SAN FRANCISCO -- Well, I'm on the ground here in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge, hanging out in the humble abode of my brother and his wife. I'll be heading off to Palo Alto for the WSU-Stanford game in the morning, and should have a first-hand account of the game to give you tomorrow night. In the meantime, here are my takes on the two teams that matter most to you:
Line: Cougars by 10.
How we got here: The Cougs roll into
Meanwhile, Stanford comes in beat up and beaten down. The Cardinal’s 0-3 record includes a pair of embarrassing losses, one to
Key matchup: Stanford has beaten WSU the last two years in
Prediction: The fact that WSU is a 10-point favorite on the road says less about how good the Cougs are and more about how terrible everyone thinks Stanford is. Then again, everyone thought Stanford was pretty terrible last year when they lost to I-AA UC Davis before the matchup. The Cougs coasted into that game expecting to walk all over the Cardinal and got shocked. Here’s betting they don’t let that happen again. WSU 24, Stanford 10.
UCLA (2-0) at Washington (2-1)
Line: UCLA by 3.
How we got here: Washington is riding high after equaling its win total from a year ago thanks to a big special teams play last Saturday against Fresno State. The defensive front seven has looked pretty good, and the team has been able to make just enough plays to win a couple of games that they probably would have lost in the last couple of years. It's got the Huskies dreaming for six -- the six wins they'd need to squeeze into a bowl game.
UCLA travels away from the Rose Bowl for the first time this season, albeit after a week off. The Bruins have looked solid if unspectacular in their first two games, picking up wins against Utah and Rice in games that never were in doubt. Having a sophomore at quarterback isn't such a bad thing when he's 23, and UCLA has a good one in Ben Olson. Although he's only thrown for an average of 221 yards, he's rated No. 1 in the Pac-10 in quarterback efficiency (172.4). He seems to be making the Bruins forget about all those NFL draft picks from a year ago -- for now.
Key matchup: Olson's ability to throw against Washington's secondary -- the weak links of weak links the last few years -- likely will be the deciding factor in the game. The Huskies have yet to face a team that throws the ball particularly well, so this will be the first true test of that revamped secondary. That said, Oklahoma was able to move the ball through the air from time to time, something they didn't do much of before or since. Washington will need to stop Olson if it wants to have any chance to win.
Prediction: Olson's arm will be too much for a Husky defensive secondary that still has major flaws. However, I think Washington has made big strides, and this Saturday they'll keep it close before folding late. UCLA 28, UW 24.