One of the beauties of college football is that things get serious in a hurry.
So it is in the Pac-12 this weekend. After an opening weekend when most teams eased into things (if most found the sledding tougher than expected) most now get tests that will serve as true indicators of where they stand.
It will also provide something of a litmus test on the conference as a whole — there was no lack of stories this week pondering that this could be a down year for the Pac-12. More struggles this week will only further enhance that notion.
I was burned a little in my picks last week in showing quite a bit of faith in the conference and not necessarily having that rewarded (especially against the spread). But it’s too early to give up on the conference yet.
Here now, the picks for this week, with point spreads from the trusty Daily Line printed in The Seattle Times (and as always, I’ll have the pick for the UW game in a separate thread on Friday):
Arizona at Oklahoma State, Thursday night (Cowboys by 14): As anyone who follows my AP ballot may know, I have Oklahoma State rated higher than anyone in the country, at No. 4. I really like OSU’s offense, with the pass-catch combination of Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon, and that all five starters return on the offensive line. OSU should be able to score on anyone. This game loomed as a possible shootout and a matchup of two of the better QBs in the game this year — Weeden and Nick Foles. But the news this morning that Arizona WR Juron Criner is out is ominous for the Wildcats. I liked OSU anyway, but like the Cowboys even more now. Oklahoma State 41, Arizona 20.
Missouri at Arizona State, Friday night (Sun Devils by 7.5): Missouri’s ranked No. 21 this week and ASU not in the rankings — so naturally the Devils are favored by more than a touchdown. Also just kind of speaks to how hard it is to judge teams like this, each of which have a lot of potential but also some big question marks. I’ve been on the ASU train for a while now, though like most, becoming more hesitant with each injury the Devils suffer. Still, I like them to win this game, a Friday night affair that for once should feature an electric atmosphere in Tempe. ASU 31, Missouri 17.
Oregon State at Wisconsin (Badgers by 21.5): The line started at 17 and has only gone up this week in favor of the Badgers, which makes sense given the Beavers poor showing last week and now a quarterback controversy some are saying could “doom” the season. Beavers have often fared poorly in these early non-conference games on the road and no reason to think they won’t again. And with a big game, Wisconsin QB Russell Wilson could move swiftly up the Heisman lists. Wisconsin 38, OSU 14.
Stanford at Duke (Cardinal by 21): This line started at 15.5 and wisely, the wise guys jumped on that one. The Cardinal should roll. Stanford 41, Duke 17.
Nevada at Oregon (Ducks by 26.5): After its big season a year ago, Nevada is kind of starting over, losing QB Colin Kaepernick to the NFL. Oregon showed some flaws last week but a return home and facing a defense nowhere near the level of last week should get the Ducks back on track. Oregon 51, Nevada 13.
UNLV at Washington State (Cougars by 14): UNLV is in rebuilding mode under second-year coach Bobby Hauck, the former Husky assistant. WSU got a big win over a bad team last week but lost QB Jeff Tuel in the process. Marshall Lobbestael, however, has seven starters under his belt and may be a better replacement than people think. We’ll find out in this one. Home field should be a big asset here for the Cougars. WSU 38, UNLV 17.
Utah at USC (Trojans by 9): The first Pac-12 game in history also could very well end up deciding the Pac-12 South. Utah didn’t show much last week against Montana State while USC almost got caught-from-behind by Minnesota — like his pal Steve Sarkisian, Lane Kiffin needed a last-minute interception to stave off the upset. And like Sarkisian, Kiffin has sent out strong challenges to his team this week to ramp up its play. I’m picking USC, but I like Utah to cover. USC 23, Utah 20.
San Jose State at UCLA (Bruins by 21.5): If you missed it in the earlier links. check out Rick Neuheisel’s rant to his team following Wednesday’s practice. A lot of coaches out there sending challenges to their team this week, it seems. Bruins need a big win to get some momentum going and should get it. UCLA 42, San Jose State, 14.
Cal at Colorado (Bears by 6.5): Whoops, forgot to add this one when I published this initially. Buffs looked a little ragged in their opener while Cal appears to have a good defense and an emerging QB in Zach Maynard. Bears struggled on the road last season but this may be a better and more mature team. For now, we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. Cal 27, Colorado 14.
Season to date: Straight up, 10-2; against the spread, 5-7.