The conference only plays 3 football games this week, but at least one should be important in helping us sort out the power hierarchy in a league that’s been very strong from top to (almost) bottom so far. Stanford, Oregon, and perhaps the conference’s two most interesting teams–Arizona State and UCLA–take this week off. That still leaves us six teams to look at, though, so check it out:
- Arizona at Washington State: It’s unfortunate that we never have to devote more than 5 seconds to picking the winner of a game in which Washington State is a participant, but that’s the low to which the Cougars have fallen. They simply will not win a conference game this season. Don’t forget that their opponent this week is Arizona, who is the #17 team in the country and was in the national top 10 before losing to Oregon State last week. Arizona’s still a very good team and will look to recover from their loss last week, so Washington State doesn’t stand a chance on Saturday. Don’t even bother watching this game.
- Oregon State at Washington: This game, on the other hand, is tough to call. Both teams have been inconsistent, are playing around .500 football (OSU comes in with a 3-2 record, UW with a 2-3 mark) and haven’t yet established any definite identity. If you haven’t heard, star Oregon State wideout James Rodgers is out for the year with a knee injury, but Oregon State still has his dynamic brother Jacquizz at halfback and sophomore quarterback Ryan Katz had himself a nice game last week in upsetting Arizona. The other good news for Oregon State: sophomore wide receiver Markus Wheaton had a breakout game against the Wildcats, catching 7 balls for 113 yards and a touchdown. He’ll need to have performances like that to make up for the loss of Rodgers. Washington has not gotten the kind of consistently superb play that most observers expected from Jake Locker at the beginning of the year, and the Huskies only managed to score 14 points last week against a less-than-stellar Arizona State defense. Washington just isn’t a team that inspires confidence, while Oregon State looks to have some of the pieces to start improving on some of their early-season woes. Even without Rodgers for the first time in 2010, look for the Beavers to knock off Washington in Seattle. U-Dub is also a 2-point favorite in Vegas, so… do what you will with that knowledge.
- California at USC (also known to Stanford fans as the Vomit Bowl): This game is our pick for best contest of the week. Both teams have two losses and figure to finish around 4th in the conference come season’s end. Cal’s defense has been the story so far this year for the Bears: with the exception of Nevada’s 52-point outburst against Cal on September 17, the Bears have not allowed more than 10 points in any game, and are allowing an average of 6.75 points per game. If Cal can stop USC’s running game like Stanford did last Saturday, the Golden Bear secondary should be able to contain Matt Barkley’s performance better than the Cardinal did. The question is whether Cal can keep offensive pace with USC. Berkeley’s Kevin Riley barely has a 2:1 touchdown-to-interception rate, and his errant throws seem to come at the most inopportune times. Say what you will about USC, but the Trojans have a nice offense, and Cal won’t be able to keep them under 10 points. But USC is in free-fall and Cal is coming off a quality win last week against UCLA, so the Bears should be able to put the Trojans away. It will be close, but Cal should come away with the win and get you your money if you place your dime on the 3-point underdogs from the East Bay.