Gold: Preview and predictions for Week 9 in the Pac-12
The Pac-12’s premiere game of Week 9 bookend Saturday as the 13th-ranked Utah Utes host the No. 8 Oregon Ducks while No. 11 Oregon State travels to Tucson to take on the resurgent Arizona Wildcats.
Here’s a look at my final thoughts and predictions from Week 9 in the Pac-12 …
No. 13 Utah vs. No. 8 Oregon, 12:30 p.m., FOX
The Pac-12’s game of the week could go down as another classic, a testament to two terrific coaches who have had very different paths to this point.
You’ve got Oregon coming in exceedingly healthy and playing like it. They come to Salt Lake City at 6-1 and a few plays away from undefeated. The Ducks looked a hair better than Washington in their 3-point road defeats then bounced back in a big win over Washington State. Bo Nix has been terrific, the running back rotation has been near-perfect, the offensive line stout and the defense capable. They have the look and feel of a College Football Playoff team.
And, somehow, the Utes are not far behind, despite a bevy of injuries and inconsistent quarterback play. Kyle Whittingham truly deserve coach of the year honors for this balancing act.
Bryson Barnes took a big step in a 34-32 last-second win at USC last Saturday, completing 14-of-23 passes for 235 yards, 3 touchdowns and one interception. If he plays anywhere near where he did against the Trojans, this one is a game.
If not, the Ducks could have a field day.
Prediction: Oregon 27, Utah 20
Cal vs. No. 24 USC, 1 p.m., Pac-12 Network
Coach Prime is on ABC in the middle of the afternoon and USC is on the Pac-12 Network. That about sums it up.
The Trojans are old news at this point, but things would get particularly perilous if they fall to Cal, which excels at the very thing USC struggles with most? The Bears have a potent rushing attack between Jaydn Ott, the Pac-12’s leading rusher, and Isaiah Ifanse. USC is the worst team in the conference in rushing defense. It could get ugly.
Or we could see a resurgence.
Lincoln Riley’s pneumonia-prompted extended absence this week gave the Trojans a chance to hear from some different voices this week. That may be enough to prompt an emotional response. Or at least something to snap them out of their funk.
Prediction: USC 38, Cal 32
Stanford vs. No. 5 Washington, 4 p.m., FS1
Now we’re getting into crunch time for the Huskies, whose margin for error is just about nil. If Washington wants to convince CFP voters that it deserves a final four seed, regressions such as last Saturday’s just won’t do.
The Cardinal took a big step back after their mammoth second half against Colorado, when they came back from a 29-point deficit.
If they show any promise against ostensibly the Pac-12’s best team, Washington should be worried.
Prediction: Washington 45, Stanford 17
No. 23 UCLA vs. Colorado, 4:30 p.m., ABC
The Coach Prime Show comes to the Rose Bowl for the first time coming off an ill-timed bye week. Deion Sanders himself said it — after a devastating collapse the Buffaloes suffered in the second half against Stanford in Week 7, he would have liked to have gotten back it instead of been idle in Week 8.
The Bruins, meanwhile, used the weekend to rebound in a big way against Stanford, punishing the Cardinal with 3 Carson Steele touchdown runs.
This will be a fun matchup between UCLA’s defense and Colorado’s offense.
Prediction: UCLA 32, Colorado 27
Arizona State vs Washington State, 5 p.m., Pac-12
The Sun Devils played so well defensively against the Cougars on Saturday, it’s clear Kenny Dillingham’s relentless positivity is running off on his players. Arizona State shut down Michael Penix Jr. in grand fashion, and another tough test comes into town in Cameron Ward and the Washington State passing game.
Ward bounced back from back-to-back bad days with 438 yards against the Cougars after struggling against UCLA and Arizona. That coincided with the full-go return of wide receiver Lincoln Victor, who looked terrific against the Ducks.
Prediction: Washington State 24, Arizona State 20
Arizona vs. No. 11 Oregon State, 7:30 p.m., ESPN
With all due respect to Utah and Oregon, this just may be the game of the week in the conference.
The Wildcats have looked like a totally different team in recent weeks, especially offensively under backup quarterback Noah Fifita. Head coach Jedd Fisch hasn’t said if Fifita will get the nod or if Jayden de Laura gets his gig back.
Whoever is under center for the Wildcats will have his hands full against the Beavers tenacious defense. Oregon State is vying for its best start in more than a decade as the offense has found its full form with DJ Uiagalelei and a potent running game.
If Fifita starts, I like the Cats to give it a go.
Prediction: Oregon State 24, Arizona 21