Pac-12 picks: BYU over Beavers, UCLA over Utah
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Saturday will be fun and challenging for fans of BYU and Utah. Besides having their own teams play in the early afternoon television window, there's the opportunity to check out the next opponents of the Cougars (Notre Dame) and Utes (Oregon State) at roughly the same time.
Here are this week's Pac-12 picks:
Arizona State at Colorado, 7 p.m. MDT, ESPN
The issue dogging the Sun Devils is that none of the four teams they've beaten â including Utah â is particularly distinguished. That's not going to change with a win over Colorado, obviously. But ASU can add to its momentum going into next week's game with Oregon with a good showing in Boulder, while the Buffaloes try to get something going, beyond their recent win over Washington State. ASU's offense should be too much to handle. Arizona State 35, Colorado 21.
Utah at UCLA, 1 p.m. MDT, Fox
There's some intrigue in how the Utes will try to mix in freshman quarterback Travis Wilson, trying to spark the country's No. 114-ranked offense. There's also the history of how the Utes inserted a southern California native into a game at the Rose Bowl in 2006, when Tommy Grady immediately threw a pass that UCLA returned for a touchdown. The offense is struggling, but it is equally important for Utah's defense to re-establish itself, having allowed an average of 472 yards to Arizona State and USC. The Bruins, meanwhile, are eager to bounce back from a loss at Cal last weekend. UCLA 21, Utah 14.
Oregon State at BYU, 1:30 p.m. MDT, ABC
Taysom Hill's knee injury ended the controversy regarding how BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall would work quarterback Riley Nelson back into the lineup, while Sean Mannion's knee injury makes junior Cody Vaz a first-time starter for Oregon State. Each defense is much improved from last season, when BYU took a 38-28 victory in Corvallis. It's tough to picture either offense having much success. This could resemble the 10-7 win that OSU earned in Provo in 1986, when Mendenhall was an OSU safety. BYU 14, Oregon State 13.
Stanford at Notre Dame, 1:30 p.m. MDT, NBC
With every passing week, Notre Dame's resurgence gains more credibility. The No. 7 Fighting Irish were especially impressive in pounding Miami last weekend and are looking to remain unbeaten in advance of BYU's visit. Stanford broke out offensively against Arizona, escaping with a 54-48 overtime win, but this will not be that kind of game. These teams should match up pretty evenly, but Notre Dame is regaining its home aura. Notre Dame 24, Stanford 17.
USC at Washington, 5 p.m. MDT, Fox
Washington was unable to follow its upset of Stanford with a good performance at Oregon and will be trying again to prove that it belongs in the Pac-12's top tier. USC is still stung by its loss to Stanford, but has played much better in wins over Cal and Utah. The Trojans should have plenty of offense to overcome the tough atmosphere in Seattle. USC 31, Washington 17.
Cal at Washington State, 8:30 p.m. MDT, Pac-12 Networks
In its quest for bowl eligibility, Utah needs to beat both of these teams. So it is probably better for the Utes that Cal fails to separate itself from the league's lower tier, after the Bears impressively beat UCLA. Washington State's self-image was not enhanced by coach Mike Leach referring to some of his seniors as "zombies," going through the motions. Cal 35, Washington State 24.
â Kurt Kragthorpe