Week 13 Pac-12 Viewer’s Guide: Three key games could shape South
We’re down to the penultimate week in the Pac-12.
While one spot in December 5th’s conference championship has been claimed, there will be plenty of jockeying for the other over the next two weeks.
All 12 teams are in action this weekend — here’s a primer.
Washington State Cougars (3-7, 2-5) at #13 Arizona State Sun Devils (8-2, 5-2)
The Sun Devils inexplicably squandered control in the South by laying an egg in a 35-27 loss to the Oregon State Beavers last week. Now, Todd Graham’s team needs to win out and get some help from others.
ASU’s defense took a huge step backward last weekend, allowing Oregon State to roll up a season-high 247 yards on the ground. The big play, which had been limited by the Devils in recent weeks, was fully on display. Oregon State had three touchdowns of 60-plus yards on the night.
The Sun Devils will be tested by Washington State’s passing attack, which hasn’t missed a beat in the absence of injured quarterback Connor Halliday. Freshman Luke Falk has thrown for 817 yards and seven touchdowns in the last two games, which included a road win at Oregon State.
Washington State hasn’t won in Tempe since 2001.
The last meeting: Taylor Kelly had five touchdown passes and ran for two more scores as the Sun Devils obliterated the Cougs 55-21 on Halloween night 2013 in Pullman.
TV Info: Pac-12 Networks • 11:00 a.m. kickoff • Kevin Calabro (pbp), Yogi Roth (color), Lewis Johnson (sideline)
#15 Arizona Wildcats (8-2, 5-2) at #17 Utah Utes (7-3, 4-3)
These two teams are both still breathing in the Pac-12 South race as well. Arizona stayed in it by pulling out an improbable win over Washington thanks to a late Husky turnover and a last-second field goal by Casey Skowron. Utah went double-overtime to knock off Stanford for the second straight season.
Arizona’s potent offense has been slowed a bit in recent weeks. UCLA held the ‘Cats to just 255 yards and one touchdown. After a one-week reprieve against Colorado, Arizona put up 375 yards and two offensive touchdowns against Washington.
They’ll be tested again by a stout Utah defense that has rebounded after back-to-back losses to Arizona State and Oregon. Defensive end Nate Orchard, who has been a terror for opposing offenses all year, is coming off a 3.5-sack performance against the Cardinal. Arizona has done a decent job of protecting quarterback Anu Solomon this season, allowing 22 sacks in the first 10 games, but they’ll have their hands full this week.
The last meeting: Arizona got 232 yards rushing and a touchdown from Ka’Deem Carey in a 35-24 win over the Utes last October in Tucson.
TV Info: ESPN • 1:30 p.m. kickoff • Mark Jones (pbp), Rod Gilmore (color), Jessica Mendoza (sideline)
Stanford Cardinal (5-5, 3-4) at Cal Golden Bears (5-5, 3-5)
We all saw these two teams having identical overall records at this time, right? Uh, no.
Stanford has lost three of its last four games and can’t get their offense going with any consistency. In a win over Oregon State Oct. 25, the Cardinal scored 38 points and rolled up 438 yards, pleasing head coach David Shaw. In the two games that have followed, Stanford has averaged 16.5 points and has continued to struggle in the red zone. The two-time defending conference champions are 122nd in the nation in red zone offense, converting only 46 percent of their trips inside the opponent’s 20 into touchdowns.
Cal has lost four of five since starting the season 4-1, but offense has not been the Bears’ problem. In their last four games, Cal has averaged 37.5 points and 464 yards. Quarterback Jared Goff has had a stellar season, throwing for 3,398 yards and 30 touchdowns against just four interceptions.
Stanford’s favored by 5.5 points, but does anybody smell an upset?
The last meeting: Ty Montgomery went nutty, scoring five touchdowns in Stanford’s easy 63-13 win in Palo Alto. It was the most points ever scored by one team in the history of the Big Game.
TV Info: FOX Sports 1 • 2:00 kickoff • Joe Davis (pbp), Joey Harrington (color), Kris Budden (sideline)
Colorado (2-8, 0-7) at #2 Oregon (9-1, 6-1)
Uh-oh. This one could get very ugly in Eugene. The Ducks are a 32.5-point favorite and are facing a Buffs team that has lost six straight and is 4-30 in conference games since joining the Pac-12 in 2011.
Oregon has been rolling since an early-October upset handed to them by Arizona. Since that Thursday night, the Ducks have won five in a row and have scored 42 or more points in each of those contests. In that stretch, quarterback Marcus Mariota has become one of the two top Heisman contenders in the country, throwing for 14 touchdowns against two picks and running for five more.
The good news for CU is quarterback Sefo Liufau should be able to play against the Ducks. The bad news is Liufau has been a turnover machine. The sophomore has thrown 14 interceptions this season and has lost three fumbles. He’s had five two-interception games this year.
Ugliness, I tell you.
The last meeting: Mariota threw for 355 yards and five touchdowns and ran for two more as the Ducks smoked the Buffs 57-16 last October in Boulder.
TV Info: Pac-12 Networks • 2:30 kickoff • Ted Robinson (pbp), Glenn Parker (color), Jill Savage (sideline)
#19 USC Trojans (7-3, 6-2) at #9 UCLA Bruins (8-2, 5-2)
It’s the biggest game of the weekend in the Pac-12, as UCLA has been handed control of their own destiny by virtue of Arizona State’s loss to Oregon State.
The Trojans’ three losses this season have come by a combined 13 points, with two of them coming on last-second touchdown passes. USC has rebounded nicely, and there isn’t a more potent passing combination in the nation right now then Cody Kessler throwing to Nelson Agholor. In the past four games, they’ve hooked up 40 times for 674 yards and six touchdowns.
UCLA is about as resilient as they come. Following back-to-back losses that many thought would derail their season, the Bruins have responded with four straight wins. Yes, they struggled against Cal and needed double overtime to beat Colorado, but wins are wins. Quarterback Brett Hundley has been outstanding during the streak, averaging 255 yards passing and 88 yards on the ground. He’s been responsible for 10 touchdowns in that span.
Note: ASU fans, you need to root hard for USC — if the Sun Devils take care of Washington State earlier in the day, that is.
The last meeting: UCLA blew open a close game in the second half on touchdown runs by Hundley and Paul Perkins to win 35-14 — the Bruins’ second straight win in the rivalry.
TV Info: ABC • 6:00 kickoff • Brad Nessler (pbp), Todd Blackledge (color), Holly Rowe (sideline)
Oregon State Beavers (5-5, 2-5) at Washington Huskies (6-5, 2-5)
Can somebody figure out the Beavers? Four straight ugly losses had many in Oregon talking about the possibility of Mike Riley losing his job. OSU bounces back with an improbable win over an ASU team with their eyes on the College Football Playoff. But can they sustain it?
Many people believe that Washington played its best overall game of 2014 last week only to cough it up in the late stages of a soul-crushing loss to Arizona. The way that game ended had people in Seattle talking about the job status of first-year head coach Chris Petersen — though his situation is much different than Riley’s. But the failed clock management, play calling and decision to “ice” Arizona kicker Casey Skowron were all frustrating to the Husky fan base. And all of those decisions contributed to Washington’s loss.
If the Huskies want to recover, they’re going to have to take better care of the football. UW fumbled six times last week — losing three — including the one that ultimately sealed their fate.
The last meeting: Washington ran over, through and around Oregon State in a 69-27 win last year in Corvallis. Bishop Sankey had 179 yards and three touchdowns, Deontae Cooper added 166 and two scores and Dwayne Washington had 141 and two touchdowns. UW had 530 yards rushing in the ball game.
TV Info: Pac-12 Networks • 8:30 p.m. kickoff • Roxy Bernstein (pbp), Anthony Herron (color), Guy Haberman (sideline)