Gold: Preview and predictions for Week 8 in the Pac-12
Washington vs. Oregon, over.
Utah at USC? Lacking significance.
Huskies vs Arizona State? Ducks vs Wazzu? Bombs away.
Aside from UCLA’s visit to a suddenly spry Stanford team, Week 8 in the Pac-12 is shaping up to be a bit of a dud.
Here’s a look at my final thoughts and predictions from Week 8 in the Pac-12 …
Washington State at No. 9 Oregon, 12:30 pm, ABC
The Cougars are reeling after a gut-check loss to Arizona, an out-of-control 44-6 loss. Precisely no one saw a margin like that coming, even after Cam Ward and the Wazzu offense stalled out in Week 6 against UCLA.
“We got knocked down,” coach Jake Dickert said. “We have to get up and respond to this. It takes a strong mentality to do that. It takes great leadership to want to do that. And you can’t go into the next game with your stinger bent. It got bent, wipe it out and get it back. We are a good football team. That 4-0 team is still sitting in this room.”
Now the Cougars are supposed to get right against an Oregon team coming off a heartbreaking 3-point loss at Washington? Good luck. The Ducks were 3 questionable play calls from being in the top 5 themselves, and Bo Nix hasn’t played poorly yet.
If Washington State stands any chance, two major things have to change. A running game stuck in quicksand with back-to-back games under 40 yards will have to reassert itself. And the Cougars will have to generate some pass rush after picking up just 1 sack against Noah Fifita and the Wildcats.
Prediction: Oregon 42, Washington State 16
No. 14 Utah at No. 18 USC, 5 pm, FOX
It’s looking increasingly likely that Utah will end the season without the services of the best QB-TE tandem in the Pac-12 as Cam Rising and Brant Kuithe remain out past the halfway point. With both potentially headed toward a medical redshirt, Kyle Whittingham and Co. have to face the fact that what they’ve got is what they’ve got.
They’ll get little sympathy from a USC team that they defeated twice last year en route to a 2nd straight Rose Bowl appearance.
But sympathy won’t matter much unless the Trojans answer the call in a resounding way after their first loss of the season. A 48-20 loss to Notre Dame in Week 7 sent USC spiraling down the rankings, but truth be told, the Trojans have been trending downward for weeks.
Surprisingly, it’s not just the defense that ails USC, as Caleb Williams looks to rebound from his first career 3-interception game. Lincoln Riley’s offense was certainly in a funk against the Fighting Irish, so his ability to bounce back as well will tell the tale. I’m a bit worried about the offensive line’s ability to hold up against Pac-12 Midseason defensive MVP Jonah Elliss and the Utah defense.
“It’s a mixed bag,” Riley said this week. “There’s not like one central issue where it’s like, we’re just not doing this one thing well. There’s not like one player where it’s like, man, the other four guys are playing unbelievable and it’s just one guy we have to make a change (with). We’ve kind of been sharing the mistakes.”
Prediction: USC 24, Utah 20
Arizona State at No. 5 Washington, 7:30 pm, FS1
Is there a mercy rule? Can we get some of running clock? Maybe Washington gets to play with only 10 players in the 4th quarter? Or Michael Penix Jr. has to throw with his right hand?
This might be the most imbalanced game on the conference calendar, especially with Stanford showing some life in a comeback win over Colorado last Friday.
The Sun Devils are just about barren while the Huskies are loaded all over the field and clicking on all cylinders. Priority No. 1 for Washington must be keeping Penix and the Husky leaders healthy.
Priority No. 2? Getting the pass rush up to speed. Despite returning a ton of talent in the front seven, the Huskies have just 7 sacks.
Prediction: Washington 55, Arizona State 17
No. 25 UCLA at Stanford, 7:30 pm, ESPN
This matchup comes at a strange time for Chip Kelly and the Bruins.
Before Week 7, UCLA was one of the hottest teams in college football, with a soaring defense and an impressive running game. The Bruins were coming off an impressive 25-17 win over Washington State, the first team to shut down the vaunted Cougars passing attack.
Then UCLA and Dante Moore ran into the buzzsaw that is the Oregon State defense, which picked off Moore 3 times. Kelly expects his true freshman QB to respond well.
“He’s a very resilient young man,” Kelly said. “He’s mature beyond most kids of that age. He’s still an 18-year-old kid, 18-year-old young man. But I think that’s one of the things. He’s got a great set of intangibles. He’s a really, really resilient person. I think he has the ability to live in the present. He doesn’t live in the past. He doesn’t live in the future. He lives in the present and that’s a really special quality for people to have.”
Stanford is the hot team coming into this one, even if the Cardinal just caught fire for one half (plus overtime) against Colorado.
If the Stanford passing game challenges the Bruins, this could get interesting.
Prediction: UCLA 23, Stanford 13