Duck the Odds, Week 12 Review: USC Shakes the Whole Thing Up

Jeff Gross

Review our picks against the spread from last week, and continue along on the magical mustache journey that is 2013 Pac-12 Football.

What a week in the Pac-12. USC-Stanford was of course the headliner, but there was significant action all around the conference. Let's see how our picks did against the spread, including other notable results from around the country:

The Pac:

The Pick: Washington @ UCLA (-2.5) (3-Stache Pick)

The Result: UCLA 41, Washington 31 (7.5-Point Win)

The Bruins flexed their powder-blue muscles, leading this thing from wire-to-wire. Washington did score in the 3rd quarter to make it a 27-24 game, but UCLA then scored 14 unanswered points to slam the door. For Seven-Win Steve to get to that mystical eighth win, his magic number is is 2, with 2 to go. With all the pre-season blustering about "This is DEFINITELY the year it's TOTALLY not like last year stream of consciousness stats don't matter we're going to beat Oregon!!!", if Sarkisian doesn't get this crew to 8 Ws, his seat is gonna be black-leather-in-a-Phoenix-parking-lot hot.

The Pick: Oregon State @ Arizona State (-14) (2-Stache Pick)

The Result: Arizona 30, Oregon State 17 (1-Point Loss)

The oddsmakers got this one almost exactly right. I unfortunately took the wrong side of it. ASU scored with 5:08 to play to push it to 30-10 and looked to secure the cover, but the Beavs scored a garbage-time TD with 2:41 left to get to within 13 and cover the 14. And for the 3rd week in a row, the Beavers got pushed around. They're bowl-eligible at 6-4, but you have to wonder if they'll get any more regular season wins: they host Washington this week, and then roll down Highway 99 to Autzen after Thanksgiving.

The Pick: California (+2.5) @ Colorado (2-Stache Pick)

The Result: Colorado 41, Cal 24 (19.5-Point Loss)

In some contexts, when you lose every game, you get a chance at the #1 draft pick. Well, that ain't how it works here. But you do get a participation trophy, Cal! (Editors' note: There is no Pac-12 participation trophy.) Cal got beat up on the road in Boulder in the Battle for the Basement, and suddenly here's some life in those Buffs. CU led early, Cal tied it at 10-10 in the second quarter, and then Colorado turned on the jets to streak ahead and win by 17. Cal now heads across the Dumbarton Bridge to play Stanford next week, in control of its own destiny in the Don't Win a Conference Game Contest. (Editors' note: There is no "Don't Win a Conference Game Contest".)

The Pick: Stanford @ USC (+4) (2-Stache Pick)

The Result: USC 20, Stanford 17 (7-Point Win)

Early in the broadcast, our friend Brent M. / B. Musburger said it best: "USC has Stanford in the *perfect* let-down spot." Nailed it, Brent. USC went strength-to-strength with Stanford: playing a classic, ball-control game together with tough defense. Somehow, inexplicably, David Shaw and his offensive staff tried to get cute with playcalling: a ton of Kevin Hogan in the shotgun, a fair amount of Wildcat/jet sweep, and a heck of a lot of throws. I really don't get why Shaw hasn't just played the "Oregon gameplan" in every game. Maybe he's concerned that you can't be a top-5 team and just run it all the time? Because he's wrong. (See, e.g., the 1970s.) Combining Stanford's inexplicable playcalling, USC's stalwart defense (with no subs to speak of), a nifty blocked field goal, gutty and smart play by Cody Kessler, and Marqise Lee showing his star power (and toughness!) in the few opportunities he was given, the Trojans pulled off the upset and changed the spectrum of the Pac-12 race and the BCS bowl games.

The Pick: Washington State (+13) @ Arizona (1-Stache Pick)

The Result: Washington 24, Arizona 17 (20-Point Win)

Well, looky here. Those Cougs "swung" their "sword" (or...whatever) and got a nice win on the road in Tucson - as 13-point underdogs! Connor Halliday threw the game-winning TD with just over 2 to play, and the Cougs have something to build on. The Cougs played largely mistake-free in the pass game (one INT by Halliday), played great pass defense, and *get this * HAD RUSHING YARDS. Don't look now, but Wazzu is one win from bowl eligibility, and might get there this weekend, hosting Utah in the Palouse.

The Ducks:

The Pick: Utah @ Oregon (-26) (4-Stache Pick)

The Result: Oregon 44, Utah 21 (3-Point Loss)

Classic back-door cover. Oregon led 44-14 with 12 minutes left, and I was all, "Sweet." But in a display of their grit (and a total lack of respect for point spreads), the Fightin' Utes put a TD on the board with 6 left in the 4th and blew up the spread.

As far as analysis goes, it was the classic Oregon win: close for 3 quarters, then 5 yard gains become 12, gaps become wider, and special teams provides a spark. Could have said that about approximately 20 wins over the Kelly/Helfrich era. Good bounce-back win for the Ducks, even if the gamblers among us (here's lookin' at you, Brent M.!) were disappointed in the result.

Potential Bowl Opponents:

The Pick: Georgia Tech @ Clemson (-10.5) (5-Stache Pick)

The Result: Clemson 55, Georgia Tech 31 (13.5-Point Win)

Clemson absolutely boatraced an outmatched Ramblin' Wreck squad at Death Valley in a game that was never close. Clemson's got a hot date with Citadel before facing a powerful[ly boring] South Carolina crew on the road. They win that, they're going to the Orange Bowl. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm stoked about the possibility of the Ducks facing Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. I was at the 2010 Rose Bowl (next to ATQ's own Noah, in fact) and want to taste the sweet tears of unfathomable sorrow of Buckeyes fans. But part of me is bummed Oregon won't face Clemson in what would have been a fantastic Orange Bowl matchup.

The Pick: Michigan State (-6.5) @ Nebraska (4-Stache Pick)

The Result: Michigan State 41, Nebraska 28 (6.5-Point Win)

Sparty forced five Husker turnovers and won by double digits, depite its offensive ineptitude. I don't know how many times in this game I saw QB Connor Cook roll aimlessly to the right on 3rd and 11 and then throw it to the water dude on the sideline. But with a defense like they've got, they find themselves at a strong 9-1. And somehow, each of their wins is by 8 points or more, which is odd considering MSU is a defense-first operation.

The Pick: Texas Tech @ Baylor (-26.5) (3-Stache Pick)

The Result: Baylor 63, Texas Tech 34 (2.5-Point Win)

Baylor found itself down 14-0 in the first quarter, but then went on a 63-20 run after that. Standard. That team is something else.

The Pick: Oklahoma State @ Texas (+3) (2-Stache Pick)

The Result: Oklahoma State 38, Texas 13 (22-Point Loss)

I'd like to call this game the "Reversion to the Mean" game. Texas revealed itself to still be post-'09 Texas, as it got pounded at home and watched its BCS hopes deflate. On the other side of the ball, Okie State is peaking at the right time to face Baylor this weekend.

The Pick: Ohio State (-32.5) @ Illinois (+33) (1-Stache Pick)

The Result: Ohio State 60, Illinois 35 (8-Point Loss)

I don't even care that I lost this one. This was one of two early games on at my house (the other being Wisconsin-Indiana) and the defensive ineptitude on display made me want to poke my eyes out with needles. Urban: don't bitch about the BCS when you give up 35 points to a JV-level Illinois squad. In the middle of the 4th quarter, the Buckeyes were only up by 12 points. You want Top-2 votes, act like a Top-2 team.

The Standings:

Last Week: Pac-12 Picks: 3-3; Other Picks: 4-2; Overall: 7-5.Review our picks against the spread from last week, and continue along on the magical mustache journey that is 2013 Pac-12 Football.

Overall: [Same as above.]

Week 13's Opening Lines:

Here are the opening lines of games we'll look at later in the week. As always, these lines may move as the week goes on:

-The Pac:

--> Arizona State (-3) @ UCLA

--> USC (-21.5) @ Colorado

--> Oregon (-17.5) @ Arizona

--> California @ Stanford (-30.5)

--> Washington @ Oregon State (-3.5)

--> Utah @ Washington State (-1)

-Elsewhere:

--> Indiana @ Ohio State (-33)

--> Michigan State (-7.5) @ Northwestern

--> Wisconsin (-14.5) @ Minnesota

--> Baylor (-9.5) @ Oklahoma State

--

Stay tuned for this week's picks in a few days.

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