Wilner Hotline: Week 7 Picks, USC-Notre Dame leads the Slate

(AP Photo/Ralph Freso, File)

ABC’s cameras and ESPN’s ‘College GameDay’ are being deployed to Southern California this weekend for the Oregon-UCLA showdown.

Meanwhile, one of the greatest intersectional rivalries in the sport, USC-Notre Dame, will unfold on NBC in prime time.

And Fox is sending a crew to Washington State for Brigham Young’s first-ever visit.

But there’s another Pac-12 affair that carries substantial stakes.

In fact, Utah’s visit to Oregon State is the only Week Eight game in which both participants control their fate within the conference.

If the Utes win out, they take the South.

If the Beavers run the table, they win the North.

You can find the game on the Pac-12 Networks at 4:30 p.m., opposite USC-Notre Dame.

The Hotline expects a taut, brutish affair. Both teams lean old school, with physical lines of scrimmage and a heavy reliance on the running game.

The Beavers (4-2/2-1) have had two weeks to prepare.

The Utes (4-2/3-0) are coming off a stirring victory over Arizona State and have, after early stumbles, found their identity.

Both teams are starting quarterbacks who were on the bench in the season opener.

Utah is favored by a field goal and has dominated the series recently, with five consecutive wins. That streak includes a 52-7 victory in Corvallis two seasons ago.

The Beavers are far better equipped to handle Utah’s power game than they were back then, in coach Jonathan Smith’s second season. But the challenge Saturday evening will be severe.

A loss could undercut their division chances, depending on Oregon’s result, but it won’t derail their bowl drive: There are too many winnable games left for the Beavers to miss the postseason.

We believe the outcome will hinge on OSU’s running game. If tailbacks B.J. Baylor and Deshaun Fenwick exceed 150 yards (combined), the Beavers should be in position for victory.

But if the ground game sputters and quarterback Chance Nolan is forced to repeatedly make plays from the pocket, then Utah’s pass rush could take control of the game.

The Hotline will be watching intently.

During commercials, we’ll flip over to USC-Notre Dame.

Last week: 3-2
Season: 22-22
Five-star special: 4-3

All picks against the spread
Lines taken from vegasinsider.com
All times Pacific

Idle: Stanford and Arizona State

Washington (-18) at Arizona (Friday)
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. on ESPN2
Comment: The Huskies have a long trip on a short week after a taxing game against UCLA, but Arizona is worse. The Huskies are reeling from an awful start that has sparked fan outrage and calls for Jimmy Lake’s job, but Arizona is worse. The Huskies have a substandard offense and wobbly defense and paucity of playmakers, but Arizona is worse. Our call: Close enough for the Wildcats to cover but not win. Pick: Arizona

Colorado (+8.5) at Cal
Kickoff: 12:30 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks
Comment: The floundering Bears still haven’t beaten an FBS opponent. (Then again, you could say the same about Colorado … ba-da-BING!) Neither team does anything well, although CU’s defense is reasonably stout. There is no home field advantage for the Bears, who were beaten soundly by Washington State three weeks ago. For that reason, the line is artificially high — and worth pouncing on. Pick: Colorado

Brigham Young (-4) at Washington State
Kickoff: 12:30 p.m. on FS1
Comment: Unusual circumstances with WSU dismissing Nick Rolovich on Monday, and the line has responded: BYU opened as a two-point favorite. The visitors have lost back-to-back games and its early-season momentum, while the hosts are gaining confidence and steam with each week. Pick: Washington State

Oregon (-3) at UCLA
Kickoff: 12:30 p.m. on ABC
Comment: If each team performs the way it has in recent weeks, the Bruins win handily. But we suspect the Ducks will raise their game to meet the challenge (especially the players with Southern California roots). The Hotline would rather not pin the outcome on the quarterbacks, but we’re going to pin the outcome on the quarterbacks: Both will be under pressure throughout. Last mistake loses. Pick: UCLA

Utah (-3) at Oregon State
Kickoff: 4:30 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks
Comment: What we wrote above, plus this: Utah quarterback Cam Rising’s ability to make plays with his arm and legs, in combination with the tailback-focused running game and elite talent at tight end, takes the offense to the next level. Pick: Utah

USC (+7) at Notre Dame
Kickoff: 4:30 p.m. on NBC
Comment: Were this game in the Coliseum, the Trojans would stand no chance. The energy and spirit are awful at home these days. We don’t give them much chance in South Bend — they’re soft up front; Notre Dame is not — but the likelihood of a start-to-finish blowout seems remote. And if Jaxson Dart plays, the dynamics could tilt in USC’s favor.  Pick: Notre Dame

Five-star special: Colorado. Two substandard teams on what’s essentially a neutral field? Sure, we’ll take the 8.5 points.

Straight-up winners: Washington, Cal, WSU, UCLA, Utah and Notre Dame

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