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Pac-12 Confidential

Bud Withers offers an inside look at the Pac-12 Conference and the national college scene.

September 21, 2012 at 9:00 AM

The Picks, Week 4:

Now we’re getting down to cases. No more South Carolina States, Tennessee Techs or Sacramento States (oops, sorry Colorado) on the schedule. The Pac-12 schedule hits high gear with five conference games this weekend, and a lot of expectations have already been rearranged with USC’s loss to Stanford last week.

Oregon State (plus 7) at UCLA — What looked like an early yawner suddenly has some teeth. The Bruins are rolling — second in the nation in total offense at 622 yards a game — which is pretty much the antithesis of what they were under Rick Neuheisel. They’ve gained 500-plus yards in three straight games for the first time in their history. The Beavers, despite their win over Wisconsin, are still something of an unknown quantity, since it doesn’t look like the Badgers are of the ilk of previous seasons. If OSU had more of a running game, I might be stronger on its chances. UCLA 33, OSU 21.

Cal (plus 16) at USC — If you saw the Bears play at Ohio State, then you might be thinking like me. This is way too many points favoring USC, because there’s not much of a difference athletically between the two. Arguing the other way is that Cal seems to have problems with USC that are inexplicable, having lost eight straight in the series. That could happen again, but I’m calling for Zach Maynard to duplicate his excellent play of a week ago, and the Bears to hang in. USC 31, Cal 24.

Colorado (plus 21) at Washington State — As I noted earlier in the week, it’s rare for the Cougars to be in a spot like this, widely expected to win big. They haven’t been favored by this much in nine years, and they haven’t covered a spread this big as a favorite since 1992. That usually points to the underdog side, but the Buffs seem to be in a funk that may last the season, coupling their Sac State debacle with a 69-14 loss at Fresno State. And it isn’t as though the Cougars are feeling satisfied with their last couple of performances. WSU 38, Colorado 14.

Utah (plus 7) at Arizona State — You could say this is where Jon Hays came in. A year ago, Utah QB Jordan Wynn was hurt against Washington, and Hays started the next week at home against Arizona State, throwing three interceptions as the Utes caved in after leading late in the third quarter and eventually losing 35-14. Hays is back in the saddle against an ASU team that fell just short at Missouri. Utah gets back safety Brian Blechen, suspended for the first three games for breaking team rules. Utes look worth the upset pick here. Utah 27, ASU 24.

Arizona (plus 22.5) at Oregon — There’s considerable sentiment that this will be a high-scoring, perhaps down-to-the-wire affair. I’m only buying half that. The hunch here is that Chip Kelly would really like to show who runs the most high-octane spread-option offense, and he’s got the speed, depth and defense to do that. Ducks haven’t had to get very serious through their first three games, but they will now. Oregon 52, Arizona 17.

Last week — 8-2 (2-5 vs. spread). Season — 25-8 (13-12 vs. spread).

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