Picking the Pac: Week Nine

UCLA can establish itself as a contender in the Pac-12 South, while USC and Oregon cannot look ahead to next week's titanic clash.

Last week: 4-1 straight up, 1-4 against the spread
Season to date: 41-18 straight up, 28-25 against the spread

Saturday
UCLA (+6.5) 31, Arizona State 30 –
The bye week came at a great time for UCLA, which clearly lost some juice with back-to-back road games, though thoroughly dominating Utah in a seven-point win last week. Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone should have plenty of ideas for how to attack his old team, especially after watching Oregon overwhelm the Sun Devils defense for 454 yards despite calling off the dogs at halftime. Taylor Kelly wilted under the Ducks' pass rush, and the Bruins are more than adept at getting to the quarterback. With the edge on the lines of scrimmage, UCLA emerges as the viable challenger to cross-town USC in the Pac-12 South.

Oregon (-45.5) 63, Colorado 10 – Colorado allowed USC, the team that never covers the spread, to cover the spread. Forget about a 7-on-7 drill, Matt Barkley looked like he was playing against air. His only incomplete pass was a drop. Now the Buffaloes have to go to Autzen, where the Ducks will be less than amused after being jumped in the BCS rankings by the same Kansas State team that passed on a scheduled non-conference meeting this season? You wouldn't wish that on your worst enemy, let alone hapless Colorado. Expect a bigger bloodbath than a week's worth of horror movie programming for Halloween.

USC (-6.5) 38, Arizona 31 – Here comes the spread, as the Trojans' final five opponents all run some variation of offense that will force them to cover sideline to sideline. And make no mistake about it, coach Rich Rodriguez definitely has the personnel to upset USC, at least on offense with the trio of quarterback Matt Scott, running back Ka'Deem Carey, and receiver Austin Hill. Fortunately for Lane Kiffin, freshman defensive tackle Leonard Williams avoided a suspension after being ejected for punching a Colorado player, so the front four will be at full strength, while defensive back-turned-linebacker Dion Bailey is terrific operating in space. A heavy dose of tailback Silas Redd will open up play-action, and USC will hang on to set up the game of the year in the Pac-12.

Stanford (-24.5) 42, Washington State 13 – The transitive property is always a dangerous device, but the last time the Cougars took the field, they allowed 318 rushing yards at home to Cal, which was swallowed up by the Cardinal on both sides of the line of scrimmage. Stanford is more physical and more talented in the running game than its Bay Area rival, so there shouldn't be much hope for the 11th-ranked run defense in the Pac-12. Stepfan Taylor, who rushed for a career-high 189 yards in the Big Game, isn't the flashiest runner around, but boy is he a complete back.

Utah (-1) 21, California 17 – I have no idea what will happen in this game. Bowl hopes of the Golden Bears are all but extinguished, while the Utes have a chance with Washington State and Colorado still ahead. Cal has the marginally better offense, while Utah has the marginally better defense. Neither quarterback is a world-beater, so give me the home team with the best player on the field in Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei.

Oregon State (-3.5) 24, Washington 17 – If there is any hope for the reeling Huskies, who seem stuck in that 6-6/7-5 wasteland right now, it is that the Beavers have only 16 sacks for all their defensive prowess. So there should be chances for Washington quarterback Keith Price to get the ball downfield to sensational tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, especially if Oregon State signal-caller Sean Mannion struggles in his return from knee surgery. But Mike Riley's team is so fundamentally sound across the board – they lead the conference in third-down defense and scoring defense, while committing just six turnovers on offense and special teams – the magical run will continue, even without the promise of a nice Double-Double and chocolate shake afterwards.

Dan Greenspan is the publisher of Cal Sports Digest and writes about the Pac-12 for Fox Sports Next. Follow him on Twitter @DanGreenspan.

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