Pac-12 Picks

Pac-12 Picks: USC and Stanford highlight day of good matchups


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: 24-9 (.727).

Javier Morales Against the Spread: 22-11 (.667).




When: Today, 2 p.m., Tucson time. Where: Autzen Stadium, Eugene, Ore. TV: Fox Sports 1.

Spread: Oregon by 28.

Why Utah will win: The Utes’ defense is just a notch below those at USC and Stanford in being fearless and dominating, especially up front. The Utes had their best game against the pass in a 20-19 loss to ASU. Kelly was limited to 144 passing yards because he was under duress most of the game. He was sacked six times. Utah leads the nation in sacks per game (3.67). The pressure up front allowed the secondary to recover defensively. Linebackers Jason Whittingham, Trevor Reilly (who also plays defensive end) and Jacoby Hale combined for six tackles for loss against ASU.

Why Oregon will win: The Ducks are smarting after their convincing loss at Stanford nine days ago. The advantage for the Ducks here is they return home to play a Utah team that is having significant problems on offense. Oregon’s athletic defense should give Utah backup quarterback Adam Schulz, a former walk-on, many problems. Travis Wilson, who did not make the trip because of a concussion, has thrown 16 interceptions this season. The Ducks should win the turnover battle and be too much for the Utes.

Outcome: Oregon by 17.

Reason: The game won’t be easy for Oregon because of Utah’s defense, which leads the country with 33 sacks. Marcus Mariota (knee) is less than 100 percent. But the game is in Eugene, Oregon has more talent and the Ducks still have a BCS bowl to compete for down the stretch. The Ducks will win a hard-fought game and win by at least 17 (that’s hard fought for the Ducks at home) before they travel to Tucson.




When: Today, 3:30 p.m., Tucson time. Where: Folsom Field, Boulder, Colo. TV: Pac-12 Networks.

Spread: Colorado by 2.5.

Why Cal will win: Cal’s offense has shown signs of improvement the past two games, despite losses to Arizona and USC. Cal quarterback Jared Goff should have every opportunity to continue to progress against Colorado, which ranks 117th of 123 FBS teams in scoring defense, yielding 40.4 points per game, and 115th in total defense.

Why Colorado will win: In a game featuring two true freshman quarterbacks, Colorado’s Sefo Liufau holds his own against the more publicized Goff. Liufau has shown good leadership qualities as the starting quarterback through four games. He is 86-for-136 for 986 yards and five touchdowns and five interceptions after replacing Connor Wood as the starter. Cal ranks dead last among the 123 FBS teams in passing yards allowed, giving up 331.1 yards per game.

Outcome: Colorado by 6.

Reason: The battle of the winless teams in the Pac-12 should provide good drama despite their records. Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre has something to prove to Cal, which passed him over for Sonny Dykes last year. Dykes was hired from Louisiana Tech despite MacIntyre being at nearby San Jose State. Colorado at home playing for a determined coach will be enough to get past Cal. Reports indicate this week was the most physical of practices for Colorado all season.




When: Today, 6 p.m., Tucson time. Where: L.A. Memorial Coliseum. TV: ABC.

Spread: Stanford by 3.5.

Why Stanford will win: Defense. … Stanford is so good in this regard I could stop there but I must analyze. The Cardinal boast one of the best outside linebackers in the nation — Trent Murphy — who is projected to be selected in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Other key players for the Cardinal, who are 25th in the nation in total defense allowing 353.4 yards per game, include defensive lineman Josh Mauro and inside linebacker Shayne Skov. Stanford limited Oregon to just 312 total yards.

Why USC will win: The Trojans are improving on offense despite injuries to running backs Silas Redd and Tre Madden, and their defense is one of the best in the nation. USC is 19th in the nation in points allowed and 11th in total defense (317.9 yards allowed). Defensive end Leonard Williams should play despite a shoulder injury. USC quarterback Cody Kessler seems to get better by the game and he has a healthier Marqise Lee and a stable of talented running backs to make up for the loss of Redd and Madden.

Outcome: Stanford by 1.

Reason: This should be more of a classic than the hyped Oregon-Stanford game nine days ago. In the last three seasons, the Stanford-USC matchup is one the most competitive in the Pac-12. The Cardinal won all three games by a total of only 17 points. The last time the two programs met at the Coliseum was in 2011, when the game was decided by a USC fumble in the end zone in triple overtime. This game will go down to the last possession.




When: Today, 7:30 p.m., Tucson time. Where: Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe. TV: Pac-12 Networks.

Spread: ASU by 14.5.

Why Oregon State will win: After two tough losses to Stanford and USC at home, Oregon State and coach Mike Riley had a week off to recuperate. The Beavers, who have won four of their last five against ASU, are 4-0 on the road this week. Brandin Cooks, who leads the nation with 91 receptions, is a game-breaker who could be the difference. He needs one reception to break the school single-season mark held by James Rodgers (2009) and Markus Wheaton (2012).

Why ASU will win: Oregon State’s Sean Mannion continues to lead the nation in passing yardage, but he is vulnerable against a good pass rush, which ASU possesses with its impressive front seven. Stanford and USC aggressively went after Mannion and the Cardinal sacked him eight times and the Trojans rattled him into hurried throws. Oregon State has only one offensive touchdown in the last two games because of the pressure placed on Mannion.

Outcome: ASU by 17.

Reason: Oregon State has been exposed by good teams (Stanford and USC) after experiencing a six-game winning streak against suspect competition. The Sun Devils are playing for much higher stakes in the Pac-12 South than the Beavers, who are playing for pride and a chance to avoid playing in the New Mexico Bowl. One more substantial reason is Oregon State struggles against mobile quarterbacks who run spread offenses. ASU’s Taylor Kelly is as good as anyone with that description right now. publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also writes articles for Bleacher Report, Lindy’s College Sports and


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