Canzano: No place like home in the Pac-12
My Week 7 picks
I don’t know what your favorite song about “home” is, but there are an ample number of hits to choose from. John Denver crowed about country roads, Lynyrd Skynyrd performed “Sweet Home Alabama” and John Mellencamp sang about the tiny town of Seymour, Ind. with his song titled “Small Town.”
I’ve been thinking about “home” quite a bit this week. In part, because I read that about 63 percent of Division I college football games are won by the home team. The advantages of sleeping in your own bed and playing in front of a supportive home crowd while not having to disrupt your schedule to get on a plane/bus is a measurable advantage.
So what is the home field worth in college football?
Not in the Pac-12. It feels more like a 7-10 point advantage in most weeks. I asked Oregon State linebacker Jack Colletto what he made of the home-field advantage.
The Beavers are 8-1 in their last nine home games, but 3-7 in the last 10 road games.
Colletto said, “I would sum it up to pretty much the unfamiliarity. We have to go someplace else and play in their place and they’re familiar with everything going on.
“They have their locker rooms. My high school coach used to say that you have to play 14 points better on the road. I agree with that, especially in the Pac-12. The environment changes. You’re at Stanford on natural grass, or going to Arizona and the desert, or elevation with Utah and Colorado, it’s a big difference.”
The analytics crowd will tell you that Utah has enjoyed a noticeable home-field advantage since joining the Pac-12. The Utes have won 56.7 percent of their home games vs. the spread in that span.
This season Utah is 3-0 at home vs. the spread.
Home favorites are an especially interesting study this season. The Pac-12’s teams have played 28 games this season with the home team favored by Las Vegas to win. The home teams have a 27-1 record in those games, with ASU’s upset non-conference loss to Eastern Michigan as the only blemish.
Those same “home favorites” are 21-7 against the spread. The home teams aren’t just winning those games, but also covering the point spreads at a 75 percent clip. I’m not convinced that trend holds up as the sample size increases, but it’s worth noting.
I’m coming off a so-so week of predictions and I’m looking for some old-fashioned home cooking. So I’m leaning hard into the home teams this week. As author, Lauren Myracle, once wrote: “I live in my own little world. But it’s OK, they know me here.”
My Week 6 record vs. the spread: 2-3
Week 6, straight-up: 2-3
Record vs. the spread this season: 25-24
Straight-up season record: 37-12
My Week 7 picks…
Cal at Colorado (11 a.m. PT, Pac-12 Networks)
A win by the Bears would give Justin Wilcox his best six-game start (4-2) since 2019. But this game is on the road, where Wilcox is 6-16 in Pac-12 games. It gives me pause. Colorado has to feel like it has a chance on Saturday, but I remain too skeptical about the Buffaloes offense. It hasn’t scored more than 20 points in eight straight games. I’ll take Cal to win on the road, but the Bears don’t cover the 14.5-point spread.
The pick: Cal 28, Colorado 20
Arizona at Washington (2:30 p.m. PT, Pac-12 Networks)
This game is going to be highly entertaining with a ton of points. It matches the only two teams in conference play averaging more than 300 yards per game passing (Washington - 357.3 and Arizona 323.5). The last time Wildcats’ QB Jayden de Laura played at UW was the 2021 Apple Cup. The Huskies will remember that he won the game and promptly planted the Cougar flag at midfield inside their stadium. I like UW to win at home but it doesn’t cover the 15-point spread.
The pick: Washington 40, Arizona 31
Stanford at Notre Dame (4:30 p.m. PT, NBC)
Stanford is minus-11 in turnover margin. That ranks dead last out of the 131 programs playing major college football. Last week’s last-minute loss to Oregon State was a backbreaker. I wonder how the Cardinal will respond on the road. The Irish are a 17-point favorite and at playing at home. I’ll take Notre Dame to win the game, but Stanford covers.
The pick: Notre Dame 30, Stanford 24
USC at Utah (5 p.m. PT, FOX)
Utah has won 11 straight home games. The last team to win at Rice-Eccles Stadium? The Trojans in 2020. This game means a lot. USC is trying to stay in the College Football Playoff hunt. Meanwhile, the Utes got beat on the road by UCLA last week. A loss to USC doesn’t eliminate Utah from conference championship game contention, but the Utes would lose the head-to-head tiebreakers to two undefeated teams ahead of them in the standings. The line opened with the Utes -4.5 points, but is now at -3.5. I like Utah and the home field here.
The pick: Utah 35, USC 31
Washington State at Oregon State (6 p.m., Pac-12 Networks)
Beavers’ coach Jonathan Smith told me Ben Gulbranson “is headed toward starting” at quarterback this week. The Beavers are a 3.5-point home favorite. Reser Stadium is sold out, but it’s who won’t be there that I’m thinking about.
WSU running back Nakia Watson and starting slot receiver Renard Bell were both injured in last week’s game and are out vs. OSU. Also, Cougars’ offensive tackle Grant Stephens must sit the first half after being flagged for targeting. I’ll take the Beavers at home, where they’ve been very good.
The pick: Oregon State 28, Washington State 24
This week I’m also going to provide you with some Pac-12 team statistics, courtesy of the research team:
Want to make your picks, too?
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