with the Utes, because I’ve been rolling with them all season. There is a bit of a sense of “team of destiny” to this group, and they are so fun to cheer for and to watch. For the Utes to win this game, though, they need to do the fundamentals. That means run the ball well, and take pressure off Jason Shelley. When they do that, they can hit some play action downfield and keep UW off balance. It also means stopping the run, which means not allowing Myles Gaskin to get rolling. They need to put the ball in Jake Brownings hands and then bring the heat. I don’t think Browning can beat the Utes through the air all game long, especially if the pass rush is effective. Also, they need to play clean, which means win the turnover battle and not commit killer penalties. If Utah can take of the basics, which in some cases is easier said than done (like stopping Gaskin), they’ll have a chance to win this game.