Picks, Predictions and Prognosis for Every Week 14 Pac-12 Football Game
This is it. August and opening weekend seem like yesterday, but the 2013 Pac-12 football season is nearing its conclusion. And what a season it's been.
Though the conference will again go without a national championship, this has been a banner year. A record nine teams are bowl-eligible, including Washington State, which should snap the conference's longest postseason drought.
The 2013 campaign is also remarkable for the resurgence of USC, a longtime power that had seemingly hit hard times. But with a fiery interim head coach in Ed Orgeron and a thin but talented roster, the Trojans are one of the Pac-12's hottest teams. With the Trojans streaking and UCLA on the rise, the battle for Los Angeles is the conference's marquee matchup for Week 14—and could continue to be the Pac-12's marquee rivalry for the foreseeable future.
All lines courtesy of VegasInsider.com.
Record Last Week: 3-3 (3-3 against the spread)
Record This Season: 69-15 (50-34 against the spread)
Washington State at Washington (-14.5)
Friday, Nov. 29, 4 ET
Just five years ago, the Apple Cup determined which of Washington's Pac-12 programs would finish the season winless in conference play. Changes in coaching regimes have altered the rivalry's implications vastly, because there's much, much more on the line Friday in Seattle.
The Washington Huskies are playing for their eighth win, which would set a new single season benchmark for head coach Steve Sarkisian. Washington State is seeking its seventh victory and a guaranteed bowl bid.
Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday is clicking of late in head coach Mike Leach's air-raid offense. He bombarded Utah, one of the conference's better defenses, for 488 yards and four touchdowns a week ago.
Halliday is opposite another outstanding defense this week in Washington. The Huskies are adept at generating turnovers, Halliday's biggest problem this season. If Washington can duplicate its four-takeaway performance from last week against the Cougars, it could be a long evening for the visitors.
Junior Bishop Sankey is chasing the Doak Walker Award, given to the nation's premier running back. Expect a heavy dose of Sankey early to set the tone in a big Husky win.
Prediction: Washington 42, Washington State 20
Oregon State at No. 13 Oregon (-21)
Friday, Nov. 29, 7 ET
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Oregon State carries two dubious streaks into the 117th installment of the Civil War: The Beavers have lost four straight this season and five consecutive to Oregon, both by 20 points per game.
Oregon sophomore quarterback Marcus Mariota has gutted his way through the last three games with a left knee injury that has taken a step off his explosive rush, but he's remained a dangerous passer. With leading ball-carrier Byron Marshall injured, the Ducks must establish running backs Thomas Tyner and De'Anthony Thomas early against a struggling Oregon State run defense to open the field for Mariota.
Though the Ducks are going through their own rough patch, with losses in two of their last three, they should have no trouble retaining the refurbished Platypus Trophy.
Prediction: Oregon 52, Oregon State 24
Colorado at Utah (-14)
Saturday, Nov. 30, 2 ET
Utah and Colorado moving to the Pac-12 in 2011 reignited the Rumble in the Rockies, a rivalry that went dormant for nearly 50 years. The two split their first installments in the renewed series by a combined 10 points. Colorado's win in 2011 denied Utah an appearance in the inaugural Pac-12 Championship game.
No such implications ride on Saturday's outcome. Both the Utes and Buffs entered Week 13 clinging to hopes of bowl eligibility, but were eliminated with losses to Washington State and USC.
Colorado's young offense had a big second half against USC's reserves, but maintaining that effectiveness against Utah's outstanding defense is not in the cards. Look for senior defensive end Trevor Reilly to go out on a high note before embarking on an NFL career. He'll be in the Colorado backfield plenty to give freshman quarterback Sefo Liufau something to remember in the offseason.
Prediction: Utah 35, Colorado 14
Notre Dame at No. 8 Stanford (-14)
Saturday, Nov. 30, 7 ET
Last season's edition of the Notre Dame-Stanford rivalry ended with one of the year's most controversial finishes. Stanford head coach David Shaw's silence on the Stepfan Taylor goal-line rush officials called short was telling.
The overtime loss effectively kept Pac-12 champion Stanford out of the BCS Championship race. That certainly has to have stuck with the Cardinal, particularly seniors like linebackers Shayne Skov and Trent Murphy, two of the Stanford defenders who will acquaint themselves with Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees on Saturday.
Each defense is as talented as any in the nation, though Notre Dame is without potential first-round NFL draft pick and nose tackle Louis Nix III. Both offenses have been inconsistent in the second half of the season.
Where Stanford has a clear advantage is with running back Tyler Gaffney. The punishing, power ball-carrier gives the Cardinal a steady presence to ease the offense in against the Irish. This could mirror Stanford's win over UCLA last month—a slow start, but eventually the Cardinal wear Notre Dame down to break through in the second half.
Prediction: Stanford 27, Notre Dame 17
No. 22 UCLA at No. 23 USC (-3.5)
Saturday, Nov. 30, 8 ET
The UCLA-USC rivalry is developing into a flagship series for the Pac-12. USC's tradition of excellence and UCLA's rapid ascent under head coach Jim Mora have raised the stakes significantly, and Saturday's showdown is a potential building block for future supremacy in the South division.
UCLA must find a way to neutralize USC's overwhelm pass rush. The Trojans boast one of the nation's best front sevens, including redshirt senior Devon Kennard, who'll look to put a fitting stamp on his career in his final home game.
Given the Bruins' inexperience on the offensive line and injuries in the backfield, don't be surprised to see powerful Myles Jack taking on a heavy load in the backfield once again. UCLA may need him both as a ball-carrier and to give quarterback Brett Hundley more protection from the Trojans' pressure.
Key for UCLA is disrupting quarterback Cody Kessler. While the rush has buoyed the Trojans offense, Kessler's ability to exploit coverage with deep balls to Marqise Lee and Nelson Agholor has resulted in several big plays during USC's second-half resurgence.
This one is as close to a toss-up as any game in the nation this final week of the regular season. One big mistakes—an interception on the wrong side of the field, a special teams gaffe, a costly penalty—could be the deciding factor.
Prediction: UCLA 28, USC 27
Arizona at No. 12 Arizona State (-12.5)
Saturday, Nov. 30, 9:30 ET
The road team has won every Duel in the Desert since 2009, but the stakes have never been quite as high in the Arizona-Arizona State rivalry as they are this year.
Arizona State head coach Todd Graham said on Tuesday's Pac-12 coaches teleconference call that he wants Saturday to be the first of "two Senior Days." While this is technically the Sun Devils' farewell to the seniors, a win puts them back in Tempe, Ariz., next week for the conference championship game.
Beyond the bragging rights, more prominent bowl bid and spoiling its rival's plans, Arizona can catapult junior running back Ka'Deem Carey into the Heisman Trophy presentation with another big game. He's hit at least 119 rushing yards every game this season.
Arizona State defensive stars Carl Bradford and Will Sutton will undoubtedly take limiting Carey as a special challenge. The Sun Devils already stymied one Doak Walker Award finalist this season, holding Washington's Bishop Sankey to 22 yards.
Carey could get to the century mark once again—he'll certainly get the carries—but he shouldn't batter Arizona State in the same fashion he did Oregon a week ago. And even with running back Marion Grice injured, the Sun Devils offense has enough weapons to capitalize on the opportunities their defense creates.
Prediction: Arizona State 35, Arizona 27