In the 2024 season, as Oregon makes its maiden voyage as a member of the Big Ten, the Ducks’ schedule will include road tests at Michigan, Purdue and Wisconsin and home dates against Illinois, Maryland, Michigan State and Ohio State.
For Washington, also making the jump in this frenzied college sports world, there will be games at Indiana, Iowa, Penn State and Rutgers and, back in Seattle, against Michigan and Northwestern.
Life will be different — so very different — for those two former Pac-12 powers and for Big Ten-bound UCLA and USC, too. It’ll take some getting used to for them and for all of us.
But hold the “former” for now, because the Pac-12 — on the verge of extinction yet, ironically, as stacked as ever — is where it’s at in Week 7 and home to college football’s top-of-the-marquee game, No. 8 Oregon (+3) at No. 7 Washington (2:30 p.m., ABC 7).
With both the Ducks and the Huskies ranked in the top 10 for the first time in 103 meetings between the schools, this one checks just about every box imaginable. There are major playoff implications. There are Heisman Trophy implications, with Ducks quarterback Bo Nix and Huskies quarterback Michael Penix Jr. in the top three on all betting sites. And there are personal implications, too, as in: If you don’t watch this game, what the heck is wrong with you?
Think of Husky Stadium on Saturday as an immense, glorious pinball machine in which the ball flies around so fast, and with so many changes of direction and momentum, that it’s all one can do to keep up with the chaos.
“It’s about the start, the middle and the finish in this one,” Ducks coach Dan Lanning said in the midweek calm.
Washington is No. 1 in the country in total offense, with Oregon at No. 2. The Ducks have been better defensively, but how much will that matter if they can’t get to Penix, who checks in with 400 yards a game through the air and rarely gets sacked or even hit? Neither 5-0 team played last week, meaning fresh legs and, one can hope, gadget plays in both game plans.
As for the total in this game — 67½ — it might not be the worst strategy to just toss a few shekels on the over and enjoy the show. But you came here for a winner, so here goes: Huskies, 42-38.
OTHER WEEK 7 PICKS
Illinois (+13½) at Maryland (2:30 p.m., NBC 5, 890-AM): It’s Homecoming in College Park, which means, well, nothing on the field unless a ball carrier slips on the besotted duchess’ discarded sash. Here’s what means something: On his worst day, Terps QB Taulia Tagovailoa is a far bigger threat than Illini QB Luke Altmyer. And another thing: The Terps are expert at picking off passes — eight of them so far — putting the mistake-prone Illini offense in a precarious position. Rain could be a factor, but a sloppy track wouldn’t seem to be an equalizer for the Illini given their top two running backs are hurt.
Coach Bret Bielema says a 2-4 record “isn’t where we want to be.”
“But the fact of the matter,” he said, “is those losses are really double-effective against us if we allow them to perpetrate forward.”
Oh, they’re perpetrating, pal. Terps, 34-13.
Ohio (-5½) at Northern Illinois (3 p.m., ESPNU): The Huskies played their best game in a while last weekend in a 55-14 wipeout of Akron, a sign of health in Thomas Hammock’s up-and-down program. But the Bobcats are a different kind of MAC animal, one whose defense isn’t to be trifled with. OU, 27-17.
Iowa (+10) at Wisconsin (3 p.m., FOX 32): The Hawkeyes rank 133rd — dead last — in the nation in total offense. That, and four straight wins by the home team in the Heartland Trophy series, clearly favors the Badgers. But if you’ve watched the Badgers attempt to grow into their new Air Raid offense, you know they’re still in a bit of an awkward phase. Break out the ugly stick for Red 13, Gold 7.
No. 10 USC (+2½) at No. 21 Notre Dame (6:30 p.m., NBC 5, Peacock): For several weeks, I anticipated picking the Irish to win this game. Why? Because USC — despite the marvelous talent of Heisman-winning QB Caleb Williams — is run-of-the-mill at best defensively. But the Irish have stopped functioning offensively of late and, nearly as concerning, failed to make one crucial stop after another with their own “D.” In a close game? Give me Williams. Fight On, 27-24.
No. 18 UCLA (+3½) at No. 15 Oregon State (7 p.m., FOX-32): The Beavers are rough and tough at home, and Reser Stadium can be a daunting place to play for any visitor. Are the Bruins really up for this? Beavs, 31-23.
My favorite favorite: No. 12 North Carolina (-3½) vs. No. 25 Miami (6:30 p.m., ABC 7): Give me UNC coach Mack Brown over Miami coach Mario Cristobal, for starters, and Brown’s QB, Drake Maye, is the guy you want if it turns into a shootout. Too much Tar Heels.
My favorite underdog: Oklahoma State (+3) vs. Kansas (2:30 p.m., FS1): The Jayhawks aren’t pushovers anymore — far from it — but the Cowboys got their act together last week in a win against Kansas State, which is better than its in-state brethren. Upset.
Last week: 5-3 straight-up, 6-1-1 against the spread.
Season to date: 35-13 straight-up, 27-18-3 against the spread.