“Almost there … almost there.”
In the immortal words of Red Leader in the original Star Wars film, it’s getting down to it now in Pacific-12 Conference football. No. 18 Utah has won the South Division, and the North Division will be decided Friday in Pullman as No. 8 Washington State hosts No. 16 Washington. The winner of the Apple Cup will take on the Utes in the Pac-12 Championship Game on November 30 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA.
There are other games with national implications, of course: No. 3 Notre Dame travels to take on USC in Los Angeles, with the Trojans needing a win to become bowl eligible after their stunning loss to the UCLA last week. Also, three interstate rivalries are going down elsewhere in the Pac-12.
Our 61-19 record this year keeps us above the 75-percent mark in prediction accuracy, and we hope to end the season that way. Here is what we see happening in the unluckiest —seven games, no less—week of the 2018 Pac-12 football season.
Oregon at Oregon State (1 pm Friday): The Civil War gets the week started for the conference, as the Ducks swim up the Willamette River to face the Beavers in Corvallis. OSU pulled off the upset here two years ago, but do not expect it to happen again. Oregon still has a shot at a nine-win season, which would be nice for the Ducks after the last few rough years. Oregon 37, Oregon State 24.
No. 16 Washington at No. 8 Washington State (5:30 pm Friday): This is it. The Apple Cup for all the North Division marbles. The Cougars have not beaten the Huskies since 2012, but if it is going to happen, this is the time. WSU is at home with a 12-game winning streak, and Washington hasn’t been great this season on the road. However, the Huskies’ three road losses came by a combined ten points, and Washington could be ready to explode in an effort to salvage the season with a title-game berth. This will be another close one. Washington State 27, Washington 20.
Stanford at UCLA (12 pm Saturday): The Cardinal had an unexpected bye last week, thanks to the postponement of the Big Game, and you never know how that will affect a team. Stanford has had a disappointing season, and the Bruins are flying high with confidence after beating USC last weekend. Still, the Cardinal are the better team and should be able to prove it. Stanford 34, UCLA 27.
Arizona State at Arizona (12:30 pm Saturday): The Territorial Cup is a battle for sole possession of second place in the South Division. The Sun Devils have had their challenges on the road this year, with just one win (a squeaker over sad USC). The Wildcats got their hats handed to them in Pullman last week, and don’t expect that to happen again. Plus, Arizona needs the win to become bowl eligible in a season where the team had much higher hopes. Arizona 38, Arizona State 35.
Colorado at California (4 pm Saturday): The Golden Bears defense has been playing very well, and the Buffaloes have lost six straight games—and now have fired their head coach. Look for Cal’s defense to keep playing well, while Colorado’s players are mentally done for the season. California 24, Colorado 10.
No. 3 Notre Dame at USC (5 pm Saturday): The Fighting Irish have a College Football Playoff bid on the line here, and the Trojans have nothing but pride to play for at this point. Notre Dame is the vastly superior team, and the Irish should put on a clinic here that ends up costing USC Head Coach Clay Helton his job. Seriously. After winning 21 games in 2016 and 2017 combined, the Trojans are going to finish 5-7 this year. That’s not good enough for USC. Notre Dame 48, USC 21.
BYU at No. 18 Utah (7 pm Saturday): The Utes don’t want to get injured in this game, with the Pac-12 Championship Game ahead for them, but they will also want to stick it to the in-state rivals from Provo. Utah can take care of business here and achieve both goals against the overmanned Cougars. Utah 35, BYU 21.
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