Well, I did not do a terrific job picking last week. I went 2-3 on the week, including a predicted Arizona upset of Oregon that, well, did not turn out. In my defense, the Pac-12 has been incredibly tough to read so far, as teams like Oregon State, UCLA, Arizona, and Arizona State have stepped up while teams like Cal and Utah have not played nearly as well as initially predicted. Last week’s chaos has led to a little bit more clarity this week, so with any luck my picks will be a bit more accurate this time around. I certainly feel like I have a better read on each game than I have so far this season. Of course, that probably means that there will be at least two or three upsets and I’ll be back to square one, but that’s a risk I’ll have to take.
Arizona State at California
This is a good example of a game that no one would have been excited about in Week 1, but now, with Cal sitting at 1-3 and Arizona State on the cusp of top-25 status at 3-1, this is about old versus new. If the Sun Devils beat Cal at home, there can be no more doubt (if any even exists anymore) that Cal is not the team that many picked to surpass Stanford as 2nd in the Pac-12 North, and that in fact, Arizona State has a chance to play for the Pac-12 South. If you’re a little baffled as to how the Sun Devils have been so good, look no further than the defense, which is allowing only 12.8 points per game, good for 1st in the conference and 11th in the nation. Why would that trend change against a Cal offense that has been mediocre at best?
Arizona State 30, Cal 17
Sept. 22, 2012; Pasadena, CA, USA; Oregon State Beavers linebacker Michael Doctor (40) chases down UCLA Bruins quarterback Brett Hundley (17) after a short gain in the fourth quarter at the Rose Bowl. Oregon State won 27-20. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE
UCLA at Colorado
I really do not think that UCLA’s loss to Oregon State says all that much about UCLA, other than that the Beavers are the better team. It doesn’t mean UCLA can’t continue to win games, and it certainly doesn’t mean they can’t beat Colorado, even on the road. It’s great for Colorado that they were able to head up to Pullman and get their first win of the year, but that doesn’t mean that a defense ranked 103rd in the nation in yards allowed has any chance of stopping a Bruins offensive attack that averages an outrageous 577.5 yards per game, which is 3rd best in the entire country. And yes, that includes the loss against the Beavers. I may have been wrong to predict a blowout loss for the Buffaloes in Pullman, but I am not hesitating to call a blowout in Boulder now.
UCLA 45, Colorado 24
#18 Oregon State at Arizona
Well, here are two teams that stuck up huge metaphorical middle fingers at my predictions last week. This time around, they are playing one another, and it is still the hardest game to predict out of the bunch. Oregon State has knocked out two ranked teams in two tries largely due to a hard-nosed defense, and even beat UCLA with some offense, and a win on the road against Arizona will cement their status as a top-15 team, at least in my eyes. Arizona, on the other hand, looked great for three weeks, played Oregon pretty close for a half, and then came out and got demolished en route to a 45-0 final score. Matt Scott, who had seven touchdowns to one interception heading into the game, threw three picks and accounted for zero scores. I’m tempted to say that Oregon may just be so much more talented than both these teams that the loss was something of an outlier, and that Matt Scott and his team will come out and play at a high level, but that assumes that we know anything about Oregon State’s ceiling. They may not play pretty, but there’s no way of knowing for sure that the Beavers aren’t ready compete against Oregon, Stanford, and USC. After giving it some thought, I think that the Beavers will force another tough day for Matt Scott and the Arizona offense, and that Sean Mannion and the Beavers will score enough to let their defense win this one.
September 22, 2012; Eugene, OR, USA; Oregon Ducks defensive back Brian Jackson (12) tackles Arizona Wildcats quarterback Matt Scott (10) at Autzen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Olmos-US PRESSWIRE
OSU 24, Arizona 20
#2 Oregon at Washington State (CenturyLink Field)
Well, speaking of Oregon. Here we have the Ducks, fresh off of a complete drubbing of then #22 Arizona, playing the Cougars, who are fresh off of an embarrassing loss at home to a punchline of a Colorado team. The game is being played in Seattle, so you can expect a good number of Oregon fans, but it almost certainly won’t matter who is cheering for who. This is men against boys, and the only way the final score is close is if the Ducks are looking past this game so badly that WSU catches them by surprise. Still, as we saw against Arizona, even if that does happen, Chip Kelly will whip his team into shape at the half and score five or six second-half touchdowns. Should be a long day for WSU fans and another day at the office for the Ducks.
Oregon 55, WSU 10
My preview and predictions for the Stanford game will be posted tomorrow morning.