The best thing about USC playing at Stanford on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. on Fox: It’ll be 7:30 p.m. in Columbus, Ohio, and I can watch the game after finishing up coverage of Cal at Ohio State.
Yes, the two Bay Area teams take on heavyweights this weekend. And the assignment looks too big for both of them.
The Bears’ problems go well beyond the fact that they haven’t beaten the Buckeyes since 1920. The best teams win because they dominate the line of scrimmage, and Cal will be challenged offensively by an OSU squad allowing just 13 points and 51 rushing yards per game.
Stanford’s best chance is to establish a running game and get the lead early. The Cardinal won 56-48 in triple-overtime last year, but does not have the firepower to stay with the Trojans and their elite wideouts.
BearTalk survey: Before giving you my picks, here are results of our unscientific survey of Cal fans (and anyone else participating on the blog): Picking against the spread (which has come down from 17 1/2 earlier this week), 21 of you picked the Buckeyes, just eight said you’d bet on the Bears.
LAST WEEK: 7-5
This week’s games
– Washington State at UNLV, 6 p.m. (ESPN): It’s hard to get real excited yet about the Cougars (1-1), who are averaging 15 points under new coach and offensive guru Mike Leach. But UNLV (0-2) is coming off a loss to Northern Arizona (which lost 63-6 to Arizona State), and a year ago the Cougs drubbed the Rebels 59-7. Washington State 35, UNLV 14.
– Cal at Ohio State, 9 a.m. (ABC): The Pac-12 was 3-0 against the Big Ten last week, but was the home team in all three. None was played in front of 105,000 hostile fans. The Bears say this game can be a turning point in their season. Not unless the defense can somehow corral Braxton Miller and the offensive line can block well enough to give Zach Maynard a running game. Ohio State 35, Cal 20.
– Tennessee Tech at No. 4 Oregon, noon (Pac-12 Networks): Tech is 2-0, but is way out of its depth here. The FCS team lost has played seven games against FBS opponents the past five seasons, losing by an average of 45-5. If it’s that close in Eugene, it’ll be a miracle. Oregon 56, Tennessee Tech 7.
– Portland State at Washington, 1 p.m. (FX): The Vikings (1-1) have played eight Pac-12 teams over the past decade and it’s just not working out for the FCS squad. Average margin: 48-8. This is a chance for the Huskies (1-1) to develop some run-game confidence. Washington 40, Portland State 10.
– Arizona State at Missouri, 4 p.m. (ESPN2): The Sun Devils (2-0) have stomped their first two opponents, but now they must play on the road against one of the SEC’s new members. Mizzou (1-1) must be smarting a bit from its 41-20 loss to Georgia. Missouri 28, Arizona State 27.
– No. 2 USC at No. 21 Stanford, 4:30 p.m. (Fox): The Cardinal (2-0) has won three in a row and four of the past five in this series. The difference this time is at quarterback, where Matt Barkley is 8 for 8 in red-zone opportunities with seven touchdowns. New Stanford starter Josh Nunes is 9 for 10, but only five are TDs. USC 31, Stanford 24.
– BYU at Utah, 7 p.m. (ESPN2): The Utes (1-1) won 54-10 in this rivalry game last year and are at home this time. But that was before Riley Nelson took over at QB for the Cougars (2-0) and before Utah’s Jordan Wynn was injured again and retired. BYU 27, Utah 14.
– Colorado at Fresno State, 5 p.m. (CBS Sports): I vowed I wouldn’t pick the Buffaloes (0-2) again this season if they lost to Sacramento State. Well, they did. And I won’t. I’m assuming the Bulldogs (1-1) are better than Sac State, plus the game is at Fresno. Fresno State 21, Colorado 16.
– Houston at No. 22 UCLA, 7:30 p.m. (Pac-12 Los Angeles): What a difference a year makes to these programs. Houston, which won this game 38-34 last season, has started 0-2. UCLA, under new coach Jim Mora Jr., is 2-0, nationally ranked and averaging nearly 650 yards per game. UCLA 42, Houston 17.
– South Carolina State at No. 24 Arizona, 7:30 p.m. (Pac-12 Arizona): The Wildcats (2-0) routed Oklahoma State 59-38 last week, so the Bulldogs (1-1) of the MEAC aren’t likely to provide much of a challenge. Now, if the Cats were playing Steve Spurrier’s South Carolina squad . . . Arizona 41, South Carolina State 10.