The PAC-12 Is In Danger Of Missing The College Football Playoff

Time is running out for the PAC-12 Conference to come up with a contender for the college football playoff.

Although all conference teams began with an original slate of six games, some have been reduced to four and that won’t be enough to get into the CFP.  

Washington might be the best candidate but this week’s cancellation of its game with Washington State is a problem.

USC and Oregon are both 3-0 but neither has shown the kind of pizazz that attracts CFP decision makers. Of course, either of them could catch fire. What they can’t afford is being doused by a game cancellation.

Last week, we were 3-1 in PAC-12 game predictions which included our call for Oregon State to upset the odds in a predicted 32-28 win over California. The final was 31-27.

Over all games for the season, our system is 303-93 (77%). You can see all of our predictions here.

Here are predictions for week 13 in the PAC-12:

Utah (0-1) at Arizona State (0-1)

Utah used three quarterbacks in a 33-17 loss at home to USC last week. The Ute signal callers combined to throw three interceptions while adding one fumble to go with yet another fumble by a running back. In three successive possessions of the first half, the Utes gave the ball away all three times.  

I expected Utah to have problems finding playmakers on offense but I didn’t expect the 12th-best turnover team of 2019 to become the worst at the start of 2020.

This week, Utah travels for a Sunday game at Arizona State and a Sun Devil team that also has turnover issues (ranked fifth worst nationally).

The difference in this one will be ASU quarterback Jayden Daniels who not only proved his passing talents in 2019, but he now  leads the nation in yards per carry (11 carries, 111 yards). 

The Sun Devils have a better set of running backs than Utah as both Rachaad White and Chip Tryanum average better than six yards per carry.

White is also the Sun Devils’ leading receiver and he’s averaging better than 23 yards per reception.  That’s important because Utah struggled to defend the pass last week.  

Each of these teams opened the season against USC. Arizona State lost by a point in the final seconds while Utah never threatened in the second half.

Utah won this game 21-3 last year.

I’ve got Arizona State winning 26-24.

Stanford (0-2) at California (0-2)

It is conceivable that neither team will win this game, but rather, that one or the other will lose it.

Stanford quarterback Davis Mills appears to be the only offensive difference maker.  The rest have been underwhelming.     

California’s offensive line is one example.

In my preseason assessment, I said that Cal’s OL  would be a problem.  Not only is that line measurably the worst in the PAC-12 right now, it would also rank as the worst in college football if not for UNLV and Kansas.   

Like the 2019 season, it has been unable to open holes for running backs and its sieve-like nature has been putting quarterback Chase Garbers on the ground about five times per game.

No wonder he has a 4% interception rate.

Can the Stanford defense take advantage of the Cal OL and also get to Garbers?

Preseason analyses say it should. On-field performances say it probably won’t.

Neither of these teams ranks in the top 90 for running the football. In fact if this goes like it did last year, we can expect Mills to be Stanford’s leading rusher.   That is not a good sign because Mills’ career rushing history amounts to less than two yards per attempt. 

Cal may benefit from Stanford’s penchant for penalties and also from Stanford’s injury report that still shows three injured linebackers.

This game is likely to be won through the air and in that aspect, I believe most expert fans would choose Stanford’s quarterback and receivers over those of Cal.

Stanford should win by at least two.

Arizona (0-2) at UCLA (1-2)

UCLA is reporting the return of three-year starting quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson this week.  He will start but UCLA may have found a leader in sophomore Chase Griffen who showed a great deal of  command against Oregon.

The Bruins have been producing yardage and points but there is Weltschmerz in Westwood with some of coach Chip Kelly’s play calling.

For example, in normal situations, it is sometimes considered robust and daring to put your lead at risk with a Hail Mary pass to end the first half. 

But, was last week’s game against Oregon a wise time to try it?  After all, the Ducks were nationally ranked, UCLA didn’t have its starting quarterback, his replacement was starting his first college game ever and just five minutes earlier, he had already given up a turnover that Oregon returned for a touchdown.

Arizona will arrive in Los Angeles with one of America’s best passers in quarterback Grant Gunnell. The former four-star was an elite recruit coming out of high school and he has done everything needed to prove that ranking. 

Not only is Gunnell completing 68% of his passes, but in the 260 passing attempts of his college career, he’s thrown just two interceptions.

Arizona will also present a strong rushing attack with senior Gary Brightwell leading the way. The problem for Arizona’s rush is depth. Brightwell and Gunnell combine for 78% of Arizona’s rushes yet Gunnell is a pocket passer and not at all a runner. And now, the Wildcat ground game faces a UCLA team that is one of the best for stopping the run (3.36 ypa).

New Wildcat defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads is doing a great job of restoring UofA’s defense which he converted to a 3-3-5. However, this defense has been hampered because practices have been constrained perhaps more than any team in the country. 

Rhoads has found a defensive playmaker in New Mexico transfer-in Aaron Blackwell and the Wildcats have already climbed from near the bottom of 2019 defenses to about the middle.

The biggest need for the UofA defense is to cover receivers better.

Arizona won 20-17 in Tucson last year. This year, the game is in Los Angeles and I have UCLA winning, 36-33.

Colorado (2-0) at USC (3-0)

I mentioned in the preseason that I thought Karl Dorrell would be successful as Colorado’s new head coach. Not only are his Buffaloes leading the PAC-12 South, but he saved Colorado’s highest recruiting class amid a coaching change and he convinced quarterback-to-safety-to-transferout-to-transferin-to-safety-to-quarterback Sam Noyer to stick with Colorado.

The former three-star from Oregon has a passer rating of 156.2 at a clip of better than nine yards per attempt. He’s also the second leading rusher for the Buffs.

CU is missing the high energy production of running back Alex Fontenot but they’ve found a gem in sophomore Jarek Broussard who is averaging 154 yards per game.

Based on yards per rush, sacks allowed, and tackles for loss allowed, coach Dorrell has transformed the CU offensive line into a top-30 unit.

USC is having a little more success in rushing the football this year than last but still hasn’t gotten a running back up to 100 yards in a game. 

The Trojans will rely on spectacular quarterback Kedon Slovis who is frolicking in the opulence of Graham Harrell’s offense. The 6’2”, 200 pound sophomore is averaging 323 passing yards per game and doing so with better than 70% accuracy.

USC is still reporting four running backs on its injury list, so the Trojans are likely to be most effective through the air.

Troy is also still reporting four linebackers on the injury list so Brightwell the Buffalo may become a one man stampede.

Better talent gives USC a 39-21 advantage in this week’s prediction but I personally think the spread will be less.

Oregon (3-0) at Oregon State (1-2)

We don’t need to dig too deep to conclude that Oregon State is performing better than Oregon in terms of expectations.

The main reason for that is because Oregon’s defense has been curiously porous. I think it will get better and I’ll get into the reasons why this Friday on my blog.

Before the season started, I would have said that Oregon’s big pressure defensive returners on defense would neutralize Oregon State’s passing attack and quarterback Tristen Gebbia.

However, two things have changed.

  • Oregon     has not been effective in bringing pressure, and    

    –- check this out! —

  • Oregon     State’s offensive line right now ranks in the nation’s top 15  for protecting its quarterback.

OSU’s Gebbia has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns but that might not matter against an Oregon defense that is 79th for takeaways through the air.

The Beavers will continue to be effective with its running game. Spectacular junior Jermar Jefferson is averaging better than seven yards a carry and 150 yards per game.

Oregon will counter with running backs C.J. Verd and Travis Dye who combine for 146 yards per game plus quarterback Tyler Sough who averages 66 more.

Shough gives Oregon an advantage through the air as he is ranked by as the nation’s 16th most efficient passer compared to Oregon State’s Gebbia who is ranked 100th.

Although I have the Ducks winning 43-22, there are three reasons for OSU fans to be hopeful: 1) Oregon is dead last in the FBS for turnover margin; 2) this is a rivalry game; and 3) this is a home game for Oregon State.

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About Bobby Albrant 150 Articles
Bobby Albrant is a former journalism major at the University of Oregon, creator of for college football predictions and rankings, former analyst for Southern Mississippi football games, and twenty years coaching girls basketball for all ages through CIF high school. He has three grown children with his youngest daughter playing on the Ventura (Ca) High School basketball team that defeated Dom Lugo High School and was the last high school game ever played by Diana Taurasi. He can be reached at