Canzano: Punching and picking my Week 6 winners
First, though, a boxing story.
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You’ll get my Week 6 Pac-12 football picks in this piece.
First, though, I have a quick boxing story to share…
My youngest daughter is named Sojourner. We call her “Soji.” She’s 6. As some of you know, she took up boxing last year. I still giggle when she gets in her stance, squints her nose, and shadow boxes in front of me.
On Wednesday morning, as she was demonstrating a right hook for me in the kitchen, Soji asked me a question.
She asked: “Who is your favorite boxer?”
I loved Muhammad Ali when I was a kid. He had unbelievable hands and feet. Maybe you hear “Ali” and think about Joe Frazier, Sonny Liston and George Foreman. But my favorite all-time Ali clip came from a 1977 exhibition match vs. Michael Dokes.
Ali was 35 at the time. Dokes was 19. It was an exhibition match. But there’s a sequence during the bout in which Ali retreats to a corner and rests his arms on the ropes. Dokes unleashed a flurry of 21 punches in 11 seconds.
Ali bobbed, weaved and dodged. He kept his arms on the ropes the entire time. None of the punches landed. Dokes backed off and Ali wiggled and danced. I love that clip.
Years later, Ali stopped dancing. He looked sluggish and old. The punches started landing. In Oct. 1980, I watched in horror from the carpet of my parents’ living room as Larry Holmes punished Ali in a lopsided, 10-round beatdown.
I spoke with Holmes a few years ago about that fight. Ali was his role model and mentor. He’d taken Holmes in as a sparring partner, trained him and taught him. Holmes told me that late in their fight, he found himself tied up with the defenseless Ali in a corner. Holmes leaned in and said “I’m sorry, champ. I’m so sorry” as he threw body punches.
Said Holmes: “I didn't want to hurt the guy.”
Ali died in 2016 after a 32-year battle with Parkinson’s disease. He’s become a cautionary tale. Years later, Holmes still felt terrible about the fight. I didn’t tell my daughter about all that. Maybe, I will someday. But I did answer her question.
“Who is your favorite boxer?” she asked.
Ali was great. So were Mike Tyson, Sugar Ray Robinson and Rocky Marciano. Some others, too. But as I stood there, looking at that little girl in our kitchen with her fists raised, I could only manage one answer.
She nodded and went back to throwing punches.
Week 6: Pac-12 Conference picks
I sure can pick the winners, but man I was shaky vs. the spread last week. Remind me to stick to the “money line” should you ever see me at a sports book.
Week 5 record vs. the spread: 2-4
Week 5, straight-up: 5-1
Record vs. the spread this season: 23-21
Straight-up season record: 35-9
My Week 6 picks…
Utah at UCLA (12:30 p.m., FOX)
The Utes have a date two Saturdays from now at home against USC. It would be the most-Pac-12 thing ever for Utah to lose to UCLA. But I trust coach Kyle Whittingham and quarterback Cam Rising will get it done on the road vs. the Bruins.
Chip Kelly has a fifth-year starter at QB in Dorian Thompson-Robinson. He’s the first Pac-12 QB to reach 70 TD passes since Justin Herbert. Also, UCLA is playing at home with an extra day of rest. The spread: Utah -3.5 points. Still, I’ll take the Utes to cover.
The pick: Utah 35, UCLA 28
Washington at ASU (1 p.m., Pac-12 Networks)
The Huskies got exposed last Friday night in the first half vs. UCLA. But they get a nice bounce-back game and an extra day of preparation this week. Washington hasn’t been able to consistently run the ball, but I sure like quarterback Michael Penix Jr.
The Huskies are favored by 14 points in this game. They’ll win it, but that spread feels heavy to me.
The pick: Washington 34, ASU 27
Washington State at USC (4:30 p.m., FOX)
I keep waiting for the Trojans to trip. To their credit, they continue to find ways to win. USC quarterback Caleb Williams was especially gritty last week. He took a ton of pressure and played well.
USC (5-0) is one of only two undefeated major college football programs that already have more wins this season that they did last season. The other? Kansas (5-0). The line on the WSU game opened at USC -10.5 points and has since swelled to -13. The public loves what it sees from the Trojans, but I remain a skeptic. Will the Trojans make me pay for it?
The pick: USC 31, WSU 28
Oregon at Arizona (6 p.m., Pac-12 Networks)
The Ducks have found rhythm, especially on offense. Offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham now has QB Bo Nix using his feet more effectively. The Wildcats have shown some life this season, but they’re in over their heads in this one.
The Ducks are a 13-point road favorite. I’ll take them to cover.
The pick: Oregon 42, Arizona 27
Oregon State at Stanford (8 p.m., ESPN)
The Beavers are playing well at just about every position — except QB. Coach Jonathan Smith told me Chance Nolan (neck) was limited in practice in the early part of the week and had “work to do” to get on the field. I suspect we’ll see back-up Ben Gulbranson at QB and I think a full week of practice reps with the first team make him more than serviceable vs. Stanford.
The Cardinal are a mess right now. David Shaw has lost nine straight conference games. Stanford joined the Pac-12 in 1918 and has never lost 10 consecutive conference games.
The Beavers are a 7-point favorite. I think they win the game and cover. The over/under is 56.5 points. (I like the “under” on that if anyone is asking.) I suspect OSU will run the ball and play defense in this one.
The pick: Oregon State 28, Stanford 20.
(Make your picks in the comment section below.)
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re Ali v Holmes
reporter's interview of Ali prior to the fight, provoked a great comment which would have been brilliant had Ali won.
Reporter: sic "Holmes has been your sparring partner for five years. Don't you think he has the book on your moves."
Ali: "I taught him everything he knows, I didn't teach him everything I know."
Great article John, and I agree with all of your picks…. Except one. I’m a Ducks fan, and we escaped WSU , but the Trojans won’t! WSU 35 USC 31