Welcome to my second monthly recap of my 2015 “Picking the Winners” Pac-12 preview (which has appeared annually on USCFootball.com for the past decade or so). My first recap, on Sept. 30, covered September’s results. And I’ll take a complete look back in a post-season, pre-bowl overview in December. If you missed my picks in the feature story, here’s the link:
15th Annual ‘Picking the Winners’ Pac-12 Preview
My October mark of 17-9, upped my overall record for the season to 49-18 (.731). Arizona‘s struggles and USC‘s upheaval (and Washington taking advantage of both), along with Washington State‘s emergence were my main nemeses. Let’s see how things shook out — my best picks, my worst picks, and how my preseason expectations for each team compared with the month’s reality.
- Oregon over Colorado (picked 54-24; actual 41-24)
- UCLA over Arizona State, 30-28 (actual: Arizona State 38, UCLA 23)
As we moved more completely into the conference season, the realities of this year’s teams start to really shake out vs. the expectations we were all working with before the season. So, though I picked three of four games correctly on the week of October 3, the closest I got to an actual score/margin was Oregon‘s 17-point win at Colorado — and even that score is affected by the Ducks’ struggles and Colorado’s improvement. In my other wins, I had Stanford beating Arizona by 17 (the Cardinal won by 38) and California by three TDs over Washington State (the six-point margin looked much less confusing by the end of October).
And, let’s be honest: that worst pick, my only loss on the week, was maybe more shocking after what led up to UCLA‘s match-up with Arizona State in Pasadena than it seemed before the season began. The Bruins were riding high at 4-0, and the Devils, at 2-2, were coming off a whipping in Tempe at the hands of USC. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
- Utah over California (picked 38-31; actual 30-24)
- Arizona over Oregon State (picked 45-17 actual 44-7)
- Arizona State over Colorado (picked 42-27; actual 48-23)
- Oregon over Washington State, 57-20 (actual: Washington State 45, Oregon 38 — 2OT)
- USC over Washington, 44-24 (actual: Washington 17, USC 12)
This was a very Jekyll-and-Hyde week for me, as my three wins were all actually pretty solid picks in relation to final score and/or margin — led clearly by my choice of Utah in a tight home victory over Cal.
However, those two bad picks were on the “wow” level, as Oregon‘s early season slide merged with Washington State‘s continuing emergence in Eugene. Meanwhile, in one of the worst football games I’ve ever seen in person, a so-so Washington team outlasted seemingly disinterested USC on a Thursday night in L.A. Of course, with the upheaval in the USC program that came just days later, the Trojans’ performance seems less odd in retrospect.
- Washington State over Oregon State (picked 35-27; actual 52-31)
- Stanford over UCLA (picked 34-24; actual 56-35)
- Arizona State over Utah, 33-27 (actual: Utah 34, Arizona State 18)
- USC over Notre Dame, 38-28 (actual: Notre Dame 41, USC 31)
My worst week of the year so far (3-3) really showcased the changing realities in the 2015 season mentioned earlier. Washington State? Better than expected. Utah? Way up! Arizona State? Down. USC? In turmoil. Colorado? Not quite ready to pull the big upset. Stanford? Turning into a playoff contender. UCLA? Injuries destroying its defense.
- UCLA over California (picked 41-24; actual 40-24)
- USC over Utah (picked 27-13; actual 42-24)
- Stanford over Washington (picked 37-7; actual 31-14)
- Arizona over Washington State, 40-20 (actual: Washington State, Arizona 42)
Man, soooooo close on that UCLA–Cal pick! Getting so close on that one was a positive precursor to one of the better 3-2 weeks you can have. I had USC over Utah by 14 in preseason — and Utah over USC by 15 in my weekly preview for USCFootball.com. The Trojans, though, rose from their apparent collective grave to whip the stunned Utes and the final margin landed awfully close to my initial call. On the other end of the spectrum, Mike Leach’s Washington State club pulled off its latest road shocker, this time in Tucson — blowing my preseason choice right out of the water like a cannon-shot to a pirate ship.
- Utah over Oregon State (picked 33-17; actual 27-12)
- USC over California (picked 42-34; actual 27-21)
- Arizona over Washington, 38-28 (actual: Washington 49, Arizona 3)
My best week of October was its final week, as I correctly picked five out of six outcomes. And, by margin of victory, I had two of my best choices of the season: Utah over Oregon State by 16 (final margin: 15) and USC over California by eight (final margin: six).
However, Washington really gave me my money’s worth out of that single loss: a 56-point swing from pick to reality, as the Huskies had their best performance of 2015 against a floundering Arizona club.
October Expectations vs. Reality
With nine incorrect picks, once again there’s plenty of shakeup when looking at my expectations for each squad vs. the reality. Let’s start from the Pacific Northwest and head down the coast before curling back inland.
- Washington (picked 0-4, 0-4 in Pac-12; reality 2-2, 2-2): The Huskies scored two unexpected victories over expected South Division contenders USC and Arizona.
- Washington State (picked 1-4, 1-4 in Pac-12; reality 3-2, 3-2): Only a late Stanford comeback kept the resurgent Cougars from winning four of five in October.
- Oregon State (picked 1-3, 1-3 in Pac-12; reality 0-4, 0-4): My only miss on Oregon State so far this season: picking them to beat Colorado at home. Instead, the Buffs broke a 14-game conference losing streak and a 13-game conference road losing streak.
- Oregon (picked 4-0, 4-0 in Pac-12; reality 3-1, 3-1): Another victim of surprising Washington State. The Ducks finished the month with a dramatic OT win at Arizona State. Can they ride the momentum from that through season’s end?
- California (picked 1-3, 1-3 in Pac-12; reality 1-3, 1-3): I called for an October downturn for the Bears — and got all four of their games correct. My only mistake on Cal’s schedule remains picking a loss in its eventual one-point win at Texas.
- Stanford (picked 4-0, 4-0 in Pac-12; reality 4-0, 4-0): Nailed it!
- UCLA (picked 3-1, 3-1 in Pac-12; reality 2-2, 2-2): That ASU loss really was a stunner, even with the Bruins’ injury problems.
- USC (picked 4-0, 3-0 in Pac-12; reality 2-2, 2-1 ): With the Sark episode mixed into the middle of one of the toughest stretches in USC’s schedule (@ Notre Dame, Utah, @ Cal), it’s no shock that the Trojans suffered a couple of unexpected losses. While there’s no shame losing in South Bend, Sark’s last game — the loss to Washington — was brutal.
- Arizona State (picked 2-2, 2-2 in Pac-12; reality 2-2, 2-2): Always fun to see the pick match the reality, isn’t it? No, it’s not. ASU’s stunner over UCLA was the hiccup, and by the time it rolled around, the Devils loss at Utah wasn’t much of a shock.
- Arizona (picked 3-2, 3-2 in Pac-12; reality 2-3, 2-3): While I wasn’t exactly a buyer of the idea that Arizona would, once again, challenge for the South Division crown (see my preseason pick of Colorado over the Wildcats), I really didn’t expect them to fall to both of the Washington schools.
- Utah (picked 2-2, 2-2 in Pac-12; reality 3-1, 3-1): Without USC’s win over the Utes, I’d have really struggled with my Utah picks this month!
- Colorado (picked 1-4, 1-4 in Pac-12; reality 1-4, 1-4): Like ASU, the matching results reflect a pair of misses. That will happen when you try to hand-pick the right “upset” (in this case, over Arizona — which didn’t happen) for a team that’s struggled for years.
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