Pac-12 Football – Week 6 Previews And Predictions

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Every Thursday during the football season, our writers bring you previews and predictions for each of the Conference football games. Four teams have byes this week, and eight continue conference play.

Arizona (3-1, 1-0) at Colorado (3-1, 1-0)

Saturday, October 5

1:30 p.m. PT, Pac-12 Network

Folsom Field, Boulder, CO

Straight-Up: Colorado in a Close Win

Against the Spread: Colorado (-4)

By Ian McCollam

What the Wildcats Must Do to Win

For the Wildcats, a lot depends on the return of injured play-makers Khalil Tate (hamstring, ankle) and J.J. Taylor (sprained ankle). True freshman backup Grant Gunnell played well against UCLA last week, but his job gets tougher on the road in Boulder. With the defense giving up 473 yards per game, the Wildcats will have to win with their offense against a Colorado defense that has struggled in its own right. In particular, Arizona needs to get more production out of backup running backs Gary Brightwell and Darius Smith. Defensively, the Cats must do better in the red zone, where they have allowed scores 92.3 percent of the time, and generate stops and turnovers to keep the productive Buffalo offense in check. 

What the Buffaloes Must Do to Win

Injuries have plagued the Buffs as well, and it remains to be seen whether the bye week was sufficient to regain the services of their two sidelined play-makers, Laviska Shenault Jr. (undisclosed) and Mustafa Johnson (ankle). Fortunately, Colorado does not drop off much at receiver after Shenault with Tony Brown and K.D. Nixon. The CU offense should be fine if quarterback Steven Montez takes care of the ball, and running backs Alex Fontenot and Jaren Mangham have an impact on the ground. On defense, the Buffs have given up 466 yards per game, and find themselves needing to prepare for both Gunnell and Tate. The group must continue to create turnovers to slow Arizona, and get solid performances from leading tacklers Nate Landman and Mikial Onu.

What Happens on the Field

Expect an offensive shootout with the victorious party forcing more than one turnover and scoring three touchdowns or more. Colorado’s Conference-leading +7 turnover margin will be key, especially with Gunnell at the helm for the Wildcats. Second-half adjustments may play into the outcome, an area where Mel Tucker has been masterful. Look for the Buffs to take the lead in the third quarter and survive a late onslaught from Arizona. Ultimately, the home-field advantage will prove pivotal, with Colorado emerging as the sole leader of the Pac-12 South.

Notes: Colorado leads the all-time series 14-7, with Arizona winning the last game 42-34 in 2018. Colorado is looking for its first win against Arizona at home since 2011. The Buffaloes have yet to allow a sack in the second half. Colorado is 2-0 against ranked teams this year, equaling its total over the previous nine seasons. Arizona linebackers Colin Schooler and Tony Fields II both recorded double-digit tackle totals in the same game for the sixth time, combining for 23 against UCLA. Arizona is looking to start 2-0 in Conference for the first time since 2014, when they last won the Pac-12 South division.  

California (4-1, 1-1) at #13 Oregon (3-1, 1-0)

Saturday, October 5

5:00 p.m. PT, FOX

Autzen Stadium, Eugene, OR

Straight-Up: Oregon in a Comfortable Win

Against the Spread: Cal (+18)

By Kamron Azemika

What the Golden Bears Must Do to Win

With starting quarterback Chase Garbers out long-term, backup Devon Modster needs to make the most of his first full week of preparation. Tasked with taking on a surprisingly tough Oregon defense, the junior signal caller must play within himself, managing the offense, without trying to set the world on fire with long balls into the Duck secondary. Running backs Christopher Brown Jr. and Marcel Dancy need to gain yards after contact and extend drives, limiting the possessions of Oregon’s prolific offense. The Bear defense needs to force fumbles, as UO quarterback Justin Herbert hasn’t thrown a pick in 174 attempts, and isn’t likely to fall victim to Cal’s excellent “Takers” secondary.  

What the Ducks Must Do to Win

Oregon needs to take advantage of Cal’s vulnerabilities, pressuring Modster into making mistakes, while also limiting the Bear running backs. If they do that, the Ducks could have a chance to keep a fourth-straight opponent out of the end zone. Offensively, Oregon gets a big boost this week with the return of starting receivers Brenden Schooler and Mycah Pittman, making Herbert all the more dangerous. The senior quarterback is arguably the most reliable leader in the Conference, and has an equally dependable pair of rushers in CJ Verdell and Travis Dye. The Oregon offense can’t afford to sputter the way it did at Stanford, and must take advantage of whatever opportunities Cal’s stingy defense gives it. 

What Happens on the Field

Without Garbers, Cal’s banged-up offense will struggle to score, let alone sustain drives. Oregon’s defense will make Modster uncomfortable for four quarters, giving Herbert enough possessions to take control of the game. It might even get ugly, should Cal’s defense not hold up. Justin Wilcox’s defense is sure to make some big plays, but the unit figures to be on the field too long. Realistically, this should be a fairly close defensive contest, with the Ducks giving up its first touchdown in 38 drives, while also capitalizing on a couple more scoring opportunities than Cal can answer. Oregon remains undefeated in Conference play, winning by two touchdowns.

Notes: Cal leads the all-time series 40-39-2, with Oregon winning nine of the last 10, including a 42-24 victory in Berkeley last season. Herbert leads the conference with a quarterback rating of 183.6, and has thrown at least one touchdown pass in 32 straight games. He is the fourth UO signal caller to surpass 8,000 yards passing. Cal linebacker Evan Weaver leads the nation in tackles with 78, ranking him sixth on the school’s career list with 308. He has made at least 10 tackles in each of his past 12 games. Oregon leads the conference with 15 sacks on the year, despite coming off of a bye week. Cal is tied with USC for second in the conference with 13.

Oregon State (1-3, 0-1) at UCLA (1-4, 1-1)

Saturday, October 5

6:00 p.m. PT, Pac-12 Network

Rose Bowl, Pasadena, CA

Straight-Up Pick: UCLA in a close win

Against the Spread: UCLA (-6)

By SportsPac12 Staff

What the Beavers Must Do to Win

Above all, Oregon State needs to do what it couldn’t do last week against Stanford: Exploit an opportunity to take advantage of an injured and vulnerable opponent. On offense, OSU needs to score early to minimize the impact of a sparse Rose Bowl crowd. Beaver quarterback Jake Luton has to deliver accurate balls to Conference-leading receiver Isaiah Hodgins in space, giving him a chance to slice up the struggling Bruin defense. That should enable running back Artavis Pierce to put up another 100-yard game. Defensively, OSU must pressure UCLA’s inexperienced backup quarterback, and do a better job of covering down field.

What the Bruins Must Do to Win

UCLA will likely be without their dynamic starting quarterback Dorion Thompson-Robinson, and must find a way to jump start its foundering offense with Burton. The sophomore has thrown just five passes in his college career, and will need plenty of help from running backs Joshua Kelley and Demetric Felton. On defense, the Bruins rank near the bottom of the Pac-12 in most statistical categories, despite holding a banged-up Arizona offense to 20 points. The group will need some breaks and turnovers to stay with Oregon State’s explosive offense. UCLA must make some big plays early to keep the hungry Beavs from finding their stride.  

What Happens on the Field

As was the case for both teams last week, the battle for the bottom of the Pac-12 will likely come down to special teams play and mistakes. Unlike UCLA, which lost its offensive leader and seemed to regress last week in the desert, the Beavers travel to L.A. with a sense of hope and improvement. OSU will stun the Bruins early with explosion plays, taking a first-half lead, but won’t be able to withstand UCLA’s second-half rushing attack. Burton will play just well enough to send the Beavers home with yet another heart-wrenching road loss, and another squandered opportunity.

Notes: UCLA leads the all-time series 43-16-4, and has won four of the last seven. The Beavers haven’t won in the Rose Bowl since 2012. Joshua Kelley posted a season-best 127 yards rushing against Arizona, the seventh 100-yard game of his career. The Beavs are one of just two teams nationally with only one turnover. OSU has 31 tackles for a loss, far surpassing last season’s total of 14. Despite gaining just 40 all-purpose yards last week, Felton continues to lead the Conference in that category with a 134.6-yard average. Hodgins ranks second nationally with 8.3 receptions per game. OSU running backs coach Michael Pitre played for the Bruins from 2003-07.

#15 Washington (4-1, 1-1) at Stanford (2-3, 1-2)

Saturday, October 5

7:30 p.m. PT, ESPN

Stanford Stadium, Stanford, CA

Straight-Up: Washington in a blowout

Against the Spread: Washington (-16.5)

By Nicholas Bartlett

What the Huskies Must Do to Win

The Huskies must control this contest with a balanced offense, getting multiple ball carriers involved to create easy throws for quarterback Jacob Eason. Stanford’s defense would love to shut down one of the best teams in the nation; Washington needs to counter their energy by pounding the ball on the ground. Running back Salvon Ahmed performed well last week, and needs to build on this momentum in Palo Alto. Freshman half-back Richard Newton provides a change of pace, and can bring an extra level of physicality to the rushing attack. The UW defense needs to guard against overconfidence, but should dominate the Cardinal.

What the Cardinal Must Do to Win

The Cardinal must find a way to get their running game going. Relying too heavily on the pass against an elite UW secondary could prove disastrous. Stanford may consider running a variety of draws, counters, traps and old-fashioned power runs. Running back Cameron Scarlett has had a solid season but others need to share the load. Starting QB K.J. Costello remains questionable, but backup Davis Mills is capable and confident after leading the Cardinal to a win over Oregon State last week. Whoever gets the nod must take what little the Husky defense gives them. On defense, the Cardinal need to mix up coverages, tempting Eason to make risky throws, and strip the ball to generate game-changing turnovers. 

What Happens on the Field

Stanford may hang around in the first quarter, but the Huskies will dominate the rest of the way. Washington’s offense will find a way to get tight end Hunter Bryant involved, testing the Cardinal’s defensive game plan. Stanford’s secondary should be able to hang with the Husky receivers or help contain the run, but not both. The Cardinal won’t be able to pass the ball effectively against the elite Husky secondary, nor will they find much traction on the ground  against UW’s Death Row front line. Stanford badly needs another Conference victory, but they won’t get it on Saturday. The Dawgs win big.  

Notes: The Huskies lead the all-time series 43-42-4, winning the last matchup 27-23 in 2018. Stanford has posted a 51-9 record at home since 2010. In the first five games of the year, the Huskies have outscored teams 77-3 in the first quarter. Scarlett has rushed for 413 yards and one touchdown this season. Bryant has 334 receiving yards and one touchdown for Washington. Ahmed’s 153 yards last week was a career high, and his 89-yard touchdown run was the fifth-longest in UW history. Mills has thrown for 597 yards and 4 touchdowns this year for Stanford. Eason has thrown for 1,243 yards and 10 touchdowns.

*This Story was originally published at sportspac12.com. Syndicated with permission.

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