What’s that line about the definition of insanity — doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result? That pretty sums up my last couple of weeks’ picks, as well as Washington’s recent series with Stanford.
But onward . . .
Stanford-Washington (plus 6.5) at CenturyLink Field — Funny how perceptions have turned around, even since the first days of September. That was when Stanford was coming off a close win over San Jose State, and Washington had a victory, unimpressive though it was, over San Diego State. Conventional wisdom at the time was that Stanford was eminently vulnerable, Andrew Luck was now gone, etc., etc. Now, after Stanford’s win over USC and Washington’s continuing injuries, you can’t find anybody outside of people wearing purple who are picking the Huskies tonight. Well, I’m not going to go that far either. But I will call for it to be close. Seems to me Washington somehow has to make it about the edge Keith Price has over Josh Nunes. That might mean stuffing nine defenders in the box, but one way or another, the Huskies have to get Nunes to be a key figure in the game — good or bad. And on the other side of the ball, let’s not forget Washington has playmakers, too. Stanford 24, Washington 21.
Arizona State at Cal (minus 2.5) — Todd Graham is leading a charmed life these days; he’s the leader in the clubhouse among the four new head coaches in the league in terms of early splash. As Kyle Whittingham of Utah said this week, Graham didn’t inherit a bare cupboard from Dennis Erickson. And he’s been uncannily lucky in not having to face the opposition’s No. 1 quarterback. It’s pretty clear the Sun Devils are a force to be reckoned with, but I’m on the side of the team that’s really facing desperation, even as it has a beat-up offensive line. Cal 27, Arizona State 23.
UCLA at Colorado (plus 20.5) — I’ve got a very divided opinion on the Buffs; clearly they were awful in going 0-3. Then last week at WSU, they were competent, feisty and nowhere near the worst-team-in-college-football label they were starting to engender. While they won, there’s also this reality: They were very nearly blown out by the Cougars, too. UCLA 45, Colorado 20.
Oregon State at Arizona (minus 3) — If you were a gambling sort, you’d want to be very leery of this one. Both quarterbacks were dinged up last week — Sean Mannion of OSU and Matt Scott of Arizona — and their health, or lack of it, is going to be pivotal here. Both are expected to play, but who knows whether either will be at peak effectiveness. The one who’s closer to that probably wins the game. In August, I touted the Beavers as one of the league’s surprise teams, so I can’t back off now. Oregon State 30, Arizona 27.
Oregon-Washington State (plus 28.5) at CenturyLink Field — The past two years, the scores in this series were 43-23 (2010) and 43-28 (2011), and the games were similar in how they unfolded, WSU playing with heart, hanging in and giving itself a slim chance. I wouldn’t be surprised if it plays out something like that again, although the Cougar secondary has been sub-par and it has to deal with people like De’Anthony Thomas. Oregon 42, WSU 27.
Last week — 2-3 (1-4 vs. spread). Season — 27-11 (14-16 vs. spread).