A Pac-12 title and College Football Playoff implications are on the line as the No. 5 Oregon Ducks face the No. 3 Washington Huskies at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas on Friday night.
The Huskies have won 19 straight games going back to last season and are all but assured a spot in the College Football Playoff with a victory, as that’d make them an undefeated Pac-12 champ.
However, the Ducks are two-score favorites in this rematch after running off six straight victories — mostly in impressive fashion — since the Huskies won the first matchup 36-33 in Seattle.
According to the college football odds, the Ducks are giving the Huskies 9.5 points thanks to some advantages in key areas. I believe that’s paved the way for one player in particular that I’ve circled with my best bet.
Find out who in my free college football picks for the 2023 Pac-12 Championship Game between the Oregon Ducks and Washington Huskies on Friday, December 1.
Oregon vs Washington best odds
Oregon vs Washington picks and predictions
Kalen DeBoer’s Washington Huskies are the undefeated team currently in the CFP picture that won the prior matchup between these teams, so how is it that the Oregon Ducks are the one favored by 9.5 points? Let’s dive into some of those advantages I mentioned at the top.
Oregon has a large edge when it has the ball. The Ducks have a potent offense headlined by current Heisman Trophy odds co-favorite Bo Nix, who’s completed 78.6% of his passes for 3,906 yards and 37 touchdowns to just two interceptions while rushing for 159 yards and another six scores.
The Ducks lead the nation in offensive success rate and check in at No. 2 in EPA per play, so this is undeniably an elite unit. Washington is nothing special defensively, checking in at 97th in success rate and 67th in EPA per play.
The biggest advantage when the Ducks have the ball is in the ground game — Washington ranks a ghastly 130th in EPA per rush and 128th in rushing success rate and Oregon’s numbers are of course elite (second in both EPA per rush and rushing success rate offensively).
The Ducks ran for 204 yards and two touchdowns and it’s very difficult not to imagine star running back Bucky Irving (1,422 scrimmage yards, 12 TDs) being held in check.
Oregon has an elite offensive line that checks in at third nationally in both line yards and front-seven havoc. This is concerning for the Huskies as their defensive front has been their greatest weakness, ranking 132nd in line yards, 130th in stuff rate, and 128th in front seven havoc. They’ve sacked the quarterback just 19 times this season (110th nationally) while the Ducks have allowed the fewest sacks in the nation.
Washington also possesses an elite offense (fourth in success rate, seventh in EPA per play) headlined by a veteran star quarterback. Michael Penix Jr. has thrown for 3,899 yards and 32 touchdowns to eight interceptions while averaging a robust 9.1 yards per attempt.
Rome Odunze (1,326 receiving yards, 13 TDs) and Ja’Lynn Polk (943 receiving yards, eight TDs) are two game-breaking offensive weapons out wide while fellow star Jalen McMillan has been injured for much of the year but is playing at less than 100% to provide another complementary option.
The difference when Washington has the ball is that it will be going up against a solid Oregon defense allowing just 15.9 ppg and ranking 14th in EPA per play and 17th in success rate.
After looking at both squads’ respective outlooks for Friday night’s rematch in Las Vegas, there’s a glaring neon sign (apt, for Vegas) pointing at Oregon’s advantages in the ground game.
Irving typically manages productive days on a minimal workload, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that he was given 22 carries — a career-high — in the October 14 matchup in Seattle. He was relied upon when his team needed him most in the biggest game of the season to date, and he should be utilized heavily again in Sin City.
Bucky ran for 127 yards and a touchdown in Seattle while also catching six passes for 34 yards. I mentioned that his 22 carries were a career-high, but take a wild guess against whom his second-most carries in a game came against. That’s right: Washington last year when he ran 20 times for 146 yards against the Huskies while adding five catches for 35 yards.
His rushing yardage prop is set at 90.5 and that’s too low considering Oregon’s advantages in the trenches and the fact Washington has been a Bottom-5 rush defense by some advanced metrics. The star running back has been utilized more heavily in big games and this is as big of a stage as it gets, so Bucky should benefit from a usage bump.
My best bet: Bucky Irving Over 90.5 rushing yards (-114 at FanDuel)
Picks made at time of writing may not reflect live odds.
The first leg is my best bet on Bucky’s rushing yardage prop while the second involves him scoring 2+ touchdowns at +175.
I find those plus odds intriguing considering he’s one of the best backs in America (90.9 rushing grade per PFF), runs behind an elite offensive line, gets a soft matchup, and typically sees a usage bump in close matchups.
The Ducks don’t play in a lot of close games and typically blow teams out so Bucky’s stats may not pop out to the “game log watchers” of the player prop betting world, but all indicators are pointing up for a big day for Bucky.
The third prop features Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. to go Over his 2.5 passing touchdown prop at +145. He threw for four touchdowns in the first matchup with Oregon and his receiving room is more healthy this time even with a hobbling McMillan manning the field, so I think this prop is over-influenced by a few poor performances lately. ‘
We have a big enough track record on Penix that we know to expect greatness and he shined bright in big moments before.