If you had to describe what’s transpired in the Pac-12 so far this year in one word, ‘chaos’ might do the trick.
Through the season’s first seven weeks, there are no undefeated teams — overall or in conference play. The next seven weeks will serve as a type of round-robin playoff to see who will square off in the Pac-12 Championship Game in Santa Clara, Calif. on Dec. 5.
Here’s a little primer for what should be a great week of college football in the “Conference of Champions.”
#20 Utah (4-1,1-1) at Oregon State (4-1, 1-1) – Good news for the Utes…Pac-12 road teams are 13-4 in conference play in 2014. Bad news for Oregon State…Utah also has the third-ranked defense in the Pac-12 and a fearsome pass-rushing trio in Nate Orchard, Hunter Dimick and Jared Norris. Orchard leads the nation in sacks per game and the threesome has combined for 17.5 sacks on the year.
The last meeting – Oregon State won a wild 51-48 overtime affair in Salt Lake City last September. Sean Mannion had five TD passes in the win for the Beavers — the same number he’s got in five games this year.
TV Info – Pac-12 Networks • 7:05 kickoff • Tim Brando (play-by-play), Joel Klatt (color), Jenny Taft (sideline)
UCLA (4-2, 1-2) at California (4-2, 2-2) – Cal’s stay atop the Pac-12 North was brief. After their crazy 60-59 win over Washington State, the Bears came crashing down to Earth in a 31-7 loss to Washington. But Sonny Dykes’ team is still likely in a better state of mind than UCLA, who is reeling after back-to-back losses to Utah and Oregon.
UCLA’s much-maligned offensive line used wider splits and found success in the running game against Oregon, gaining 328 yards. They also did a better job of protecting Brett Hundley, who was sacked only twice in the game.
Cal’s defense, which was one of the worst in the country last season, has been pounded for an average of 613.3 yards per game over its last four contests. And that was before they lost defensive backs Griffin Piatt and Joel Willis to season-ending knee injuries. Look for UCLA to bounce back in a big way.
The last meeting – Hundley threw for a career-high 410 yards and three touchdowns as the Bruins cruised to a 37-10 win over the Bears last October.
TV Info – ABC/ESPN2 • 12:30 p.m kickoff • Bob Wischusen (play-by-play), Matt Millen (color), Quint Kessenich (sideline)
Colorado (2-4,0-3) at #22 USC (4-2,3-1) – After losing on a Hail Mary to Arizona State and hanging on for dear life against Arizona, it’s kind of hard to believe the Trojans are in first place in the South. But they are, thanks to running back Buck Allen, who has run for 100+ yards in five of six games this season. Last week, Allen riddled Arizona’s defense for 205 yards and three touchdowns on his way to being named the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week.
The Buffs, as is customary for this time of the year, are reeling. CU has lost two in a row and has started conference play at 0-3 for the third time in their four years in the Pac-12. But there could be hope for Colorado, and it comes in the form of their passing game. Quarterback Sefo Liufau has thrown for 757 yards and nine touchdowns in his last two games. The Trojans have had trouble against the pass, allowing an average of 452.5 yards in their last two games.
The last meeting – Allen ran for a then-career-high 145 yards and three touchdowns and Cody Kessler threw for two more scores in the Trojans’ 47-29 win that wasn’t as close as the score would have indicated. USC led 37-7 heading into the fourth quarter.
TV Info – Pac-12 Networks • 3:00 p.m. kickoff • Ted Robinson (play-by-play), Glenn Parker (color), Jill Savage (sideline)
Washington (5-1, 1-1) at #9 Oregon (5-1,2-1) – The Ducks got back on the horse (curious visual, huh?) following their loss to Arizona by dismantling UCLA last Saturday. The Ducks’ offensive line is getting healthier, with senior left tackle Jake Fisher returning from a knee injury. Fisher’s presence is more than welcome this week as the Ducks will face a fierce Washington front seven that boasts two of the top five pass rushers in the country in Hau’Oli Kikana and Danny Shelton, who have 17 sacks between them.
Oh, and then there’s linebacker Shaq Thompson, who has
three fumble recoveries and has found the end zone five times this season.
Washington’s defense should be able to hang with Oregon. The question is, can the Huskies produce enough offense to pull the upset?
The last meeting – Oregon rolled up 631 yards of offense and Marcus Mariota was responsible for four touchdowns in a 45-24 win in Seattle last October.
TV Info – Fox Sports 1 • 5:00 p.m. kickoff • Joe Davis (play-by-play), Joey Harrington (color), Kris Budden (sideline)
#23 Stanford (4-2, 2-1) at #17 Arizona State (4-1,2-1) – It’s a rematch of the 2013 Pac-12 Championship Game, although a lot of the combatants that will be on the field Saturday didn’t play in the game last December. Arizona State is also hoping for a much different outcome. The Cardinal physically dominated the Sun Devils on both lines of scrimmage in a 24-point win.
This year’s Stanford team doesn’t look nearly as dominant offensively. The Cardinal averaged 33 points per game against Pac-12 competition last year; this year that number is down to 21 points per contest. The running game has been less effective this year with the committee of Remound Wright, Barry Sanders and Kelsey Young trying to pick up the slack of the graduated Tyler Gaffney.
The defense, however, is legit, ranking second in the nation in total defense. Coordinator Lance Anderson’s unit is yielding just 278 yards per game. They’ll have their hands full with an ASU passing attack that has posted just under 1,000 yards in its last two games. And QB Taylor Kelly could return from a foot injury and spell Mike Bercovici at times Saturday, giving the Devils a little more diversity in their attack.
The last meeting – Gaffney scored three touchdowns in the first half, including a 69-yard back-breaker as Stanford jumped out to a 28-7 lead they would never relinquish on the way to a 38-14 win.
TV Info – ESPN • 7:30 kickoff • Mark Jones (play-by-play), Rod Gilmore (color), Jessica Mendoza (sideline)