Conferences in the Crosshairs: ACC, Pac-12 picks

Ken Cross

October 17, 2017 at 12:32 pm.

Oct 14, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans quarterback Sam Darnold (14) is pressured by Utah Utes defensive tackle Lowell Lotulelei (93) during an NCAA football game at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Photo Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 14, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans quarterback Sam Darnold (14) is pressured by Utah Utes defensive tackle Lowell Lotulelei (93) during an NCAA football game at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Photo Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Who would have thought Syracuse would have taken down No. 2 Clemson, even at the Carrier Dome? Or did anyone see No. 8 Washington State getting spanked, 37-3, at the hands of the improving Cal Bears?

At any rate, it is college football and nothing should surprise any more. Five of 13 undefeated teams and seven of the Top 25 went down. Now, the media on the east coast, in particular, is writing about the demise of the Pac-12 regarding the college football playoff.

And to fire up another rhetorical question – Will this early and unwarranted assumption about the Pac-12 continue after USC’s trip to Notre Dame?


USC at Notre Dame – All of a sudden, it feels like the Trojans are carrying the Pac-12’s national title hopes again after Arizona State took down Washington in the desert on Saturday night. This is an epic rivalry and an epic matchup since with this ridiculous four-team playoff system, teams with one loss all of a sudden are ignored in late September or early October.

USC’s Sam Darnold has had problems with interceptions, but he finds ways to win. When the chips were down and the Trojans were trailing talented Utah, 21-7, at halftime, he led USC on drives of 83, 88 and 93 yards before cornerback Ajene Harris stopped a game-winning two-point conversion as the Trojans won a thrilling 28-27 decision.

Notre Dame is on point, but still ignored, after only a one-point loss to Georgia. The Irish are big and physical at wide out and need to sustain Brandon Wimbush at quarterback and the myriad of physicality with that the offensive line, huge receivers and Josh Adams brings. Stopping the run is key for USC as the Irish are fifth in the nation rushing at 308 yards per game.
Trojans (+3 1/2) 30, Fighting Irish 27.

Arizona State at Utah – The mentality of these two teams could be the difference after the Sun Devils took the biggest win of the Todd Graham era, 13-7, over No. 5 Washington, and then Utah lost that heartbreaker at USC. Todd Graham’s defense was at its best in the win over the Huskies in holding Jake Browning to only 139 yards through the air, as Washington totaled only 230. Utah’s Troy Williams produced at quarterback as he threw for 262 yards against SC and Zack Moss was strong again with 20 carries for 141 yards. Arizona State has a tough time winning another physical game which is on the road.
Utes (- 9 1/2) 30, Sun Devils 19.

Oregon at UCLA – This has potential to be a high scoring and interesting game as both teams are now playing for Pac-12 positioning. UCLA has had major problems stopping strong rushing games. Oregon running back Royce Freeman should be in for a huge evening as should UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen. Darren Andrews and Jordan Lasley are a tough cover for the Oregon secondary.
Bruins 40, Ducks (+7) 34.

Arizona at Cal – A very interesting matchup as Khalil Tate and the Wildcats’ newly found high-powered offense take on the ever-improving Bears’ defense in Year One of the Justin Wilcox era. The Wildcats check in with the No. 10 offense in the nation in averaging 514 yards per game. The key is Cal is improving on defense and it had a long way to go. The key is – can the Bears can turn over Arizona like they did Washington State?
Wildcats (-3) 44, Bears 40.

Colorado at Washington State – The Cougars are smarting after such a flat performance at Cal. Now, they need to run the table and win the Pac-12 title game to have a shot at a national championship berth. Washington State is going to play on the ideas of redemption and vindication plus their high level offense which will be more than enough to take down the struggling Buffaloes.
Cougars (-11) 35, Buffaloes 14.


Syracuse at Miami – Once again the Cardiac Canes got the job done in the clutch. Malik Rosier found Darrell Langham on a circus catch that allowed a short Michael Badgley field goal and a 25-24 win over Georgia Tech. Sustainability will be the key for the Orange as they look to go on the road and procure the win over Clemson. Syracuse has losses of seven, eight and nine points as they have been in every game with a high-powered offense averages 463 yards per outing.
Hurricanes 34, Orange (+14 1/3) 26.

Louisville at Florida State – This would have been more of a revenge game if both teams hadn’t struggled as they have. Louisville’s loss to Boston College showed how much of a tailspin the defense is in. Lucky for the Cards, Lamar Jackson continues to hide so many inadequacies. FSU has found its ground game behind Cam Akers and Jacques Patrick. Head coach Jimbo Fisher calls it conservatively with freshman James Blackmon at the helm and it has worked in wins over Duke and Wake Forest and a near miss against Miami.
Seminoles (-6 1/2) 30, Cardinals 19.

Pitt at Duke – The Blue Devils have a pair of seven-point losses in the last two weeks at Virginia and at home against Florida State. They also realize they were one play away in those which would have put them in the heart of quest for the Coastal Division title. The Panthers’ defense has struggled all season and against the offensive weaponry of quarterback Daniel Jones, wide receiver T.J. Rahming and running back Shaun Wilson, this game has potential to get ugly.
Blue Devils (-8) 37, Panthers 16.

BC at Virginia – The Cavaliers are the surprise in the ACC at 5-1 as an efficient offense behind Kurt Benkert and a low turnover ratio (+5) are the impetus for them. Virginia has lost only one fumble so far and is the top team in the ACC in red zone defense. Anthony Brown of BC is a rising quarterback as the Eagles are second in the league in red zone offense.
Cavaliers 20, Eagles (+7) 17.

North Carolina at Virginia Tech – The Fightin’ Gobblers are in the hunt with Miami and Virginia for that Coastal Division title. It comes down to if Carolina’s defense can stop Virginia Tech’s offense. The Tar Heels struggled out of the box in that 35-30 loss to Cal and haven’t recovered. The Heels give up 460 yards per game, while Tech quarterback Josh Jackson averages 309 total yards per outing.
Hokies 34, Tar Heels (+21) 17.

Wake Forest at Georgia Tech – This game is totally under the radar as it features a physical Yellow Jackets offensive line against an athletic Demon Deacons defensive front. Wake’s pass defense is 11th in the nation and gives up only 105 yards through the air per outing. In their option attack, Georgia Tech is totally run-oriented at 362 yards on the ground per game and will face a stingy Deacons’ rushing defense as well. Georgia Tech finds one more play behind quarterback TaQuon Marshall for a tight win.
Yellow Jackets 26, Demon Deacons (+7) 20.

Straight Up – Last week – 7-4
Overall – 64-23

Vs. the Spread – Last week – 7-4
Overall – 44-38

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