With the game of the week out of the way early and meeting expectations for the most exciting, competitive, and entertaining conference in all of college football, the four games left to be played this week have some big shoes to fill. There should be plenty of fireworks in the conference Saturday as these eight teams duke it out for Divisional supremacy, with only one inter-division matchup on the slate.
Saturday Afternoon Brawl:
ASU at Stanford (-17.5):
2:00 pm Mountain, 1:00 Pacific.
G.A.W.P.: Stanford 88.6% to win.
After back-to-back losses, each ugly in a different way, Stanford reasserted itself by blowing UCLA out of the water. Meanwhile, the Sun Devils silenced their own doubters by knocking off a ranked Oregon squad. The winner of this afternoon contest will solidify their standing as a team to beat; the loser will fade into the background of the season.
Arizona State has scored a lot of points in the young season, riding in particular the connection between Manny Wilkins and brand new Biletnikoff watch list member N’Keal Harry, who has 436 yards and 3 touchdowns on 31 receptions. They have yet to encounter a defense like Stanford, however. The Cardinal looked lost against USC, but were dominant against every other foe this season.
Stanford has struggled when they couldn’t find their running game, but when that’s been working, it’s clear the Bryce Love is one of the most electric backs in the country, averaging a mind boggling 10.8 yards per carry with 5 touchdowns. Arizona State’s 4.71 yards per carry allowed is 98th in the nation. This is not a good confluence of events for the Sun Devils.
ASU isn’t going to be totally lost against the Cardinal, but their greatest weakness plays into Stanford’s best strength, and it’s hard to imagine the Sun Devils finding a way to stop or even slow Bryce Love. The Stanford running back is going to pound the ‘Devils, leaving them with little time of possession and a lopsided score. ASU will get a few licks in, but this one is going to be a blowout.
Prediction: Stanford 42, Arizona State 21
Washington (-27) at Oregon State
6:00 pm Mountain, 5:00 Pacific.
G.A.W.P.: Washington 99.9% to win.
Coming off a bye, PAC 12 fans hope to see the injured Jake Luton back in the starting quarterback spot for the Beavers. It won’t matter much who is starting for this over-matched squad, however, as the Huskies will be blowing them out of their own building.
This is a tune-up game for Washington, but there is little to work on for the team with one of the nation’s top quarterbacks, running backs, and defenses. They’ll look to keep the ball rolling in all phases and perhaps seek to uncover a counterpart for Dante Pettis; the Huskies need to find a second receiver to take coverage off of Pettis and allow the throwing game to really open up.
The Beavers, meanwhile, should be looking inward on this game, focusing on improving themselves, playing assignment sound, and doing their beleaguered coach proud. No one is expecting the Beavers to win tonight, or even keep it close, but they can still impress observers by playing a fundamentally sound football game.
This one is a laugher to its core, and there is no conceivable way it will be competitive. UW will take their foot off the gas at some point, but it’s going to be a wire to wire easy win for the darling of the PAC 12.
Prediction: Washington 52, Oregon State 6
Colorado at UCLA (-7.5)
8:30 pm Mountain, 7:30 Pacific.
G.A.W.P.: UCLA 78.6% to win
These two teams seek to rebound off embarrassing beat-downs by heavyweight North opponents. Colorado fell to Washington by a wide margin thanks to an offense that could barely score, and UCLA was shredded by Stanford’s run game, leaving no doubt that both of these teams have core problems they won’t be able to solve in a week or two. Still, someone has to win this game.
UCLA will seek to do it the same way they’ve won their others- a steady diet of Josh Rosen. Rosen has silenced what doubters he has had, finding a way to bring the Bruins back from ruin, blow out weaker opponents, and keep games more respectable than they otherwise would be. Rosen is first in the nation in yards per game and touchdowns, although his heavy usage, playing from behind, and the one-dimensional nature of the Bruins have kept his efficiency and advanced numbers more in the top 20-40 range. He’ll probably keep it up against Colorado, but he won’t get much help.
Colorado has struggled to find a top gear on offense, having been bailed out a bit by turnovers and special teams play in the matchups where they’ve managed to put up healthy point totals. Running back Phillip Lindsay has been hot and cold, averaging about 6.5 yards per carry in two of his games, and 3.4 in the other two. He should have room to run against UCLA, who are second to last in the nation in run defense.
UCLA’s atrocious defense will do their best to get out of Colorado’s way, but the Buffaloes’ problems come from within, not without. Josh Rosen should have another strong showing, and the Buffs won’t quite be able to keep up in Pasadena.
Prediction: UCLA 36, Colorado 30
Cal at Oregon (-16)
8:30 pm Mountain, 7:30 Pacific.
G.A.W.P.: Stanford 87.2% to win.
Cal hits the road to take on Oregon in a crucial matchup for the PAC 12 pecking order. There’s a way this one was expected to go, and the betting line and G.A.W.P. reflect that expectation- Oregon was supposed to be pretty good this year, Cal profoundly inept.
So far this season, Oregon has looked about like we expected- talented, with a good offense and an evolving defense that each have their own flaws. The loss to ASU stings, but the Ducks should bounce back and pick up plenty of quality wins throughout the season. There’s no facet of the game where the Ducks have been stellar, but they’ve been good enough in each phase that they should be able to deconstruct a team like Cal was projected to be this season.
Cal, however, has defied expectations. They played USC tight and have looked pretty good against their other opponents. While the prognosticators are convinced this one is hopeless for the Bears, the results to date don’t support the idea that this team is bad. They are headed to Autzen believing they can win and with more than enough talent and coaching to make that a reality.
Ultimately, the forces at work don’t spell out victory for the Bears, although they will keep it pretty close. The biggest hurdle in this game is the location- Autzen Stadium is an exceedingly difficult place to play, a big, rowdy, intense experience. That alone wouldn’t be enough to put Cal down, but combined with the realities of the talent gap between these two teams, the Ducks should come away with the W.
Prediction: Oregon 37, Cal 30