No real big lead in to the picks this week. I was going to write about some Ducks fans’ consternation with the Oregonian story about Chip Kelly closing practices. But what are you really going to say. The same fans that are saying, “Quit whining,” or “Chip doesn’t owe you anything,” are the ones that demand daily coverage and the ones who constantly ask how players are looking or injury statuses of others.
I’ve come to realize that college sports often evoke so much passion and emotion in some people they become incapable of cogent, coherent thoughts. Are they the exception to the rule? I sure hope so.
Either way, the goal is to provide as much information as possible for the readers, because it's what they demand. Closing practices, making players unavailable inhibits that process a little. But part of being a journalist is learning to adapt, and we all do it.
And to change up the mood, how about a little music to get your blood pumping for today’s game …
Washington State at Colorado (-3)
We’ve reached the stretch of games where the Cougars are playing for Paul Wulff’s job. Notice, I didn’t say “literally.” Quick rule to remember, any time you want to say “literally” or “ironically,” stop yourself from saying either. Why? Because most people use it wrong. Yes, I feel like the clichéd coffee house guy reading Proust, listening to Wilco or Fleet Foxes on my iMac and in desperate need of shower for saying that, but it needs to be said.
I also want to scream at that same coffee house guy – “You will never write the great American novel!”
Still, we all know Wulff needs to win six games to remain in the gainful employment of Washington State University. The Cougs need three more wins. Before the season WSU alums like my buddies at KJR – Ian Furness and Jason Puckett, Jeff Nusser over at CougCenter, Todd Milles at the TNT and Jim Moore, the ultimate Coug – all looked at this game as a win. Of course, they also assumed Jeff Tuel would be the quarterback in the game. Jeff Tuel isn’t the quarterback in this game.
Will it matter?
Marshall Lobbestael has been solid. And he’s going up against a secondary that might be more maligned than Washington’s secondary. Wide receivers Marquess Wilson, Jared Karstetter and Isaiah Barton should have plenty of open space to catch passes.
But … the Buffaloes front seven is actually pretty adept at rushing the passer and the Cougs have been pretty inept at protecting the passer during Wulff’s tenure. Sure much of it was due to L.O.F.T. (Lack of Freaking Talent) up front in years past. The Cougs are better this year, but will it be enough to stop the Buffs from turning "the Red Lobster" into fish food --- yeah, I just wrote that.
The Pick … a large part of me wants to pick the Cougs. Maybe it’s because I covered the team in 2008, and I think Karstetter is a great ambassador for college football or maybe it’s because I’m a sucker for the underdog. But I just can’t do it. I think Lobbestael is going to get hit too many times which will lead to a couple of bad turnovers. The Buffs have enough offense to capitalize on those turnovers.
If I were a betting man … I’d tease that line and push it to nine points, either way, at three points, I think the Buffaloes will cover, since they will win by six. And if the Buffs win? People will start discussing Wulff's eventual replacement next week.
Arizona at USC (-12)
At what point do people look at the Trojans’ undisciplined and uninspired play and say, “You know, it’s not the probation or the sanctions, it’s the coaching.”
Some people have been saying that for a few weeks. The Trojans just play sloppy, careless football. Is it a reflection of Lane Kiffin? Well, as the head coach, doesn’t it have to be?
Thankfully for Kiffin, the guy down at Pasadena has been such a debacle, it’s overshadowed USC’s recent failures.
As for the Wildcats, well, the stretch from hell has almost come to an end and Mike Stoops hasn’t done this ..
But I've noticed we haven't seen as many sideline shots of Stoops either.
More importantly, Nick Foles is still upright – somehow. You can say what you want about the kid – “Get a haircut!” comes to my dad's mind.
But he’s tough. He’s taken a beating this year and he still hangs in the pocket and keeps throwing, knowing he's going to get drilled. You gotta respect that.
The Pick … If this game was being played in Tucson, I’d bet Nick Holt’s substantial salary on the Wildcats. But it’s at the coliseum. The Wildcats come into this game with glassy-eyed stare of someone who’s been subjected to watching a 48 straight hours of every Real Housewives series on Bravo. USC has better talent, better balance and better depth. I’m going with the Trojans in a game that they will manage to make closer than it should be.
If I were a betting man …I’m a running a $150 three-team tease with Stanford, Arizona and the Huskies and buying this shirt …
But since that’s not what we do here, I’m still taking the 12 points. Good teams would put away an emotionally and physically beat up Arizona team and win by 20, the Trojans will win by eight.
UCLA at Stanford (-23)
This game features two teams headed in very different directions, and two quarterbacks – one that’s NFL bound and the other that’s not so much. The Cardinal is good. It’s that simple. They play physical. They play disciplined. They play hard. UCLA hopes to be like that. They want to be physical. They want to be disciplined. They want to play hard. And at times the Bruins do that. But have we seen them do it for an entire game this season? No. The win over Oregon State was nice for Rick Neuheisel. But I watched about one quarter of the replay and it was awful, awful football.
The Bruins want to run the football. It gives them their best chance to win and protects QB Richard Brehaut from himself. Stanford has the best run defense in the conference. It’s tough to run the ball when you are down a couple scores early.
The Pick … Oh come on, really? I want to find anyone that could justify picking UCLA in this game. Even Rick Neuheisel’s family wouldn’t pick the Bruins. Stanford is that much better.
If I were a betting man … I’d give the points and take Andrew Luck and Stanford. Yes it’s a lot to give and I don’t think David Shaw is quite like a few coaches whose names rhyme with Trip and Kane when it comes to running up the score on teams. And I don’t think he’ll let the side agenda of Luck winning the Heisman affect the way he coaches. Yet, the Bruins are that bad, and that wounded. The Cardinal is going to start beating up on them physically, and by the third quarter, they will be done and the rout will be on.
Oregon State at Arizona State (-17.5)
Mike Riley is one of the best guys in the Pac 12 to deal with. He tries to answer every question as best he can. He isn’t condescending like some. He’s genuinely a pretty amiable person. It’s why it is difficult to see how absolutely bad his team has become this year.
The Beavers aren’t 2008 Huskies or Cougs bad, but they are not good. Injuries, indecision about the quarterback and the departure of Quizz Rodgers did not help at all. Of course, it seems likely they will get better. Riley’s teams usually do get better as the season goes on. And with redshirt freshman quarterback Sean Mannion finally getting Joe Halahuni and James Rodgers back, they will improve offensively.
Of course, OSU has still been beset by injuries. Running back Malcolm Agnew still won’t be ready for today. I think Mannion will be a decent Pac 12 quarterback eventually, but a young quarterback with all of two starts, facing this …
Yeah, let’s see how that works out.
The Pick … This used to be the kind of game that the Beavers would win. Facing an emotionally and mentally erratic team like the Sun Devils, who are fresh off a big win, would be a recipe for Riley and Co., to pull off the stunner. But this ASU team is a little too talented to let that happen. The Devils will win and Mannion will feel like Vontaze ruptured his spleen after a few hits.
If I were a betting man … It’s a lot of points to give. I think it’s too much. ASU’s tendency to commit dumb penalties, and the let down of last week’s emotional win against USC will keep OSU in the game, and won’t allow the Devils to cover the spread.