Pac-10 teams have been involved in some fantastic games so far this season. This Saturday's USC-Notre Dame game promises to be another one of them (you know, in case you haven't heard anything about it).
However, after all the media attention being received by those two teams, it's easy to forget that there are three other Pac-10 games this week—all of which should be hard-fought and will impact the overall standings in the conference tremendously.
Before we get to the spreads, something has to be said about that INT-TD that won the game for the Washington Huskies last week. Can anyone believe that happened? Really? That is one of the most incredible fluke plays I have ever seen. It will be very interesting to see how Arizona bounces back after that loss. Just devastating.
Now on to the picks:
Cal @ UCLA (+3.5)
This is what the spread has to be given the fact that Cal has managed just six points in their last two games. That being said, what would the spread on this game have been during one of the first three weeks of the season? Cal minus seven? Minus 10?
I'll stand by the notion that Cal is still a talented team. Jahvid Best is one of the most explosive running backs in the country, and Kevin Riley has experience and, occasionally, talent. The Bears' work will be cut out for them, though, against a tough UCLA defense that has yet to give up more than 24 points in a game.
UCLA comes into this contest in a tough spot. While Rick Neuheisel has named freshman Kevin Prince the starter for this game, given the Bruins' slow start to the Pac-10 season, fans will begin to be impatient with the youngster if he doesn't start to excel.
This home game against Cal will be huge for Prince if he wants to hold off fellow freshman Richard Brehaut as the starting quarterback for the Bruins.
For all the Bears' offensive struggles recently, I have too much faith in Jeff Tedford and Best to think that will continue. I think that Cal rebounds in a big way against UCLA and wins big in Los Angeles.
Pick: Cal, 31-20
No. 6 USC @ No. 25 Notre Dame (+10)
Here we go, folks. One of the year's most anticipated matchups takes place in South Bend with enough story lines to keep sportswriters frantically busy.
Charlie Weis has been hanging on to his job by a thread for over a year now, and it seems like people are just waiting for him to fail. It would appear that a blowout loss to USC (and a true freshman quarterback) at home might be enough to finally send him packing.
Luckily for Weis, his quarterback, and California native, Jimmy Clausen has given him many a reason to smile. As the nation's top-rated passer thus far, Clausen has begun to show the reasons why he was the No. 1-rated prospect coming out of high school and touted as the savior of Notre Dame.
A huge weight is going to be dropped on his shoulders this weekend, as he is going to have to try to figure out a way to score against a Trojan defense that is currently ranked sixth in the country.
USC is entering this game well rested, having had a bye last weekend. You can be sure that Pete Carroll and the Trojans staff spent that time preparing for this game, in particular making sure that true freshman quarterback Matt Barkley is ready to go.
Barkley has already proven that he can handle the pressure of playing on the road when he led USC on a memorable 86-yard game-winning drive in just his second start to beat Ohio State.
Running back Joe McKnight has been very impressive for the Trojans and is averaging 7.1 yards per carry so far this season. It'll be interesting to see how the Notre Dame defense responds to his talent after giving up 136 yards on the ground last game to Washington freshman running back Chris Polk.
This is easily one of the biggest games of the year for these two teams, the loser of which will be in a really rough spot. Despite the offensive talent that Notre Dame has displayed, I still think the Trojans are the more complete team. I think Notre Dame will cover the spread, but in the end, the Trojans will walk away with the victory.
Pick: USC, 27-20
Stanford @ Arizona (-4)
Ouch. Both of these teams suffered brutal losses last week, but few in history can compare to what happened to the Arizona Wildcats. For those who haven't seen the play, watch it here. To lose in such a fashion can really kick a team in the groin and test its mettle from there on out.
Sophomore quarterback Nick Foles has been very impressive (aside from the last couple minutes of last week's game) and is currently the Pac-10's highest-rated passer.
Hopefully for him, running back Nic Grigsby will be able to contribute more than he did last week, when a nagging injury held him to just five carries and 13 yards rushing.
The Cardinal come into this game after a frustrating loss of their own. After starting the season 4-1 and starting to hear whispers of "Rose Bowl," they finally came crashing down to earth.
Oregon State's offense, led by super-sophomore Jacquizz Rodgers, torched Stanford's defense all day. Rodgers finished the game with 33 carries, 189 yards, and four touchdowns on the ground, as well as leading the Beavers in receiving with five catches for 82 yards.
Stanford's defense is going to have to put on a better showing this weekend in Tucson if they want to remain relevant in the Pac-10 this year.
Offensively, the Cardinal pack a punch too. Running back Toby Gerhart is currently the nation's leading rusher with 746 yards and 10 touchdowns. Also, freshman quarterback Andrew Luck has yet to throw an interception in Pac-10 play and has the conference's second highest quarterback rating (behind Foles).
The winner of this game will continue to be a lurking threat in the conference this year, while the loser will have to look forward to the future. Granted, Arizona's only losses have come at the hands of an undefeated Iowa team and a fluke play against Washington, but I still don't see them being in the upper half of the conference.
The Cardinal are more talented and healthier entering this game and will pull one out on the road.
Pick: Stanford, 37-27
Washington @ Arizona State (-6.5)
This spread has moved significantly since it opened (in ASU's favor), meaning that the betting public seems to be supporting the Sun Devils in this game with dollar signs. I'm not sure I agree with them.
ASU put up a pretty uninspiring 13-point victory last weekend against an awful Washington State team. Quarterback Danny Sullivan, already fighting to keep his job, had a dismal game, completing 19 of his 29 passes for 169 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. Needless to say, a few bad throws in this one and the Sun Devils could start the Brock Osweiler era a little early.
Washington, as stated previously, had an amazing come-from-behind victory last week against the Arizona Wildcats. This, in a season in which they have gone toe-to-toe with Notre Dame and LSU and beaten the USC Trojans, is starting to look like a pretty formidable team.
Jake Locker is easily one of the best quarterbacks in the country, and new head coach Steve Sarkisian is getting the most from his players.
I think this will finally be the game the Huskies win in the third quarter and not in dramatic, late-game fashion. Expect a huge day from Locker.
Pick: Washington, 34-23