This is a bit of a departure from the past few weekends, in that this time around there's really only one Pac-10 game that's must-see, but that one game is absolutely huge. However, there are still a fair amount of other decent games on around the country, so there's still plenty of good football to be had on Saturday.
Arizona St (-7) @ UCLA
(preseason pick: UCLA)
This is a game where both teams are looking for redemption. UCLA comes in having lost both games in their road trip, and are looking to bounce back at home and finally clinch bowl eligibility. ASU just lost a tough game at Oregon, and is probably out of the national title race. With a win here, though, they'll be in great shape to at least make a BCS bowl, which will be the Rose if Oregon either slips up or is able to make the national title game.
On paper, ASU looks like a much better team. They've been very good all year, and really didn't do too badly at Eugene last week. UCLA, meanwhile, has been incredibly up and down, and right now they're looking very down. And with the Bruins fighting more and more injuries, it's going to be difficult for them to do much against a Sun Devil defense that has pretty much always been strong.
On the Other Hand:
UCLA's defense is no slouch either. Last week they did very poorly, but before then they had been very strong. ASU's offense has been good at times, but they can still be contained by a good unit, especially on the road.
It's really easy to see UCLA finally bouncing back now that they're at home. Certainly, it would fit well with their typical MO these days. However, they are just too hurt, and ASU should be too fired up after their loss, to see it happen.
ASU 27, @ UCLA 14
USC (-4) @ Cal
(preseason pick: Cal)
Back in early September, this game looked to most like THE game in the Pac-10 this year. However, both teams have been big disapointments. USC lost as a 40 point favorite to Stanford, and nearly followed it up by losing to another crummy team in Arizona. Cal just came off of a three-game losing streak, and that was more because they played a mediocre team in Washington State than because they suddenly started to play well.
On paper, the edge looks to go to USC. They still have a great defense loaded with talent, and their offense has finally started to step up back up. When they're playing near their potential, they're an incredibly tough team to beat, and it looks like they're getting back there.
On the Other Hand:
Cal still has a lot of talent themselves. They still have a good quarterback, a great set of receivers, and a good running game. If they can turn this into a shootout, they have a chance.
USC isn't great, but they're still pretty good, and that will be enough to knock off a Cal team that's still struggling.
USC 27, @ Cal 17
Washington @ Oregon St (-5)
(preseason pick: Oregon St)
On the surface, this seems like an obvious game. Oregon St has been pretty good, and aside from getting waxed at USC they've had a lot of success of late. Washington, on the other hand, has been pretty bad, only starting to bounce back last week in a big win at Stanford.
Moreover, Oregon State's defense has been extremely good all year. Against an offense that just doesn't have many weapons aside from Jake Locker, this could be a big opportunity for the Beaver D to tee off. And considering how consistently bad Washington's defense has been, this could be the week where the Beavers start to really get going on offense too.
On the Other Hand:
Did that USC loss expose Oregon State? They are still a decent team, but it's pretty clear that they aren't in the same class as the conference's best, having gotten decisively beaten by both USC and ASU (though they did start Cal's implosion). Washington, on the other hand, has generally been competitive in their losses, and now that they've finally gotten a win, they have a very real chance of turning it around.
The big edge the Huskies will get is that Oregon St's quarterback, Sean Canfield, has gotten hurt. He started off slowly but had gotten a lot better as the season progressed. Now the Beavers have to go back to the drawing board with a backup who has yet to show that he can avoid the same game-killing interceptions that have sunk this team so many times early on.
If there's one otherwise mediocre team you don't want to go against with a QB who makes bad decisions, it has to be Washington. Willingham gets at least one notable upset every year. Riding high off of their first win in a while and still desperate for a win (they're still potentially bowl eligible if they can make a huge run), they'll pull the surprise here.
Washington 31, @ Oregon St 27
Stanford @ Washington St (-11)
(preseason pick: WSU)
Two six-loss teams, neither of whom have been at all consistent, looking to salvage a chance at a bowl bid. Of the two, Washington St looks a lot stronger right now. The Cougars had a big win over UCLA, and followed it up by coming very close to Cal at Berkeley. Stanford, meanwhile, seems to be in a downward spiral, coming off of two ugly losses to Oregon St and Washington.
The big edge the Cougars have, of course, is at quarterback. Alex Brink is an excellent passer, and has shown himself to be a very capable leader. Against a Stanford defense that has been ice cold of late, it certainly looks like he'll be in for a big day through the air.
On the Other Hand:
Both of these teams have been so inconsistent that you just don't know what will happen in any given day. Moreover, Stanford has had an unusual tendency to play pretty well on the road. When these two teams play, it always seems like the visitor comes away with the win. Can the streak continue?
Stanford just looks really bad right now. Sparks of life have come to Pac-10 teams at the most dire of times, but it's just too hard to see it here.
@ Wash St 31, Stanford 14
National Games of the Week:
Florida St @ Virginia Tech (-6.5)
This could be a pretty good game, now that both teams are hot again. Lane Stadium is incredibly tough, but the Noles are good enough to have a chance. This one ought to go down to the wire.
@ Virginia Tech 28, Florida St 27
Auburn @ Georgia (-2)
Boy, this one is tough to call. Both teams have just been so up and down, it's impossible to know which one will show up on any given Saturday. This is much more of a gut call than anything else.
Auburn 21, @ Georgia 14
UConn @ Cincinnati (-6.5)
This line is a point or two high. These teams are overall pretty equal, which makes a touchdown line a bit of a surprise. Cincy should win at home, but this ought to be a tossup.
Cincy 31, UConn 28
Michigan (-2.5) @ Wisconsin
This is a pretty interesting matchup. Either team could very easily pull it out, but I lean towards the Badgers at home.
@ Wisconsin 27, Michigan 21
Texas Tech @ Texas (-6.5)
Texas Tech has struggled of late, getting blasted by Missouri and suffering an embarrassing loss to Colorado. However, Texas hasn't exactly been awesome either. They've been playing with fire all year, going down to the wire with Arkansas St, UCF, Nebraska and now OK St. This will be a week they don't get away with it.
Texas Tech 34, @ Texas 31
The Buffs are hardly elite, but they're still a pretty decent team, last week's stinker aside. Iowa St has been pretty consistently bad, with last week's win over Kansas St looking like a huge abberration. Given these two teams' resumes, this looks like a very low line.
South Carolina +7.5
This is a couple of points too many for a still decent Gamecock team at home against a Florida team that hasn't been at all consistent.
Temple + 25
Temple isn't terrible, and Penn St isn't very good on the road.
Wake Forest +9
A point or two too high. These teams generally seem to play close, and I still don't trust Clemson to keep their hot streak going.
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