Canzano: Pac-12 title contenders ride against traffic
My Week 8 picks...
I grew up a little bit rural. It was two miles from my parents doorstep to the nearest stoplight. I’d ride my bicycle into town on a two-lane highway as a kid. The shoulder of the road and bike lane were especially narrow. When cars whizzed past at 45-55 miles an hour I could feel a gust of air, just off the tip of my elbow.
At age 12, I deduced that if I were going to be run over I’d rather see the vehicle coming. From then on, I rode my bike against traffic, on the wrong side of the road.
One day, a car traveling the same direction passed me, then pulled over. As I pedaled past, the driver rolled his window down and tried to explain to me why it was safer for me to ride with traffic vs. against.
He pointed out that drivers wouldn’t be looking for me on the wrong side of the road. I was breaking the law, he said. Also he explained the physics of getting struck from behind vs. head-on. I was far better off, he reasoned, to ride with traffic.
He made sense.
I nodded and waved.
Then, I pedaled off, and continued riding on the wrong side of the road. It’s not that I didn’t believe the guy. I just felt much safer being able to see the approaching cars on that dangerous road. And I feel the same way about the Pac-12 Conference championship football game I see approaching in the distance.
Eyes up, folks.
Lots of traffic coming and the road is narrowing.
I sorted through the Pac-12 tiebreakers earlier this week. Look for yourself if you’d like. The tiebreakers make total sense, just like the rules of the road. But at this point, I feel far better off eyeballing the teams on the field because I don’t yet trust that poring over the tiebreaker possibilities is helpful.
The winner of Saturday’s Oregon-UCLA game will assume pole position in the race to Las Vegas for the Dec. 2 title game. That’s huge. Meanwhile, USC and Utah are lurking. Also, Oregon State and four other conference teams with two losses in the Pac-12 are still in play. The next month is going to be a lot of fun.
My Week 7 record vs. the spread: 4-1
Week 7 record, straight-up: 3-2
Record vs. the spread this season: 29-25
Straight-up season record: 40-14
My Week 8 picks…
UCLA at Oregon (12:30 p.m., FOX)
The home field matters big-time in college football. Home favorites in the Pac-12 have a 30-1 record this season. They also cover the point spread a whopping 71 percent (22-9) of the time.
Oregon has a strong home-field advantage and the most balanced team in the conference. This is UO’s second chance to make a first impression. The first one (a 49-3 loss to Georgia in Week 1) didn’t go well. I suspect Dan Lanning’s team will be locked in. I have a lot of respect for what Chip Kelly has done this season, but I’ll take the Ducks at Autzen Stadium.
The spread: Oregon favored by 6 points.
My pick: Oregon 38, UCLA 31
ASU at Stanford (1 p.m., Pac-12 Network)
Stanford went on the road last Saturday to beat Notre Dame. Still, ASU feels like a bad matchup for the Cardinal. This is my upset pick of the week. I’m going against the home-field trend mentioned above. Feel free to mock me if I’m wrong, but I think Arizona State gets a road win here.
The spread: Stanford favored by 3 points.
The pick: ASU 31, Stanford 30
Colorado at Oregon State (5 p.m., Pac-12 Network)
The Buffaloes presented problems for Cal last week and won their first game of the season, in part because they ran a new defensive scheme. Oregon State won’t be fooled and is very good at home. The Beavers are 8-1 in their last nine games at Reser Stadium. The only loss? A three-point defeat to USC.
Oregon State will start QB Ben Gulbranson for the third straight week. I expect this could be his break-out game. OSU’s offense isn’t built to score a bunch of points, but I think it moves the ball just fine this week. Also, I won’t be surprised if the Beavers score a TD on defense.
The spread: Oregon State favored by 24 points.
The pick: OSU 34, Colorado 7
Washington at Cal (7:30 p.m., ESPN)
I don’t know what to do with Cal this season. The Bears are a mystery… wrapped in an enigma… wrapped in questions. The Huskies haven’t been good on defense, but Cal feels like a perfect matchup.
Washington has the best passing offense in the conference. It won’t be stopped this week. Cal should be able to hang around in this game, a little, but unless UW turns the ball over several times, I don’t see the Bears winning.
The spread: Washington favored by 7.5 points.
The pick: Washington 34, Cal 24
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