Though there isn't a full compliment of conference teams in action this weekend, the Pac-10 will feature the top college game in the nation.
While Arizona, Stanford and Washington rest during a bye week in their respective schedules, the rest of the conference schools will be locked up in some key battles.
The way my picks have gone this season, have to concede that last week was one of my better ones with a record of 2-3. Obviously I don't have to depend on "skills" in picking college football games to keep a roof over the head and food on the table.
Staying with the usual format of previewing conference games in order by kickoff times, let's get on with a look around the Pac-10.
California vs. Arizona State +6.5
The Cal Bears are coming off an impressive win over WSU at home. Cal looked as though they could score at will on the Cougs in a variety of ways. It's not likely they will have their way with the Sun Devil defense. Arizona State has been searching for ways to put points on the scoreboard. Though ASU can slow down any top offense in the country, they struggle to end drives with touchdowns. The news for Coach Dennis Erickson and his offense isn't good in terms of matching up with Coach Jeff Tedford's defense. Though Cal has given up a lot of yardage this season, they don't give up many points when they show up to play. The news for ASU good in terms of team consistency by the Bears. Against two top Pac-10 teams, USC and Oregon, the Bears were bad news. If history holds form, Cal should be playing consistently good football the rest of this season. All Pac-10 running back Jahvid Best will get enough touches to garner another multiple touchdown performance against an outstanding ASU defense. He'll be the difference in this game. PICK: California
UCLA vs. Oregon State -8.5
This was supposed to be the season where people discovered there were two outstanding college football programs in Los Angeles. Instead, the marketing machine for UCLA clearly put their cart in front of the horse. Bruin fans haven't had much to cheer about since their team traveled to Tennessee and knocked off the Vols off their Rocky Top. The highly touted offensive genius team of Coach Rick Neuheisel and Coach Norm Chow have been missing a secret element to mesmerize opponents defenses. Without a healthy, experienced quarterback the UCLA offense has languished in a series of futile drives week after week. Who would have thought the strength of this Bruin team would be it's defense? For Coach Mike Riley and the Beavers, they have lived up to expectations. With a lot of new players on defense, it's taken a few games for the Oregon State defense to get up to speed. The Rogers brothers have sparked the offense. Not only are the Beavers on track for a bowl bid again this season, they could surprise a couple of teams coming up and run the table right into a place among the elite of college football in 2009. It's tough for visitors to win in Corvallis. PICK: Oregon State
Washington State vs. #25 Notre Dame -28
The Cougs will travel to play the Fighting Irish on their home field in San Antonio, TX. What? Notre Dame will be out to prove that they can call just about anywhere home by moving this game to the neutral site of the Alamodome. It's estimated that 4,000 Washington State fans will make the trip to Texas to rout for their beloved Cougars. Crimson and gray clad supporters will mirror the task their team faces as the balance of the 65,000 fans at this game will be Irish...at least for Halloween. This nationally televised game will feature two of the most exciting players in college football in Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen and wide receiver Golden Tate. Tate is such an explosive player, Coach Charlie Weiss will try and get the ball into his hands early and often. Clausen is simply the best player lining up under center this season. Coach Paul Wulff and his staff have been working overtime to get his young team the reps they need to compete at the FBS level. It took a few games, but Coach Wulff found a quarterback. He finally has some players back from injuries to protect freshman Jeff Tuel in the pocket. Both teams have similar philosophies on defense playing "bend don't break" style football. But if the WSU defense is left on the field for too much of the game, they tend to break down. It's possible that Irish players are looking forward to a week where they won't need their 'A' game to win. Washington State players have no fear about losing. Been there. Done that. They are looking at this game from an entirely different perspective. This will be their bowl game in 2009. PICK: Washington State
#4 USC vs. #10 Oregon +4.5
This my friends should be one heckuva college football game. Love 'em or hate 'em, the Duck fans filling Autzen Stadium are among the most passionate in the nation. The noise they generate cheering Oregon on to victory is legendary. It's been said the noise level after an Oregon touchdown at Autzen could drown out a nuclear bomb test. That might be a stretch, but when it comes to stretching, Coach Chip Kelly's offense will do that and more. Oregon is the only state that would legally allow an arsenal with the firepower of the Duck offense to exist. The visiting team in this game will be bringing plenty of their own weapons to the game Saturday evening. Coach Pete Carroll has the key to this shootout. If his offensive line provides the blocking for sustained drives, USC has what it takes to silence the crowd. I'll let others bombard you with stats on the players for both teams. This game will boil down to the essence of football. When both teams have comparable talent, the winner will be determined by who can block better and who can tackle better. Those two elements are the key components to the creative headlines yet to be penned. If you're going to a Halloween party, be sure to set your DVR to record this one. You won't want to miss a single play. PICK: Oregon
Lew's picks are now 22-28 on the season. You've been warned!
DISCLAIMER: College football is all about the spectacle and event. Wagering on games taints the experience. Have some fun, enjoy family and friends this weekend.
Originally published in Lew Wright's column on Examiner.com