Made while groveling on the carpet of a Las Vegas casino, trying to find pieces of a winning USC ticket on the Trojans-Utah game before the janitorial staff gets there first . . .
Washington at Nebraska (minus 16.5) – The prevailing theory is that the Huskies have closed the gap considerably on the Huskers, who have an inexperienced offensive line and a much less imposing secondary than they did a year ago. I don’t dispute that. But I’m guessing that the Holiday Bowl comeuppance the Huskers suffered at the hands of Washington is going to be a huge motivational factor for Nebraska. That, coupled with the youth of Washington linebackers and QB Keith Price, makes this uphill for the Huskies. Pick: Nebraska, 37-17.
Washington State at San Diego State (minus 6) – Two major forces in opposition here concerning WSU: First, before this year, there’s a daunting history of taking lumps. The other side is that this year’s Cougars haven’t looked remotely like those previous teams. The guess here is that WSU is good enough to take it to the wire, maybe even win it. Pick: San Diego State, 35-31.
Missouri State at Oregon (no line) – The Ducks were originally scheduled to play Utah as a non-leaguer, but the game was scrubbed with the new Pac-12 scheduling. Enter Mo State. Ducks linebacker Michael Clay is likely out, which means more playing time for Kiko Alonso, back from a suspension for some bad behavior in the spring. Pick: Oregon, 75-7.
Presbyterian at Cal (no line) – The itinerant Bears break in their home-away-from-home at the Giants’ AT&T Park in San Francisco. They could unveil touted freshman running back Brendan Bigelow, who may be their fastest player. Pick: Cal, 52-10.
Stanford at Arizona (minus 10) at Arizona – In addition to being very sound defensively, the Cardinal has the undisputed best QB in the nation, Andrew Luck. Meanwhile, the ‘Cats can’t get pressure on the quarterback and are having trouble running the ball, which may mean more touches for racy freshman back Ka’Deem Carey. The status of ‘Cats all-league wideout Juron Criner (appendectomy) is uncertain. I’m counting on a big boost from the ‘Zona crowd to make it interesting. Pick: Stanford, 38-31.
Texas (minus 3.5) at UCLA – There’s all sorts of quarterback intrigue (and instability) here, but the guess is that if either team can muster a semblance of a passing attack, it would be the Bruins. It seems like a watershed moment for UCLA, and that just might supersede Texas’ motivation from a whipping it took in Austin last year. Tommy Lasorda, the ex-Dodgers manager, is going to address the Bruins. Pick: UCLA, 27-21.
Syracuse (plus 16.5) at USC – Remember how Pete Carroll’s USC teams routinely clobbered the opposition in the second half? These Trojans have scored one offensive TD after halftime in two games. Marcus Martin could become the first Trojan freshman to start at guard in seven years. Pick: USC, 34-14.
Arizona State (plus 1) at Illinois – Going east a couple or three time zones is a historically dicey proposition for Pac-12 teams – let alone ones that are coming off an emotional victory. The Illini are in somewhat the same position ASU was last week against Missouri – looking for a signature win. They haven’t beaten a ranked non-conference team since 2007. Pick: Illinois, 30-27.
Utah (plus 4.5) at Brigham Young – Jordan Wynn, the side-winding Utes quarterback, admitted this week his arm isn’t yet 100 percent after off-season surgery. Meanwhile, BYU’s Jake Heaps has thrown three interceptions, albeit in tough road venues at Ole Miss and Texas. Best thing for the Utes after the grinder last week at USC might be their old rival. Pick: BYU, 24-21.
Colorado (minus 8.5)-Colorado State at Denver – The Buffs could be sleepwalking here, between last week’s tough loss against Cal and a date at Ohio State next week. But the Rams’ wins over New Mexico and Northern Colorado don’t excite. Pick: Colorado, 35-24.
Last week: 10-0 (5-5 vs. spread). Season: 18-4 (6-10).