After this weekend, the regular season is on the downslope, as every Pac-12 football team will have played at least six games.
USC (minus 3) at California — I’m sorely tempted to side with the Bears here; I don’t think they’re as bad as they looked in the second half at Oregon last week, and before that, they took Washington down to the final series at Husky Stadium. But I had a hard time ignoring the recent history of the series — USC’s seven straight victories — and this fact: Cal hasn’t scored more than 17 points in any of the losses, and it averages only 10.4 points in that span. The Bears are also unlikely to feel the same push from the crowd at AT&T Park in San Francisco as they would at Memorial Stadium. I’m taking the better quarterback. Pick: USC, 33-28.
Colorado (plus 14.5) at Washington — For me, this is the most perplexing spread of the week. You’ve got a Buffs team that hasn’t yet had a bye (and won’t), one that’s probably sagging a bit mentally and having dealt with some recent suspensions, against a fresh Washington club that has shown the ability to put up points. I guess its propensity to allow points (until the Utah game) is the hedge for the oddsmakers. I don’t think it’ll be close. Pick: Washington, 34-10.
Stanford (minus 21) at Washington State — Conversely, does this line seem a little high? If it does, it’s probably because the Cardinal is 5-0 against the spread this year. The Cougars’ biggest problem here might not be Andrew Luck; it could be the Cardinal’s beef on the offensive line and WSU’s difficulty in getting to the quarterback (Stanford has allowed a national-best two sacks). For the Cougars, there’s intrigue at quarterback. Although Marshall Lobbestael will start, according to coach Paul Wulff, Jeff Tuel will play, maybe early. If WSU gets solid quarterback play, it has the weapons to keep this entertaining. Pick: Stanford, 38-27.
Arizona State (plus 15.5) at Oregon — I’m choosing to look at this one in terms of how Cal did against the Ducks last week. It led at halftime and collapsed in the second half. But doesn’t ASU’s Brock Osweiler stand a better chance to perform at least adequately, compared to the poor outing by Cal’s Zach Maynard? I think he does. And even though the Ducks have depth at running back, the probable loss of LaMichael James leaves a hole. This ought to be a game. Pick: Oregon, 40-31.
Brigham Young (plus 2) at Oregon State — This is two teams having made in-season quarterback changes — BYU’s from Jake Heaps to Riley Nelson, OSU’s from Ryan Katz to Sean Mannion. Courtesy of the Salt Lake Trib, BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall is 16-2 over the last five years in games decided by a touchdown or less. The guess here is that Mannion, a redshirt freshman, may have some ups and downs to come. Pick: Brigham Young, 27-21.
Utah (plus 7) at Pittsburgh — With Utah (2-3) struggling to find itself in its maiden Pac-12 season, and now under a backup quarterback, this doesn’t seem like a great spot for the Utes to find their footing. Pitt (3-3), though, has been wildly inconsistent — blew a big lead to lose at Iowa, played Notre Dame to the wire, blew out South Florida and got blown out at Rutgers. The Panthers have the nation’s second-leading rusher in Ray Graham, so count on the Utes to sell out everything to take him away. Pick: Pitt, 24-13.
Last week: 5-0 (2-3 vs. spread). Season: 38-9 (20-19 vs. spread).