Well, I finally got an Oregon game almost exactly right last week. Stanford, the other team that seems most vexing, was another matter.
But I’ll take another try at it again this week as each plays in what are the most critical games of this weekend in the Pac-10.
OREGON AT ARIZONA (Ducks by 6): Go through all the Pac-10 stats and it’s hard to find too many big differences between these two teams. Each ranks pretty similarly just about everywhere other than pass offense, which is largely a function of the fact that the Ducks just don’t throw it as much as a lot of other teams (their 250 attempts this year fewer than anyone in the conference except Stanford). So this one mostly comes down to feel and intangibles — will Arizona’s home-field advantage make all the difference? Or will Oregon’s greater experience playing in big games matter more? Finally, I settled on this — while UA QB Nick Foles has been really good this year, he’s shown some signs of hitting the first-year starter wall. Jeremiah Masoli, meanwhile, seems to just keep getting better. So call this one for the Ducks to set up a Civil War for the ages. OREGON 37, ARIZONA 30.
CAL AT STANFORD (Cardinal by 7): Must-win for Stanford to stay in the Rose Bowl race. And while it’s tempting to wonder if Stanford will have to battle the post-beating-USC hangover that seems to usually afflict teams, playing at home and in what for once is truly a big game Big Game should obviously ward off any letdown. I actually think this game could come down to which team passes the ball better — for all that’s made of Stanford’s running, the Cardinal leads the Pac-10 in passing efficiency due largely to Andrew Luck throwing just three interceptions this season. Figure the Cardinal to get some big plays against a Cal pass defense ranked ninth in the conference to break this one open. STANFORD 31, CAL 21.
OREGON STATE AT WASHINGTON STATE (Beavers by 31): Not much explanation really needed here. Beavers simply a lot better, and playing as well as anyone in the conference right now. And one reason why this one could really get out of hand — OSU has the fewest turnovers in the conference this year with seven while WSU has the most with 28. OREGON STATE 55, WSU 10.
ARIZONA STATE AT UCLA (Bruins by 4.5): A hard one to read anyway as they are two average teams each needing a win to stay in the bowl hunt. Even harder now that ASU is going with sophomore Samson Szakacsy at QB, his first-ever start. He’s a mobile QB who flashed some signs of being one of those QBs who just kind of has that “it” factor when he was forced into action at Oregon last week. But UCLA seems to be peaking and is at home and that’s a lot to ask a first-time starting QB. UCLA 27, ASU 21.
LAST WEEK — 3-2 straight up, 2-3 against the spread.
SEASON TO DATE — 45-19 straight up, 25-34-1 against the spread.