ARIZONA FOOTBALL

Pac-12 lookahead: Colorado takes on Oregon at Autzen in battle of the unbeatens

Sep 21, 2023, 7:05 PM

Deion Sanders...

Head coach Deion Sanders of the Colorado Buffaloes walks and greets players as they warm up before a game against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Folsom Field on September 9, 2023 in Boulder, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

(Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

The Pac-12 has three Top 25 matchups in the same week for the first time and just the 10th time in any conference. No. 19 Colorado at No. 10 Oregon tops the bill. The Buffaloes has been college football’s biggest surprises and will face a stiff road test against a Ducks team that’s won 29 of their last 31 home games. No. 11 Utah is hoping quarterback Cameron Rising can make his 2023 debut in what should be a tough game against No. 22 UCLA. No. 14 Oregon State also is at No. 21 Washington State in the teams’ first meeting as ranked teams in 108 all-time games.

Game of the Week

No. 19 Colorado (3-0) at No. 10 Oregon (3-0), Saturday. The Pac-12 has three Top 25 matchups in the same week for the first time and just the 10th time in any conference.

Topping the marquee will be Deion Sanders and his Buffaloes charging into Eugene to face the Ducks. Colorado has been the biggest surprise of the college football season in its first year under Sanders, knocking off TCU and Nebraska before surviving in double overtime to beat rival Colorado State last week.

The Buffaloes face a massive test in their Pac-12 opener, playing on the road against the Ducks without two-way star Travis Hunter, who’s expected to be out several weeks after being taken to the hospital during the game against the Rams. Oregon is 29-2 at Autzen Stadium since 2018 and Colorado hasn’t beaten a top 10 team on the road since 1995.

Matchup of the Week

No. 22 UCLA (3-0) at No. 11 Utah (3-0), Saturday.

The Utes have wins over Florida and Baylor during the undefeated start the season and may get a big boost with the return of quarterback Cameron Rising.

Out since suffering a torn ACL in the Rose Bowl, Rising has been more mobile in practice and appears to be closer to playing, even if coach Kyle Whittingham has yet to say if he’ll play against the Bruins. UCLA has looked sharp under freshman quarterback Dante Moore, who is third among Power Five quarterbacks with 12.06 yards per pass. Moore and the Bruins will face their most physical test of the season against Utah, which has won 16 straight home games.

Inside the Numbers

The Pac-12 matched a record set last week with eight teams ranked in the AP Top 25.

The conference has four teams in the top 11 — with No. 5 USC and No. 8 Washington — for the first time since 2001. … Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. leads the FBS with 444 yards passing per game after throwing for 473 yards — 375 in the first half — and four TDs against Michigan State last week. … Arizona will play seven straight games against teams currently ranked in the AP Top 25 after playing at Stanford on Saturday. … Stanford is the only FBS team to be perfect on field goals the past two seasons, hitting all 25.

Players to Watch

Shaduer Sanders, Colorado. The Buffaloes’ quarterback has inserted himself into the Heisman Trophy conversation with a sterling start since following his father from Jackson State to Boulder. Sanders is second in the FBS in passing yards per game (417) and fourth in completion percentage (78.7%) after throwing for 348 yards and four TDs last week against Colorado State.

Upset Watch

No. 14 Oregon State (3-0) at No. 21 Washington State (3-0).

The Beavers are 2 1/2-point road favorites, according to FanDuel Sportsbook, so a win by the Cougars wouldn’t be much of an upset.

The true upset: Oregon State and Washington State meeting as ranked teams for the first time in 108 all-time meetings. It’s also their first meeting with both undefeated since 1989. The Beavers were among the Pac-12’s best defensive teams last season and are at it again, holding their last two opponents under 10 points for the first time since 1969. The Cougars are coming off their highest-scoring game since 2018 — 64-21 over Northern Colorado — and racked up 715 total yards, so this will be strength against strength. Oregon State has won eight straight games over two seasons, longest since nine straight in 1966-67.

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