The first full weekend of Pac-12 games looks a little misleading on the surface. None of the five games features a point spread that at the moment is less than a touchdown (fixed from previous entry), with three featuring spreads of 16 points or more.
Yet in their own way, each game has all kinds of intrigue and the possibility of a surprise, if not in who actually wins or loses at least in the manner in which the game develops.
Not that I’ll be much of a guide for how things will unfold when it comes to the spread. I’m off to another rough start against the spread at 10-18, though I’m a lot better straight up at 25-8 (and since it’s about all I have, I’ll brag for a second about having been just off on the UW-Portland State game, which I pegged at 48-13 and finished 52-13).
On with this week’s picks. And as always, the lines are from the trusty Daily Line in the Friday Seattle Times:
UTAH AT ARIZONA STATE (Devils by 7): Two teams whose seasons took somewhat different trajectories last week — Utah’s up after its win over BYU and ASU’s down after its loss at Missouri. Utah, though, still is struggling to really get its running game going and ASU should be a lot better being back at home and maybe with its QB rotation a little more settled. The feeling here is Utah and Jon Hays won’t be able to keep up. ASU 27, UTAH 17.
COLORADO AT WASHINGTON STATE (Cougars by 21): Colorado was so feeble at Fresno State last week (a 69-14 loss) that the school felt compelled to give coach Jon Embree a vote of confidence just three games into his second year. WSU, meanwhile, seems like it’s still missing a gear or two from its Air Raid offense. It also could have a QB controversy on its hands, though, if Connor Halliday gets another start and leads the Cougars to the win, as should happen. Expect the Buffs to show a little more fight than last week — if they don’t now, given the tenor of things in Boulder this week, hard to figure when they will. But Colorado appears headed for a winless season. WSU 31, COLORADO 13.
ARIZONA AT OREGON (Ducks by 22.5): Oregon started out favored by as much as 26.5, but the spread has done a bit, bettors obviously showing some belief that the Wildcats will be able to score just enough to not let the Ducks completely run away with it. And by the way, I don’t put much stock in Oregon’s points allowed totals as most of those came against reserves in garbage time — I still think the Ducks’ defense is a strength and one of the best in the conference, though this game will be a test of how much Oregon misses safety John Boyett. Arizona is deservedly ranked after the way it has started, and I think has shown it will be a handful for everyone it plays this season. That said, this is also Arizona’s first road game of the season — the Wildcats haven’t won a game out of the state of Arizona since October, 2010 — and there’s few less hospitable places in the college football than Autzen. Expect Arizona to score but Oregon to score more. OREGON 45, ARIZONA 23.
OREGON STATE AT UCLA (Bruins by 7): A really intriguing game here of what are two of the biggest surprises in the conference so far (along with Arizona). Conversely, the Beavers have played just one game and that against a Wisconsin team that has been underwhelming in all three of its games. UCLA, meanwhile, seems to be getting more confident each week behind the dynamic duo of Brett Hundley and Johnathan Franklin and a defense that seems to be finding its comfort zone. The line has gone down steadily in OSU’s favor this week. But put me in the camp that thinks the Bruins are going to pull away with this one — just not sure OSU has the offense to keep up. UCLA 34, OSU 17.
CAL AT USC (Trojans by 16): Not that many teams have great track records at the Coliseum through the years. But Cal has had one of the worst. Jeff Tedford has never won there, and the Bears haven’t won there since 2000. Many have been mystifyingly bad, such as Cal’s last game here two years ago when the Bears fell behind 42-0 at halftime. Cal played better last week at Ohio State, but in what has kind of become its norm of late, still found a way to lose. USC’s jaunt to the national title game was knocked way off course last week at Stanford, a defeat that revealed serious issues on both lines. So the conventional wisdom will be that this game should be closer than thought a week or two ago. I’ll buck that thought and assume that a healthier USC team will get back on track against a Cal squad that might not be able to match the effort of a week ago playing on the road in a tough venue for the second straight game. USC 37, CAL 17.
AGAINST THE SPREAD: 2-5
AGAINST THE SPREAD: 10-18.