Colorado Buffaloes (10-2 SU, 10-2 ATS) vs. Washington Huskies (11-1 SU, 6-6 ATS)
College Football Week 14
Pac-12 Championship Game
Date/Time: Friday, December 2, 2016 at 9PM EST
Where: Levi's Stadium, Santa Clara, California
By Loot, NCAA Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com
Betting Odds: COLO +7.5/WASH-7.5
Over/Under Total: 58
On Friday, the Colorado Buffaloes face the Washington Huskies for the Pac-12 Conference Championship. The Buffaloes capped off an incredible last-to-first season with a 27-22 win over Utah on Saturday, capping off an incredible 8-1 run in the conference. This would really be a massive win for them to win the entire conference. For Washington, it's also been a terrific season with just one loss. Ranked fifth heading into this past week, they smashed Washington State, 45-17, on the road last Friday to set up this game. With a few things going their way, the Huskies still hope to get into the College Football Playoff.
The Buffaloes deserve a lot of credit along with coach Mike McIntyre for this massive about-face in a very tough conference. Colorado had struggled in gaining any success in this conference since joining, making it all the more stunning how they played this season. They lost a competitive game with Michigan on the road, before falling to USC by 4 points, their only setbacks of the season. Six straight conference wins later, here they are, ready to cap off a renaissance season in Boulder.
Hats off to the Colorado veterans for banding together for the cause. After three years of suffering, senior starting quarterback Sefo Liufau has really helped bring this offense together this season. Despite injuries and nagging physical issues, Liufau's mental strength has been a big part of the equation. He has been efficient and clutch through the air, while showing good legs in running for 7 touchdowns. The run-game has been fortified by the work of Phillip Lindsay, with his 16 touchdowns and 1136 yards on the ground. A line that had been pushed around in the past was able to protect the quarterback (for the most part) while springing runs from the ground game. They have some top receiving talent, with Shay Fields leading the way and bolstered by key pieces Devin Ross, Bryce Bobo, and the coaches' kid Jay. It's a balanced group and a consistent one that usually performs near its peak form.
On the season, the Buffaloes have allowed 18.8 points a game, a low number and especially for this conference. Like the other side of the ball, they offer a lot of balance. Their defense is ranked 12th in the nation and they are good against both the pass and the run. They have a nice playmaking element, as well, led by Tedric Thompson and his 7 picks. As a team, they've secured 26 turnovers on the season. Linebacker Jimmie Gilbert has rushed the heck out of the passer, while stripping balls. End Jordan Carrell has also been getting after it and these guys are not alone, with a defensive unit that plays with a lot of energy and urgency.
The Huskies have big things within their sights. Rather than scour through all the possibilities, they are in a pretty good spot. They were fifth before this week with number-three Michigan losing. They beat a ranked Washington State team thoroughly on Friday and a win over Colorado would make it hard to turn them away from the CFP. So the stakes are high, with Washington possibly getting a shot at glory if they win, whereas they'd land with a thud in a far-less desirable spot should they lose this game.
They looked really good on Friday, with a game where they showed themselves to be in peak form just at the right time. The Huskies had a prime offensive performance with over 500 total yards. And the defense was able to put a lid on the Washington State high-flying offense. It was the perfect kind of game leading into a spot like this. Watching Washington on Friday, the only takeaway was "this is a really good team." Jake Browning threw three TDs and now has 40 of them on the season. They are the third-highest scoring team in the nation with 44.8 yards a game. Giving it even more meaning is the fact that they're very balanced, able to get points in any number of ways.
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The Washington offense has a deep running game, led by Myles Gaskin and Lavon Williams, as the pair have combined for nearly 2000 yards. One of them usually has a big game. Browning has a deep cast of ball-catchers he can put to use. Leading the way is John Ross, with 1071 yards and 16 touchdowns. Dante Pettis has 14 TD receptions, with Chico McClatcher adding a speedy long-threat dimension to a diverse aerial attack that can wreak havoc in a number of ways. Pettis and Ross can also make hay in the return game. There isn't much margin for error when dealing with this offense.
For as good as the Huskies' offense is, the defense might even be better. It's a group of monsters that play like a defense that has a real cause to shoot for. Players like Psalm Wooching, Joe Mathis, and Vita Veas have been adept at getting after the quarterback, with a pass-rush that is consistent and sometimes fierce. In the secondary, they have one of the best in Budda Baker, surrounded by guys who have kept opposing quarterbacks mostly in check.
This is by no means an easy one to call, with any number of different scenarios suggesting themselves. It's understandable why most would look at this game and consider the Huskies the more-imposing overall team. Fair enough, as long as it doesn't distract one from acknowledging the character needed to go from where the Buffaloes were to where they are now. And it's more than a feeling, as they really have the tools to make life hard on any team. I see the Buffaloes hanging in there with the cover.
Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the Colorado Buffaloes plus 7.5 points. Tired of your credit card not working for sportsbook deposit? End that problem today and bet the Buffaloes vs. Huskies game by signing up at Bovada Sportsbook where your credit card WILL work and where you'll receive a generous 100% sign-up bonus!