I have my doubts Barkley is going to be doing this again this year after the Duck game. - Steve Dykes
The most important action Saturday in the conference happens in greater L.A. as Oregon takes on USC and Arizona visits the Rose Bowl to challenge UCLA in games of great importance to the Pac-12 South race. ASU travels to Corvallis to take on the Beavers in another interesting match-up. There's also Stanford at Colorado and WSU at Utah, but really, who cares?
So this is being written after midnight early Saturday morning as I've just finished watching the Huskies win an ugly, ugly game over Cal because I had to wait until the kids were in bed to fire up the DVR. I'm a little punchy, kind of grumpy at how unnecessarily close the win was and feeling a bit chippy, so these picks are in all honesty probably a little more rushed and poorly researched than normal. Yay writer transparency! On to the picks:
Saturday, 11AM PST, FX: Stanford 38, @ Colorado 10
Colorado is probably the worst Pac-10/12 team since the 2008 entries from the state of Washington. There's no good reason to think they'll win another game this year, except that they were also pretty bad last year but Embree kept them playing hard all season and picked up a couple somewhat unexpected wins at the end of the season. They might just do so again this year (you better rethink your play-calling Sark), but it won't be against Stanford. The Cardinal will have one of their best rushing games of the year, and their defense will bully the Buffs.
Saturday, Noon PST, P12N: WSU 27, @ Utah 20
Call me nuts, but I think the Cougs match-up well in this one. Utah has a pretty good run defense, but WSU doesn't give a damn about running the ball. The Utes aren't very good against the pass, and this may finally be the game where the Air Raid finally clicks and the QB's don't make a bunch of critical errors. The Utah offense may be starting to come around, but the Cougs have shown to be rather feisty on defense (even if the results aren't great). Blame it on lack of sleep, but I'm calling for the upset in this one.
Saturday, 4PM PST, Fox: Oregon 44, @ USC 27
What was supposed to be one of the top-2 games of the year in the country has diminished some as the USC offense has failed to live up to lofty expectations. Marquise Lee might be the best WR in the country, and Robert Woods is in the discussion, but Matt Barkley cost himself a lot of money by returning to school as he's looked pretty ordinary for a guy with those kinds of weapons at his disposal. Meanwhile Oregon is rolling, featuring their best defense in recent memory, and probably the best they've had in the modern era. Oh yeah, their offense is pretty good too. USC has talent on defense, but too many mistakes by Barkley will put them in tough positions and the Ducks will wear down the Trojans like they do everyone.
Saturday, 7:30PM PST, P12N: @ UCLA 41, Arizona 38
This is a flip a coin game for me. Arizona has things rolling, with maybe the 2nd best offense in the country, but their defense is bad (not terrible, but bad). Meanwhile, UCLA's offense is good (though not quite as good as the raw numbers would suggest) and their defense better than their raw numbers would suggest. I expect a lot of points and a lot of yards. In the end, I'm going with the Bruins and the home field advantage as UCLA takes control of the race in the South.
Saturday, 7:30PM PST, ESPN2: @ Oregon State 30, ASU 24
A great match-up between a couple of surprise teams in the conference. The raw numbers suggest a fairly even game, but the advanced metrics favor the Beavers, and I tend to agree. While DT Will Sutton might return for the Sun Devils, I doubt he'll be 100%, and I think Cody Vaz, Brandin Cooks and (possibly) Markus Wheaton will be able to do enough damage against ASU to bounce back from their tough loss to our Dawgs last weekend. Plus I think the OSU defense is better, and will be able to keep ASU in relative check.