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Pac-12 picks: Forecasting rivalry games, plus Utah-Colorado
After nearly three months of predictability, Pac-12 football became wildly unpredictable last week. Who would have imagined Washington's scoring 69 points at Oregon State or Arizona's holding Oregon to 16 points? And those were not even rivalry games, as this weekend's schedule presents us. So it is with some trepidation that I move on to the picks:
Washington State at Washington, 1:30 p.m. MST, Fox
Washington State staged a shocking upset in last year's Apple Cup, and the Cougars are playing their best football of 2013, as shown by victories over Arizona and Utah. WSU is bowl-eligible, while hoping to secure one of the Pac-12's affiliated berths. The Huskies, meanwhile, were overwhelming against Oregon State, and they're a very good home team. Washington 35, Washington State 28.<
If the Apple Cup features two teams on the rise, the Civil War is another story. The Beavers and Ducks could not have performed any worse last week, and there's not much to play for at this point - other than avoiding the stigma of losing again. OSU has lost four straight after a 6-1 start and nothing suggests the streak will end, even with Oregon wobbling. Oregon 45, Oregon State 24.
Colorado at Utah, noon MST, Pac-12 Networks
The Pac-12's manufactured rivalry actually has produced two great games, decided by late defensive stands. Nothing's at stake here, but that also was the case last November, when Utah held for a 42-35 victory in a very entertaining game. So this one should be fun as well as the Utes and Buffaloes play for fifth place in the Pac-12 South. Utah 35, Colorado 24.
Notre Dame at Stanford, 5 p.m. MST, Fox
Stanford has waited more than 13 months for a chance to avenge last year's overtime loss at Notre Dame, with a controversial ending at the goal line. The Cardinal are already in next week's Pac-12 title game, but the series with Notre Dame is meaningful. Kevin Hogan had yet to become Stanford's quarterback when the teams met last season, and he'll make the difference this time. Stanford 27, Notre Dame 21.
UCLA at USC, 6 p.m. MST, ABC
With both teams eliminated from a Pac-12 title shot, this game is just for bowl selection order in the big picture. But in Los Angeles, it means everything. USC can complete an amazing run under interim coach Ed Orgeron and UCLA can assert itself in the rivalry. I've underestimated the Trojans lately, so I'll take them in a close game. USC 24, UCLA 21. Arizona at Arizona State, 7:30 p.m. MST, Pac-12 Networks
As if the needed more incentive in the Territorial Cup, the Sun Devils know they'll host Stanford next week if they beat Arizona. Home-field advantage had not mattered much in this series lately, but ASU should be able to follow through and finish a great regular season. Arizona State 35, Arizona 28.