Note: I do not pick non-conference games and those involving Arizona (since this is an Arizona-based Web site).
Javier Morales 2013 Overall Record: 21-8 (.724).
Javier Morales Against the Spread: 20-9 (.689).
When: Today, 1 p.m., Tucson time. Where: Memorial Stadium, Berkeley, Calif. TV: Fox.
Spread: USC by 17.
Why USC will win: The Trojans are thriving with an us-against-the-world mentality. USC will embark to Cal with the same number of players it took to Oregon State 69 including 14 who are walk-ons. Offensive tackle Kevin Graf (ankle) and safety Su’a Cravens (groin) made the trip to Corvallis, Ore., but did not play. The Trojans had only 46 available non-redshirting scholarship players available.
Why Cal will win: The Golden Bears played similarly loose against Arizona last week, falling by a close score of 33-28. The Bears have lost seven in a row, and their hopes of a winning record or a bowl have long since passed. The mission now is to demonstrate they are getting better and that Sonny Dykes’ spread offense and defensive coordinator’s Andy Buh’s defense have a chance to succeed when the Bears’ young, injury-plagued team gets healthy and matures in the coming seasons.
Outcome: USC by 14.
Reason: Cal has improved steadily on defense as the season has progressed despite injury problems and facing potent offenses. The Golden Bears should again keep this game close enough to make Cal believe something promising will happen in the future with Dykes.
When: Today, 2 p.m., Tucson time. Where: Rice-Eccles Stadium, Salt Lake City. TV: Pac-12 Networks.
Spread: ASU by 7.
Why ASU will win: ASU’s Taylor Kelly can make good things happen. Kelly, in his second season as the starter, is 12th nationally in passing yards (313.9 per game) and 28th in passing efficiency (150.3 rating). He can make things happen with his feet, either on planned runs or scrambles. He has 315 rushing yards this season.
Why Utah will win: Utah coach Kyle Whittingham believes the Utes’ defense is prepared for the challenge against ASU’s offense. He is worried more about the Utes’ inefficiencies on offense related to quarterback Travis Wilson’s recent decline because of a hand injury. Reports indicate Utah had its best practices of the season leading up to this game.
Outcome: Utah by 3.
Reason: Utah’s defense is solid enough to negate ASU’s running game and place pressure on Kelly to keep the Sun Devils in position to win. The wild card is Wilson, who has shown earlier in the season that he can be dangerous when healthy. The team with the less turnovers wins this one.
When: Today, 6 p.m., Tucson time. Where: Husky Stadium, Seattle. TV: Pac-12 Networks.
Spread: Washington by 28.
Why Colorado will win: Much like Cal, Colorado seems to get better each game despite mounting losses. Colorado suffered back-to-back 41 point losses against Oregon and Arizona State earlier this season, but hung tough against Arizona and UCLA in the last two conference games. The Buffs lost by 24 against Arizona before falling 45-23 Saturday against UCLA. “Honestly, if we make about four or five plays in the UCLA game, we are right there,” MacIntyre said in his weekly press conference.
Why Washington will win: The Huskies used the bye week to refocus on their goals, a primary one being an eight-win season. They have struggled with their rush defense. The Huskies are ninth in the Pac-12 against the run. The good news for them is that Colorado is not efficient running the ball. The Buffaloes are ninth in the conference in rushing.
Outcome: Washington by 20.
Reason: MacIntyre, in my opinion, is already working his magic with nine true freshmen as important players. No reason to believe the Buffaloes will stop improving against a Washington team that no longer has visions of grandeur.