Out of the Pac

Coming in to this week on a 17 for 20 tally for the weekly picks, overconfidence was a concern. It bit only once, however… so the current run is now at 21 for 25. As we look ahead to Rivalry Weekend, just three games will be played on this Saturday as Arizona/Arizona State will take a week off before their match-up after the Thanksgiving holiday, and the USC/UCLA contest has been shifted to December 4.

California will also play on December 4, making up their game at Southern Mississippi that was cancelled early in the season by hurricane Ivan. Those discussions will be included below as well, rather than do a separate Out of the Pac for the single conference games of those two weekends. Before shifting our focus to basketball, let me remind you to look for the season recap edition of Out of the Pac after the bowl match-ups have been determined in early December. Our review of last weeks' slate:

Oregon State 24 – Stanford 19 (Pick: OSU 21-13)

The Beavers jumped out to a 21-3 lead then held on for the victory in Palo Alto. Telling statistic of the game: Rushing – OSU 38 attempts for 40 yards, Stanford 21 attempts for 6 yards.

Though anything but an authoritative statement about their team, it was a good win for the Orange and Black, getting their record to .500 and setting the stage for the Civil War and a possible bowl bid.

USC 49 – Arizona 9 (Pick: USC 55-6)

The most frustrating element of the reemergence of USC is that just when you get yourself a nice little one game-winning streak going in the conference, along come the Trojans to ruin the momentum.

California 42 – Washington 12 (Pick: Cal 48-6)

California head coach Jeff Tedford's audition for his next employer? That was the story line all week in Seattle leading up to this game. Based on the score of this game, and the records of the two schools (Cal, 8-1, UW 1-9), it would appear a potent something has been slipped into the lattes of the local media. Rebuilding is not the operative word with regard to the Huskies – this is a coaching black hole right now. Lambright, Neuheisal, and now Gilbertson – all highly regarded coaches in their own way – haven't been able to keep the program above water. There is more wrong on Montlake than meets the eye, whatever the money, facilities, etc, that can be offered to any potential "savior". You can only save yourself, my son… and the Huskies don't seem to understand that right now.

UCLA 34 – Oregon 26 (Pick: Oregon 31-13)

This was a costly loss for the Ducks, possibly a watershed game for Karl Dorrel and his Bruins. Bowl eligibility was on the line, and UCLA came away with the coveted sixth win of the season. More importantly perhaps, for the first time in several years, the Bruins demonstrated some grit and resolve in a late season game, and came away with a victory they weren't expected to receive. Such a turn of events can pay dividends over the coming seasons as confidence and sense of purpose can be a tangible reward for such a victory.

It is possible they gained enough confidence and sense of purpose to defeat USC on December 4 in the Rose Bowl. Not likely, though the game just got a WHOLE lot more interesting.

Arizona State 45 – Washington State 28 (Pick: ASU 28-23)

Too much Andrew Walter; 5 touchdown passes for the senior ASU quarterback. Barring a misstep by California in either of their remaining two games (Stanford, Southern Mississippi) the win by the Sun Devils also gives them a slot in the Holiday Bowl.

After struggling last season in the face of a fair measure of pre-season expectations, this Arizona State team stepped up to the task. A solid football team who should represent the conference well in post-season play.

And for the Rivalry picks:

Stanford @ California

Not much of a "Big Game" I'm afraid. California has all the tools, and is a very focused team. Stanford can't run the ball at all, and has difficulty sustaining any offense. The Cardinal defense at times has been resolute – but they will not be able to contain Aaron Rodgers and the California offense. A close game may help Stanford Coach Buddy Teevans retain his job. It won't be close – Cal 45-10 - and the Stanford administration will be faced with that difficult decision.

Oregon @ Oregon State

The home team has won this rivalry every year since 1996. This year should be different. Based solely on Oregon State's inability to run the football, their task in Reser Stadium this Saturday is vain. The Ducks run the ball reasonably well, and the balance to their offense will keep the Beavers from controlling the game. Defensively, Oregon will have to respect the run but likely will be able to pressure OSU quarterback Derek Anderson throughout the game. The lack of a running game will also allow the Ducks the luxury of a double team on Beaver receiver Mike Hass as well as TE Joe Newton. The score won't be as close as the records of these two teams. Oregon 31-21.

Washington @ Washington State

Don't kick a dawg while it's down is usually good advice. It is doubtful the Cougars will pay much heed. Several times in the past few years, Washington State has had the upper hand in the standings coming into the Apple Cup, only to have the Huskies upset the cart by pulling off an upset. So regularly has this sequence played out, a new word has appeared in the Northwest regional dialect – "Coug'd it" – describing the propensity of the Crimson and Grey to shoot themselves in the foot when playing their cross-state rival. There will be no "Coug'ing it" this year… Wazzo 28-12.

Arizona State @ Arizona (Nov. 26)

This contest will be about as appealing as a fourth day of Thanksgiving leftovers. Clever sportscasters and local beat sportswriters may try to build this one up, offering the usual "playing for pride" or a "chance to make a statement in your home state" sort of gibberish, but the truth of the matter is Arizona State is a pretty good football team, Arizona is not, and that isn't going to change between now and then. Sun Devils 45-17.

USC @ UCLA (Dec. 4)

A three-week layoff is can be a blessing or a curse. In this case it is neither, it only delays the inevitable. USC has an uncanny ability to show up on game day and play to whatever level is necessary to win the contest. Compared to previous seasons, UCLA is much improved in their determination and tenacity, the Bruins aren't likely to roll over and die as they have for the Trojans the past few years. Nevertheless, USC has too many weapons offensively and will respond – as they have done all season – appropriately to any challenge presented by the cross-town rival. SC 35-17 and on to the Orange Bowl.

California @ Southern Mississippi (Dec. 4)

Hattiesburg can be a dangerous place to schedule a football game, and had this game been played when originally scheduled in early September, perhaps the home team could have sprung a surprise on the visitors. The postponement eliminated that possibility as by the end of the season California has grown fully into their potential. With a probable Rose Bowl berth on the line, it would be very surprising to have them not live up to expectations. Due to inactivity after the games of November 20, this could be a closer game than it otherwise would be, but the Golden Bears prevail 35-23.

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