It really gets serious now — five games, all in conference play. No non-conference filler this week.
The standings — and the direction of a lot of team’s seasons — will begin to become a lot more clear as October opens.
What we also get is the first Pac-12 Conference games at both Utah and Colorado, the reality of expansion beginning to take hold.
As for my picks, I had a decent week, going 4-1 straight-up, losing only on Oregon State, which I thought would be able to beat UCLA. Instead, the Beavers only reinforced that they may indeed be the worst team in the conference this season, a swift fall for a program that was a game away from the Rose Bowl in both 2008 and 2009.
And interestingly, in a conference in which there appears to be a lot of parity in the middle, there once again are a lot of games with big spread — four of the five had lines of 9.5 points or larger as I wrote this on Thursday afternoon according to VegasInsider.com.
As always, I’ll save the UW pick for a separate entry on Friday. For now, the rest of the Pac-12 picks.
Washington State at Colorado (Buffs by 3): Conference opener for both teams, and WSU is more rested comimg off a bye while the Buffs had to play (and lose) at Ohio State. The whole key here is whether WSU quarterback Marshall Lobbestael gets enough time to throw. He was sacked six times at San Diego State two weeks ago, while Colorado leads the conference in getting sacks with 14 (3.5 per game). Colorado also leads the Pac-12 in pass defense, and has played a couple of teams that throw the ball pretty well (Hawaii, Cal) so that might be a meaningful number. Colorado just seems a little more battle-tested. COLORADO 31, WSU 23.
UCLA at Stanford (Cardinal by 21): Bruins got a win last week at Oregon State, but this game will be much more telling about whether UCLA has made any progress. Stanford hasn’t played a real tough schedule, but has allowed just 108 rushing yards in three games while UCLA has at least been able to run the ball, averaging 214 per game. That battle could tell the whole tale of the game. Oh, and Stanford also has a big edge at QB. STANFORD 38, UCLA 13.
Oregon State at Arizona State (Devils by 18.5): ASU got what might be viewed later as a real breakthrough win in beating USC. But it will only become that if the Devils can take care of business in games like this in which it is a heavy favorite. Win this one and then ASU sets up what could be the key game in its quest to win the Pac-12 South next week at Utah. Oregon State QB Sean Mannion shows some promise, but this will be his first road start, and those rarely go all that well. ASU 42, OSU 17.
Arizona at USC (Trojans by 12): Oregon State aside, whichever team loses this one will go down as the early disappointment of the conference season. USC’s second-half fold last week at ASU looked a little ominous, making you wonder if the sanctions and uncertainty around the program is taking its toll. Arizona has a great quarterback in Nick Foles but isn’t giving him much support. Home cooking should do wonders for the Trojans. USC 35, ARIZONA 14.
Last week: Straight up, 4-1; against the spread, 3-2
Season to date: Straight up, 32-5; against the spread, 18-19.