Welcome back to Gold Nuggets, Saturday Out West columnist Jon Gold’s weekly trip around the Pac-12.

Read below for news, notes and quotes heading into Week 9 of the 2022 campaign.

Arizona: Echols on the hunt against former team

Wildcats linebacker Hunter Echols is not the first Pac-12 transfer to square off against his former team, but he might be the one whose fortunes changed the most with his move.

An afterthought with USC for years, tallying just 50 tackles in 38 career games with the Trojans, Echols has blossomed into a major contributor for Arizona this season. He already had 36 tackles, including 3.5 sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss.

He brings a little extra juice into Saturday’s home matchup with the visiting Trojans.

“I know how they work, I know how hard we work,” Echols told reporters on Tuesday, according to AZ Desert Swarm’s Brian J. Pederson. “I’m excited to go out there and have fun. I feel like there’s no real (extra) emotion. I love some of those guys over there that I’ve been with. That’s where I committed to out of high school and got my college degree. My undergrad degree says USC on it. But I’m blessed to be at the University of Arizona.”

Arizona State: Ailing Sun Devils offense reopens QB competition

Nearly 2 months into a lost season, the Arizona State quarterback situation is back up in the air.

Emory Jones has started all 7 games, but backup Trenton Bourguet has arguably the best showing by a Sun Devil QB this year, going 15-for-21 in relief of Jones in a 45-38 surprising win over Washington. After the Sun Devils went scoreless in the second half of a 15-14 loss to Stanford on Saturday, ASU interim coach Shaun Aguano called the offensive performance “unacceptable” and reopened the competition.

“Going forward, it’s an open competition, a true open competition for both of those guys,” Aguano told reporters, according to the Arizona Republic. “I still will say this, I’m going to pick the best guy that will get us that win.”

Jones, a transfer from Florida, has just 5 passing touchdowns to go along with 4 interceptions and 18 sacks taken this year.

“There’s some good things that he did, there’s some decision-making that was questionable,” Aguano said. “There was some inconsistency in the second half a little bit. Overall, I thought he did OK. Do I think we should’ve won that game? Absolutely. I’m still in a jar about it and we got to move forward.”

Cal: Can Bears break through and get to Bo Nix?

Coming off a disappointing 28-21 loss to Washington, the Cal defensive line will have its hands full with another talented offensive line.

Yet as good as the Huskies are up front, they pale in comparison to the Oregon Ducks’ fearsome five-some. Then again, so does everyone in the country.

Oregon’s offensive line may just be the best in the game, and the unit has allowed just 1 sack all season, an astounding number through 7 games.

“They have some really good protections. Their O-line has meshed pretty well,” nose guard Ricky Correia told reporters, according to Cal Sports Report’s Jeff Faraudo. “And he’s doing a good job — when there is pressure, he can escape pretty well. He’s a good runner. We just have to get after him, rush aggressive and make him uncomfortable, as much as possible. We can’t let him sit on a spot and deliver some of those throws he’s been throwing all season.”

Colorado: Buffaloes get some big backs back

One of just a few true talents on the Colorado roster, Alex Fontenot has shown what he can do for the Buffaloes, rushing for 874 yards and 5 scores in 2019.

He entered this season expecting to play a big role for the Buffs, but he’s missed the past 5 games with a chest injury.

He’s expected to return this weekend in a matchup with Arizona State. And he’s not the only one.

Fellow back Deion Smith has a chance to return this week, too, Buffaloes coach Mike Sanford said. Smith was taken off the field on a stretcher after being knocked out of the Buffaloes’ 20-13 win over Cal on Oct. 15. By the time Colorado players got into the locker room, he was up and dancing with them, but he missed last week.

“We continue to get good injury news on the front of both Deion and Fontenot,” Sanford told reporters, according to BuffZone’s Brian Howell. “We’ll continue to evaluate that as the week goes, but both are in a good place to potentially play on Saturday. So we’ll update that as it goes on.”

Oregon: AD Rob Mullens makes a pitch for Oregon’s Playoff bona fides

As Oregon flirts with the boundaries of the College Football Playoff, the Ducks have one significant backer in athletic director Rob Mullens.

“I think when it comes out, with our strength of schedule, our offense is putting up incredible numbers and I think our defensive metrics are strong,” Mullens said, according to the Oregonian’s James Crepea. “Because everybody watches the games, they will know, we probably could’ve scored at the end of last week’s game. There was another game (at Arizona) that we’ve ended by taking a knee that we probably could’ve scored. I think if you looked at the halftime scores you could see the dominance that we’ve had in games.”

A season-opening 49-3 loss to the Ducks is a big ding against them, but Oregon has looked mighty impressive since.

Oregon State: Beavers getting a true break during bye

With the Beavers already having locked up bowl eligibility and off to a 6-2 start, kudos to head coach Jonathan Smith for knowing what his team needs right now.

Sometimes it’s not about getting on the field.

Stanford: Cardinal running back pulls a 180

Cardinal freshman running back Arlen Davis announced on Monday night that he was intending to enter the portal and leave the program. That would’ve proved devastating to a Stanford offense that already lost Emmitt Smith Jr. early in the season and is likely to be without his replacement, Casey Filkins, on Saturday in a matchup with No. 12 UCLA at the Rose Bowl.

Only Tuesday morning, 247Sports’ Chris Hummer reported that Davis had rescinded his name from the portal and would instead remain at Farm for the time being. He may not have actually been able to enter the portal at this point, given he’s not a grad student nor is he playing for a program that fired its head coach.

Perhaps Saturday’s matchup has something to do with his quick reversal, but given its poor depth, Stanford has to be happy no matter the reason for Davis’ return.

UCLA: Bruins trying to get past heartbreaking Oregon loss — key word ‘trying’

UCLA linebacker Bo Calvert summed up the feelings of the rest of his teammates when he met with the media on Tuesday, providing a very thoughtful answer about a very bad game.

“That’s the thing that separates guys who kind of have one loss determine their season or have one bad play kind of take them out of a game,” Calvert told reporters, according to All Bruins’ Sam Connon. “(You have to) have a very short-term memory in football, but you also have to be able to remember those plays. So yeah, that dichotomy of flushing the last play but then remembering, ‘Hey, that’s what I did wrong, I gotta correct on this next play, I need to do this technique.’ So working to the point where you can play fast but you can also remember what you’re doing.

“Early on in my career here, coach Pellum did a great job with that, as far as shaping my mindset, just helping me. I would come off the field, he would make me kinda reiterate every single thing that happened that play and being able to visualize what’s happening. And that helps you, in the moment, to realize, ‘Hey, I gotta get in this gap, this thing happened, I’m doing this. When I come out the next play, they might try to do this and so I’m gonna try and correct that.’ But yeah, working with that, that’s the tough thing of football, but that’s what you’re always trying to improve.”

USC: Linebackers fighting through the pain

With Shane Lee sidelined with a hand injury and potentially Eric Gentry and Ralen Gorfoth sidelined as well, the USC linebacker corps’ depth will be tested this weekend against a prolific Arizona passing offense. Tuasivi Nomura, who saw the most extended time of his career after Gentry was sidelined against Utah in Week 7, stands to see extensive action, along with Raesjon Davis.

Nomura played 35 snaps against the Utes once Gentry went down, despite suffering a compound fracture in his finger in Week 3 against Fresno State.

“(He) played well, like had 2 tackles,” Riley told reporters this week, according to the Orange County Register’s Adam Grosbard. “Tells you about his toughness and about how much he wants to do well for this team.”

Riley also singled out Davis for his improvement.

“Really progressing defensively,” Riley said. “I think one of those guys that’s right on the cusp of playing significant reps and earning time there.”

Utah: Passing game thriving under Cam Rising, but Utes trying to strike balance

Last season, Utah quarterback Cam Rising was named all-conference first team despite never attempting more than 36 passes in any game. Rising was effective though less-than-explosive at times.

Before Week 7, it was more of the same, even if Rising’s stats were improved across the board; he still had not attempted more than 32 passes in a game.

Against USC in a 43-42 Week 7 win, Rising completed 30-of-44 passes for a career-high 415 yards and 2 scores, along with 60 rushing yards. It was by far the most usage of his career and this season — he hadn’t even thrown for 300 yards this season.

Could this be the future of the Utah offense this season? Just maybe.

“Well, if he completes as many as he did and throws for 400 yards, we’d love to do that every week. I wouldn’t say that’s a negative,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham told reporters, according to the Deseret News’ Jeff Call. “There’s more than one way to win a game. Some weeks, it’s just pound the rock and rush for 200 yards. (The game against USC) wasn’t one of those. We had to score and score in bunches so we leaned more on the throw game.”

Washington: Opposing quarterbacks raining all over Huskies

After allowing 3 touchdown passes to Cal quarterback Jack Plummer in a 28-21 win on Saturday, that makes 20 on the season for the Huskies’ beleaguered secondary.

That has been a major concern for Washington heading into a Week 9 bye week, and for good reason: The Huskies have given up at least 3 passing touchdowns in 6 consecutive games. After the team’s narrow in over Cal, head coach Kalen DeBoer chose to be diplomatic, rather than tear to shreds a defense that’s enough of that this season.

“Today we’re going to try and be positive about it,” DeBoer told reporters, according to Inside the Huskies’ Dan Raley. “We had more guys that we played with since the beginning of the year than we’ve ever had.”

Washington State: Cougars shuffling offensive line ahead of Utah

Boasting — if you can call it that — the worst running game in the Pac-12, Washington State is making some changes up front before they play the No. 14 Utes this week.

This is not the first game of musical chairs in the Palouse.

Grant Stephens started the first 6 games at right guard but was suspended for the first half the Cougars’ 24-10 loss to Oregon State after being flagged with a targeting call in a 30-14 loss at No. 6 USC. Ma’ake Fifita moved inside from right tackle to replace Stephens, with Fa’alili Fa’amoe taking his place. When Stephens entered the game in the second, he came in at right guard alongside Fa’amoe, with Fifita sliding to the bench until he was called up to replace Fa’amoe when he was injured.

Follow along?

“It’s still playing out,” Dickert told reporters, according to CougFan.com. “‘Lili just really came back today from the game injury and I thought he looked good. We’re playing a bunch of combinations of Ma’ake at guard and Grant at tackle, and then ‘Lili at tackle and Grant at guard. We feel pretty good about leaving Ma’ake inside, I think that’s kind of been proven he’s most comfortable in the shorter space. That’s kind of where we’re going.”