Gold: Final thoughts heading into the Pac-12's Week 10
After holding serve in Week 9, the cream of the Pac-12 crop once again takes on the conference’s dregs. Four Pac-12 teams ranked in the top 14 should have little trouble with opponents this week, even if the injury bug has crept up for just about all of them.
But Friday night’s showdown between 6-2 Oregon State and 6-2 Washington might just be the game of the week.
Here’s my look at that marquee matchup and other final thoughts heading into Week 10 of the Pac-12 slate.
No. 23 Oregon State at Washington, Friday 7:30 pm, ESPN2
Friday’s matchup between two very good teams will be a contrast in styles between one of the pass-happiest offenses in the Pac-12, and a more conservative, balanced approach in Oregon State.
The question is, can the Beavers shut down the highest-flying passing game in the Pac-12? Washington averages 379.25 yards per game while OSU checks in at just a hair over 230 passing yards per game.
Oregon State’s defense, however, has handled aerial attacks with ease, leading the conference in pass defense efficiency. The Beavers have allowed just 8 passing touchdowns all year.
Whichever team plays to its strength should come out on top in this one. I do think home field advantage will play a major role, though.
Prediction: Huskies withstand late charge from Beavers to move to 7-2.
No. 8 Oregon at Colorado, 12:30 pm, ESPN
In a contest between the Pac-12’s best team and easily its worst, it’s hard to imagine anything but a major Buffalo beatdown.
Oregon’s offense enters the game leading the Pac-12 in scoring and total offense. Colorado comes in as the worst scoring offense and the worst scoring defense.
The Buffs will be lucky to survive an onslaught. Anything short of a 40-point win by the Ducks would be a major letdown. Unfortunately for Oregon, this is not much of a tune-up for a brutal 3-game stretch to end the season against Washington, Utah and Oregon State.
Prediction: My prediction? Pain. For the Buffaloes.
Washington State at Stanford, 12:30 pm, Pac-12 Network
Stanford’s 1-5 conference record is the worst in the Pac-12, and the Cardinal really haven’t been all that competitive in the 5 losses.
After an undefeated run through non-conference play, Washington State comes in at 1-4 in Pac-12 play and reeling after losses to USC, Oregon State and Utah.
This one feels like a pick-em, even if the Cougars are the better team. Something just hasn’t been right in the passing game over the last 3 weeks. Cameron Ward has just 1 touchdown pass in both of his last two games, both losses, and he completed just 25-of-54 passes in a Week 7 loss to Oregon State. Last Thursday following a bye, Ward was much more accurate, completing 27-of-31 attempts but he managed just 222 yards and was sacked 4 times.
He needs some of his receivers to step up or the season is going to spiral.
Prediction: Cougars bounce back into the win column.
Arizona at No. 14 Utah, 4:30 pm, Pac-12 Network
With Cam Rising’s status up in the air just a few games removed from the Utes’ tussle with the Wildcats, it’s tempting to imagine Arizona’s much-improved passing attack taking it to the Utes and running it up.
Without Rising and perhaps Dalton Kincaid, who was banged up last weekend against Washington State, the Utah offense could look very different against the Cats. The Utes are obviously the far better team, but not with Bryson Barnes under center.
This game could come down to how well Utah can get to Jayden de Laura, who has somewhat quietly put together a terrific season for Arizona.
Prediction: With or without Cameron Rising, the Utes win this one.
No. 12 UCLA at Arizona State, 6:30 p.m., FS1
The Sun Devils have rallied under Shaun Aguano and won 2 of 3, and this feels like just the kind of game that has come back to haunt UCLA in the past.
Part of me feels like we should come to expect some kind of flop by the Bruins at any given point in a season. But the other part of me, the much bigger part, thinks that UCLA finally has the kind of depth and experience at key skill positions as well as on the defense line, to weather a storm.
You’ve got to be impressed by how Aguano has guided the program, which has 1-touchdown wins over Washington and Colorado and a 1-point loss Stanford in the last few games. Aguano courageously made the move to backup quarterback Trendon Bourguet, and it’s paid off.
But I like the combination of Dorian Thompson-Robinson and Zach Charbonnet far too much to expect anything other than a UCLA win.
Prediction: Bruins continue their march toward a 10-win season.
Cal at No. 9 USC, 7:30 p.m., ESPN
A pair of garbage-time touchdowns by the Bears made their 42-24 loss to Oregon respectable last week, but Cal is clearly hanging on by a thread after losing 4 straight and 5 of 6. It’s hard to fathom the Bears putting up much of a fight against a banged-up USC roster.
Caleb Williams continues to play brilliant football with 24 touchdowns to only 1 interception, and the Bears are coming off a game in which they allowed six total Bo Nix touchdowns. Williams should contend for that total against this defense, as well.
Travis Dye will also be looking to make it two straight 100-yard games after he bounced back over the century mark in a 45-37 win over Arizona last weekend.
Prediction: Trojans have little trouble with overmatched Bears.