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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)
» UA football: On Gilbert, D-line and facing Cal
» UA football: On Gilbert, D-line and facing Cal
» Wildcats: Highlights from UA's Week 3 win
» UA football: Should Arizona schedule harder nonconference games?

Arizona St. (Arizona Republic)
» ASU soccer wins its sixth consecutive match
» Colorado State volleyball holds off ASU
» Following ASU coaches on the recruiting trail
» ASU football practice report from Thursday

California (East Bay Tribune)
» Fact box: Cal at Arizona
» Cal finds out Saturday if 2-0 start is for real
» Jeff Tedford's recruits finding delayed success at Cal
» Sonny Dykes: Cal's confidence rooted in hard work

Colorado (Denver Post)
» Speedy freshman Donovan Lee gives CU Buffs another playmaker
» Colorado coached to avoid coin-toss glitches, MacIntyre says
» Colorado's MacIntyre gratified Buffs practiced hard Monday
» CU Buffs tackle Jeromy Irwin might play vs. Hawaii after concussion

Oregon (The Oregonian)
» Oregon Ducks open up Autzen Stadium doors for Fan Fest: Photo gallery
» Utah vs. Michigan highlights Pac-12 football games; Live updates: Full schedule, TV listings
» How the Ducks could Coug it; dissecting Marcus Mariota's flip: The Oregonian sports top 5
» Jameis Winston: Florida State suspends quarterback for entire game against Clemson

Oregon State (Corvallis Gazette-Times)
» Oregon State roundup (Sept. 19)
» OSU men's basketball: Tinkle says positive steps being made
» Spencer to become new AD at Evansville
» BeaversSalute program gives tickets to military personnel and veterans

Stanford (San Jose Mercury-News)
» Stanford coach David Shaw goes digging
» Cal, Stanford Pac-12 men's basketball schedules announced
» Local sports digest: Stanford's Maverick McNealy ties for medalist honors
» Local sports digest: Stanford sweeps Santa Clara

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)
» Game day: Huskies vs. Georgia State
» Game day: Huskies vs. Georgia State live chat at 2 p.m. today
» Huskies win a top-five thriller
» UW women's soccer prevails

Washington State (Spokane Spokesman-Review)
» Breaking the rules occasionally pays off
» Eastern football links
» Game da… night links
» Chiefs set to open WHL season at Tri-City again

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