Picking the Pac: Week Seven

Stepfan Taylor (US Presswire)

Stanford will struggle to get on track against Notre Dame's surging defensive front.

Last week: 3-2 straight up, 4-1 against the spread
Season to date: 31-17 straight up, 22-20 against the spread

Thursday
Arizona State (-22) 45, Colorado 17 –
Don't expect the Sun Devils to be as generous as USC center Khaled Holmes was last week to create some early drama. Running back Cameron Marshall will get back on track against a Colorado rush defense allowing 4.5 yards per carry and eight touchdowns this season, while defensive tackle Will Sutton can feast on another dismal offensive front.

Saturday
UCLA (-8.5) 34, Utah 17 –
Utah might finally ready to turn over the starting job to dual-threat freshman Travis Wilson, but it is their defense that is suddenly staggering. Outside of the first five minutes, when defensive tackle Star Lotulelei locked up All-America honors, USC was able to impose its will on what was supposed to be the Utes' strength. Without the extra advantage of crowd noise, that won't change against a Bruins offense that was undone by opportunistic turnovers last week.

Notre Dame (-7) 21, Stanford 13 – Here comes the Irish hype! Notre Dame has gotten fat on the Big Ten and will face only two potentially dominant offenses – Oklahoma and USC – all season. Still, their front seven is very strong and can shut down Cardinal running back Stepfan Taylor, which takes away play-action for quarterback Josh Nunes. I'm not as confident Stanford can do the same after seeing Arizona roll up 48 points and 617 yards last week.

Oregon State (+5.5) 21, BYU 17 – All due respect to replacement signal-callers Riley Nelson and Cody Vaz, but I'm probably underestimating how much the defenses will dominate this non-conference clash in Provo. The Cougars haven't allowed an offensive touchdown in their last three games, while the Beavers have the best rush defense in the conference and second-best scoring defense. Still, I'm buying that Mike Riley's upbeat attitude, this stadium's proximity to In-N-Out, and an offense with an improved ground game behind Storm Woods will continue Oregon State's Cinderella start.

USC 31, Washington 20 (+13) – Lane Kiffin might not be able to cover the spread – ever, it seems – but he can make an adjustment or two. He finally founds ways to get the ball to receivers Marqise Lee and Robert Woods deep, while positioning safety T.J. McDonald closer to the line of scrimmage has led to a significant reduction in yards per play allowed. The Huskies will hang tough, but eventually Kiffin and co. will find ways to attack the porous offensive line and force quarterback Keith Price into the mistakes that allow USC to pull away.

California (-7) 31, Washington State 23 – Perhaps my faith was severely misguided, but I truly believed the Golden Bears could sweep the month of October, provided they could get past UCLA last week. Cue one 43-17 shocker, where Cal was able to better protect the quarterback and finally shut down a spread offense, I'm fully on board. The playcalling was pared down to protect Zach Maynard, while tight end Richard Rodgers (seven receptions for 129 yards) showed opponents they can no longer double or triple-team wide receiver Keenan Allen all the time.

Dan Greenspan is the publisher of Cal Sports Digest and writes about the Pac-12 for Fox Sports Next. Follow him on Twitter @DanGreenspan.

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