Conferences in the Crosshairs: ACC, Pac-12 Picks

Ken Cross

October 03, 2017 at 11:05 pm.

Sep 29, 2017; Pullman, WA, USA; Washington State Cougars linebacker Nate DeRider (54) and Washington State Cougars linebacker Derek Moore (55) celebrate a turnover against the USC Trojans during the second half at Martin Stadium. The Cougars won 30-27. Photo Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Sep 29, 2017; Pullman, WA, USA; Washington State Cougars linebacker Nate DeRider (54) and Washington State Cougars linebacker Derek Moore (55) celebrate a turnover against the USC Trojans during the second half at Martin Stadium. The Cougars won 30-27. Photo Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

“Fight, fight, fight for Washington State; On to victory …”

Put that to music. It is the Washington State fight song and it leads into the Cougars announcing themselves as a player in the national championship race. Mike Leach’s turnaround with this program is moving quickly as the Cougars knocked off USC, 30-27, in the Palouse on Friday night.

Of course, a link to the actual fight song would be great to start this column, but until I can crush the spread once again, probably no one will volunteer that musical rendering … so, here goes nothing, once again this week.


Washington State at Oregon – And for those Cougs, now they have to put a monumental win behind them and go on the road to face a revamped Oregon team. Washington State is in the crosshairs, no pun intended, and now production at a high level every week puts them in that national championship conversation. It’s Mike Leach’s typical Air Raid offense, but credit to defensive coordinator Alex Grinch, who has given the Cougars a fast, tough, physical D. If Oregon is without quarterback Justin Herbert and running back Royce Freeman, the idea that this is the Cougars’ first road game doesn’t matter.
Cougars 37, Ducks 27.

Stanford at Utah – The Utes vs. the Cardinal is always a physical contest. Look for Stanford to exercise even more ball control even though K.J. Costello has checked in as an efficient quarterback. The Cardinal are 95th in the nation against the rush and Utah, behind Zack Moss and quarterback Tyler Huntley, have a strong running attack that could give Stanford trouble.
Cardinal 31, Utes (+6) 27.

Oregon State at USC – The Trojans are struggling with injuries in the offensive line and that came into play in major fashion on the Trojans’ last drive Friday night when Washington State harassed quarterback Sam Darnold into a late fumble which sealed the loss for USC. This week injuries will not be a factor against struggling Oregon State who was manhandled at Washington last week.
Trojans 35, Beavers (+34 1/2) 10.

Cal at Washington – Huskies’ wide receiver Dante Pettis should enter Heisman conversations after another stellar performance with three touchdown receptions in that win over Oregon State. This is a Washington defense that is eighth in the nation and yields only 256 yards per game. The Bears have sputtered on offense in the last two losses to Oregon and USC and defensively stopping the run has been a major issue.
Huskies (-27) 44, Bears 14.

Arizona at Colorado – A great late night “Pac-12 After Dark” matchup as the Buffaloes, fresh off two losses, host Arizona which continues to push forward. The quarterback matchup between CU’s Steven Montez and Arizona’s Brandon Dawkins could decide this game. Both want to keep it on the ground with Dawkins being more of a rushing threat, as he leads the Wildcats with 85 yards on the ground per game. Phillip Lindsay is consistent on the ground, but Montez is going to be the biggest passing threat as the Buffs survive at home.
Buffaloes (-6 1/2) 31, Wildcats 24.


Louisville at NC State – Lamar Jackson is the nemesis for any defense as he is defending his Heisman Trophy beautifully. Although the Cardinals have had two games against outmanned competition in Murray State and Kent State, the Louisville and Jackson set the pace they were supposed to set. In Saturday’s 55-10 beat down of Murray State, he threw for 249 and rushed for 100, as he ran only one play after halftime. The key here is the Cardinals’ rushing defense, which allows only 104.6 yards per game, against two quality running backs in NC State’s Nyheim Hines and Jaylen Samuels. If State establishes the ground game, then Jackson is on the field for fewer plays.
Cardinals (-4) 34, Wolfpack 27.

Miami at Florida State – The Hurricanes were strong on both sides of the football as Miami throttled Duke, 31-6, behind efficient quarterback play of Malik Rosier and a fast defense that covers sideline to sideline with ease. Florida State struggled offensively all afternoon at Wake Forest before freshman James Blackman hit Auden Tate with a game-winning 40-yard touchdown pass with under a minute to play. The ‘Noles need to keep the ball between the tackles with Jacques Patrick and Cam Akers; otherwise, Miami will tee off on Blackman and shut down the outside.
Hurricanes (-3) 30, Seminoles 20.

Wake Forest at Clemson – For people who still had questions, the Tigers are once again a national title contender and Kelly Bryant has stepped in nicely at quarterback and provided even more of a running game from there. Wake Forest has an emerging wide receiver in Greg Dortch, but Clemson’s defensive front is too much and will overpower the improved Demon Deacons and quarterback John Wolford.
Tigers (-22) 31, Demon Deacons 7.

Duke at Virginia – Virginia had a bye week after a huge 42-23 win at Boise State, which was the signature win at UVa for Bronco Mendenhall. So now as the Cavaliers start ACC play, are they going to be able to springboard into that type of success in the league? Kurt Benkert should be able to find bourgeoning wide receiver Olamide Zaccheaus if the Cavaliers can pass block as Miami did on Friday. Flip to the Duke offense and Daniel Jones should be able to do the same with Johnathan Lloyd and T.J. Rahming. This will be a fun game to watch as both offenses will have big days.
Blue Devils (+2) 41, Cavaliers 38.

Notre Dame at North Carolina – The Tar Heels are in an all-out rebuild with a staggering defense and then a talented, but learning freshman quarterback in Chazz Surrat. The Irish have too many weapons in their 4-1 start. Their ground game rolled up 359 yards in the 52-17 win over Miami (Ohio) with Josh Adams leading the way with 159 on eight carries.
Fighting Irish (-17) 31, Tar Heels 10.

Va. Tech at Boston College – The Hokies come off the resounding loss to Clemson and springboard into a roadie at BC. The key is moving on and facing what could be a tough fight as the Eagles were tied with Clemson, 7-7, after three quarters before a 34-7 loss. BC allows 259 yards on the ground per game which plays right into the hands of quarterback Josh Jackson and a fleet of running threats.
Hokies 33, Eagles (+16 1/2) 17.

Straight Up – Last week – 7-3
Overall – 49-16

Vs. the Spread – Last week – 5-5
Overall – 30-30

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