If everything goes right, all PAC-12 teams will play this week.
And with all of the upsets in the Conference, it should be an exciting week. Both North Division leaders were upset last week and now, they play each other.
Arizona State (0-2) at Arizona (0-4)
That’s how it seems for the third seasons of both Herm Edwards of Arizona State and Kevin Sumlin of Arizona.
In the third seasons of their prior gigs, both lost ground from the two seasons before.
Even with some consolation for 2020 being been an odd year for college football, it’s still hard to explain why two experienced coaches are winless right now.
Arizona State played well in close losses to the Los Angeles schools. However, the Sun Devils just can’t seem to hold onto the football and even when they do, they obliterate their success by being the most penalized team in America.
I think we could say that Arizona’s problems have been worse. The ‘Cat offense has dropped to just 20 points per game and the defense is so weak that it is dead last in FBS for sacking quarterbacks.
And, there is now another problem.
Sensational sophomore quarterback Grant Gunnell injured his shoulder two weeks ago and he won’t be back this season.
His replacement is Will Plummer who has thrown the ball 67 times but none for a touchdown. Not to worry though because he’s made up for a lack of touchdowns by throwing more interceptions to the tune of once every 22 passing attempts. Plummer is a pretty good runner and that comes in handy when you have to chase down defensive backs.
ASU quarterback Jayden Daniels was the hot shot of 2019 but he’s cooled noticeably this year. His completion ratio, yards per pass attempt, passer rating, and yards per rush are all diminished from last season.
Even so, the Sun Devil offense as a whole is much stronger than Arizona’s anemic defense.
Games between winless teams are often hard to watch. This one may not come down to which is the better team, but rather, which is the least worst.
Arizona State is 30-24 less-worst than Arizona.
Utah (1-2) at #24 Colorado (4-0)
Many of us believed that Karl Dorrell was the right man for the Colorado job but I don’t remember anyone saying he would be undefeated and nationally ranked in December.
And, most of those wins have come against pretty good teams, like fast-rising UCLA, Mountain West contender San Diego State, and Stanford which may finish second in the PAC-12 North.
Despite the Buffaloes being the darlings of the betting lines as well as having several statistical advantages, Utah’s defense will stifle the CU offense and produce a 27-24 upset win for the Utes.
#11 USC (4-0) at UCLA (3-2)
Los Angeles football is back as both the Trojans and Bruins are winning and have momentum. In fact, USC is now the highest ranked PAC-12 team and UCLA is currently one of the top five most-dynamic up-trending teams in our system.
This will be a game of contrasts as USC is 17th ranked nationally for passing yards per game while UCLA is ranked 16th for running it.
Both have turnover problems however as UCLA is 15th worst in the FBS and USC is 16th.
Anytime you combine turnovers with a rivalry game, anything can happen.
Since Chip Kelly arrived at UCLA in 2018, this rivalry game has been won by the home team.
USC is the home team this year and I have the Trojans winning this one 35-24.
California (1-3) at Washington State (1-2)
Washington State still has a chance to finish at the top of the PAC-12 North standings. If Oregon beats Washington, and Stanford beats Cal, then the Cougars will have the same number of losses (2) as those two.
But, WSU continues to have defensive issues. They are third to the worst in FBS for defending pass completions and they still show four defensive backs as questionable after injuries last week.
The good news for Cougar fans is that this week’s opponent is California, a team that ranks 107th in total offense and 100th in passing yardage.
The Bears’ woes on the offensive side are not a surprise. I said in the preseason that California’s offensive line looked weak. I didn’t imagine it would be one of the poorest in the nation when it comes to dealing with pressure. It’s also the worst Cal offensive line in a decade when it comes to opening holes for running backs.
That doesn’t mean the Bears can’t win, after all, they beat nationally ranked Oregon last week. But, that win happened because the Ducks fumbled the football repeatedly and committed absurd penalties just to show they have more anger than discipline.
Unfortunately for the Bears, those things won’t happen this week because WSU is in the FBS top 20 for hanging onto the ball and not inducing yellow flags.
Cal won last year 33-20 but I say this year it will go the other way in a 30-20 Washington State win.
Stanford (2-2) at Oregon State (2-3)
Oregon State is expecting running backs Jermar Jefferson and B.J. Baylor to be back for the game against Stanford. Both are listed on the 12/8/2020 Beaver depth chart.
With Stanford’s defense giving up 6.6 yards per carry, we can expect to see the Beavers do well on the ground as they did last year when Artavis Pierce racked up 141 yards on just 16 carries.
If Chance Nolan settles down at quarterback, OSU might also find some success passing because the Cardinal have been unable to bring pressure and that has resulted in opposing quarterbacks completing 64% of their passes
A great deal of Stanford’s problem is a thinning roster. Before the season started, 15 players opted out of the Stanford program. Since the season started, another seven have followed.
Despite all of that, the Cardinal running game is so much better than I expected that I would say it has risen to it “a little worse than average”. Against the OSU defense, it will rise to five yards per carry which will be rare air for folks down on The Farm.
Expect Stanford quarterback Davis Mills to have a good day passing against an Oregon State defense that covers reasonably well but just can’t get to quarterbacks. If you don’t at least annoy Mills, he will get to 70% completions and probably more than 250 yards as he did last year against the Beavers. He also didn’t throw an interception against OSU and he hasn’t thrown any in 2020 either.
Last year, the Beavers lost the first half 14-0 before roaring back with 28 straight points. Only a game ending 39 yard field goal by Jet Toner gave the win to Stanford 31-28.
Although Oregon State get this game at home, I’ve Stanford winning, this time by 30-28.
Washington (3-1) at Oregon (3-2)
Both teams are coming off of stinging losses last week. For Oregon, the loss was particularly troubling because Oregon was nationally ranked and it was the second loss in a row for the Ducks.
Oregon has another problem as well.
It’s not a surprise that Oregon can move the football. It is a surprise that the Ducks are so generous in giving the ball back to opponents. Oregon is fifth worst worst in the nation for fumbling the ball. Washington is sixth best for stripping it.
Washington should have some success with senior running backs Sean McGrew (5.28 ypc) and Kaman Pleasant (4.24 ypc).
The Washington offensive line has been much better than I expected. Nationally, It appears to be a top ten line although it has room to grow when it comes to run blocking. A quick estimate tells me that Oregon’s offensive line is about 52nd nationally which isn’t bad considering that so much of it is new.
Oregon’s ground attack has turned to Travis Dye who not only has 336 yards on just 45 attempts, but also 204 yards as a receiver out of the backfield. Last year, Dye led Oregon’s rush attack against the Huskies as he averaged 6.4 ypc which included a 21 yard burst in the fourth quarter in a game winning drive.
Oregon quarterback Tyler Shough is ranked 14th in the nation for passing efficiency while the Huskies have freshman Dylan Morris who has a nice completion ratio (60.9%) but is only allowed to pass about 27 times per game. Perhaps his 3% interception rate has something to do with that.
Morris isn’t a threat to run whereas Shough of Oregon has the second-most rushes for the Ducks and is creating nearly five yards per carry.
Before the season started, much was about how tough Washington’s defense would be. Well—it isn’t. The UW defense is 49th nationally for allowing yards per play and 42nd nationally for giving up points. By comparison, Oregon’s defense is 69th and 60th.
Last year in Seattle, Washington held a 28-14 lead early in the third quarter before Dye ignited the offense which scored 17 straight points in a 31-28 Duck win.
Give me the Ducks to win at home, this time 31-24.
I have predicted 484 games this season and done so with more than 76% accuracy. I have beaten betting lines 146 times in predicting total points in games. To see predictions for all FBS games this week, please visit here.