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:
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.
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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