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
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.
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.
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