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Picking the Pac - Week Six

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USC has the week off to prepare for their annual encounter with Notre Dame. California gets a much-needed bye week to nurse their wounds after two straight losses.

Oregon at UCLA

The Ducks head on the road with hopes that this will not be their last trip to Pasadena this season. The 13th-ranked Ducks have been on a two-week roll that has opened the eyes of Western football fans. After starting the season with a loss at Boise then winning two lackluster games against Purdue, and Utah, the Ducks crushed California and Washington State in nasty fashion. The Bruins knocked of Tennessee early in the season and were undefeated until they were upended last week at Stanford. We know a couple of things about the Bruins:  a) they play solid defense,  and b) their offense is challenged. The Ducks will give up some points here and there, but the offense is hitting on all cylinders. The Bruins don't have enough firepower to keep up unless Oregon starts self destructing. They have neen known to do that. Can the Ducks perform as well on the road as they did at home?

Update

Jeremiah Masoli missed practice with a knee injury Tuesday and The Eugene Register-Guard reported it's likely Nate Costa will start against the Bruins, who are expected to get confirmation today that Kevin Prince is ready to go after missing two games with a broken jaw. Rumors are Masoli could be out for the season with a torn ACL but that has not been confirmed. The Ducks are also missing their two starting CB's, Willie Glasper and Walter Thurmond, who are both out for the season.

Oregon is decidedly beat up going into this one. I originally had the margin of victory at 14 points. I am still going with the Ducks, but now believe this game will go down to the last series of the fourth quarter. Costa is a good-looking kid, but no way he picks up at the same level as Masoli.

The corner situation at Oregon isn't good. It would give a good passing team something serious to work with on Saturday. I am not sure that UCLA can take advantage of that even if Kevin Prince returns. I do know that the UCLA defense is capable of slowing the Duck offense down. I have to go with a nail-biter...but Oregon pulls it out.

Oregon by 3

Arizona State at Washington State

The Sun Devils were humbled at home by Oregon State last week. The Devil offense couldn't get anything going against what may be one of the most porous defenses in the Pac 10 so far this season. This week they get to play a team that even has a worse defense...the WSU Cougars, who are coming off a butt-stomping in Eugene. If WSU is going to beat somebody in the conference this season, ASU may be their best shot. That being said, on paper this one isn't even close. ASU's defense will shut down the meager Cougar offense. ASU should be able to put 24 on the board in this one and that should be more than enough.

ASU by 21

Stanford at Oregon State

This is going to be a pretty interesting game. Playing on the road isn't easy and Stanford is going to be tested. I like the match-ups; Stanford likes to run the ball and tries to keep the passing to a minimum. This plays into the hands of the Beavers, who can't stop the pass. Oregon State has been inconsistent and mistake prone on offense, but  can hardly be called one-dimensional.

The Beavers have a lot of tools to attack the Stanford defense, but the Cardinal have proven resilient on offense. I believe this one will be pretty close,but in the end the strength of the Stanford lines will wear down the Beavers.

The Beavers beat themselves with inconsistent play and turnovers on offense against Arizona. They rebounded nicely in the desert. Overall I don't think the Beavs have the horses to contain Toby Gerhart.

Stanford by 3

Arizona at Washington

The odds makers opened this one up as a pick-em game. The line though has slowly swung in Arizona's favor because of a few factors:  the betting men believe it will be tough for Washington to recover emotionally from the Notre Dame loss. They are also factoring in the injuries, bumps and bruises that Washington suffered in last week, which includes having lost at least half of their starting secondary in Justin Glenn and--as of today--Nate Williams.

Arizona is coming off a much-needed bye week. The Oregon State victory yielded more than the average amount of bumps and bruises. TB Nic Grigsby is scheduled to play this Saturday, but  definitely won't be at 100% with a bruised shoulder. The third down and red zone offense of UA took a hit with the loss of TE Rob Gronkowski. QB Nick Foles was impressive in his first start at Corvallis, but duplicating that effort in noisy Husky Stadium may prove difficult.

This is a big game for both schools. If Arizona wins they are headed for the first division and a likely bowl game. Washington--on the other hand--needs to win this game to stay in striking distance of a bowl bid and even their record at 3-3 , a good accomplishment at the half-season mark taking into account the brutal schedule they have faced.

At this point, I have to take Washington due to the home field advantage, Jake Locker, and Chris Polk.  Polk has proven he can get his yards against any defense. Jake is the best QB in the Pac 10 and possibly the best player in the league. He can make plays and when he is at home with the crowd behind him and he can take over a game. Sprinkle is some crowd noise from a well lubricated evening crowd  at Husky Stadium and the chances are good for a win.

Defensively the Huskies play better at home. The crowd is a factor which can rattle even the nations best offenses and is always good for a few opposition mistakes. It is going to be a close one but I am going with the Huskies.

Washington by 3