After going 2-4 last week, you’d think I’d be inclined to throw in the towel. Quite the contrary. Why? Because non-conference play is done; and I’m back to picking mostly Pac-12 contests. Are the Oregon Ducks for real? We’ll find out this week as Bryce Love and the Cardinal visit Eugene. That’s just one of four games on this week’s action-packed docket.
OVERALL RECORD: 9-14-1
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 21
Washington State (3-0) vs. USC (1-2, 0-1 Pac-12)
8:30 PM MT, ESPN
Line: USC -4 ½
Pac-12 “after dark” resumes Friday night as undefeated Washington State (3-0) takes on a struggling USC (1-2, 0-1 Pac-12) team. The Cougars are coming off a 59-24 win over Eastern Washington, while the Trojans are back in Los Angeles after consecutive road losses (at Texas, at Stanford) and looking to keep their Pac-12 South title hopes alive. USC’ rushing attack was non-existent against Texas, finishing with -5 net yards on 16 attempts. The Trojans will need to get Stephen Carr and Aca’Cedric Ware going if they expect to keep Mike Leach’s “Air-Raid” offense off the field. Led by sophomore Davontavean Martin, Washington State already has seven different players with 10-plus receptions this season. USC’s secondary will be tested, but I still like Iman Marshall and company to come out on top. I’m betting on the Trojans to cover.
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 22
Arizona (1-2) vs. Oregon State (1-2)
2:00 PM MT, Pac-12 Networks
Line: Arizona – 6 ½
Arizona (1-2) finally got in the win column with a 62-31 victory over Southern Utah last week. Oregon State (1-2) is coming off a disappointing 37-35 loss to Nevada. A year after dominating on the ground, Arizona’s Kahlil Tate has been held to just 40 yards on 19 carries this season. The good news for Tate and the Wildcats? Oregon State’s rush defense ranks 115th in the nation (226.3 YPG) and dead last in the Pac-12. Arizona’s rush defense isn’t much better. The Wildcats, who rank 114th in the nation (224.3 YPG), will be facing a Beavers rushing attack that ranks second in the Pac-12 (212.3 YPG) behind only Oregon. Behind Tate’s legs and arm, Arizona should win this game straight up, but by a touchdown? This scribe doesn’t think so. Take Oregon State to cover in a high scoring affair.
7 Stanford (3-0, 1-0 Pac-12) vs. 20 Oregon (3-0)
6:00 PM MT, ABC
Line: Stanford -2 ½
Oregon (3-0) gets their first big test when Bryce Love and Stanford (3-0, 1-0 Pac-12) come to town Saturday. Through three games, the Ducks are allowing a mere 77 rush yards per contest, which ranks Jim Leavitt’s unit one of the best in the nation at stopping the run. Enter Bryce Love. After sitting out last week’s game against UC Davis with an undisclosed injury, Love will be in the backfield this week for the Cardinal. Quarterback Justin Herbert and Oregon’s offense looked impressive in wins over Bowling Green, Portland State and San Jose State, but now they face a Stanford defense allowing just 301 yards per game. Stanford leads the all-time series 48-32-1; and has won the last two against the Ducks. Autzen Stadium is always a tough place to play, but in my LOCK OF THE WEEK, Bryce Love and the Cardinal will bring the Ducks back to reality.
Arizona State (2-1) vs. 10 Washington (2-1)
8:30 PM MT, ESPN
Line: Washington -17 ½
After holding UTSA and Michigan State to a combined 65 rushing yards, Herm Edwards’ defense was exposed last week in a 28-21 loss to San Diego State. The Aztecs ran for 311 total yards on 58 carries against the Sun Devils. And it only gets worse for Arizona State this week. Washington’s Myles Gaskin, one of the best tailbacks in the Pac-12, broke out for 143 rush yards and a touchdown in a 21-7 win over Utah last week. Gaskin and the Huskies will be out for revenge after losing to the Sun Devils 13-7 last year in Tempe. 17 and a half points is a lot, but I’m taking the Huskies to cover.