Colorado (10-2, 8-1) vs Washington (11-1, 8-1)
When: Friday, December 2nd 2016
Where: Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, CA
Time: 9:00 ET | TV: FOX
Maybe the biggest surprise in all of College Football this season – the Colorado Buffaloes – will meet the fourth-ranked Washington Huskies for the Pac-12 Championship on Friday night in Santa Clara. Colorado completed the biggest single-season turnaround in conference history by going 8-1 after a 1-8 showing in 2015. At No. 8 in the latest CFB rankings, the Buffaloes are still a touchdown underdog to the Huskies, but Colorado has been playing the underdog role all season and their play has given coach Mike MacIntyre the conference Coach of the Year honor. Quarterback Sefu Liufau missed three starts due to a midseason ankle injury but still ranks fourth in Pac-12 total offense (263.3 yards per game) and is helped by a solid running game led by All-Pac-12 second-team back Phillip Lindsay (fourth in the conference with 94.7 rushing yards per game). Linebacker Jimmie Gilbert (team-most nine sacks and 12 tackles for loss) was the only All-Pac-12 first-team defensive selection for Colorado, which led the league in total defense (323.8 yards surrendered) and pass defense (187.8 yards). Special teams could come into play and the Buffaloes have a disadvantage there. They missed eight of their 24 field goal attempts this season.
The Huskies are not only looking for a conference crown, but a spot in the College Football Playoffs as well. With Washington starting the week as the fourth-ranked team, one has to assume that they are in with a win. At least that’s the way I see it. Quarterback Jake Browning, who leads the conference in passing efficiency (181.6) and touchdown passes (40), was named the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year, but coach Chris Petersen’s team also has the conference’s top scoring defense at 17.8 points allowed per game. Four Huskies appear on the All-Pac-12 first-team defense, including safety Budda Baker (61 tackles, team-most nine tackles for loss) and defensive tackle Elijah Qualls (five tackles for loss, three sacks). The Huskies had a conference-most nine first-team All-Pac 12 selections with running back Myles Gaskin (second in the conference at 98.3 yards per outing) and wideout John Ross (second with 89.2 receiving yards) among those. Washington has won six straight in the series, including all four Pac-12 games with the most recent a 38-23 road win in 2014.
Colorado is 10-2 against the spread this season and once again, they find themselves the underdog again. Washington’s only loss was to a red-hot USC team that the Buffaloes also lost to. There’s a lot of pressure on the Huskies in this game, just like there was in the USC game. I can’t see Colorado getting blown-out here, so I’m taking the points.
Pick: Colorado 7.5