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Pac-12 Football Picks: Will the Cream Rise With the Start of Conference Play?

Five unbeatens are among 10 Pac-12 schools with winning records after three weeks.

At last, things get interesting.

Ten Pac-12 teams bring winning records into the start of conference play on Saturday, and five of those clubs are unbeaten.

We anticipated Utah (2-1), USC (3-0) and Oregon (2-1) could be elite, but Washington, Washington State and Oregon State have exceeded expectations — all of them 3-0 to date.

Can WSU defend its home turf against Oregon? Same goes for OSU against visiting USC, which lost to the Beavers 45-27 last year. But, as we know, this is a different Trojans team.

UCLA also is 3-0 but we have no idea how good the Bruins are after a non-conference schedule that was so uninspired that the team drew the embarassing average of barely 30,000 fans to three games at the Rose Bowl.

Then there are Cal and Arizona, which collide on Saturday in Berkeley.

The Bears are 2-1 with two less-than-overwhelming victories and a 24-17 loss at Notre Dame where officiating and the Bears’ uneven play contributed to the outcome.

Arizona also is 2-1, sandwiching a road win over San Diego State and home triumph over FCS super-power North Dakota State around a decisive loss to Mississippi State.

We should get a somewhat better idea where Cal and Arizona belong in the Pac-12 pecking order when they kick off at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

Week 3 records: Jeff 8-3, Jake 7-4

Season records: Jeff 27-7, Jake 23-11

All picks against the spread

Betting line from sisportsbook.com

SATURDAY

-- UCLA (minus-21.5) at COLORADO, Pac-12 Networks, 11 a.m.

Jake: UCLA’s first road game, so the Bruins may play before their biggest crowd of the season. This is a huge point-spread for underdog home team, but Buffs merit it. Pick: UCLA

Jeff: I was trying to figure out how big the point spread would have to go before I considered picking the Buffaloes. This isn’t high enough. Pick: UCLA

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-- OREGON (minus-6.5) at WASHINGTON STATE, Fox, 1 p.m.

Jake: It depends on whether WSU QB Cameron Ward can have a big game. He will keep it close, but not close enough. Pick: Oregon

Jeff: Can the Cougars’ conference-best defense slow down an Oregon attack that seems to be picking up steam? Pick: Oregon

-- ARIZONA (plus-3) at CAL, Pac-12 Networks, 2:30 p.m.

Jake: Erratic Arizona QB Jayden de Laura could be great or lousy, and if Cal can keep its quarterback, Jack Plummer, upright, the Bears should prevail and beat the spread – barely. Pick: Cal

Jeff: If Cal wants to play in a bowl game, this is a must win. Even in September. If that doesn’t motivate the Bears, maybe last year in Tucson will. Or last week in South Bend. Pick: Cal

-- USC (minus-6.5) at OREGON STATE, Pac-12 Networks, 6:30 p.m.

Jake: Corvallis is a tough place to play, but the Trojans’ offense is capable of putting up big numbers anywhere. Pick: USC

Jeff: The over-under on this game is 68. Seems too low. USC is averaging nearly 51 points a game, OSU almost 47. I see a 45-35 score . . . Pick: USC.

-- UTAH (minus-15) at ARIZONA STATE, Pac-12 Networks, 7:30 p.m.

Jake: It’s difficult to describe just how bad Arizona State looked last week against Eastern Michigan, and the Sun Devils won’t look much better under interim head coach Shawn Aguano, who was great high school head coach. Pick: Utah

Jeff: Teams in ASU’s situation sometimes rally together in the face of adversity. There’s also the undeniable reality that one of these teams is very good, and the other isn’t. Pick: Utah

-- STANFORD (plus-13) at WASHINGTON, FS1, 7:30 p.m.

Jake: The Huskies and QB Michael Penix Jr. were impressive in the win over BYU, but Stanford is coming off a bye and has QB Tanner McKee – enough to keep it close. Pick: Stanford

Jeff: This game has Husky QB Michael Penix Jr. written all over it. Washington leads the Pac-12 in passing yards and passing touchdowns and Stanford is last in pass-efficiency defense. Plus the game is in Seattle. Pick: Washington

Cover photo of Jack Plummer handing the ball to Jaydn Ott by Michael Caterina, USA Today

Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo