Dec 24

Final Review: Pac-12 Picking the Winners Recap

Not only was 2012 a rough year for my USC Trojans, but it also proved to be my worst season ever in the dozen I’ve been writing my Annual Picking the Winners Pac-12 Preview. My final record of 59-32 (.648) fell just below my final marks in 2002 (55-25, .688) and 2006 (51-25, .671). While the Trojans certainly played a pivotal role in my 2012 downturn, other surprises also hampered my efforts: other disappointments included Cal (picked at 7-5; finished 3-9) and Utah (picked at 9-3; finished 5-7), while surprises included UCLA (picked at 6-6; finished 9-4) and Oregon State (picked at 3-9; finished 9-3). Here’s a quick look back on the final weeks of Pac-12 action, centered around my preview, which appeared prior to the season on

Click here to recap my initial picks: Stanford Powers Its Way to Surprising Conference Crown

Week 10

UCLA's Johnathan Franklin continued his great 2012 campaign in the Bruins' destruction of Arizona

UCLA’s Johnathan Franklin continued his great 2012 campaign in the Bruins’ destruction of Arizona

Oregon State over Arizona State, 36-26 (picked at 16-10); Stanford over Colorado, 48-0 (picked at 41-23); UCLA over Arizona, 66-10 (picked at 23-13); Utah over Washington State, 49-6 (picked at 34-30):  Incredibly, I got an Oregon State pick right for one of the few times in 2012! In my other three wins, only Stanford’s walloping of Colorado was remotely close to my preseason pick, while UCLA and Utah put up surprisingly easy wins. The Bruins’ devastation of Arizona was incredibly complete and — at season’s end — was a signpost for a UCLA program that looks on the verge of becoming a more consistent presence in the conference race.

My two losses — Oregon’s 62-51 track-meet win at USC and Washington’s Friday night win at reeling Cal — were not overly surprising at this point. The Ducks were peaking heading into the Coliseum, while the Trojans were filled with self-doubt after their embarrassing loss at Arizona the week before, while the Bears, by this time, were well on their way to Coach Jeff Tedford’s eventual firing.

Week 11

Keith Price's 2012 regression didn't include this TD run vs. Utah.

Keith Price’s 2012 regression didn’t include this TD run vs. Utah.

Arizona over Colorado, 56-31 (picked at 38-17); USC over Arizona State, 38-17 (picked at 43-10); Oregon over California, 59-17 (picked at 31-24); Stanford over Oregon State, 27-23 (picked at 37-7); Washington over Utah, 34-15 (picked at 34-21): While three of the weeks winning picks were reasonable facsimiles of the final outcomes (Arizona, USC and Washington), Oregon came on in the second half — as usual — to blow away Cal and Mike Riley’s impressive 2012 Beaver squad came oh-so-close to winning at Stanford and putting themselves in position to play for a Pac-12 North title.

My only loss this week was — again — predictable by the time the game rolled around, as UCLA trounced Washington State in a not-as-close-as-the-score 44-36 win. I, like many, got a little wrapped up before the season in the idea that Mike Leach could turn Wazzu into a weekly threat much more quickly than it appears he will be able to.

Week 12

The Cardinal's OT upset in Eugene not only changed the Pac-12 dynamics, but the BCS title chase, as well.

The Cardinal’s OT upset in Eugene not only changed Pac-12 dynamics, but the BCS title chase, as well.

Arizona State over Washington State, 46-7 (picked at 31-27), Washington over Colorado, 38-3 (picked at 38-21): It was an unimpressive week, what can I say?

My 2-4 record for the week included USC’s first loss to UCLA in six years, 38-28 in Pasadena. Not only did the Trojans embarrass themselves in defeat, but the game may have also marked the final college snap for QB Matt Barkley, whose shoulder injury kept him out of the following week’s loss to Notre Dame (spoiler alert!) and has him questionable for next week’s Sun Bowl game against Georgia Tech. While Oregon State’s 62-14 whipping of Cal and Arizona’s 34-24 win over Utah counted as losses on my resume, neither was a shock at the time. What was a shock? The Stanford defense absolutely owning Oregon’s heretofore unstoppable offense in a 17-14 overtime win in Eugene — for all intents and purposes ending the Ducks’ three-year run atop the conference.

Weeks 13-14

Notre Dame finished an unexpected undefeated regular season against USC on Nov. 24.

Notre Dame finished an unexpected undefeated regular season against USC on Nov. 24.

Utah over Colorado, 42-35 (picked at 30-16); Stanford over UCLA, 35-17 (picked at 30-24), Nov. 24; Oregon over Oregon State, 48-24 (picked at 44-24); Oregon State over Nicholls State, 77-3 (picked at 45-10), Dec. 1 makeup of postponed Sept. 1 game: While the Beavers had a great season, they still don’t have the athleticism to match up with a Chip Kelly-coached Duck team. They did, however, get an opportunity to celebrate a good season by getting a makeup date with Nicholls State following that Civil War loss — and their celebration ended up with a 77-point performance. The Cardinal whipped UCLA in Pasadena in a game that most believe the Bruins didn’t go full speed in, between a little bit of a hangover after their win against USC and the logic of not wanting to travel to Eugene again for the Pac-12 title game.

Of course, when UCLA put up a much better performance the following week at Stanford in a heartbreaking 27-24 loss in that championship battle, many felt those beliefs confirmed. I’m counting the Pac-12 championship among my losses as — like most — I had a USC-Oregon tilt penciled in there before the season. Other losses in the final week of the regular season included the Trojans’ incredibly predictable home loss to No. 1 Notre Dame, Arizona State’s wholly unpredictable come-fr0m-behind win in Tucson to snag the Territorial Cup from Arizona, and Washington’s unforgivable fourth quarter/OT choke job in the Apple Cup in Pullman.

Here are the final Pac-12 standings with my preseason predictions in parentheses:

Pac-12 North

Stanford 11-2, 8-1 (10-2,7-2)

Oregon 11-1, 8-1 (11-1, 8-1)

Oregon State 9-3, 6-3 (3-9, 2-7)

Washington 7-5, 5-4 (7-5, 5-4)

California 3-9, 2-7 (7-5, 5-4)

Washington State 3-9, 1-8 (4-8, 2-7)

Pac-12 South

UCLA 9-4, 6-3 (6-6, 4-5)

USC 7-5, 5-4 (13-0, 9-0)

Arizona State 7-5, 5-4 (5-7, 3-6)

Arizona 7-5, 4-5 (5-7, 3-6)

Utah 5-7, 3-6 (9-3, 6-3)

Colorado 1-11, 1-8 (3-9, 0-9)


Oct 31

Weeks 7-9 Review: Pac-12 Picking the Winners Recap

As we turn the corner into the 2012 regular season’s home stretch, there is still much to be decided on the college football landscape. However, in the Pac-12, there are clear surprises (Oregon State, UCLA and, to a lesser extent, Arizona – especially after its upset of USC last Saturday) and disappointments (the aforementioned Trojans, Cal and – even with their home upsets of Stanford and the Beavers – Washington). Here’s a quick look back on the past three weeks of Pac-12 action, centered around my 12th Annual Picking the Winners Pac-12 preview, which appeared prior to the season on To recap my initial picks:

Oregon Takes Charge in the North, While the South is a Free-for-All

I logged an 11-6 overall mark during this three-week period, suffering a pair of losses in each week – thanks mainly to those surprise teams I mentioned above. Let’s take a look back.

Week 7

Not a touchdown. Thanks for everything, Pac-12 refs!

USC over Washington, 24-14 (picked at 37-23); Arizona State over Colorado, 51-17 (picked at 31-14); UCLA over Utah, 21-14 (picked at 23-21); California over Washington State, 31-17 (picked at 35-24): While it was nice to come within five points of my originally picked spread on three of my four wins, I felt that a couple of those scores were a bit misleading. USC was capable of trampling Washington, only to go uber-conservative in the second half and hold off the Huskies. Meanwhile, prior to the season, my UCLA selection felt more like an upset pick. By the time the game rolled around, the Bruins’ seven-point victory was surprising only in that they didn’t steamroll a struggling Utah team giving a freshman his first start at QB.

Meanwhile, my two losses were attributable to two of the college football season’s biggest surprises. Oregon State’s whipping of BYU, 42-24, came with reserve quarterback Cody Vaz at the helm in Provo after Sean Mannion went down with an injury the previous week. Meanwhile, Notre Dame’s 20-13 overtime win against Stanford – while tainted by a shockingly bad no-TD ruling on Stanford’s fourth-down play at the goal line in overtime (called by Pac-12 officials – I know, you’re stunned to hear it) – served notice that the Irish may stick around in the BCS for a while. That notice was confirmed by ND’s impressive win at Oklahoma this past Saturday.

Week 8

There was a lot of this in the Oregon-ASU game on Oct. 18

Stanford over California, 21-3 (picked at 28-24); USC over Colorado, 50-6 (picked at 45-10); Oregon over Arizona State, 43-21 (picked at 38-27): None of my three wins on the weekend of Oct. 20 truly shocked anyone. I mean, sure, Stanford’s physical dominance over Bay Area rival Cal was a minor surprise. And USC’s offense finally broke out a bit against a horrific Colorado defense. However, Oregon’s first-half domination at Arizona State – in the Ducks’ first real road game of the season – was the thing that surprised most people. ASU was simply overwhelmed by UO from the get-go and crumbled in a series of offensive mistakes when trying desperately to keep up. I’d like to thank Chip Kelly for taking his foot off the gas and allowing the score to more closely resemble my preseason call more than it should have.

On the other side of the ledger, a meeting between possibly my biggest surprise team and my biggest disappointment went accordingly, with Oregon State thumping Utah, 21-7, in Corvallis. Without specifically looking at the results, I’d guess these two teams may have combined for more of my losing picks this year than any other pair. Of course, the Huskies have also been a bit of a disappointment, and that continued as UW was absolutely hammered, 52-17, by Arizona in Tucson.

Week 9

The fact that this photo could even be taken is an indictment of USC’s preparation to play in Tucson on Oct. 27.

Oregon over Colorado, 70-14 (picked at 63-14); Stanford over Washington State, 24-17 (picked at 35-20); Utah over California, 49-27 (picked at 30-17); Washington over Oregon State, 20-17 (picked at 41-14): Again, kudos to Chip Kelly for laying off the hapless Buffs in the second half (Oregon led 56-0 at halftime) to nearly mirror my preseason prediction! I don’t know if I’ve ever come so close to nailing the scores of blowouts so often as I have in 2012 – and, trust me, getting close when picking an obvious blowout is much harder in the preseason than nearly nailing what many expect to be a close game. Utah finally came through for me this week, with the help of perennial disappointment Cal. When will the Bears finally say enough’s enough with Jeff Tedford? And Washington continued Steve Sarkisian’s record of pulling off a big upset or two every year (on the way to a .500 record) by beating Oregon State in Seattle. Husky fans also became the first group of fans not from Oregon ever to rush a field after beating the Beavers.

My two losses for the week featured the L.A. schools, as UCLA’s 45-43 win over Arizona State is emblematic of the improved Bruins’ new resolve, while USC’s self-inflicted debacle of a 39-36 loss at Arizona has many (including me) questioning what Lane Kiffin needs to do to grow into the scope of the job as Trojans’ head coach. There’s no questioning his recruiting prowess – something that will keep the upper reaches of USC’s depth chart stocked with good players through the next two seasons of sanctions – but his game preparation, game planning and in-game adjustments continue to baffle at times. Only time will tell if Kiffin is able to mature into what the USC program needs him to be.

Record through nine weeks: 44-21

Enjoy this weekend’s games!

Oct 10

Weeks 4-6 Review: Pac-12 Picking the Winners Recap

The past three weeks of the 2012 college football season began to give fans some focus on who the contenders and pretenders really are. Here’s a quick look back on the past three weeks of Pac-12 action, centered around my 12th Annual Picking the Winners Pac-12 preview, which appeared prior to the season on To recap my initial picks:

A Mixed Bag as We Shift to Fall

After pair of very difficult three-loss weeks – thanks mainly to the emergence of a surprise Oregon State squad and the falterings of Utah and California – my 5-0 mark in Week Six is hopefully a sign of things to come. Let’s take a look back.

Week 4

Beaver Celebration

Oregon State Coach Mike Riley, in a photo uploaded to Twitter, is all smiles outside a Pasadena-area In-N-Out Burger on Sept. 22 after his Beavers beat UCLA, 27-20.

Oregon over Arizona, 49-0 (picked at 54-17); USC over California, 27-9 (picked at 45-17): My only two wins of the week were eminently predictable, even though Arizona had stirred up enough interest with a 3-0 start to land near the bottom of the top 25 just in time to give the Ducks an easy win over a very questionably ranked opponent. Still, Oregon’s defense was impressive against RichRod’s redesigned (and heretofore stellar) UofA offense. USC’s bounce-back win against the Bears in the Coliseum was another clockwork win for the Trojans in their 100th meeting with Cal. USC has now won nine in a row over Jeff Tedford.

Among my three losses suffered, the Beavers’ 27-20 win over UCLA in the Rose Bowl — followed by their much publicized trip to a local In-N-Out Burger after the game — was perhaps the most surprising. Oregon State had played just a single game (an upset win over Wisconsin on Sept. 8) thanks to a postponement of its opener and an early bye. But the Beaver defense was more than up to the task of slowing the Bruins’ previously impressive offense.

The other losses — Utah’s 37-7 throttling at the hands of Arizona State in Tempe and Colorado’s shocking 35-34 comeback win at Wazzu — were wholly unpredictable in late August. Heck, the Cougars’ loss was wholly unpredictable with 10 minutes left in a game against a team that had given up 69 points to Fresno State a week before. Injuries and inconsistency have really hampered Utah in the early going. But, at the same time, this Sun Devil team looks like one to watch in the coming weeks.

UW’s Bishop Sankey celebrated with thousands of Husky fans after a 17-13 upset win on Sept. 27.

Week 5

Oregon over Washington State, 51-26 (picked at 48-21); UCLA over Colorado, 42-14 (picked at 30-17): Again, my two wins during the final weekend of September (while I was traveling in London), were about the most predictable of the week. The Ducks’ first foray onto the road in 2012 wasn’t even a true road game (the Cougars hosted the game at Seattle’s CenturyLink Field), while the Bruins unloaded on a Buff team that may have still been hung over from what may end up being its lone win of 2012.

On the other hand, even after Stanford’s victory at home against USC, anyone who was shocked that the Cardinal lost at Washington, 17-13, on a Thursday night in Seattle really wasn’t paying much attention. Stanford QB Josh Nunes was bottled up by the Huskies, Stepfan Taylor couldn’t get on track in the running game, and in a game very similar in style and pace to the Cardinal’s win over the Trojans, it was the Huskies who came up with the key plays late in a close and not-all-that-pretty contest.

My other two losses featured road wins for the conference’s early surprise teams: Oregon State over Arizona, 38-35, in Tucson, and Arizona State over Cal, 27-17, in Berkeley. The Beavers moved to 3-0 and up the rankings, while the Sun Devils’ win in the Bay Area got a bit of a road monkey off their backs.

USC’s Keystone Kops routine in Utah got old really fast in a Paris hotel bedroom in the middle of the night.

Week 6

USC over Utah, 38-28 (picked at 27-20); California over UCLA, 43-17 (picked at 31-19); Oregon over Washington, 52-21 (picked at 43-23); Oregon State over Washington State, 19-6 (picked at 33-30); Stanford over Arizona, 54-48 in overtime (picked at 38-24): Finally, a perfect week — though not without some moments of worry. The Trojans’ comically bad first three minutes in Salt Lake City left them in a 14-0 hole. Let me tell you from first-hand experience, that’s really not what you’re looking for when you’re in Paris at 3 a.m. on a Friday, waking up to an alarm to watch the game on your laptop. But, for the next 56 minutes, USC hammered Utah to the tune of 38-7, perhaps finding itself for the first time in 2012.

Stanford’s wild win against the Wildcats on the Farm could finally set Nunes on his way to stepping out of Andrew Luck’s shadow (and, yes, after an impressive first three weeks, the past three weeks have pointed out the deficiencies that remain on defense in Tucson). Across the bay, nothing is a better salve for a pained Cal squad than a visit from its little brother to the south. The Bears’ surprisingly impressive trouncing of the Bruins was Cal’s seventh consecutive home win against UCLA, which last won in Strawberry Canyon in 1998.

Oregon’s ninth-consecutive win over Washington was wholly unsurprising — especially after the Huskies looked so shaky as a group in falling behind 21-0. You can bet that won’t be the UW team USC sees in Seattle this Saturday. The Huskies have a truly split personality at home and on the road in 2012. Finally, though the Beavers moved to 4-0, what’s next after QB Sean Mannion went down with an injury that’s likely to keep him sidelined for the rest of October (at least)?

Record through six weeks: 33-15

Enjoy this weekend’s games!