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Picking the Pac - Championship Week

It's the last of the regular season for the Pac-12 as UCLA gets a 2nd shot in as many weeks vs. Stanford, with a spot in the Rose Bowl in the balance. Plus Oregon State aims for their 9th win as they make up their game with Nicholls State.

Stephen Dunn

It's the last round of games before the bowls for the Pac-12, and it's an unusual week; in the Championship Game, UCLA gets a rematch with Stanford after playing them last Saturday (hooray for a schedule that doesn't allow all rivalry games to be the last games of the year!) and Oregon State hosts Nicholls State in a make-up game after it was postponed in week 1 due to Hurricane Isaac.

Friday, 5:00PM PST, Fox: @ Stanford 27, UCLA 21

As Gekko has noted many times, it's hard to beat a good team twice in a single season. These are both good teams, so it's a tough task for Stanford to beat the Bruins again after playing them just 6 days ago. While UCLA has a potent offense, we also know Stanford's defense is just really, really good. The Football Outsiders FEI metric ranks them as the 3rd best defense in the country, and it's hard to argue with that. While their secondary isn't elite, it's solid, and they are helped immensely by a tremendously talented front 7 that can shut down running games and put enormous heat on opposing QB's. What tips the scales IMO is the advance the Cardinal offense has made since RS-Fr QB Kevin Hogan was installed as the starter. The running game for Stepfan Taylor has opened up, and while Hogan has a funky delivery, he's been a lot more effective as a passer. UCLA will give Stanford a scare, but I think the Cardinal defense will keep the Bruin offense in check enough for Taylor & Hogan to secure the win.

Saturday, 11:30AM PST, P12N: @ Oregon State 56, Nicholls 6

Nicholls is a 1-9 FCS team that has already allowed 66 points earlier in the year to Tulsa. Coach Riley will be able to rest his starters early in this one and get a head-start on getting playing time to his younger guys as he heads into bowl practices. Against a halfway decent FCS team I'd warn the Beavers against complacency and facing a hungry team getting what is in effect a bowl game against an FBS opponent. But Nicholls is bad, and Oregon State has had a strong year so far; I really can't imagine a Sacramento State type of flop in this one.