“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” That famous quote by Winston Churchill seems appropriate heading into Week 9. After going 3-3 last weekend, including a loss with my LOCK OF THE WEEK, this scribe remains three games below .500. But I’m feeling enthusiastic heading into what is a pivotal Week 9 in the Pac-12 Conference.
OVERALL RECORD: 23-26-1 (6-2 LOCK OF THE WEEK)
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 26
23 Utah (5-2, 3-2 Pac-12) vs. UCLA (2-5, 2-2 Pac-12)
8:30 PM MT, ESPN
Line: Utah -11 (o/u 55)
After dropping their first two conference games, Utah’s offense exploded with convincing wins against Stanford, Arizona and USC. But it’s the defense that is the strength of Kyle Wittingham’s program. The Utes are allowing 286.4 yards per game, tops in the Pac-12 and seventh best in FBS. UCLA has also turned things around with consecutive wins against California and Arizona. True-freshman signal caller Dorian Thompson-Robinson has been limited in practice all week, nursing a shoulder-injury suffered against Arizona. Whether its Thompson-Robinson or Michigan grad-transfer Wilton Speight, it won’t matter. Despite playing in the Rose Bowl, the Bruins will have trouble putting points on the board against Utah’s stout defense. In my LOCK OF THE WEEK, I’m taking Utah to cover.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 27
Oregon State (1-6, 0-4 Pac-12) vs. Colorado (5-2, 2-2 Pac-12)
1:00 PM MT, Pac-12 Networks
Line: Colorado -24 ½ (o/u 62 ½)
Even with star receiver Laviska Shenault questionable (toe), Steven Montez and Colorado’s offense should get back on track against one of the worst defenses in the country. Oregon State is one of five FBS teams allowing 500-or more yards to opponents. Offensively, the Beavers – averaging 423.3 yards per game - are much improved under former Buffaloes co-offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren. But I don’t believe they will out-pace the Buffaloes. Look for D.J. Eliot’s unit to stack the box to shut down Jermar Jefferson and the Beavers rushing attack. Meanwhile, Travon McMillian (646 rush yards, 4 TD this season) should have a big game on the ground against a rush defense that ranks dead last in the conference. 24 and a half points is a lot, but I’m rolling with the Buffs to cover.
Arizona State (3-4, 1-3 Pac-12) vs. USC (4-3, 3-2 Pac-12)
1:30 PM MT, ABC/ESPN2
Line: USC -3 ½ (o/u 52)
USC’s true-freshman quarterback J.T. Daniels suffered a concussion in last week’s 41-28 loss to Utah. If he fails to clear concussion protocol, Clay Helton will be forced to start third-string quarterback Jack Sears, after Daniels’ backup Matt Fink fractured three ribs against the Utes. Despite their 3-4 record, the Sun Devils have yet to lose a game by more than a touchdown this season. USC was favored by as many as 6 ½ points earlier in the week, but the line has since dropped to 3 ½. Despite the possibility of Sears getting the start, the difference in this one will be the Trojans home-field advantage. USC is a perfect 19-0 at the Coliseum since Helton took over. It’ll be close, but somehow the Trojans will find a way to win and cover the 3 ½ points.
15 Washington (6-2, 4-1 Pac-12) vs. California (4-3, 1-3 Pac-12)
4:30 PM MT, Fox Sports 1
Line: Washington -12 (o/u 45)
Washington is coming off a 27-13 over Colorado. California snapped a three-game skid with a dominating 49-7 win over Oregon State in Corvallis last weekend. Redshirt-freshman quarterback Chase Garbers, who replaced Brandon McIlwain, looked impressive against the Beavers. But I don’t expect him to put up big numbers against one of the best defenses in the conference. The Huskies, who are allowing 15.6 points per game, rank 10thin the FBS and first in the Pac-12 in scoring defense. Washington has won eight of their last nine games against California and has outscored the Golden Bears 104-34 in their last two meetings. I like the Huskies to win by two touchdowns or more.
14 Washington State (6-1, 3-1 Pac-12) vs. 24 Stanford (5-2, 3-1 Pac-12)
5:00 PM MT, Pac-12 Networks
Line: Stanford -2 ½ (o/u 53 ½)
The Cardinal opened as 4 ½ point favorites, but with most of the action on the Cougars, the line has already dropped to 2 ½. Washington State is coming off a huge 34-20 win over Oregon, while Stanford defeated Arizona State 20-13 in Tempe. Behind quarterback Gardner Minshew II, the Cougars lead the nation with 400.7 passing yards per game. Stanford on the other hand, ranks second-to-last in the Pac-12 in passing defense, allowing 252.1 yards per game. But the Cougars air raid attack might not be the best part of this team. Washington State’s defense has improved drastically. The Cougars rank 19thin the nation – and 3rdin the Pac-12- in total defense (315.7 yards per game). Can the Cardinal get Bryce Love going against Alex Grinch’s unit? The senior tailback, who has been battling an ankle injury most of the season, managed just 21 yards on 11 carries against Arizona State. Mike Leach and the Cougars have won the last two against the Cardinal. Like the general public, I’m siding with the Cougars to cover in this tough contest on the Farm.
19 Oregon (5-2, 2-2 Pac-12) vs. Arizona (3-5, 2-3 Pac-12)
8:30 PM MT, ESPN
Line: Oregon -9 ½ (o/u 65)
Whether it’s injured Khalil Tate or Rhett Rodriguez at quarterback for Arizona, it really shouldn’t matter in this one. A week after coming out flat against Washington State, Justin Herbert and Oregon’s offense should get back on track against an Arizona squad surrendering 440.6 yards per game (106thin FBS). Assuming the Ducks don’t turn the ball over, I like them to cover the 9 ½ points in Tucson.
*Lines as of Friday, October 26 per the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook*