It’s the stretch run for Pac-12 football teams. Time flies when you’re trying to win the Pac-12 South with a .500 record.
Washington (minus 2) at Oregon State — I may be giving the Beavers too much credit; I saw them on a night when they played their best football of the season. Troubles stopping the run? I don’t believe it. Problems running the ball? Malcolm Agnew had no difficulty with the WSU defense. The logical thing here would be to assume Chris Polk will run for about 220 against OSU and take the pressure off Nick Montana, making his first start. But I respect how Mike Riley keeps his team engaged, and I think he’ll continue it in this game. OSU still has quality receivers, and you have to give the QB edge to Sean Mannion. The Beavers are playing only for pride, and the Huskies’ motivation is vague, since they’re only playing for bowl pecking order, which isn’t material Knute Rockne could do much with. Pick: OSU, 27-26.
Utah (minus 3 1/2 at Washington State — My head’s still spinning from what Connor Halliday did to Arizona State last week — 494 yards and a whole lot of moxie. If he can do half that against Utah’s defense (No. 1 in the Pac-12 against scoring at 19.2 ppg), he may be accomplishing something. There’s now a “book” of sorts on Halliday, and Utah’s Kyle Whittingham has a team that regularly plays hard. Cougars, surprisingly, held ASU to a season-low rushing yards (60), but somehow, even though opponents know what’s coming with Utah, they can’t stop John White. Pick: Utah, 27-13.
USC (plus 14 1/2 at Oregon — Troy Boys are playing very well right now, and you’d have to say the same thing about the Ducks. Robert Woods, the USC receiver, could be out, or at least limited, with a sore ankle, and that would be a major loss. This could be a lot about Oregon’s state of mind after their rouser last week at Stanford. But it might occur to the Ducks that every score counts in this BCS derby, and it’s a good idea to keep the foot on the gas pedal. Oregon’s underrated defense against Matt Barkley is a matchup to watch. Ducks have won 21 straight at home. Pick: Oregon, 38-21.
Cal (plus 18) at Stanford — Speaking of state-of-mind . . . what does Stanford come with in this game, after having the stuffing blown out of it, 53-30, by Oregon last week? The quarterback difference is mammoth in this game — Andrew Luck versus Zach Maynard — but Cal has weapons and it has good athletes across the board. Have to believe Bears safety Sean Cattouse has some revenge in mind after Luck posterized him on a long run last year in a Stanford wipeout in Berkeley. I see the Bears making this at least vaguely interesting. Pick: Stanford, 38-28.
Colorado (plus 11) at UCLA — Think about this: The Bruins, at 5-5, could prevail at 6-6 in the Pac-12 South (because of USC’s probation) for the berth in the league title game, then lose that meeting. Voila — a team that plays for the league championship but isn’t bowl-eligible at 6-7. Even as we speak, Pac-12 executives are practicing for that eventuality by screeching chalk on a board. The guess here is that these two teams revert to the sort of form they displayed when UCLA upended Cal and ASU and Colorado was doormat to just about everybody. Pick: UCLA, 34-20.
Arizona (plus 11) at Arizona State — Hmm, not the most-anticipated matchup for the annual Territorial Cup, the Sun Devils sliding with two unexpected losses, the Wildcats mucking through a thoroughly forgettable season. Aside from about six quarters of excellent football — against UCLA and for maybe a half against the Huskies — Arizona hasn’t done much to mount a highlight film this year. Too many weapons on the field for the Sun Devils. Pick: ASU, 41-23.
Last week — 3-3 (4-2 vs. spread). Season — 54-23 (36-33 vs. spread).