This was going to be the Big Week in Cal’s schedule, coming on the heels of the Big Game.
Cal vs. Oregon. Didn’t we all envision this as potentially a showdown for the Pac-12 North title?
In a year dominated by COVID-19, almost nothing has gone according to plan. And certainly both the Bears and Ducks have experienced the unexpected.
We are into December and Cal (0-3) is still seeking its first victory. That hasn’t happened since, well, it’s never happened. Even in 2001, when the Bears lost their first 10 games, they closed it with a win over Rutgers during Thanksgiving week.
The Ducks (3-1) still can win the North Division and the Pac-12 championship, but their College Football Playoff hopes were dashed after a 41-38 loss at Oregon State last week.
We have not fared much better in our picks — I’m blaming COVID — but we’re back at this week, 100 percent confident that we’re ready for a breakout performance.
Can the Golden Bears do the same thing?
All picks against the spread
Lines taken from vegasinsider.com (updated Tuesday lines)
Last week: Jake 1-3, Jeff 1-3
Season: Jake 7-10, Jeff 5-12
Stanford (plus-1.5) at Washington, (1 p.m., FOX)
Jake: I still have questions about Huskies’ passing game, but their run game and defense should be enough to cover. Pick: Washington
Jeff: The Huskies won’t get caught dozing on the Cardinal, not with a showdown for the Pac-12 North title vs. Oregon just a week off. Pick: Washington
Oregon (minus-8.5) at Cal (4 p.m., ESPN)
Jake: Cal should be able to score against the Ducks’ surprisingly poor defense, at least enough to cover. Pick: Cal
Jeff: Tempting to believe Cal, with players returning from quarantine, will rise to the occasion. I don’t think this team has quit, but Oregon is going to be particularly motivated after losing to rival Oregon State. No more CFP for the Ducks, but they still can win the Pac-12. Pick: Oregon
Colorado (minus-6.5) at Arizona (4 p.m., FS1)
Jake: If Wildcats QB Grant Gunnell does not play, Colorado should roll. If he does play, Buffs should survive. Pick: Colorado
Jeff: Sounds to me like Gunnel has a shoulder injury, which is a problem for a quarterback. His backup is freshman Will Plummer. I’d be excited if he were former ASU star Jake Plummer’s kid. Alas, no. Pick: Colorado
Oregon State (plus-11.5) at Utah (7:30 p.m., ESPN)
Jake: Even without QB Tristan Gebbia, I think Oregon State can stay close. Pick: Oregon State
Jeff: Without Tristan Gebbia (hamstring), running back Jermar Jefferson will find tougher sledding against the Utah defense. Pick: Utah
UCLA (plus-3.5) at Arizona State (7:30 p.m., FS1)
Jake: Arizona State has not played a game since Nov. 7. Break out the Rust-Oleum. Pick: UCLA
Jeff: It’s been so long since the Sun Devils last played that freshman running back Chip Trayanum is now a sophomore. UCLA is definitely improved, but two months ago I wouldn’t have needed 10 seconds to pick this game. Pick: Arizona State
Cal coach Justin Wilcox isn't buying that Oregon's run defense has struggled, despite numbers that show the Ducks rank 10th in the Pac-12 against the rush: