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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 over Arizona, Stanford (barely) over Utah

The Pac-12's first six-game schedule of conference play is launched Thursday night, with a very mysterious game. Meanwhile, Washington takes a shot at further validation and Stanford and UCLA try to stay unbeaten in advance of their meeting next week. On to the picks:

Arizona at USC, 8:30 p.m. MDT Thursday, Fox Sports 1

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Who knows how to evaluate these teams? Arizona has played only one conference game and USC has an interim coach. The Wildcats outlasted USC in a wild adventure in Tucson last October, when both offenses were much more capable. The Trojans should get a temporary jolt from interim coach Ed Orgeron, much as Tim Kish initially helped Arizona in 2011. That gives them my slight edge. USC 24, Arizona 21.

Saturday's games

Oregon at Washington, 2 p.m MDT, Fox Sports 1

The Huskies fell short in an emotional contest at Stanford last weekend and now have to turn around and deal with the Ducks. That's asking a lot, although coach Steve Sarkisian's theory is that the rivalry should help his team shake off any lingering disappointment. This will be Oregon's first test against a genuinely good defense, although the Ducks had no trouble with Washington last October. It just means their run of 50-point productions will end. Oregon 42, Washington 31.

Stanford at Utah, 4 p.m. MDT, Pac-12 Networks

The Cardinal come to Salt Lake City between high-profile games with Washington and UCLA, which should work in Utah's favor. The Utes also may be physical enough to match up well with Stanford. Could it all converge in Utah's first signature win as a Pac-12 member? Probably not, but it should be interesting. Stanford 28, Utah 24.

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

The Sun Devils can be overwhelming at home, as USC knows, and now they're angry after a loss to Notre Dame. Arizona State 52, Colorado 28.

California at UCLA, 8:30 p.m. MDT, ESPN2

Cal quarterback Jared Goff should be able to rack up some yardage against UCLA, even though the Bruins intercepted six passes at Utah last week. But in their beaten-down state, the Bears can't stop UCLA. It doesn't help that the Bruins remember last year's stunning 43-17 loss in Berkeley.

Oregon State at Washington State, 8:30 p.m. MDT, ESPNU

It's amazing to think that OSU beat the Cougars 19-6 last season. These teams will combine for 25-plus points in the first quarter in Pullman and just keep scoring. The Beavers should have just enough of a defensive advantage. Oregon State 45, Washington State 38.

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 has fewer penalties under Graham
» ASU coach Graham sticks close to Texas roots
» Ex-ASU star Carson signs with Australian team
» ASU selects captains, awards 5 scholarships

California (East Bay Tribune)
» Cal football: Safety Lowe shapes up, holds job
» 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

Colorado (Denver Post)
» Yuri Wright pushing his way up CU Buffs depth chart in return
» Colorado feels fortunate to have avoided a rash of preseason injuries
» Colorado senior receiver D.D. Goodson: not overlooked by coaches
» Colorado redshirt freshman Phillip Lindsay: two touchdown runs in scrimmage gave me confidence

Oregon (The Oregonian)
» Former Oregon Ducks running back Jonathan Stewart scores twice for Carolina Panthers against Kansas City
» Oregon's Devon Allen -- who wants to set a collegiate hurdles record -- tackles football with high expectations, too
» Mark Helfrich on the last scrimmage of fall camp: 'I liked our energy a lot better today' (video)
» Marcus Mariota says winning a championship is the 'No. 1. goal'

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)
» Freshmen will play key roles for Huskies
» Freshmen Brayden Lenius, Dante Pettis expected to contribute for UW's receiving corps
» Video: UW offensive lineman James Atoe
» Huskies morning links: UW offering a new cheap ticket option (with beer!)

Washington State (Spokane Spokesman-Review)
» Sanders honored by AFL
» Gabe Marks could redshirt
» Ewu sports chat Aug. 21 (noon)
» Football season has officially begun

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