Let me start off with a quick question — did you see my pick of the USC-Colorado game last week?
In case you didn’t, let me remind you: Predicted score? USC 42-17. Actual score? USC 42-17.
If you saw that, I hope you stopped there as it was another bad week with the rest of my picks against the spread as I went 2-4, falling to 31-40 on the season. I was 4-2 straight-up, however, so I improved to 57-15 there.
As for this week, it’s another full slate of Pac-12 games, including the latest “Game of the Century.” One failsafe pick in regards to that game? It won’t be 9-6.
On with the picks. …
ARIZONA STATE AT WASHINGTON STATE (Devils by 12.5): The spread has gone down 1.5 points since Sunday, which is about the same as the weather forecast, now calling for a 30 percent chance of snow. I’m back to questioning the Devils after they kind of gave it away last week at UCLA, the kind of thing I thought they were past. And if they don’t show up for this one, you never know — hard to believe the Cougs won’t play a little harder than they did last week at Cal (and if they don’t, lots of potential ramifications there). ASU can still easily get to the Pac-12 title game, however, and it’s hard to imagine they’d blow it here. ASU 37, WSU 17.
OREGON STATE AT CAL (Bears by 9.5): The Bears are now 5-4 and need to win this game to assure bowl eligibility as they then play at Arizona State and Stanford to end the season. The Beavers had some moments last week against Stanford, and they are just talented enough — and Cal erratic enough — that anything seems possible. OSU has traditionally played Cal well. But all things being equal, the Bears are better. CAL 28, OSU 20.
UCLA AT UTAH (Utes by 7): UCLA took control of the South Division last week with its upset of Arizona State, which also gave new life to Rick Neuheisel’s hopes to remain coach of the Bruins beyond this season. But the road is far from smooth to get there, as the Bruins now have to play a surging Utah team that has won three of its last four and is third in the conference in total defense and second against the run. And the M.O. of Neuheisel’s UCLA’s teams has been to follow up a good performance or two with a clunker. This game will truly prove if Neuheisel has turned things around at UCLA or if the last couple weeks were just an aberration. We’re siding with the latter, for now. UTAH 28, UCLA 17.
ARIZONA AT COLORADO (Wildcats by 11): A thrilling matchup of the two teams with the worst records in the conference (Arizona is 1-6 to WSU’s 1-5 while Colorado is 0-6). It’s probably also Colorado’s last chance go avoid going winless in conference play with games remaining at UCLA and Utah. Arizona, though, will have the best player on the field in Nick Foles and that should be enough, providing he cuts down on the interceptions that have been his bane of late. ARIZONA 41, COLORADO 28.
OREGON AT STANFORD (Cardinal by 3.5): Now for the conference’s game of the year. The teams are pretty even in a number of key stats — Stanford is scoring 48.2 points per game to Oregon’s 46, for example, and allowing 16.6 to Oregon’s 20.8. And Oregon is gaining 510.7 yards to Stanford’s 505.8. Stanford is better in some defensive stats, but Oregon having played LSU in the non-conference (Stanford still has to play Notre Dame as its marquee non-conference game) skews some things a little. What I see as the ultimate difference is Andrew Luck vs. Darron Thomas. Maybe Thomas was just shaking off the rust last week against UW. But he just flat-out missed a handful of throws in that game that he can’t miss if the Ducks are to beat Stanford. Luck won’t miss those throws, and from this vantage point, that will be the difference in what should be a high-scoring, exciting game that will likely go down to the final five minutes. STANFORD 44, OREGON 38.
Last week: Straight up, 4-2; against the spread, 2-4
Season to date: Straight up, 57-15; against the spread, 31-40.