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Pac-12 Football Picks: Week Four

A six game slate is in store for the teams of the Pac-12 in Week Four.

NCAA Football: Pac-12 Media Day Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

A shorter schedule of games awaits the Pac-12 in Week Four, where a few conference match-ups finally hit the slate, beginning with Utah’s meeting with USC on Friday night. Week Three wasn’t too bad for the Pac-12, with Cal’s upset of Texas and UCLA’s ability to hold off BYU, both serving as highlight moments for the conference but Oregon’s self-inflicted mistakes at Nebraska remains as one of the lasting images of the week. In the prime-time, the Ducks cost themselves a chance at a huge victory. Looking ahead at Week Four, Oregon State returns to the gridiron against Boise State, fresh off the heels of their Week Three, 37-7 win over Idaho State, with the potential for a big win over the blue turf creatures from Boise. We preview that game, as well as the rest of the Pac-12 line-up below in this week’s edition of Pac-12 Football Picks.

Recap: Marcus Russell and DavidMays both picked up only one loss on the week, when California unexpectedly clipped a rising Texas team in a game that none of the contributors gave the Golden Bears a chance in. Let’s remember, this is college football. It’s best to expect the unexpected. Overall though, it was a strong week for the writers, as nobody got more than three games wrong over the course of an eleven game slate.

The_Coach had the roughest go of things, choosing three incorrect winners (Oregon, BYU, Texas), which puts him tied for third-place with Brian J. Moore now, who is coming off a 9-2 week. Robert Ingle backed up his perfect 10-0 Week Two showing with another impressive outing, as he’s picked just four games wrong all season long thus far. You can’t get much better than that.

DavidMays has re-entered the thick of things with a bounce back week and with another tough slate of games, including the beginning of some conference match-ups, things are only going to get wilder and crazier for the Pac-12. A Friday night showdown between Utah and USC kick-off a six game slate for the conference that culminates with Arizona and #9 ranked Washington dueling in the desert.

Friday, September 23rd

#24 Utah (3-0) v. USC (1-2) [9:00 PM ET, FS1]

Ingle Win Probability Calculator: Utah (60%)

Backs couldn’t be farther against the wall for USC head coach Clay Helton and his Trojans program at this point, as what once was foreseen as a promising season has fairly quickly turned into a mound of disarray. On the field, USC is a one-win football team who has been pretty readily handled by both of their adept opponents (Alabama, Stanford) and off the field, the trickle-down effect of a program in a bit of turmoil is beginning to happen. The swirling rumors that highly-touted freshman offensive lineman E.J. Price may have taken a swing at Helton during a dispute was quickly shot down by the head coach in interviews this week, but where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire in these kinds of scenarios. Add that to the already lingering allegations of sexual assault against linebacker, Osa Masina, and defensive lineman, Don Hill, who have both been suspended from the team, and the Trojans could use any sort of good news at the moment. The kind of good news that could come from a road win against the Utes. Utah will be no easy task for the Trojans as Kyle Whittingham and company have jumped out to a 3-0 start, behind one of the toughest defensive units in all of college football. Coming off a ten sack performance against San Jose State, the Utes are likely to dial up the pressure at the line of scrimmage and force an erratic USC offense to attempt to win the game through the air. So long as Utah’s offense can have a plausible outing in their own right, meaning quarterback Troy Williams must take care of the football, the Utes have a shot in this one, to hold off USC.

Marcus Russell: Utah

The_Coach: Utah

DavidMays: USC

Robert Ingle: Utah

Brian J. Moore: Utah

Saturday, September 24th

Oregon State (1-1) v. Boise State (2-0) [3:30 PM ET, FS1]

Ingle Win Probability Calculator: Boise State (68%)

The Beavers will host unbeaten Boise State in Corvallis on Saturday afternoon, a week after snapping their ten-game losing skid with a 37-7 victory over Idaho State. In the game against the Bengals, Oregon State got the ground game going, rushing for 246 yards and three scores on 41 touches, with help from Victor Bolden Jr.’s 92-yard highlight reel play. As usual, we will be previewing this one up-and-down here at Building The Dam so keep checking back around the site for all the latest updates leading upto Saturday and everything that eventually goes down on game-day.

Links For Oregon State-Boise State

Marcus Russell: Boise State

The_Coach: Boise State

DavidMays: Oregon State

Robert Ingle: Boise State

Brian J. Moore: Oregon State

Saturday, September 24th

Oregon (2-1) v. Colorado (2-1) [5:30 PM ET, PAC12]

Ingle Win Probability Calculator: Oregon (61%)

Oregon may have been their own worst enemy in their three-point loss at Nebraska, where despite scoring five touchdowns (all on the ground), the Ducks converted just one of their five two-point conversion attempts. So when Cornhuskers’ quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. scored with just under two-and-a-half minutes remaining in the game from thirty-four yards out, Nebraska took a three-point lead instead of evening the score. What a way to lose for the now-formerly ranked Ducks. Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich was quick to take the blame for the loss at Nebraska, saying that his decisions at pivotal moments in the game worked mostly incorrectly for the Ducks, but he also defended his use of two-point conversion plays, noting that Oregon’s 13 penalties for 126 yards made things pretty easy at times for Nebraska to get some second chances. All these things, he stated, would be worked on by the time they meet Colorado this Saturday. To add to the Ducks’ turmoil, left tackle Tyrell Crosby (broken foot) and wide receiver Devon Allen (torn ACL) were also both injured in the game and the diagnosis for both players is that they will not return to football activities this season. Not good news with a tough team like Colorado now in their path. The Buffs took #4 Michigan to a three-point game late into the third quarter when ultimately, the sheer talent and will of the Wolverines helped them separate from the herd a bit. Colorado will need to better establish their run game (just 64 yards on 33 carries against Michigan) but against a haphazard Oregon defense, the chances will be there for the Buffs to take. If Colorado doesn’t get too caught up in the Ducks’ tempo game and the environment in Eugene, this one might be decided on one of the last plays of the game.

Marcus Russell: Oregon

The_Coach: Colorado

DavidMays: Oregon

Robert Ingle: Oregon

Brian J. Moore: Oregon

Saturday, September 24th

UCLA (2-1) v. #7 Stanford (2-0) [8:00 PM ET, ABC]

Ingle Win Probability Calculator: Stanford (58%)

Jim Mora’s team could’ve folded after their Week One loss at Texas A&M, where in an overtime thriller, star quarterback Josh Rosen was completely outplayed by the Aggies’ Trevor Knight and the rest of the Bruins looked just a bit less cohesive than their generous preseason expectations. Almost three weeks later, it now seems like the Aggies are a distant memory to this UCLA team. They’re on a mission to stay in the hunt in the Pac-12 and make their case as one college football’s best one-loss teams. However, the road ahead just suddenly became much more dreary. Stanford looked like a team who could win with just about anything thrown at them in their seventeen point victory against USC, where do-it-all player Christian McCaffrey kept his Heisman campaign alive and well, with another batch of game-changing, electric plays. It’s not hard to see just how much of a spark plug McCaffrey is for the Cardinal and how vital to Stanford’s game-plan he tends to be, but simply stating that UCLA needs to contain the explosive star is elementary. Instead, the Bruins will need to formulate an approach that keeps the ground game in check and forces Stanford to become a more vertical team from the on-set. This should allow the Bruins to rely on their defensive backs to make critical plays and force Stanford quarterback Ryan Burns to attempt probably more passes in this game alone than he has all season long. That has to be UCLA’s strategy of attack. If the Bruins can turn the Cardinal into something that they are not, the chance for Stanford’s offense to stall-out and place too much pressure on their “bend but don’t break” defense is there. Otherwise, the Cardinal’s playmakers might be too much for a depth-challenged Bruins roster.

Marcus Russell: Stanford

The_Coach: Stanford

DavidMays: Stanford

Robert Ingle: Stanford

Brian J. Moore: Stanford

Saturday, September 24th

Arizona State (3-0) v. California (2-1) [10:00 PM ET, ESPN2]

Ingle Win Probability Calculator: Arizona State (57%)

Arizona State’s wild and crazy 2016 season continues on Saturday night in Tempe, where the somehow unbeaten Sun Devils will welcome a surging California team to town. Welcome to the Pac-12 conference schedule. The Golden Bears are coming off arguably the biggest Pac-12 victory of the year with their 50-43 victory over Texas and are looking to put their five point, Week Two loss to San Diego State far into the rearview mirror. Golden Bears’ quarterback Davis Webb has emerged into one of most dangerous offensive players in the conference, including him throwing for 396 yards and 4 touchdowns in Cal’s win over the Longhorns, as the emergence of wide receiver target Chad Hansen and the steady production of running back Vic Enwere has turned Cal’s offense into a dangerous machine. Arizona State’s defense must be ready. Head coach Todd Graham’s team has molded themselves into an excitable all-around unit in the Pac-12 but their shocking display through a large chunk of the game against UT-San Antonio raised some serious eyebrows. Which Arizona State team will show up? If the Sun Devils return to the unit that posted 112 points in their first two home games, Cal’s lackluster defense will have their hands more than full, trying to contain Arizona State’s ground-game combo of Kalen Ballage and Demario Richard. If the Sun Devils who limped through three quarters against the Roadrunners return to the fold, Cal’s stellar offense could rip apart a spotty Arizona State defense with ease.

Marcus Russell: California

The_Coach: Arizona State

DavidMays: Arizona State

Robert Ingle: Arizona State

Brian J. Moore: Arizona State

Saturday, September 24th

Arizona (2-1) v. #9 Washington (3-0) [10:30 PM ET, PAC12]

Ingle Win Probability Calculator: Washington (63%)

Critics will call Saturday night’s trip to Arizona, the first true road test for a Washington team that has trampled three mostly inferior opponents (Rutgers, Idaho, Portland State) and the first time that a now 3-0 Huskies team, will be thrown into a four-quarter dogfight. The same can’t be said for Arizona. The Wildcats fell to BYU in their season opener, before needing a mega-comeback to slip by Grambling State and then pulling away from Hawaii in Week Three. It’s been a week-by-week process for Rich Rodriguez’ team that doesn’t seem to be getting any easier. A strange problem has now emerged at Arizona with their quarterback situation as well, with Anu Solomon (the starter to begin the season) and Brandon Dawkins (the back-up who played in Solomon’s absence) both emerging as potential suitors for the full-time job. Our friends over at Arizona Desert Swarm did an awesome job of breaking down their views on the situation but it doesn’t seem like there will be just one solid option for Arizona all-season long. Not quite the case for Washington. The Huskies have arguably the best quarterback in the Pac-12 in Jake Browning, who has helped Washington’s offense post over 49 points per contest through their first three games and show absolutely no signs of slowing down at all. Our contributors seem to think the same way. All five of our writers sided with Washington, who even on the road, look to be the favorites against a largely inconsistent Arizona team.

Marcus Russell: Washington

The_Coach: Washington

DavidMays: Washington

Robert Ingle: Washington

Brian J. Moore: Washington