Pac-12 picks: Oregon over USC; Utes over Cougars (close)
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As November arrives, this is another defining weekend for several Pac-12 football teams â and my last opportunity to use "MDT" with the kickoff times.
Washington at California, 7 p.m. MDT, ESPN2
Washington has been lousy on the road and Cal gas been generally good at home, so this should be a better game that recent results would suggest. Cal (3-6) needs a win to maintain any mathematical hope of bowl eligibility, while the Huskies (4-4) are trying to keep some momentum going after an upset of Oregon State. This looks like another of Washington's typical low-scoring games, and I still don't trust the Huskies on the road. Cal 21, Washington 17.
Stanford at Colorado, Noon MDT, FX
Colorado finally catches an opponent that's unlikely to score 50-plus points, but you never know with the Buffaloes. Stanford struggled offensively last week against Washington State and will try to run the ball right at Colorado. The Buffs likely will have trouble moving the ball against Stanford, although the Cardinal allowed 401 passing yards to WSU. Stanford will like to have an easy outing, but something about this Cardinal team suggests that's not going to happen. Stanford 31, Colorado 17.
Washington State at Utah, 1 p.m. MDT, Pac-12 Networks
While stopping well short of offering gambling advice, I would say Utah's being favored by 12 points is shocking. Don't be deceived by the Utes' 49 points against Cal last week, partly a product of two kickoff-return touchdowns and fumble-return TD. On the other side, Utah's mantra is stopping the run, but that's not an issue against the pass-happy Cougars. Utah got running back John White going last week, but if an injury keeps Kelvin York out of his complementary role, more will be asked of White and quarterback Travis Wilson. This looks like a very close game to me. Utah 28, Washington State 24.
Oregon at USC, 5 p.m. MDT, Fox
This game may not have quite the level of national intrigue that once seemed likely, but it still is very intriguing to me. The Ducks will score a lot of points; that's a given. But I also expect USC to rack up a bunch of yards and points in Los Angeles. Something resembling USC's 38-35 victory of last November in Eugene is in the making here, although I can't get myself to pick the upset. Oregon 45, USC 38.
Arizona at UCLA, 8:30 p.m. MDT, Pac-12 Networks
I'm a believer in the Wildcats, even with their poor defense. Quarterback Matt Scott and his offensive teammates are dynamic and productive every week. This game may be even more entertaining than Oregon-USC, going right down to the wire. The winner actually could find itself in good position in the Pac-12 South, particularly if USC loses. Arizona 45, UCLA 42.
Arizona State at Oregon State, 8:30 p.m. MDT, ESPN2
This becomes a critical game for both teams, coming off losses. This happens seemingly every year in the Pac-12, when a team emerges as a surprise, only to cool off against tougher competition. One of these teams will be in danger of having it all fall apart, while the winner will right itself. Amid the focus on OSU quarterback Cody Vaz's return to the lineup, the biggest issue is OSU's defense, which should make the difference. Oregon State 24, Arizona State 21.