As the football savants always say, the picks of November are the ones you remember. Or something like that.
USC (minus 21.5) at Colorado – Temperatures will be in the 30s much of the night for another non-Saturday ESPN showing of a Pac-12 game. Given that the three of October were Cal-Oregon (43-15, Ducks), Cal-USC (30-9, Trojans) and Arizona-UCLA (48-12, Wildcats), the Worldwide Leader may be expecting the worst. Matt Barkley could do major damage to an outmanned CU secondary, but I’m figuring the Trojans to be off their game on the heels of the Stanford disappointment, the T.J. McDonald suspension (for the first half) and Lane Kiffin’s fine from the Pac-12 office. Running back Rodney Stewart and wideout Paul Richardson are back for CU, which might just show the gumption to keep this vaguely interesting. Pick: USC, 34-20.
Oregon (minus 16.5) at Washington – The line seems high, which is an indictment of the Washington defense, because Nevada has to respect the fact the Huskies can score. Unless I’m misjudging the Ducks badly, I think they’re more vulnerable than a year ago, and Darron Thomas and LaMichael James have to show they’re back to the level they were before injuries. I’m saying the Huskies have enough offense to keep Oregon on its heels, and the emotion of the night somehow carries Washington over the top. Pick: Washington, 37-31.
WSU (plus 9.5) at Cal (AT&T Park, San Francisco) – Aside from the Oregon State game, the Cougars have put out consistent effort, and given what were reported to spirited practices this week, I don’t expect anything less Saturday. This just doesn’t look like a very good matchup for WSU. Enigmatic Cal still has a quality defense capable of shutting down the WSU run, putting the pressure on QB Marshall Lobbestael to make plays. On the other side of the ball, Zach Maynard has been mistake-prone, but WSU doesn’t rush the passer well (12 sacks), so he may find his stride again. Pick: Cal, 30-17.
Stanford (minus 21) at Oregon State – This looks like the classic trap game for the Cardinal, following the USC escape and a week prior to the anticipated matchup with Oregon. It’s doubtful a limited Oregon State team can keep up, though, and thanks to the two-point-conversion rule in third overtimes that was applied last week, Stanford hasn’t failed to cover a point spread all year. Stanford has 47 scores in 47 trips to the red zone. For the Beavers, punter Johnny Hekker of Bothell broke a 52-year-old school record by averaging 52.5 last week against Utah. Pick: Stanford, 45-21.
Arizona State (minus 9) at UCLA – Win out, and UCLA assures itself a spot in the Pac-12 title game. Wouldn’t Fox TV love that? The Bruins ambushed Cal last week with Kevin Prince’s 163-yard rushing effort – first one over 100 by a UCLA QB since Jeff Dankworth in 1976, and most by a QB at the school since 1974, when John Sciarra ran for 178 (this was back in the era when the Bruins were running the wishbone, believe it or not). But I can only imagine how Vontaze Burfict’s eyes are going to light up when he sees Prince coming at him with the football. Pick: Arizona State 31-24.
Utah (plus 4) at Arizona – By now, Utah’s strengths are pretty clear: A solid defense and a good running game with John White. But not much at the quarterback position. That’s where Arizona excels with Nick Foles. If the ‘Cats are still playing hard, they should win. Utah WR DeVonte Christopher and Arizona standout Juron Criner were high school teammates at Canyon Springs High in Las Vegas. Pick: Arizona, 30-27.
Last week — 5-1 (3-3 vs. spread). Season — 48-17 (28-29).