The Hotline described Oregon-Stanford as the game that could have been … or never was … or however you’d like to classify what would have been an enticing matchup rendered less so in the wake of Justin Herbert’s injury.
But in a general sense, we’ve seen it before.
The 2013 showdown between the then-North powers was framed by an injured Oregon quarterback and an unstoppable Stanford running back, albeit both matters were packaged differently than what we see this week.
Back then, the injury was to Marcus Mariota’s knee, and it greatly limited his mobility.
The Stanford running back was Tyler Gaffney, who rushed for 157 yards — a total well within range Saturday for Bryce Love.
(Gaffney also had 45 carries, which is not in Love’s range.)
That game ended with a modest final score: Stanford 26, Oregon 20 — one of only two times in the past dozen meetings that the winner did not produce at least 35 points.
I expect a similar situation Saturday.
In general, it’s an odd weekend in the Pac-12 from a point-spread standpoint:
* Five of the six games featuring a double-digit favorite.
* Three of those double-digit favorites are the road team.
* The biggest underdog is at home, coming off a bye.
That sets us up for a few upsets and/or wild finishes. There’s always one weekend of pure chaos. Maybe this is it.
Last week: 1-4
Five-star special: 3-3
All picks against the spread.
Lines taken from vegasinsider.com
Washington State (minus-15) at Cal (Friday): Tough assignment for the Cougars the way Friday night road games coming off Saturday road games are tough for any team, anytime. Add the potential for a post-USC/Oregon letdown and for Cal’s defense to make things difficult … and the number seems high. Pick: Cal.
Colorado (minus-10) at Oregon State: OSU should feel refreshed following the coaching change, while Colorado should be desperate — desperate to avoid the fallout that will come with a loss. Close throughout, but Steven Montez and Phillip Lindsay make just enough plays in the late stages. Pick: Oregon State.
Utah (plus-13) at USC: Not sure what the Trojans have done recently to warrant the two-touchdown spread against one of the most physical defenses in the conference. Utah will have trouble reaching 20, for sure. But can the Trojans gets to 30? Skeptical. Pick: Utah.
UCLA (minus-2) at Arizona: Has the potential to be the best game of the weekend, with Josh Rosen’s aerial game carving up the spotty Arizona defense and Khalil Tate’s legs baffling the Bruins’ soft run defense. The be helps UCLA, but not as much as the home crowd and win last week help the Wildcats. Pick: Arizona
Washington (minus-17.5) at Arizona State: Somewhere, the Huskies will have an unexpectedly close game. Why not this week, on the road against a team coming off a bye that has a handful of high-end playmakers. Ultimately, UW will take control at the line of scrimmage. But by then, it will be too late to get to 17.5. Pick: Arizona State.
Oregon (plus-10) at Stanford: Oregon’s offense will be more effective than it was against Washington State, partly because Braxton Burmeister has worked through the first-start jitters — assuming he starts, of course — and partly because big-play receiver Charles Nelson is expected back from injury. Combined with a solid effort by the Duck defense, and the visitors keep it reasonably close throughout. Pick: Oregon.
Straight-up winners: Washington State, Colorado, USC, Arizona, Stanford and Washington.
Five-star special: Utah. That defense plus Kyle Whittingham plus 13 points? Hard to resist, even in the Coliseum.
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