As always, there are plenty of intriguing match-ups. Perhaps the best is the lead off game this weekend.
USC @ Washington State
There will be plenty of talk about offense - it is the Pac-12 after all - and in this case it mjight be rightly so. Obviously Mike Leach's offense puts up a lot of yards and points. But he is really starting to get to where he was at Texas Tech.
Early in his Cougar tenure, he was all pass, no run. It's not that he did not want to run, he just did not have the hogs on the line or the work horses in the backfield. Now that he does, he has really begin to turn it around. Not only that, his defense is really, really good. Alex Grinch has done a fantastic job turning average players into standouts and he is sure to start getting some head coach looks.
USC has all the talent int he world. I liked Sam Darnold out of high school and saw him as 'the one that got away' for Oregon coaches. The rest of the offense is just as good. Stephen Carr will be an All-American and potential first round pick. Deontay Burnett is great. The USC defense is another all-star lineup. But USC has been somewhat udnerwhelming early. Maybe they are still trying to find their groove.
I just like the home team here to pull the upset.
WSU 35-USC 31
ASU @ Stanford
The Cardinal got the monkey off of their back last week with a big second half against UCLA. ASU had perhaps their 'best' game of the early season and it took a lot of help to win. The replacement of Keller Chryst is probably the best thing that will happen to Stanford football this year.
Like always, the Stanford defense is physical, just not quite the same calibner as they have been in the past. With a talented ASU offense coming to town, I expect the Sun Devils to present some problems for Stanford, but nowhere near enough to pull off the upset. Bryce Love will run all over that defense and the Cardinal will win easily at home.
Stanford 45 - ASU 31
Colorado @ UCLA
I thought Colorado would play better a week ago - they did not. The Buffs played out of their mind a season ago until the Pac-12 title game. this year they have the best WR group in the conference - but seem to have some of the same issues as a year ago. Not a lot of depth, and the departures from teh defensive staff have really hurt. I like Mike MacIntyre and think he is the right coach there.
UCLA is a hot mess. if not for Josh Rosen, they would be the second worst team in the conference. They can score points, but it would appear that they will have trouble stopping anyone.
I like the Colorado running game better, and the wide receiver group better. Clearly Colorado has the better defense so I go with the visiting squad here in a slight upset.
Colorado 38 - UCLA 35
Washington @ Oregon State
Do I really need to say anything here? The worst thing that could have happened to Oregon State was beating Oregon at the end of 2016. Their offense is worse; their defense is worse, and the best team in the conference is making the trip and bringing practically all of Seattle with them.
Washington 58 - Oregon State 10
Cal @ Oregon
Obviously this is a big game for both teams - and for very different reasons.
I previewed this game for Duck Sports Authority briefly, but let me give some thoughts here. Oregon struggled last week in their ability to be prepared for two road games in a row. I think it is not a coincidence that the team started classes and that the rigors of playing a Pac-12 team set in a little bit harsher than expected.
The offense showed that they can move the ball, but Justin Herbert struggled some with misreads on pre-snap and made some poor decisions early in the game. The team made fantastic strides to take a fourth quarter lead, but youth and a lack of discipline really caused some problems. I like them to rebound some this week with fewer mistakes.
Cal, though, is bringing in former Duck Justin Wilcox and former Duck OL coach Steve Greatwood. One thing I know for sure - they want this win as as they will want any win the rest of the season. Greatwood is not happy about the manner in which the prior staff was treated and Wilcox wants to prove his position. This will be a game more physical than expected and weather may play some role.
I like the Oregon running game a lot more - Cal has Patrick Laird and Oregon has Royce Freeman. That is a big advantage for the Ducks. Oregon will be missing one of its most dynamic playmakers with Charles Nelson likely to miss another game while Cal sees their best athlete Demetris Robertson return.
But I think the Ducks have more playmakers, a bit more diversity and a defense that is better than a year ago playing with fire. I have the Ducks here in a hard fought, physical battle. my pick was Oregon 35-27; but it could be even lower scoring. I still like the Ducks at home in this one either way.