Gold: Final thoughts heading into the Pac-12's Week 8
Two top 10 teams meet in Autzen Stadium, as No. 9 UCLA’s visit to No. 10 Oregon highlights this weekend’s Pac-12 schedule. But forget the weekend: This matchup could define the conference campaign.
Whichever team wins is in the driver’s seat for a league title.
Here’s my look at that marquee matchup and other final thoughts heading into Week 8 of the Pac-12 slate.
No. 9 UCLA at No. 10 Oregon, 12:30 p.m., FOX
In a matchup of Bruins and Ducks, it’s the team that has the dog come out in them that will reign victorious. These are two scary good offenses with top-notch offensive lines, as the Pac-12’s two top rushing offenses and rushing defenses square off in what should be a shootout and a slugfest. A shootfest.
Where it starts to get dicey dicey is in the passing game, where the Oregon defense has been chopped up this year. All the while, what was a verifiable weakness for the Bruins might have turned into a strength.
Both teams have allowed 229 pass attempts — leading the league, either by virtue of big leads or non-threatening schemes — but UCLA has been clearly better. The Ducks have allowed 11 more completions (154-143), 177 more passing yards (1,652-1,475), 5 more touchdowns (13-8) and intercepted 2 fewer passes (5-7).
Now the Ducks have to somehow corral Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who leads the league in passing efficiency by 18 points over No. 2 Caleb Williams (180.58-162.29). DTR has been nothing but UFB (un-freaking-believable) this year, completing a truly fantastic 75 percent of his passes for 1,510 yards and 15 touchdowns with just 2 interceptions.
His counterpart, Bo Nix, has been terrific as well, completing 131-of-186 passes for 1,526 yards and 12 touchdowns with 3 picks. Both players have been threats on the ground; Nix is averaging 8.3 yards per carry (40 for 331) with 8 touchdowns, while DTR has 231 yards on 42 carries (5.5 ypc) and 4 scores.
I’m excited to see how Chip Kelly and Dan Lanning bust out the chess pieces for this one.
Final verdict: Ducks stave off a late charge to seize control of Pac-12 race.
Arizona State at Stanford, 1 p.m., Pac-12 Network
Losers of four straight, these two teams were left for dead only to pull off major upsets, and now they meet in Palo Alto with a chance to inch closer to .500.
After showing little fight in a Week 4 loss to Utah in Shaun Aguano’s first game at the helm following Herm Edwards’ firing, Arizona State was plucky against USC in a 42-25 Week 5 loss. plucky bordering on feisty. Then the Stun Devils shocked No. 21 Washington in Week 6, getting a bye week to rest up for the Cardinal, who were just as written off.
With its coach, David Shaw, in hot water, Stanford went into South Bend and beat a reeling Fighting Irish squad, 16-14, notching the program’s third win at Notre Dame since 2010.
Back home to face an Arizona State team that has some key injuries, including one to offensive tackle LaDarius Henderson, the Cardinal have a chance to stave off Shaw’s dismissal with a victory.
Final verdict: Cardinal pull out second straight win.
Colorado at Oregon State, 5 p.m., NBC
Coming off its first win of the season — an emotional 20-13 overtime win over Cal last Saturday that concluded with fans rushing the field — Colorado will look to make it 2 in a row against the Beavers, who they beat 37-34 last season. The Buffaloes weren’t great against Cal, but the Bears were just that bad.
Oregon State, on the other hand, have had only one real off game this season, a 42-16 loss at then-No. 12 Utah. Chance Nolan was knocked out of that game and has yet to return, and Ben Gulbranson should get his 3rd straight start, vying for his 3rd straight win.
Should the Beavers pull it out — and they absolutely should — they’ll become bowl eligible with a realistic chance to get to 8 or 9 wins. That would mean big things for Jonathan Smith and Co.
Final verdict: Beavers move to 6-2 for first time since 2013.
Washington at Cal, 7:30 p.m., ESPN
Like the Beavers, the Huskies can become bowl eligible with a win at Cal, who are coming off that brutal loss to Colorado. The Bears should be fired up for this one, but will that matter against a Husky passing offense that has been mowing teams down?
Cal will need to turn back to its running game against the league’s 3rd-best run defense, as Jaydn Ott has been bottled up for two straight weeks — both losses — after breaking out for 274 rushing yards in Week 4.
This is the beginning of a brutal stretch for the Bears, who realistically could see 4 ranked teams in their final 5 weeks. A win over the Huskies would keep their marginal postseason hopes alive.
Final verdict: Huskies become bowl eligible with key road win.