Coming down the stretch now of the Pac-12 race(s). Just three weekends to go before the first Pac-12 title game Friday, Dec. 2.
Washington (plus 12) at USC — Huskies surprised me last week (obviously). I thought they’d be more effective against Oregon, especially on offense. They’ve really struggled against superior opposition, and although USC isn’t exactly elite anymore, it’s still a step up. It also remains to be seen whether QB Keith Price rebounds from a rough patch. I think the difference here could be the Trojans’ motivation to atone for two consecutive, last-second losses to the Huskies. Pick: USC, 42-27.
Arizona State (minus 12 1/2) at WSU — For awhile, it seemed as though WSU was capable of hanging around in games, because of their offense (much in the manner of the Huskies). But lately, scoring has been a problem — witness the futility at Cal last week. I don’t know that that gets rectified quickly, and even though it’s supposed to be a grim night weather-wise, I think ASU comes focused enough. Too, if WSU plays backup QB Connor Halliday much, that may entail a learning curve. Pick: ASU, 35-14.
Oregon (plus 3 1/2) at Stanford — Stanford has won 17 straight, dating to last year’s loss to Oregon. The Ducks, meanwhile, have won 18 straight conference games — dating to the 2009 defeat at Stanford. When you sort out all the different factors, I tend to think the difference will be Oregon’s sometimes-struggles with the passing game this year, while on the other side, you have the cunning and resolve of Andrew Luck. Pick: Stanford, 38-33.
Oregon State (plus 9 1/2) at Cal — Yeah, yeah, I know how the Beavers have bedeviled Cal over the years. And I know how flighty Cal is. But since I saw Cal play Washington in September, I’ve believed the Bears to have big-league talent (although that doesn’t cover the quarterback position). It was on display last week against WSU. And there’s the fact the OSU rushing game is last in the country in a couple of categories. Pick: Cal, 31-16.
UCLA (plus 7) at Utah — Speaking of flighty, it’s OK to put the Bruins in that category as well. Just when they were about to take a 10-count, they got off the canvas and won against Cal and ASU. But I don’t think this is a good spot for them. Utah is still playing hard and it’s defensively very good — coach Kyle Whittingham said this week he thought there were “four or five” possible future pros on his defensive line, counting younger reserves. I think Utah stuffs the pistol and does enough on offense to make it a comfortable win. Pick: Utah, 28-10.
Arizona (minus 11) at Colorado — Since the cathartic win over UCLA, and a stout early effort against Washington, the Wildcats have reverted back to their old miseries the last six quarters or so. It’s dangerous siding with the bedraggled Buffaloes, but I’m going to take them to hang in and make it a game. Pick: Arizona, 31-28.
Last week — 3-3 (4-2 vs. spread). Season — 51-20 (32-31 vs. spread).