Pac-12 Football – Week 3 Previews And Predictions

Every Thursday during the football season, our writers bring you previews and predictions for each of the Conference football games. All twelve teams face non-conference foes this week, before diving head-first in to Pac-12 play next week.

#20 Washington State (2-0) at Houston (1-1)

Friday, September 13

6:15 p.m. PT, ESPN

NRG Stadium, Houston, TX

Straight-Up: Washington State in a Close Win

Against the Spread: Washington State (-9)

By Jace McKinney

What the WSU Cougars Must Do to Win

Washington State should be able to rack up some yards and points again this week. The Houston defense allowed 49 points to Oklahoma in Week One, and 17 to an FCS team last week. Wazzu will continue to be relentless with its Air Raid, attempting to expose Houston’s secondary. However, WSU must also keep developing its run game, to keep Houston off balance. Drastic changes are in order for Wazzu on defense; the Cougs have struggled to contain the run, giving up yards in bunches. Houston runs the ball well, and could rush for more yards than Northern Colorado. WSU would rather not get into a shoot-out but has the offensive power to win if it does. 

What the UH Cougars Must Do to Win

Houston claimed their first win of the season last week vs. FCS opponent Prairie View following a tough loss to No. 5 Oklahoma. The Cougars have a preseason All-Conference quarterback in D’Eriq King, and he can light it up. The senior threw for an AAC-record 50 touchdowns last season, despite missing the final two games. Houston will need big plays from King, not only with his arm but also with his legs. In Week One, he added 112 yards and a rushing touchdown to go with his 167 yards passing and two scores in the air. Houston’s running game will be key, as Wazzu gave up 216 rushing yards to an FCS team last week. On defense, Houston must find a way to slow WSU’s passing attack and generate some turnovers. 

What Happens on the Field

This game will be high scoring, with Houston able to run and pass the ball behind King. Washington State should continue to score at will, reaping big plays from their talented receiving corps.  That means both defenses will also give up a lot of yards, and it may come down to which team gives up less. Turnovers could be a huge factor in this game, which could come down to the final possession, and may hinge on which offense has the ball last.

Notes: This is the third-ever matchup between the teams, with WSU holding a 2-1 advantage. They last met in the 1988 Aloha Bowl, which Wazzu won 24-22. King had a rushing touchdown in all 11 games last season and has six touchdowns so far this year. Nine different receivers caught balls against Northern Colorado, including Easop Winston Jr., who pulled in six for 113 yards, and Brandon Arconado had eight catches for 127. That gave WSU a pair of 100-yard receivers for the first time since the Utah game last season. WSU running back Max Borghi recorded his first career three-touchdown game, rushing for two scores and catching another. 

Colorado (2-0) vs. Air Force (1-0)

Saturday, September 14

10:00 p.m. PT, Pac-12

Folsom Field, Boulder, CO

Straight-Up: Colorado in a Comfortable Win

Against the Spread: Colorado (-4.5)

By Ian McCollam

What the Falcons Must Do to Win

Air Force is coming off a bye week, so they should have fresh legs, in addition to enjoying an extra week to prepare. On offense, the Falcons must control the clock, forcing the Buffs to capitalize on each possession. Air Force quarterback Isaiah Sanders and a host of running backs will attempt to confound the Colorado defense with the triple-option. Defensively, the Falcons must find a way to slow the Buffs, who are averaging 470 yards per game. The key for Air Force will be limiting Laviska Shenault Jr. and K.D. Nixon, making Colorado beat them on the ground. If the Falcons can do that, they might just stand a fighting chance.

What the Buffaloes Must Do to Win

Coming off a dramatic comeback win over Nebraska, the Buffs must stay focused on Air Force and not get caught looking ahead to Arizona State. In particular, quarterback Steven Montez has to continue his poised senior leadership and throw the ball well, enabling CU running backs Jaren Mangham and Alex Fontenot to keep the Falcons honest. On defense, the Buffs need to contain the Air Force triple-option and avoid explosion plays. Colorado coach Mel Tucker has experience defending the tricky scheme against Georgia Tech from his days as defensive coordinator for Georgia. That should help the Buffs stay disciplined—precisely what is needed to defeat a military team after last week’s emotional win. 

What Happens on the Field

This game has all the markings of a “trap game,” given Air Force’s physicality, Colorado’s emotional high, and the contest’s proximity to Conference play. Tucker’s calm and confident demeanor should set the tone for the Buffs, as it did last week, allowing CU’s superior talent to prevail by at least a touchdown, if not two. Montez should be able to manage the game well enough to sustain drives and make some big plays, while Colorado’s defense improves once again, propelling the Buffaloes to their third-straight win of the season.

Notes: Colorado leads the all-time series 12-4, having won the last five, though the Buffs and Falcons have not played since 1974. Last week’s win over No. 25 Nebraska snapped an eight-game losing streak against AP-ranked teams. Colorado gained 258 yards in the fourth quarter of that game after logging just 193 at the end of three. Steven Montez (7,509) moved up to Number Two on the Buffs all-time list after passing Cody Hawkins (7,409) and Joel Klatt (7,375). He now only trails Buff great Sefo Liufau (9,568). Nixon logged the third 100-yard game of his career.

Stanford (1-1) vs. #17 UCF (2-0)

Saturday, September 17

12:30 p.m., PT, ESPN

Spectrum Stadium, Orlando, FL

Straight-Up : Stanford in a Close Win

Against the Spread: UCF (-7.5)

by Nicholas Bartlett

What the Cardinal Must Do to Win

Stanford gets its leader back in quarterback K.J. Costello, a tremendous boost, provided he’s at full strength. Costello will need to make the right reads and get his running backs involved early to reestablish the Tree’s offensive rhythm. Defensively, the Cardinal must find a way to limit the Golden Knights rushing attack: UCF has three different players who have rushed for more than 100 yards with at least one touchdown this season. If Stanford can stuff the run, it will force quarterback Dillon Gabriel into tough down-and-distance situations, creating opportunities to force turnovers. In short, Stanford must right the ship immediately to stay with UCF in a tough environment, where the Knights have won 16 straight.

What the Knights Must Do to Win

UCF needs to get off to a hot start to keep Stanford from dictating a low-scoring, slow-tempo game. That means rushing effectively, as well as moving the ball through the air, to avoid too many three-and-out situations. Gabriel, UCF’s signal caller, will have to make some big plays to keep the Stanford defense honest. On defense, the Golden Knights need to pressure Costello, as he can shred a secondary when given enough time in the pocket. The Knights, who recorded five sacks last week against FAU, might benefit from mixing up defenses to flush Costello out of his comfort zone.

What Happens on the Field

The Cardinal will capitalize on the return of Costello, whose presence should be the deciding factor in a close contest. Expect him to make timely plays throughout, frustrating the Golden Knight defense. On the other side of the ball, the Knights’ rushing attack will move the rock but not at a consistent pace, causing hesitation in the UCF game-plan, and leaving them a split second behind. This has the potential to be one of the best games in the country, with a red-hot UCF team getting more than they bargained for from hungry Stanford. The Cardinal win by less than a touchdown.

Notes: Stanford leads the all-time series 1-0, having won the 2015 matchup 31-7. Stanford has played in ten straight bowl games, the longest current streak in the Pac-12. UCF lost in the Fiesta Bowl last season to LSU, 40-32. The Cardinal have not allowed a first quarter touchdown in five straight contests, and Stanford has not been shut out under head coach David Shaw, having scored in 163 consecutive games dating back to Nov. 11, 2006. Excluding games at Notre Dame, Stanford has won four of its last five games in the Eastern Time Zone.

#24 USC (2-0) vs. BYU (1-1)

Saturday, September 14

12:30 p.m. PT, ABC

LaVell Edwards Stadium, Provo, UT

Straight-Up: USC in a Comfortable Win

Against the Spread: USC (-4)

By Nicholas Bartlett

What the Trojans Must Do to Win

For USC, the recipe is simple: Spread the ball around to their playmakers and let them operate in space. The Cougars do not have the talent to cover Trojan receivers man-to-man. BYU’s zone scheme will require USC quarterback Kedon Slovis to make smart reads and protect the ball. SC running back Vavae Malepeai should be more of a factor than he was against Stanford, adding to the Cougars’ troubles. Defensively, the Trojans just need to stick to the game plan, dominating the Cougars with their superior athleticism. USC defensive lineman Christian Rector should cause havoc for BYU quarterback Zach Wilson up front.  

What the Cougars Must Do to Win

To beat a Power 5 team for the second-straight week, BYU must control the tempo and avoid getting into a shootout with the speedy Trojans. The Cougars don’t have the firepower to match scores with Graham Harrell’s Air Raid offense. BYU will need starting running back Ty’Son Williams to continue the success he had against Tennessee. Wilson will need to get multiple receivers involved to keep the Trojans guessing, with at least one receiver winning some one-on-one battles—most likely, Micah Simon. Defensively, BYU will find it difficult to keep the dangerous trio of Trojan receivers from getting their receptions, but must make secure tackles after the catch.

What Happens on the Field

The game will likely start off close, but USC will pull away in the second half. The Trojans wideout combination of Tyler Vaughns, Amon-Ra St. Brown, and Michael Pittman Jr. will prove too much for the Cougar secondary. At least one of them will make a game-breaking play to blow things open. Trojan halfback Malepeai will find his rhythm and add balance to the offense. Defensively, USC will be able to hold Wilson and the Cougs in check. Rector will  make his presence known throughout. This will be an entertaining game, but talent-rich USC wins by two touchdowns or more.

Notes: USC leads the all-time series 2-0, having won the last matchup 42-10 in 2004. Trojan quarterback Slovis leads the nation in completion percentage at 82.9%. His 377 passing yards were the second‐most by a USC true freshman quarterback behind Matt Barkley’s 380. The Trojans are 82-30-8 all time in road openers. The Cougars last beat a ranked team last year, defeating Wisconsin. Tyler Vaughns leads the Trojans in receiving yards with 256. BYU quarterback Wilson has thrown for 440 yards this season.  

Arizona State (2-0) at #14 Michigan State (2-0)

Saturday, September 14

1:00 p.m. PT, FOX

Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, MI

Straight-Up: Michigan State in a Comfortable Win

Against the Spread: Michigan State (-14)

By Nicholas Bartlett

What the Sun Devils Must Do to Win

Arizona State must keep the crowd out of this matchup to stand any chance. The Sun Devils also need to establish the run with Eno Benjamin, taking pressure off of true freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels. Clearly, ASU will be outmatched up front, and Daniels will be tested in his first big game. He doesn’t need to make a lot of big plays, but he does need to avoid big mistakes. Defensively, ASU needs to slow Spartan running back Elijah Collins, who is averaging a blistering 8.4 yards per carry this season. If he continues at that clip, it will be difficult for the Devils to win. ASU needs to play up to its potential on both sides of the ball to pull off what would be a program-changing victory on the road.

What the Spartans Must Do to Win

Michigan State must find a way to limit Benjamin, Arizona State’s biggest threat on offense. If the Spartans can hold him in check, a win is all but assured. Daniels has a bright future, but he isn’t yet ready to beat MSU with his arm alone. Offensively, the Spartans need to dominate in the trenches, sustaining time-consuming drives that wear down ASU’s defense. Doing so will allow Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke to manage the game and find open receivers. But for the Spartans, it starts and ends with a dominant defense and a clock-eating down-hill running game.

What Happens on the Field

Daniels has not yet faced a defense like Michigan State’s, nor has he played in such an intimidating atmosphere. His poise will be tested, and it’s reasonable to expect him to make some mistakes. ASU scored just 19 points against FCS Sacramento State last week, and will struggle to match that total against MSU. On offense, MSU’s front line will control the tempo, wearing down ASU’s defense, and creating ample holes for Collins. Lewerke should have plenty of time to throw, frustrating the Devils through the air. This game comes too early for a talented ASU team that isn’t likely to reach its potential until mid-season. They lose by a couple of touchdowns.

Notes: ASU leads the all-time series 2-1, and won last years matchup 16-13. With a win, MSU coach Mark Dantonio would become the winningest coach in program history. ASU’s defense has held its opponents to single-digit scoring outputs in back-to-back games for the first time since 2008. ASU signal caller Daniels has thrown for 588 yards and three touchdowns this year. With his 72-yard touchdown pass to Benjamin last week, Daniels became the first ASU quarterback ever to throw a scoring pass for over 70 yards in consecutive games. Brandon Aiyuk leads the Sun Devils in receiving with 238 yards and one touchdown.

#11 Utah (2-0) vs. Idaho State (1-0)

Saturday, September 14

1:15 p.m. PT, ESPN

Rice-Eccles Stadium, Salt Lake City, UT

Straight-Up: Utah in a Blowout Win

Against the Spread: Utah (-36.5)

By Nicholas Bartlett

What the Bengals Must Do to Win

The Bengals won’t be able to rush the ball up the middle of Utah’s brick-like fortress of a defensive front, so they need to find creative ways to use sophomore running back Ty Flanagan. Counters, screens, and tosses, might prove more effective in keeping the Utes guessing, as would multiple backs. Idaho State quarterback Matt Struck threw for 385 yards and a touchdown in the opener, and he will have to replicate that effort with more pressure in his face. ISU wideouts Michael Dean and Tanner Conner must get open quickly to give him a realistic chance. On defense, the Bengals will be outmatched, and need to focus on limiting big plays.

What the Utes Must Do to Win

The Utes should dominate the line of scrimmage, and Idaho State won’t have an answer for the speed and size of Zack Moss. Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley is excellent at taking what opponents give him; against the Bengals, that should be plenty. He’ll have no problem completing quick passes and moving the chains, as well as striking deep on occasion against ISU. On defense, the Utes are too physical for Idaho State, from top to bottom. Expect Bradlee Anae and Leki Fotu to harass Struck in the pocket while Utah’s secondary tightens up the gaps NIU exploited in the first half last week.

What Happens on the Field

Idaho State will be outmanned up front, but may be able to move the ball at times with their talented receivers. It will take a Herculean effort and some luck on the part of the Bengals to avert a blowout, if the Utes come ready to play. With coach Kyle Whittingham understanding Utah’s opportunity, that’s all but assured. The Utes were not satisfied with last week’s effort, in spite of a blowout, and will be looking to improve on their performance, regardless of the opponent. In typical Utes fashion, the game may remain close for a while, but in the end, Utah will prove way too much for Idaho State.

Notes: Utah leads the all-time series 7-0. Kyle Whittingham was the defensive coordinator for Idaho State from 1992-1993. A Utah victory would give the Utes a 3-0 start for the fifth time in the previous six seasons. With his 80 yards last week, Moss now has 2,918 career rushing yards, just 301 yards shy of the Utah career rushing mark of 3,219 yards held by Eddie Johnson (1984-88). The Utes have not allowed a sack over a stretch of two or more games for the first time since 2015. Utes signal caller Huntley has not thrown an interception this season. The Utes have sold out 58 straight games in Rice-Eccles Stadium.

Cal (2-0) vs. North Texas (1-1)

Saturday, September 14

1:15 p.m. PT, Pac-12 Bay Area

Memorial Stadium, Berkeley, OR

Straight-Up: California in a Comfortable Win

Against the Spread: California (-14)

By Kamron Azemika

What the Mean Green Must Do to Win

The Mean Green, led by one of the nations’s top quarterbacks in senior Mason Fine, need to exploit their passing advantage. They aren’t likely to match their 39 points per game average, but they will need to stress Cal’s defense with explosion plays to have a chance. Defensively, UNT must limit Cal’s long running plays, forcing the Bears into third-and-long situations. Cal quarterback Chase Garbers performed well last week at Washington, but likely isn’t ready to carry the Bears with his arm. Stuffing Cal’s multi-pronged rushing attack won’t be easy, however; the Bears have gained 425 yards on the ground in their first two games.

What the Bears Must Do to Win

Cal needs to continue its reliable brand of defensive football after allowing just three touchdowns in the first two games. The key will be limiting long pass plays, and keeping the score close. Cal should be able to make North Texas punt more often than not, and/or settle for field goals, while also forcing turnovers. On offense, the Golden Bears need to sustain time-consuming drives behind Christopher Brown Jr. and Marcel Dancy, scoring enough to maintain the lead and limit Mean Green possessions. If Garbers takes another step forward in his progression, the low-scoring Bears might enjoy a rare rout. 

What Happens on the Field

The North Texas defense has been questionable over the first two weeks, and will struggle against the aggressive running of Brown and Dancy. Stacking the box may slow them down, but the Mean Green secondary won’t be able to contain them. Cal’s offense should be able to move the ball consistently, by managing the time of possession, and controlling the flow of the game. UNT’s Air Raid offense isn’t likely to crack the 30 point threshold against Cal, allowing the Bears to win by two touchdowns or more.

Notes: This is the first meeting between North Texas and Cal. Bear left tackle Will Craig has been ruled out for the year, and will likely be replaced by converted right guard Valentino Daltoso. Cal linebacker Evan Weaver posted his 10th consecutive 10-tackle game against the Huskies, earning Bronko Nagurski and Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week honors. Weaver’s 18 tackles moved him into a tie for 10th in career tackles with 259. Following a 20-19 win in Seattle, the Bear defense is allowing just 14.8 points per game over its last four Pac-12 road games.

Oregon State (0-2) vs. Cal Poly (1-1)

Saturday, September 14

1:15 p.m. PT, Pac-12 Oregon

Reser Stadium, Corvallis, OR

Straight-Up: Oregon State in a Comfortable Win

Against the Spread: Cal Poly (+17)

By  Nicholas Bartlett

What the Mustangs Must Do to Win

Cal Poly needs to take an early lead and put pressure on the Beavers in front of their home crowd to win. While the Mustangs could find it difficult to run the ball against Oregon State, they may be able to throw the ball effectively. In fact, this contest could be a breakout game for Poly quarterback Jalen Hamler. Defensively, Poly will have its hands full with running back Jermar Jefferson and receiver Isaiah Hodgins, and must avoid giving up too many long plays to the dynamic pair. Cal Poly may stack the box, daring the Beavs to throw. If OSU quarterback Jake Luton struggles, the Mustangs could pull off the upset.

What the Beavers Must Do to Win

More important than what the Beavers must do to win, they must win. If Oregon State loses this game, it will be extremely difficult to improve on last season’s 2-10 record. The Beavs cannot afford to be 0-3 heading into conference play, much to the detriment of their rebuilding project. The Beavs must scrap, claw, and fight every second of this contest. They need to execute, play physical, believe in themselves, and ultimately, find a way to win. There is no individual unit or group that needs to stand above this week; the team must collectively decide that they’re tired of losing. Jonathon Smith may find success by simplifying the game plan, motivating his seniors to lead, and letting his kids play.

What Happens on the Field

Jake Luton will bounce back from his second-half struggles of last week and lead the Beavs to a win. Look for him to put up big numbers passing, and get multiple receivers involved. This should open holes for Jefferson, leading to an abundance of scoring for OSU. Poly will not be able to put up enough points through the air or on the ground to keep up with the Beavs. Oregon State will win this game going away, if not in an outright blowout.

Notes: This is the first matchup between the two schools. Cal Poly is 1-1 on the season after last week’s 41-24 loss to Weber State. The Beavers are just one of five teams in the country to not commit a turnover in their first two games. Mustangs running back Duy Tran-Sampson has rushed for 180 yards and two touchdowns this season. Cal Poly quarterback Jalen Hamler has throw for 403 yards and three touchdowns. Oregon State quarterback Jake Luton has thrown for 420 yards and two touchdowns this year. Jefferson has eight career 100-yard games after rushing for 183 last week, giving him 270 yards and a touchdown on the season. 

Washington (1-1) vs. Hawaii (2-0)

Saturday, September 14

4:30 p.m. PT, Pac-12 Network

Husky Stadium, Seattle, WA

Straight-Up: Washington in a Blowout Win

Against the Spread: Washington (-21)

by Nicholas Bartlett

What the Warriors Must Do to Win

Hawaii quarterback Cole McDonald will have to play a mistake-free game to lead Hawaii to victory. He needs to stretch the field, involving other receivers besides elite wideout Cedric Byrd II to challenge Washington’s young secondary. Defensively, Hawaii needs to force turnovers and hold the Dawgs to field goals. That won’t be easy, as the Warriors are overmatched on that side of the ball, having given up a combined 66 points in their first two outings. Hawaii’s best bet is to outscore a UW offense that hasn’t yet played up to its full potential.

What the Huskies Must Do to Win

The Huskies should be hungry and focused after losing a late-night bout against Cal last week. Expect them to come out firing on all cylinders, and intent on asserting their dominance on the ground from the outset. Salvon Ahmed needs to have a breakout game, leaving Hawaii defenders behind with his breakaway speed. Quarterback Jacob Eason must connect with open receivers down field, show better touch on his short passes, and suffer less drops. Defensively, Washington needs to throttle the Warriors early, attacking the ball, while also covering better, and force turnovers to take the UH offense out of its rhythm.

What Happens on the Field

As the Warriors will quickly discover, facing an angry Washington team on the road is not the same as hosting two low-tier Pac-12 teams in the friendly confines of the Islands. The Dawgs will look to run the ball down Hawaii’s throat, while limiting UH’s explosive run-and-shoot offense. Chris Petersen is sure to have Washington prepared, with the season hanging in the balance. Expect sharper execution from the offense, and a shut-down performance from Jimmy Lake’s defense. Hawaii may be able to put up a few touchdowns, but the Huskies will win this one in a landslide.

Notes: Washington leads the all time series 4-1, with the lone loss coming in 2007 at Aloha Stadium. The Huskies defense led the Pac-12 the previous four seasons in total defense and scoring defense, and hasn’t allowed an opponent to score more than 35 points since a 44-30 loss at UCLA in 2014. UH is one of the three teams nationwide that has beaten two Power 5 teams this season. McDonald has thrown for 799 yards and eight touchdowns this season. Ahmed has run for 163 yards and two touchdowns this season. Eason has thrown for 511 yards and four touchdowns.

UCLA (0-2) vs. Oklahoma (2-0)

Saturday, September 14

5:00 p.m. PT, FOX

Rose Bowl, Pasadena, CA

Straight-Up Pick: Oklahoma in a Blowout Win

Against the Spread: Oklahoma (-23)

By Andrew Corbett

What the Sooners Must Do to Win

A typical day from the offense, which has put up almost 60 points per game this season, ought to get it done for Oklahoma in L.A. Transfer quarterback Jalen Hurts has been sensational. He has a wealth of receiving talent to target, led by All-American CeeDee Lamb, and UCLA has had trouble stopping the pass. Hurts should pick the Bruins defense apart, pouring on the points. The Sooner defense, meanwhile, has improved under new defensive coordinator Alex Grinch, and should make short work of the struggling UCLA offense.

What the Bruins Must Do to Win

To have any chance, UCLA’s offense has to start producing more points. If Oklahoma starts quick, jumping out to a double digit lead in the first quarter, the game may already be over. The Bruins need to control the clock and limit the possessions, giving their defense a break. But that’s exactly what they haven’t been able to do. Defensively, if UCLA linemen can limit the run (the strong point of the defense so far) they might be able to force turnovers in the passing game. Bu that’s asking a lot. Most importantly, they need to get off the field on third down and play disciplined football.

What Happens on the Field

It wouldn’t be shocking if UCLA got off to a good start like they did against San Diego State, but no lead will last long. The OU offense will carve up the UCLA secondary all day, and Jalen Hurts will find first downs with his legs when needed. The Bruins offense may put up some points, but not nearly enough to hang with an elite Oklahoma team for more than the first ten minutes. Expect a blowout that has the potential to get laughably ugly.

Notes: Oklahoma leads the all-time series 4-1, with the last victory coming in 2018 in Norman, 49-21. UCLA’s lone win came in 2005. Oklahoma has won 20 straight true road games. Wide receiver Theo Howard, who led the Bruins in receiving yards last season, could return this week. UCLA held San Diego State to 80 yards rushing last week, the first time the Bruins have held an opponent under 100 yards since Oregon State in 2016. Bruin wideout Greg Dulcich recorded his first career touchdown with a 20-yard reception. Kyle Philips had a 30-yard punt return and a 24-yard reception for the two longest all-purpose gains of the day.

Arizona (1-1) vs. Texas Tech (2-0)

Saturday, September 14

7:30 p.m. PT, ESPN

Arizona Stadium, Tucson, AZ

Straight-Up Pick: Texas Tech in a Close Win

Against the Spread: Texas Tech (-2)

By Dane Miller

What the Red Raiders Must Do to Win

Texas Tech will look to start fast and take the home crowd out of the game. So long as the Red Raiders limit their turnovers and avoid penalties, they should do just that, pulling away in the second half. Quarterback Alan Bowman is putting up 350 yards per game passing under new coach Matt Wells, and the Raiders have a pair of solid rushers in Ta’Zhawn Henry and SaRodorick Thompson. Defensively, they have limited opponents to a stingy 6.5 points per game. In short, they likely just need to keep doing what they’ve been doing in going 2-0 to beat the Wildcats.

What the Wildcats Must Do to Win

First and foremost, the Wildcats need a better defensive performance than they’ve shown in their first two games, after giving up a combined 110 points. Nothing we’ve seen this far suggests Arizona will be able to slow Tech’s spread offense. The Cats should be able to put up plenty of points, but someone other than Tayvian Cunningham will have to step up, perhaps Cedric Peterson or Drew Dixon. Arizona can’t afford consecutive empty possessions that allow the Raiders to take a commanding lead. And the Cats must keep the crowd involved, using it to their advantage.

What Happens on the Field

Both teams have explosive offenses which should result in a high scoring shootout. It could come down to which team has the ball last or which defense is able to come up with a pivotal play. Texas Tech has the better defense, and Arizona has not proven that it can stop pass-heavy spread attacks, so look for the Red Raiders to take advantage of their few extra stops. If the Wildcats can get up on Tech with some quick early scores, and get the crowd behind them, they may be able to make a game of it.  

Notes: Texas Tech leads the all-time series 26-4-2, including a 13-3-2 advantage in Tucson. The teams played every year when they were in the Border Conference, but haven’t met since 1989. Arizona is 11th in the country in points per game (51.5) but 126th in the country in points allowed (43). Texas Tech is 2nd in the country in third-down defense (13%) and has caused three-and-outs on 55% of their opponent’s possessions. Arizona’s Jace Whittaker leads the country in interceptions (3). Gary Brightwell’s 94-yard touchdown run last week is tied for the second-longest rush in school history with Nic Grigsby’s in 2009.

Oregon (1-1) vs. Montana (2-0)

Saturday, September 14

7:45 p.m. PT, Pac-12 Network

Autzen Stadium, Eugene, OR

Straight-Up Pick: Oregon in a Blowout Win

Against the Spread: Oregon (36.5)

By Nicholas Bartlett

What the Grizzlies Must Do to Win

Montana is not talented enough to be one dimensional against Oregon, and needs to find a way to get running back Marcus Knight going to boost its offense. While that may allow the Grizzlies to stay on the field a little longer, it won’t change the outcome. They simply don’t have the size and speed to score enough points on the Ducks. And they certainly won’t be able to keep the explosive Oregon offense out of the end zone. At least not for long. Montana is well-coached and will not go away easily, but there isn’t much an FCS team can do against Oregon’s superior talent.

What the Ducks Must Do to Win

The Ducks need to use this last nonconference game to their advantage, working out some final bugs, without losing sight of the potential threat posed by Montana. Quarterback Justin Herbert started slow last week, and will look to find his groove early. Defensively, Oregon will make Grizzlies quarterback Dalton Sneed uncomfortable with its speedy pass rush and stout run defense. That shouldn’t leave Montana many options. The Grizzlies have struggled to move the ball on the ground in their first two contests, and Oregon’s elite secondary is experienced and deep.

What Happens on the Field

Oregon is not going to lose to Montana. Offensively, the Ducks will prove too fast for the Grizzlies, and should score early and often on numerous big plays. Montana will quickly find itself in a hole. Herbert should carve up the Grizzlies through the air, and C.J. Verdell and Travis Dye will likely do the same on the ground. The athletic Oregon defense will put constant pressure on Sneed, leading to sacks and turnovers. Duck fans will be able to enjoy the Autzen festivities without worrying about the outcome.

Notes: Oregon leads the all-time series 7-0-1, with the Ducks winning the last meeting 47-14 in 2005. Oregon has won 24 consecutive non-conference regular-season games at home. Herbert, who has thrown for 552 yards and six touchdowns in the first two contests, owns a streak of 30 consecutive games with a touchdown pass, the longest such streak in the nation. Eight of Oregon’s 10 scoring drives against Nevada took less than 2:20. The Ducks have a combined 163 career starts along the offensive line, the most in the nation.

This story was originally published at Syndicated with permission.

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