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Pac-12 and the Next Best 3, Week

This is a good week for conference and intersectional play all around. After last week's occasional disappointments (Oregon State, California) and surprises (Oregon's backups really are all that) it's time to get to the meat of the conference schedule. Well, after the empty calories of the Thursday night game anyway...

No "Results" post last week as I opted to attend the Stanford - Washington State game in Pullman. And there won't be one this week either. It's Homecoming/Reunion weekend at Stanford and it's time to go celebrate with my classmates. Besides, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice owes me a beer. :-)

Pac-12 Game of the Week

#22 Washington (5-1, 3-0) at #7 Stanford (6-0, 4-0)

And so it begins. All of the talk in the North division has centered around Oregon and Stanford. Meanwhile, Washington has had a stellar season and is in a position to win the North and contend for the Rose Bowl. Sophomore quarterback Keith Price has been outstanding in all respects. He's second in the nation in touchdown passes thrown and fifth in passing efficiency. I think it's safe to say no one expected this kind of output from him. Add in the solid running of Chris Polk and Washington's offense is both balanced and dangerous. Unfortunately their defense has been mediocre at best. They've played a somewhat weak schedule apart from their game with Nebraska (their only loss) and in those games teams have been able to both run and pass on the Huskies. Still, last week's game against Colorado had to give the Husky D some confidence.

Sadly for Washington, as good as Keith Price has been, Andrew Luck has been better. Luck is third nationally in passing efficiency. And while he's thrown three fewer touchdowns he's done much more intangibly, either by catching passes or calling his own plays. Stanford also runs the ball extremely well thanks to the skills of Stepfan Taylor and their massive offensive line. Still, you could argue that in terms of offensive prowess this game would be a push. The big differentiator is the Stanford defense. Stanford has been lethal against the run, and while you can gain yards passing you can't score on them that way. The Cardinal have yet to allow a passing touchdown this season.

The Bottom Line

In many ways this is the first real test for Stanford. Washington is a formidable opponent, probably the best the Cardinal have yet to face. I don't expect the Cardinal to do anything differently for this game. They'll have a balanced offensive attack which has had no problem scoring thus far, and will rely on their conference-leading defense to shut down Chris Polk. Their secondary isn't good enough to stop Price, but if they can slow him down it should be an easy victory. For Washington, they will need to take advantage of the fact that Stanford tends to start slowly. If the Huskies can score early and build a lead their defense just might be able to hold it. But I doubt that. Stanford 42, Washinton 17

The Rest of the Conference

UCLA (3-3, 2-1) at Arizona (1-5, 0-4)

The Thurday night stinker of the week, otherwise known as the battle for Rick Neuheisel's job. Arizona's already dumped their coach. If UCLA loses this game he may not see the end of the season. Make that "will not". Arizona 38, UCLA 24

#9 Oregon (5-1, 3-0) at Colorado (1-6, 0-3)

Last week Oregon lost starting quarterback Darron Thomas in the third quarter against (then) 18th ranked Arizona State. Starting running back LaMichael James sat out the entire game with a dislocated elbow. The Ducks still won going away. Even though Thomas and James have made noises about being ready to play Chip Kelly would be wise to keep them on the bench. They won't be needed against a depleted Colorado squad. Oregon 55, Colorado 21

Utah (3-3, 0-3) at California (3-3, 0-3)

Utah did a fine job upholding the honor of the conference last week against Pittsburgh. California looked almost completely hapless against Southern California. The seat under Jeff Tedford is getting a little warm. It will be warmer still after this week.Both defenses are playing well, but Tedford insists on sticking with quarterback Zach Maynard despite his many failings. Now that Utah is giving Jon Hays all of the reps in practice he seems to be getting the hang of things. Congratulations, Utah! This is the week in which you'll get your first conference victory. Utah 31, California 17

Oregon State (1-5, 1-2) at Washington State (3-3, 1-2)

Washington State surprised me last week by starting quarterback Jeff Tuel instead of the hot-handed Marshall Lobbestael. I understand the coach's thinking--a player shouldn't lose his job due to injury. And Tuel didn't play badly. But it almost seemed as if he was conceding the game to Stanford. This week's game is one they'll have to win if they want any chance at going to a bowl. Oregon State just needs to get better all around. The loss to Brigham Young last week was just sad. I don't see them rebounding in Pullman. Washington State 38, Oregon State 31

Southern California (5-1, 3-1) at Notre Dame (4-2)

Notre Dame is favored by 9 points. Are you kidding me? I have no idea where that line is coming from, except perhaps a bunch of overzealous Fighting Irish fans have placed a lot of bets. But Southern California is much better than people are giving them credit for being. Matt Barkley was a little off against California last week, as was the Trojan running game. And in spite of that, I think California's defense is better than Notre Dame's. Even in South Bend, I think the Trojans take this one going away. Southern California 34, Notre Dame 24

Bye: Arizona State

The Next Best 3

#4 Wisconsin (6-0, 2-0) at #15 Michigan State (5-1, 2-0)

Irresistable force (the Wisconsin offense) meets the immovable object. (Michigan State defense) Unfortunately for the Spartans, they can't measure up on the offensive side of the ball, while Wisconsin has a defense that's pretty darned good. Wisconsin 52, Michigan State 17

#19 Auburn (5-2, 3-1) at #1 Louisiana State (7-0, 4-0)

I suppose miracles do happen in the south every day, but this year's Auburn team beating LSU, in Baton Rouge? That really would be an act of God. Louisiana State 34, Auburn 20

#6 Oklahoma State (6-0, 3-0) at Missouri (3-3, 1-2)

The Cowboys are a dangerous team, and Missouri is having a disappointing season. But the Tigers are still a capable squad. Playing at home, Missouri could put up a decent fight. I'm not going to pick the upset but the possibility is certainly there. Oklahoma State 38, Missouri 36

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