The meat of the PAC 12 schedule gives a range of intriguing contests, two with lines within a touchdown and one Vegas won’t touch. It’s sure to be another chaotic week, one that will solidify the PAC 12 pecking order. Return tomorrow for coverage of the Game of the Week, a Washington State visit to Oregon.
Oregon State at USC (-34):
2:00 pm Mountain, 1:00 Pacific.
G.A.W.P.: USC 99.9% to win.
In a season in which a scheduling quirk has denied the Trojans a bye, they get to the easiest game on their entire schedule. Oregon State has looked worse than anyone had projected- and they were projected to be pretty bad. The Beavers have hit next-level bottom dweller status, and there are rumbling about Gary Andersen’s job security.
USC has been utterly demolished by injuries in the preceding weeks, with multiple starters going down throughout the game and a heralded, deep stable of running backs injured from top to bottom. Of particular note is the college career ending injury of Viane Talamaivo, a four year starter at right guard who is out for the season with no eligibility remaining. USC will be depleted at OL, LB, and DL this week, but the second string should handle the Beavers nearly as easily as the first.
Oregon State has put together two good quarters of football so far this season, and they came against Washington in the first half. The Huskies were held to 214 yards of offense, 5.8 yards per play. They only scored 7 points. The Beavers’ total lack of alternatives on offense has stymied any attempt to get anything going there, but a stout defensive performance like that first half showing against UW is something to build on.
USC has their opponent completely outclassed, and they’ll almost certainly wipe the floor with them. Their goal is going to be to build up a lead and pull their starters as quickly as possible, generating some facsimile of a bye week. The Trojans’ next two games are against ranked opponents, and they need to get healthy if they want to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Prediction: USC 45, Oregon State 10
Saturday Evening Games:
Arizona at Colorado (-6.5)
6:00 pm Mountain, 5:00 Pacific.
G.A.W.P.: Arizona 57% to win.
This game has the makings of a thrilling contest. Colorado and Arizona are each looking at two losses already, with what feels like everything riding on the result of the game this weekend. The team that triumphs will be well set up for a run at bowl eligibility. The team that falls may start to spiral towards the conference cellar. Early returns suggest these two squads are evenly matched, although the edge lies with Arizona.
Arizona is finding hope in the early strength of their losses- they have dropped two close contests to two teams that look pretty good early on, with a combined 7-1 record. They’re putting up a yard per play more than they are allowing, and have blown out inferior opponents. Mistakes are part of what makes a football team bad, but Arizona has been particularly prone to critical blunders. They think they are better than their record and look to prove it this Saturday.
Colorado’s story feels a little different at this crucial juncture. After a series of dominant defensive performances and hit-or-miss offensive showings, the Buffs dropped an ugly blowout to Washington and a tight match against a reeling and deeply flawed UCLA team. Their overall performance has been about as good as Arizona’s, but the problems they suffer from feel more structural. The Wildcats could break out of their funk at any moment- Colorado doesn’t look like they can.
The Wildcats are doing most everything right. They’ve got a quarterback who can throw and the clever, multiple spread rushing attack of Rich Rodriguez that’s very capable of scoring points in bunches. The Buffs are limited by their offense, which makes too many mistakes to be reliable. Ultimately, this is what will doom Colorado.
Prediction: Arizona 28, Colorado 24
Stanford (-5.5) at Utah
8:15 pm Mountain, 7:15 Pacific.
Stanford 69.2% to win.
These teams have faced off twice, and both games have been fantastic, must-see-TV since Utah joined the PAC 12. Their first was an epic upset, as the unranked Utes would knock off Stanford at number 5. That six point win, and a three point double overtime win for the Utes the next mean that Stanford has never experienced a win over Utah. They look to change that this season in a game in which they are solid favorites.
Stanford is an interesting team this season. They have the best offensive player in the PAC 12 (or country, depending on who you ask) in Bryce Love, who is over 1,000 yards in only 5 games and exceeding a superhuman 10 yards per carry. However, they’ve lost two games thanks to offensive short-outs and both ASU and USC were able to find significant amounts of running room between the tackles against a usually indomitable Stanford defense. They’ve generally looked like the Stanford we’re used to, but with some missing pieces.
Love will get his stiffest test of the season against Utah’s ferocious front seven. The Utes are 8th in the nation in yards per carry allowed, holding Arizona about 1.5 yards per carry under their season average. Although their strength of schedule is still very soft, the Utes have earned the benefit of the doubt when it comes to fielding a physical, effective defense. It doesn’t look like anyone can stop Bryce Love, but if the Utes are the first to make him look mortal, it should bode well for their chances.
This has all the makings of one of the better Kyle Whittingham defenses, but no one has been able to stop Bryce Love, or even slow him down- he’s gone over 10 yards per carry three times and never held below 8.77. We’re projecting another exciting contest, but Stanford should ride to a victory in this one.
Prediction: Stanford 31, Utah 27
Cal at Washington (-27.5)
8:45 pm Mountain, 7:45 Pacific.
G.A.W.P.: UW 95.9% to win
The end result of this game isn’t in serious doubt (but it is college football; stranger things have and will happen). The line is pretty surprising at first glance, however- after all, Cal played USC tight and looked good early in the season before an ugly loss to Oregon last week.
Cal is always trying to ride their passing offense to victory, and the loss of wide receiver Demetris Robertson makes that harder. Robertson wasn’t a huge part of the offense, but he was fifth on the team in receptions, and his absence means someone else needs to step up. Washington will be a tough introduction for whoever takes his place: Washington is fifth in the nation in yards per attempt. Cal will need a breakout performance from somewhere to even hope to hang with the Huskies.
Washington is undoubtedly the class of the league. They are twelfth in the nation in yards per play on offense, and sixth in the same stat on defense. They have a great quarterback (second in the conference in total QBR). They have playmakers all over the field. It’s not going to be until mid-November until the Huskies are truly tested again.
The nearly four-touchdown advantage Vegas is giving to the Huskies isn’t about Cal being a bad team- they are a solid PAC 12 squad this season. It’s about Washington being a dramatic cut above the rest of the conference and the country. Washington might not make it through the season unscathed but on any given week they should be the prohibitive favorite. This week is no different.
Prediction: Washington 41, Cal 17