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Kurt Kragthorpe and Kyle Goon
Kurt Kragthorpe and Kyle Goon cover the Pac-12 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)
» UA sports Throwback Thursday: Lowell-Stevens Football opens
» Wildcats earn academic honors
» Photos: UA's smartest athletes 2013-14
» Wildcats: Who's gonna be the QB?

Arizona St. (Arizona Republic)
» 100 best players in college football - 2014
» Brown preferred track, leading to 1984 gold
» 5-star linebacker Houston checking out ASU
» Top 2016 tight end Naseir Upshur likes ASU

California (East Bay Tribune)
» Wilner: 49ers, Levi's Stadium pursue college football's potential
» Levi's Stadium: Three college football games this year
» College football: Key dates for Cal, Stanford, San Jose State
» Cal's injury-plagued defense mended, ready to go

Colorado (Denver Post)
» Former CU Buff Chris Copeland enjoys NBA after years of overseas play
» Pac-12 living up to tradition as tops in quarterbacks
» Changes in college football a cause of excitement and concern
» Pac-12 media days: Colorado eager to turn things around

Oregon (The Oregonian)
» Oregon Ducks fall camp position breakdown: Offensive line; Oregon rundown
» Oregon Ducks highest of six Pac-12 teams ranked in first coaches poll
» Oregon Ducks debut scratch-and-sniff football tickets, will wear yellow against Michigan State
» Steve Prefontaine, Kevin Love, others in Oregon's Greatest Athlete Round of 32 Day 4 (vote)

Oregon State (Corvallis Gazette-Times)
» Oregon State hires longtime trainer hired Fred Tedeschi
» Beavers hire Mark Massari as deputy athletics director
» Oregon State hands out Bennys to top athletes, coaches and teams
» OSU fishing: MacDonald, Martinez win conference tournament

Stanford (San Jose Mercury-News)
» Wilner: 49ers, Levi's Stadium pursue college football's potential
» Levi's Stadium: Three college football games this year
» Stanford receiver Ty Montgomery says he's close to being ready
» College football: Key dates for Cal, Stanford, San Jose State

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)
» Huskies ranked No. 25 in preseason coaches poll
» Huskies fall camp position preview: Linebackers
» Morning links: More love for Huskies' Shaq Thompson
» Morning links: Pauley Pavilion flooded

Washington State (Spokane Spokesman-Review)
» Is the future now?
» Looking at the WSU pre-camp depth chart
» Washington works on body, mind
» Wednesday WSU chat



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