Washington State Cougars at Colorado Buffaloes, Saturday Nov. 19, 3:30 p.m. ET
This is a battle of divisional leaders in the Pac-12. That is so bizarre that I know it's true, but I still can't believe what I am writing. It just seems so impossible. Their leads are not very secure, though. Colorado has a game on USC, but they already lost to the Trojans, so they have to stay ahead of USC or they will lose the tiebreaker. Washington State has the same one-game lead on Washington, but they have a big game with that rival - the Apple Cup - looming next weekend. That makes this game more important for Colorado than Washington State.
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If the Buffaloes lose they will likely lose the division because USC has only one conference game against toothless UCLA remaining. On the other hand, win or lose Washington State still faces a one-game showdown for the division title and the berth in the Pac-12 title game at home against Washington. They already have two pretty rough losses to start the year, so they aren't going to be a playoff contender no matter what. For the Cougars, then, this game is about pride and preparation. For the Buffs it is life and death.
Washington State at Colorado Betting Storylines
The matchup here is a case of strength against strength. Colorado has allowed by far the fewest points in Pac-12 conference play - 17 per game. The margin is significant, too - USC is second best, and they have allowed nearly four more points per game. It's especially impressive when you think that they allowed 38 of the 120 points against in the conference opener against Oregon. Since then they have been very stingy, allowing less than 12 points a game. Washington State, meanwhile, leads the conference with 317 points scored in conference action - more than 45 a game. They have been solidly consistent, too - they have scored at least 27 points in every conference game.
Needless to say, both teams are not going to be able to do what they do best here. One is going to fall short, and that will decide the game. The best conference defense Washington State has scored so far is Stanford. They have allowed just over 21 points a game, but Stanford scored 42. The best offense Colorado has faced to date in the Pac-12 is Oregon. They have scored 34.5 points per game, and they exceeded that with 38 against the Buffaloes. You have to be careful trying to learn too much about future games from past ones, but perhaps it is somewhat easier to trust Washington State's offense than Colorado's defense.
Washington State has a glaring absence to deal with here. River Cracraft, a senior receiver, had strong chemistry with QB Luke Falk and was a close second in team receiving yards. He had a career game against Cal last time out, connecting for three touchdowns on nine catches. Unfortunately, he tore his ACL in that game and his career has come to an end. Falk has several other weapons, but Cracraft was his current favorite. It's not ideal against a defense like this one.
Washington State at Colorado Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with Colorado favored by 3.5 points, and that has since climbed up to 4.5. Just over 40 percent of bets have been on Colorado, so the movement suggests that sharp money has been coming in on the home team at a reasonable rate.
The Cougars are 9-1 ATS in their last 10 games against teams with winning records. They are 12-4 ATS in their last 16 conference games and 5-1 ATS in their last six November games. They are 7-3 ATS in their last 10 on the road. Colorado is 7-1 ATS in their last eight conference games, 5-1 ATS in their last six home games, and 13-3 ATS in their last 16 overall. Both of these teams have been kind to bettors recently.
Washington State at Colorado Predictions and Picks
Maybe I have a subconscious love of pirates or something, but I am really believing in what Mike Leach is doing right now. He is an offensive guru who has this team operating in his vision, and I trust his ability to come up with ways to confound the Buffaloes. I would tend towards the Cougars even if they were slight favorites, so I feel comfortable with this price here. There is some value in the Cougars in this spot, and they are the pick here.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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