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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: Playing favorites with Oregon, Stanford

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Rather than claiming great insight, I'll acknowledge there have been few surprising results in the Pac-12 since I took over this blog three weeks ago. One notable exception was Oregon State's 42-24 win at BYU last weekend, when the teams blew past my forecast of 27 total points by early in the second quarter. Here goes another round of conservative picks:

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Thursday's game

Oregon at Arizona State, 7 p.m. MDT, ESPN

Any game against Oregon is a checkpoint for a Pac-12 team, and here comes a barometer for Arizona State. The Sun Devils have looked good against Utah, Cal and Colorado, but this is a different dynamic. Oregon will face a revved-up atmosphere at Sun Devil Stadium and this game should be close for a while, but the Ducks' opponents tend to wear down on both sides of the ball as the game goes on. Oregon 38, Arizona State 21.

Saturday's games

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

Everybody's had several months to adjust to the idea of the Big Game being played in October. What's most shocking right now is Stanford's being only a three-point favorite, considering the perception of these teams as of a month ago. Have the Bears improved that much? The biggest variable actually is Stanford's offense, which scored 48 points in regulation against Arizona and then failed to produce a touchdown against Notre Dame. If quarterback Josh Nunes is effective at all, the Cardinal should win. Stanford 24, Cal 17.

Colorado at USC, 4 p.m., Pac-12 Networks

Let's just say Stanford-Cal should be close enough in the fourth quarter that not many viewers will switch in time for the kickoff of this game. Of course, that risks missing the decisive plays. Colorado actually showed some life against Arizona State before crumbling in the second half. But the Buffaloes will be facing a USC offense that wants to re-establish itself after a barely satisfactory effort at Washington last weekend. USC 41, Colorado 14.

Washington at Arizona, 8 p.m. MDT, Pac-12 Networks

Arizona might be the most fascinating team in the Pac-12, with an exciting offense and a horrible defense. The Wildcats' games are particularly interesting when the opponent has a good defense and a lousy offense, like Washington. So can the Huskies' defense slow down UA quarterback Matt Scott? Can UW's Keith Price suddenly get things going? No, and yes. Look for a lot of yards and points on each side. Arizona 42, Washington 38.

Utah at Oregon State, 8:30 p.m. MDT, ESPN2

Who would have imagined that the biggest issue surrounding this game is Oregon State's ability to avoid a letdown? The Beavers arrived on the 2011 schedule just in time to help the Utes salvage their season, but this October's situation is much different. Then, as now, Utah is searching for offensive solutions. But OSU's defense is much improved, and will provide a tough test for freshman quarterback Travis Wilson. On the other side, if the Beavers protect their quarterback as well as they did last week at BYU, receivers Brandin Cooks and Markus Wheaton could have big nights. Oregon State 28, Utah 14.

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PAC-12 Links
Links from around the Pac-12
Arizona (Tucson Citizen)
» Photos: UA sports Throwback Thursday Chase Budinger
» UA fall sports carry big expectations into 2014
» UA announces 2014 sports Hall of Fame class
» UA football: Notes and quotes from Wednesday's practice

Arizona St. (Arizona Republic)
» ASU selects captains, awards 5 scholarships
» Boateng taking reins at hybrid LB spot
» Photos in lockers inspire players
» ASU practice report from Wed. morning

California (East Bay Tribune)
» Cal's goal in Dykes' second season is to establish running game
» Stanford 11th in AP's top 25 preseason football poll; Florida State No. 1
» AP Top 25 Preseason Poll
» Cal football: Sonny Dykes upbeat after closed scrimmage

Colorado (Denver Post)
» Colorado senior receiver D.D. Goodson: not overlooked by coaches
» Colorado redshirt freshman Phillip Lindsay: two touchdown runs in scrimmage gave me confidence
» Buffs offense to "move guys around," says receivers coach Troy Walters
» Colorado special teams looking for many happy returns in 2014

Oregon (The Oregonian)
» Former Oregon Ducks running back Jonathan Stewart scores twice for Carolina Panthers against Kansas City
» ESPN's preseason all-conference team; David Shaw vs top 25; Adoree' Jackson does it all: Pac-12 roundup
» Iman Marshall, five-star cornerback, announces official visit list, asks fans for help
» Micah Abernathy, four-star cornerback, sets first official visit to Oregon Ducks

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)
» Stanford football: Defensive coordinator learns from 49ers counterpart
» Stanford 11th in AP's top 25 preseason football poll; Florida State No. 1
» AP Top 25 Preseason Poll
» Stanford football: Tailbacks Kelsey Young, Remound Wright miss scrimmage

UCLA (Los Angeles Daily News)
» UCLA Football Notebook: Running back Malcolm Jones loses appeal for extra season
» 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
» Pac-12 Media Day: Eyes on Anthony Barr for UCLA's 2013 hopes

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 morning links: UW offering a new cheap ticket option (with beer!)
» UW football live chat at noon today
» Chris Petersen's mission: Make the Huskies great again
» Huskies hope to do a better job protecting quarterbacks

Washington State (Spokane Spokesman-Review)
» Ewu sports chat Aug. 21 (noon)
» Football season has officially begun
» Eastern football links
» One more week



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