Tough year to win in this league. Tough year to pick it, too.
Utah (minus 2.5) at Oregon State — If this were the opener of the season, I’d guess Oregon State would have been a touchdown favorite, maybe more. But fortunes have reversed, or at least perceptions have. I did a double-take this week at the realization that Sean Mannion has a mere five touchdown passes in 2014, and it’s pretty obvious OSU coach Mike Riley isn’t wild about the way his receivers have played. Beavers have to be concerned that Utah sacked Brett Hundley 10 times two weeks ago, and Mannion isn’t as mobile. On the other side, the intrigue centers around which quarterback starts for Utah, Travis Wilson or Kendal Thompson. Would Kyle Whittingham be influenced by the big game Wilson had against the Beavers in 2013? I’ll take the home ‘dog. Oregon State 28, Utah 24.
UCLA (minus 7) at California — One team has been a disappointment, the other has been a surprise. I’m going to ride UCLA here, believing that Cal’s defense –probably without Brennan Scarlett — is going to have more trouble stopping UCLA than vice versa. If they Bruins have any emotion left in the tank, this might be where they explode. UCLA 47, Cal 35.
Colorado (plus 19.5) at USC — It’s obvious that the Trojans’ depth issues are a factor, especially against the uptempo spread offenses that aim to gas the defense. This week, Steve Sarkisian admitted that the state of the defense impacted his offensive play-calling, and that he should have been more aggressive at Arizona while the Wildcats were attacking a 15-point fourth-quarter deficit. With Leonard Williams questionable with shoulder problems and USC not likely to be feverish about the opponent, I’ll take the Buffs to be competitive. USC 34, Colorado 23.
Washington (plus 21) at Oregon — What’s the No. 1 cardinal rule in Las Vegas? Never bet into a streak. Well, failing to cover a point spread against the opponent the last 10 years constitutes a streak. But I’m going to fly in the face of that dictum and say that the line seems far too inflated with the Husky defense playing at a high level and likely able to slow down the Ducks. Throw in the Chris Petersen factor — he had his way with Oregon while at Boise State — and we should see a competitive game. Oregon 30, Washington 24.
Stanford (minus 3) at Arizona State — Stanford simply squashed ASU twice a year ago, and there’s reason to conclude not that much has changed. But to a degree, it has. The Sun Devils have a better offensive line, and the Cardinal continues to look shaky offensively. Now Devon Cajuste, the receiver, will miss the game, and Stanford may need to rely more on the tight ends, who surfaced last week against Washington State. A nod (not a convincing one) to power over speed. Stanford 27, Arizona State 20.
Last week — 3-1 (1-2-1 versus the spread). Season — 39-13 (20-23-1 versus the spread).