It couldn’t last forever.
After three weeks hitting every game right straight-up, the streak came to an inglorious end, Oregon State letting me down at UCLA and Arizona State failing to pull off the upset I called for in Los Angeles (though if the darn punter doesn’t get suspended. …. ASU keeps finding stupid ways to lose, more on which below.)
Anyway, on to a Husky-less week in the Pac-10, with four games on tap, each of the top teams — Oregon and Stanford — facing road games that might be a little trickier than they appear and Oregon State and Arizona each looking to rebound at home.
On to the picks. …
WASHINGTON STATE AT OREGON STATE (Beavers by 23.5) Cougars gave it a valiant shot last week at home against Cal, leading a Pac-10 game at halftime for the first time since 2007 (really, you can look it up). OSU, meanwhile, lost its second game this year on the final play — reverse those and the Beavers would be on a crash course for another Civil War Pac-10 decider. It’s becoming apparent, thought, that this may finally be the year OSU just isn’t as good as everyone thought — the Beavers are ninth in the Pac-10 in rushing at 125.8 per game despite having one of the best RBs in the league and as the Huskies exploited, OSU also isn’t that great defending the pass, ninth in the league in pass defense efficiency. That latter stat could be ominous against a WSU team that has been pretty good throwing it most of the year. But WSU’s passing game has been shut down recently as foes are ganging up on the pass and daring the Cougs to run — which they simply can’t do. Being at home should help energize the Beavers, while the Cougars seem ready to hit the wall after playing 11 games in 11 weeks — after this, WSU is off until the Dec. 4 Apple Cup against UW. OREGON STATE 38, WSU 13.
USC AT ARIZONA (Wildcats by 4.5): UA QB Nick Foles should be even closer to the form he had prior to getting hurt, and the Wildcats may need it as they’ve been pretty susceptible against the pass in most of their Pac-10 games, ranking seventh against the pass in Pac-10 games only. That’s the key matchup here as USC leads the Pac-10 in conference games only, throwing for 295 yards per game. You keep waiting for the Trojans to fold in the face of all that’s happened this year, but give them credit for pulling out the ASU game — and consider that USC’s 230 points in Pac-10 games only are the second-best in the Pac-10 behind only Oregon. But Arizona has more to play for, the homefield advantage, and what seems like a more balanced team. ARIZONA 28, USC 23.
OREGON AT CAL (Ducks by 20): Everybody knows the story on Cal — awful on the road but worldbeaters at home. In Cal’s four home games this year it has beaten UC-Davis 52-3, Colorado 52-7, UCLA 35-7 and Arizona State 50-17. Now, though, comes what is obviously the toughest test in the No. 1-ranked Ducks. Also interesting to note — while a lot of people like to say Cal’s stats are inflated by a weak non-conference schedule, consider that in its six Pac-10 games the Bears are allowing just 312 yards per game, by far the best in the Pac-10. Arizona is next at 358.3. I might even think the Bears could stay in this one if they didn’t have Brock Mansion at quarterback. He looked like a pretty big dropoff from Kevin Riley in what I saw of the WSU game last week, and while the Bears may be able to make life difficult for Oregon on defense it’s hard to fathom they can keep up on the other side of the ball. OREGON 41, CAL 17.
STANFORD AT ARIZONA STATE (Cardinal by 5): Leaders in the the what-might-have-been department this season is ASU, which has lost two one-point games on the road because it couldn’t kick a PAT and also lost by three at OSU — five points away from conceivably being 7-2 with a team that has almost no seniors and coach Dennis Erickson again being lauded for his ability to put a team together. (And remember, one of the other losses is to Oregon, a game in which ASU dominated statistically holding the Ducks to 385 yards, almost 200 under their average). Instead, the Devils look headed to their third straight losing season and Erickson’s on the hot seat, desperately needing an upset or two to save the season. What’s apparent is that whoever is coaching ASU next year is going to have a real darkhorse team on his hands. Some more ASU love — the Devils and Cal are the only two Pac-10 teams to rank in the top five in both rushing defense and passing defense in conference games only. So ASU may have more of a chance to pull this off than you’d think. But what always kills the Devils is a dumb mistake or two, and against a solid team like Stanford that seems the safe way to bet it. STANFORD 28, ASU 20.
LAST WEEK: Straight up, 3-2; against the spread, 3-2.
SEASON TO DATE: Straight up, 48-12, against the spread, 24-28-1.
It couldn’t last forever.
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