Does anyone care to explain to me what exactly happened in the Pac-10 last weekend? The entire year has been a cavalcade of twists and turns, but I think last weekend took the cake.
First off, Oregon's vaunted defense got torched by the balanced attack of the Stanford Cardinal, who have still yet to lose at home this season.
Over at Cal, Jahvid Best scored an incredible touchdown but suffered his second concussion in as many weeks. Really too bad, because we may have seen the last of Best as a collegiate athlete.
The biggest shocker of the weekend, at least to me, was the absolute dud of a football game that was the USC-ASU contest. Earlier in the day, I watched Arizona just destroy the Washington State Cougars and thought no team could play as bad as they did on that day.
However, the Trojans and the Sun Devils gave them a run for their money. USC looked flat, untalented, and just uninspired in their meager five-point victory over ASU.
The Sun Devils, on the other hand, finally turned to freshman Brock Osweiler after Danny Sullivan did everything but start throwing passes to his friends in the stands. Then again, given the resounding cheers Osweiler got when he entered the game, I'm not sure Sullivan even has friends at ASU anymore.
Neither team deserved to win that game and I saw a mediocre Trojan team that, well, I haven't ever seen before. If something doesn't drastically change this week, they are in huge trouble against Stanford.
And with that...the picks:
Stanford @ No. 9 USC (-11)
I don't know what team played ASU last week, but that couldn't have been a Pete Carroll USC Trojan team.
Quarterback Matt Barkley completed an abysmal 7-of-22 passes for only 112 yards and one touchdown. Despite all the buzz around Barkley this year, I think it's starting to look like his opponent this week, Andrew Luck, is actually the best freshman quarterback in the Pac-10 (and perhaps the country).
Standford comes into this game on an incredible high. Oregon had won seven games in a row before meeting the Cardinal and virtually everyone—including myself—thought the Ducks would continue their dominance. While the game was hard-fought, Stanford showed, once again, they cannot be overlooked and is definitely a program on the rise.
Running back Toby Gerhart continues to be one of the most reliable gamebreakers in the country as he put his former struggles against Oregon aside and ran for an incredible 223 yards and three touchdowns on 38 carries. That performance moved him up to second in the nation in rushing yards (1217), and perhaps even farther up NFL draft boards.
Regardless of the spread, I'm having a hard time picking USC to win this game. As a gambler, the +320 Stanford has right now is an incredibly alluring figure. For those that don't know, that means that if you bet $100 on Stanford to win, you would win $320. That's like hitting a three-team parlay in one game.
I really like the Cardinal's balanced attack and think something is just not right with the Trojans right now. I'm taking Stanford in the upset this weekend.
Pick: Stanford, 34-27
Washington @ No. 23 Oregon State (-12)
Oregon State has really found their groove here in the middle of the season, as they seemingly do every year. Last weekend, they rolled over Cal in a somewhat unconventional way, as quarterback Sean Canfield carried virtually the entire offensive attack.
Star running back Jacquizz Rodgers was held to his lowest rushing yardage total of the season (67) on his third-most carries (25).
Canfield, however, threw for a season high 342 yards, completing 29 of his 39 passes with two touchdowns. The Pac-10's leader in passing yards should have a good opportunity this weekend to put up similar numbers against a Washington defense that allowed the UCLA tandem of Kevin Craft and Kevin Prince to throw for 371 yards and two touchdowns against them last week.
Washington seems to be going in the opposite direction of Oregon State right now. After starting the season off by beating USC and Arizona, and giving LSU and Notre Dame everything they could handle, the Huskies have fallen into a rut the last three weeks.
During the Huskies' last three games—losses to ASU, Oregon and UCLA—quarterback Jake Locker has yet to have a passer rating higher than 120. Against the talented Beavers, Locker is going to need to be at his best if he wants to keep his team in the game.
I don't see a lot of surprises coming out of this game, and I like Oregon State to cover the spread at home against a reeling Washington team. The Huskies are dangerous, but the Beavers are better.
Pick: Beavers, 38-23
UCLA @ Washington State (+17)
Now, I've been picking Washington State to continue to cover their huge spreads for most of this season. It has worked quite well, too...until last week.
It has become clear to me the Cougars are probably the worst FBS football team I've seen in a while. They are truly awful. Arizona was up 41-0 at the end of the third quarter. They were up 34-0 at halftime. Watching them is like watching a high school freshman team play the varsity. They have one or two players who sort of look like they belong, but aside from that they just can't compete.
Freshman quarterback Jeff Tuel was injured again last weekend, as his kneecap popped out of place and then quickly popped back in. Head coach Paul Wulff expects him to make a quick recovery, but backup Marshall Lobbestael has been practicing with the first team this week...not like it really matters.
UCLA finally got their first Pac-10 win of the season last week against Washington and should have their second one gift-wrapped to them this weekend by Washington State.
UCLA freshman quarterback Kevin Prince has been cleared to play this week after getting knocked out of last weekend's game. Backup Kevin Craft replaced him admirably, however, and could see some action in this game as well if the Bruins go up early.
I know I usually pick the Cougars to cover but not this week, I like the Bruins big in this game.
Pick: UCLA, 45-17
No. 17 Arizona @ Cal (-3)
Maybe you all can help me out on this one. I can't possibly figure out how Cal is favored by three points over the streaking Wildcats. How often does a team lose a game and its best player the week before playing an arguably better team and get favored?
I understand a lot of time Vegas will give three points to the home team in football games, but this one goes deeper. The public must be betting Cal hard to make this line shift from EVEN—where it was earlier this week—all the way to (-3) where it's at now.
On the field, I like Arizona all the way in this one. The Wildcats just destroyed Washington State last week and have looked near unstoppable since Nick Foles took over at quarterback. Aside from a respectable loss to Iowa and a freak loss to Washington, this team has been rolling.
Granted, the Wildcats haven't played a road game in over a month, but I think heading to Cal—without Jahvid Best—will be a winnable game for the 'Cats.
Cal has a tough task ahead of them this week as they will try and beat one of the Pac-10's top teams after losing their own best player. At this point in time, we can all just hope that Jahvid Best makes a full and complete recovery after that horrendous fall he took last weekend on his incredible touchdown leap.
Luckily for the Bears, backup running back Shane Vereen is no slouch. Vereen has big=play ability and should be able to fill in adequately for Best while he's out. Vereen has also taken a few snaps out of the Wildcat formation this season, which always seems to cause defenses some trouble.
In Best's absence, more of the burden should fall on quarterback Kevin Riley, who has been red-hot recently. In the last four games, Riley has thrown nine touchdowns and just two interceptions. Against the high-scoring Wildcats, he will need to continue that success to keep his team on the field and give his defense some rest.
As far as the spread goes, I'm loving the Wildcats with the points as well as the +120 money line they are getting. It kind of seems like a trap game, but given the evidence, I don't see how Arizona loses.
Pick: Arizona, 38-27
Arizona State @ No. 13 Oregon (-18)
The good news for the Sun Devils? Brock Osweiler is finally getting his chance to be the starting quarterback. The bad news? They have to travel to Eugene to play the angry Oregon Ducks.
I have to reiterate just how painful it was to watch that ASU-USC game last week. Just ugly on so many levels. USC played so poorly it was almost difficult to tell if ASU deserves credit for keeping the game close or if it was just a fluke performance by the Trojans. This week will be the ultimate test for them.
Oregon made news this week by allowing suspended running back LeGarrette Blount to rejoin the team and be active for this weekend's game. That being said, I would be shocked if he received more than 10 carries. Freshman LaMichael James has totally put his stamp on the starting job and looks to be a great running back in the Pac-10 for years to come.
Despite their loss last weekend, the Ducks' offense continued to excel. Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli threw for 334 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for over 50 yards and a touchdown for the fourth straight game. His talent, combined with the inevitable bounce-back of the Ducks defense, should spell bad news for the Sun Devils.
I think a three touchdown spread is pretty fair for this game, but taking a freshman quarterback making his first start on the road against a team like Oregon is not something I'm prepared to do. Ducks roll.
Pick: Oregon, 44-17