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Pac-12 Week 4 game picks: We'll find out if Washington is for real in 2017

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Kiper expects big things from Darnold (0:42)

Mel Kiper Jr. compares USC QB Sam Darnold's "it-factor" to the likes of No. 1-overall picks John Elway, Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck. (0:42)

I've been around these parts for officially a month now, and I think I'm getting the hang of things. The sun is always out, miles mean nothing on the GPS and it's smart to pack layers for the three different temperatures Los Angeles hits you with throughout the day.

I've also learned that as far as the football side of things go, people are a little more laid-back out here. I mean, no one seems to care about the NFL and I've received exactly zero pieces of hate mail for anything negative I've said about any teams on this side of the country.

However, I did feel the wrath of some overzealous and salty BYU/Utah fans last week after I downplayed the passion of that rivalry. For the record, I was being facetious and having a little fun. My best friend went to BYU for a semester and then decided he'd rather party in the SEC (smart man) for the rest of his college days. He more than filled me in on the vitriol harbored in the Beehive State between those two schools.

Still, until a message board guy helps to try to bring down the rival just north of him during an NCAA investigation (and legitimately has a hand in it), please, don't fill my Twitter (@AschoffESPN) mentions with your complaints about how I view your rivalry.

On to the picks! Visit our college football PickCenter page for additional information on these games and many more.

Friday, Sept. 22

No. 23 Utah (3-0) at Arizona (2-1)

Edward Aschoff: Speaking of the Utes: They currently have the best defense in the Pac-12. Arizona is averaging nearly 500 yards and 47 points per game. Something has got to give, and if Arizona is going to pull off an upset at home, the Wildcats had better be able to run the ball. Quarterback Brandon Dawkins is growing each week and his legs will be the difference in this sort-of stunner. Arizona 31, Utah 30

Kyle Bonagura: Both teams had two games to feast on overmatched opponents during the nonconference schedule, so it’s tough to gauge what to expect now that conference play will ramp up. Dawkins is coming off what is probably the best performance of his career and will need to remain in that form if Arizona expects to pull off a repeat of its win against then-No. 10 Utah in Tucson in 2015. Utah 34, Arizona 24

Saturday, Sept. 23

No. 5 USC (3-0) at California (3-0)

Aschoff: The Trojans are very beaten up on defense, but they will get star linebacker Ucheena Nwosu back this week. Still, he's going to need a lot of help against a Cal team that has shocked people with a 3-0 start and is moving the ball quite well on offense. This one will be closer than it should be, but expect some of that Sam Darnold magic in the fourth quarter. USC 35, Cal 30

Bonagura: Cal’s surprising 3-0 start that includes two Power 5 wins speaks volumes about the direction of the program in the long term, but they still have some convincing to do. One way to do that would be to snap its 13-game losing streak to USC. That might be asking too much. USC 42, Cal 31

Nevada (0-3) at No. 18 Washington State (3-0)

Aschoff: When you're playing a team that just lost to Idaho State, you're probably not going to like the outcome when a Mike Leach-coached offense is next on your schedule. WSU 45, Nevada 20

Kyle Bonagura: The Cougars are looking for their first 4-0 start since 2001, which seems like a given considering Nevada’s latest loss came at home against lowly Idaho State. A combination of WSU and USC wins would set up the arguably the biggest game in Pullman since Wazzu beat USC in 2002. WSU 38, Nevada 21

No. 7 Washington (3-0) at Colorado (3-0)

Aschoff: I have to say that my first time in Seattle was great. It didn't rain much and the seafood was delicious. The Huskies are a very talented team that no one seems to be talking about, while Colorado is a talented team that no one remembers from last year. This should be the game of the day in college football, and Washington will prove that it belongs in the College Football Playoff discussion again. Washington 30, Colorado 24

Kyle Bonagura: After playing in the Pac-12 championship game last year, Washington and Colorado competed to see who could have the more boring nonconference schedule. It was a draw. The Huskies humbled the Buffs, so this will serve as an interesting measuring stick for how they’ve both evolved. Washington 31, Colorado 24

No. 24 Oregon (3-0) at Arizona State (1-2)

Aschoff: These fun Ducks are about to take an offense that has yet to dip below 550 yards in three games on the road to face a defense that has let two opponents pile more than 540 yards on it and allowed at least 30 points in all three games. Ducks can pull trucks, guys. Oregon 51, Arizona State 24

Kyle Bonagura: How’s this for a running back combo? Oregon’s Royce Freeman leads the country with nine touchdowns and his teammate, Kani Benoit, is tied for second with six. Playing ASU should only help inflate those numbers. Oregon 45, Arizona State 31

UCLA (2-1) at Stanford (1-2)

Aschoff: Both of these teams are coming off of upset losses. Stanford's 20-17 loss to San Diego State was more shocking than that high-scoring nail-biter of a loss UCLA had at Memphis in the morning. Here's the thing that's the most shocking of all: Stanford is 11th in the conference in rushing defense, surrendering 206 yards per game. Good thing UCLA can't run the ball. Stanford 31, UCLA 27

Kyle Bonagura: After deflating losses to Group of 5 programs last week, both teams are looking for a morale-boosting win. David Shaw is 7-0 against UCLA and the Cardinal have won nine straight in the series. Stanford 38, UCLA 35

2017 picks records: Bonagura 28-4, Aschoff 28-4