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Kurt Kragthorpe and Kyle Goon
Kurt Kragthorpe and Kyle Goon cover University of Utah sports teams for The Salt Lake Tribune.

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Pac-12 picks: USC comfortably, Oregon big

Luckily, I became The Tribune's Pac-12 blogger in time to pick only last Saturday's games, and delivered stunningly accurate forecasts. I can't say I would have done the same regarding the Thursday contest, Washington's upset of Stanford. Here are this week's picks:

Thursday's game

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USC at Utah, 7 p.m. MDT, ESPN

The biggest question about this game is how much value we can place on the way Utah played at USC last season, trailing only 17-14 in the final seconds before a blocked field-goal attempt was returned for a touchdown. The Trojans were efficient that night, but not overwhelming. Utah moved the ball fairly well, with the help of some big plays. Can the Utes deliver that level of performance again, on both sides of the ball? USC improved considerably throughout last season, but has not been dominant this year, except against lowly Hawaii. This one could be reasonably close, going into the fourth quarter. USC 34, Utah 17.

Saturday's games

Arizona at Stanford, 1 p.m. MDT, Fox

Every game Arizona plays in the Pac-12 will provide a good gauge of the opposing defense. Stanford shut down USC, but gave up some big plays in the second half of a loss to Washington. On the other side, the defense that Wildcat coach Rich Rodriguez describes as undersized will have a tough time with Stanford's power running game. Then again, everyone thought the same thing about Washington last week. Stanford 28, Arizona 24.

Washington State at Oregon State, 4 p.m. MDT, Pac-12 Networks

The surprising Beavers have played only one home game, so Reser Stadium should be revved up for their return. OSU's next two games are against BYU and Utah, so there's considerable local interest in this game, especially considering how BYU throttled WSU 30-6 to open the season. The Cougars should have trouble stopping OSU's offense, but figure to score a bunch of points themselves after the Beavers gave up 35 to Arizona. This should be fun. Oregon State 42, Washington State 28.

UCLA at Cal, 8 p.m. MDT, Pac-12 Networks

UCLA is No. 4 in the country in total defense. That status is going to change eventually, once the Bruins run into the Pac-12's better defenses, but Cal's defense is not one of those. As for the Bears, they need much more from quarterback Zach Maynard, who completed only 9 of 28 passes last week. Yet Cal trailed Arizona State only 20-17 in the fourth quarter before giving up a touchdown drive, so this game should be closer than you might believe. UCLA 27, Cal 24.

Washington at Oregon, 8:30 p.m. ESPN

Here comes another Oregon game that will end after midnight in Utah, as the Ducks rack up yards and points. I was not kidding about needing to praise Washington's defense while the opportunity was there, because the Huskies are facing a much more dynamic attack than Stanford's. Actually, the story might be how Oregon's defense has improved. Oregon coach Chip Kelly dismisses talk of the Ducks' slow starts in the last two games, but you just know he'll want to get going early against UW. Oregon 42, Washington 21.

– Kurt Kragthorpe

PAC-12 Links
Links from around the Pac-12
Arizona (Tucson Citizen)
» Hansen's Sunday Notebook: Miller's good day
» Arizona Wildcats Video Extra: UA football
» Greg Hansen's Video Notebook
» Arizona Wildcats Video Extra...Arizona football makes the most out of Spring practice

Arizona St. (Arizona Republic)
» ASU hockey tops Robert Morris to claim ACHA crown
» ASU baseball drops series against Tennessee
» Cancer fails to pin ASU's Eskam or derail his big plans for life
» Late errors doom ASU baseball in tough loss to Tennessee

California (East Bay Tribune)
» Cal women's tennis team stuns host Stanford, claims first Pac-12 title.
» Cal's Sonny Dykes gets advice from veteran coaches after 1-11 first season
» Cal football: Espitia hopes he's found home at linebacker
» Local digest: Longtime Stanford diving coach Rick Schavone is retiring

Colorado (Denver Post)
» Colorado Classics: Darian Hagan, former CU Buffs quarterback
» CU Buffs backup QB Jordan Gehrke impresses during spring drills
» Fleet freshman receivers shine in CU Buffs' spring game
» Spring games are important, Colorado's Mike MacIntyre says

Oregon (The Oregonian)
» Canzano: Oregon Ducks coach Mark Helfrich says there is no user's manual to being a head coach
» The Oregon Relays was a good meet -- for the participants; Oregon track & field rundown
» Edward Cheserek makes a triumphant debut at Hayward Field in the Oregon Relays
» UO women's 4x100 flies to No. 2 in school history at the Mt. SAC Relays

Oregon State (Corvallis Gazette-Times)
» OSU men's basketball: De Carolis statement on men's basketball
» Oregon State's tournament success caps a remarkably quick turnaround
» OSU gymnastics: Beavers headed to Penn State for NCAA regionals
» OSU wins seventh straight racquetball national title

Stanford (San Jose Mercury-News)
» Cal women's tennis team stuns host Stanford, claims first Pac-12 title.
» Stanford's Olympic diving coach Rick Schavone retires
» Local digest: Longtime Stanford diving coach Rick Schavone is retiring
» Local digest: Saint Mary's men's golf leads at WCC tournament

UCLA (Los Angeles Daily News)
» UCLA Football Notebook: Running back Malcolm Jones loses appeal for extra season
» College Football: Position coach Adrian Klemm says UCLA offensive line a work in progress
» COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Improving UCLA has questions to answer during preseason football camp
» COLLEGE FOOTBALL: UCLA's prized recruit Eddie Vanderdoes cleared to play by NCAA after leaving Notre Dame

USC (Los Angeles Daily News)
» USC Football Notebook: Marqise Lee's injury not too serious
» USC Football Notebook: QBs Max Wittek, Cody Kessler present dilemma for Trojans coach Lane Kiffin
» USC FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK: Former UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel thinks Trojans might not miss QB Matt Barkley
» USC FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK: Dion Bailey says it's 'now or never'

Washington (Seattle Times)
» California avoids sweep, beats Huskies in baseball
» Jeff Lindquist shines but UW quarterback competition to continue
» Deontae Cooper, Lavon Coleman, Jeff Lindquist shine in UW spring game
» Videos: Deontae Cooper, Jonathan Smith after UW's spring game

Washington State (Spokane Spokesman-Review)
» Hey, it's the Easter bunny. And he has links
» Sunday morning Pac-12 links
» Spokane Shock vs. Cleveland
» Shock lose on last play



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