Saturday, October 19th
Charleston Southern @ Colorado (no line), 11AM PST, Pac-12 Networks
The Buccaneers have had an impressive start to the season so far, running a 7-0 record under first-year coach Jamey Chadwell - this just two years removed from a winless, 0-11 campaign. They've relied on a strong run game, averaging 241.1 per game and an opportunistic defense as they sit +12 on the year. A last-minute replacement for the cancelled Fresno State game, this will be Charleston Southern's only game against an FBS opponent this year, and one would think they'll be loose and play with nothing to lose.
It was a rough weekend for Colorado as they got boatraced in the 1st half at ASU, finding themselves down 47-6 at the half. This marks the 3rd straight week they've been blown out, and the good feelings from the 2-0 start have evaporated as they are looking much like the doormats they've been the past two seasons. An 0-4 start through the air got QB Connor Wood benched and saw the debut of true Fr. QB Sefo Liufau, a Bellarmine Prep H.S. (Tacoma, WA) grad. He showed flashes, displaying some mobility and taking what the defense gave him. That did not include much downfield throws and WR Paul Richardson had a quiet game. He'll get a softer landing in this game before the Buffs return to conference play, and they'll hope to build up some good vibes. They'll need to be careful though - this doesn't appear to be a game that Colorado can afford to mail in, or they'll find themselves the latest victim of a hungry FCS team. Colorado 38, Charleston Southern 17
UCLA @ Stanford (-6), 12:30PM PST, ABC/ESPN2
While the Bruins remain undefeated, injuries are starting to become a concern: LT Torian White is done for the season leaving a true frosh to replace him, and RB Jordon James is questionable with an ankle injury. Coach Mora has played 17 true frosh this year, and you have to wonder if the team is starting to wear down. Without James last week vs. Cal, the UCLA rushing attack was shut down by a Bear run defense that has been terrible so far this year. Fortunately for the Bruins, QB Brett Hundley was fantastic and is probably 2nd only to Marcus Mariota in the conference as an explosive playmaker at the position. The UCLA defense has been quite effective so far and held a strong Cal passing attack to well below-average numbers. Anthony Barr remains a beast, and has been joined by Keenan Graham as a pass-rush terror.
A week after they were nearly taken down by Washington, the Cardinal traveled to Salt Lake City and suffered their first loss of the season. The Stanford defense - widely regarded as one of the nation's best entering the season - have been surprisingly mediocre, and were gashed repeatedly by Utah's run game as the Utes followed the UW offensive gameplan. You can bet Noel Mazzone was taking notes and will also spread them out to open up the middle. On the flip side, you can bet the Cardinal front 7 will be licking their chops waiting to go at the young UCLA OL and get some shots on Hundley. Stanford's offense will have to show more life - their run game has been good, but not up to expectations. They'll need another strong game from Ty Montgomery to give their passing game some life. I expect they'll play with laser-like focus back at home as they try to rebound from a tough loss, and they'll have just enough to top a dangerous and talented UCLA team at home: Stanford 27, UCLA 24
USC @ Notre Dame (-3), 4:30PM PST, NBC
Notre Dame has come back to Earth this year after their Cinderella run last year that got them in the BCS Title game vs. Alabama. While 4-2, they struggled to put away a terrible Purdue team and lost by 2 scores to each of the ranked teams they've faced. QB Tommy Rees is not exactly the perfect guy to run the spread offense Brian Kelly favors as he's neither very athletic and not much of a runner, nor has he proven to be a very effective passer. They'll rely on the 3-headed RB attack of George Atkinson, Cam McDaniel and Amir Carlisle. The defense has been decent, but nowhere near the strength it was last year.
With Ed Orgeron now in charge, the Trojans played more loose and had fun, but still had to work hard to outlast a one-dimensional Arizona team in the Coliseum. Well, previously one-dimensional - the USC defense was surprisingly porous against B.J. Denker who had by far his career-best throwing day. Coach Kelly will almost certainly attempt to replicate the success of the spread attacks of the Arizona schools against USC, though Rees is lacking in comparison to both Denker and Taylor Kelly. If the Trojan run defense continues to play strong, they have a good shot at containing the Irish offense, leaving it up to QB Cody Kessler and RB Tre Madden to provide enough offense to grab a victory in South Bend. I'm thinking the match-ups favor USC and the good times under Coach O will continue for at least one more week: USC 20, Notre Dame 17
Utah @ Arizona (-4), 7PM PST, Pac-12 Networks
It took three years, but Utah got their first big marquee win in the Pac-12 with their upset over Stanford last week. Their offense continues rolling along behind So. QB Travis Wilson and the play-calling of Dennis Erickson. They are balanced, with a strong running game featuring James Poole and Lucky Radley and a big-time playmaker at WR in Dres Anderson. Their defense - normally stout under Kyle Whittingham - has been quite ordinary this year (particularly vs. the pass), but they are still terrific at getting after the QB. If not for a few plays here and there, they could be undefeated right now, and that Stanford win showed this is a dangerous team.
After waltzing through one of the nation's most pitiful non-conference schedules, the Wildcats are finding the sledding a lot tougher in conference so far as they sit 0-2. The big positive out of last week's loss to USC was the surprising emergence of B.J. Denker as a passing threat as went 28-44 for 366 yards, 4 TD's and no picks. The Arizona passing game had been terrible prior to that game, but if Denker can become a threat then that makes Ka'Deem Carey that much more dangerous as defenses have to decide whether to load up in the box. The Wildcat's 3-3-5 defense has been gashed by Washington & USC, and they'll have their hands full again with Utah. While Denker will probably make a few big plays with his feet, I think his passing surge was more fluke than progression. Call it: Utah 38, Arizona 30
WSU @ Oregon (-39), 7PM PST, Fox Sports 1
Mike Leach is going to have a tough call to make here soon - while the Cougs are just 2 wins away from possibly their first bowl since 2003, his QB Connor Halliday is proving he's just not a great fit in the Air Raid offense. Halliday leads the country with his 13 interceptions, and while he's piled up big yards, he hasn't been all that efficient in doing so. Austin Apodaca hasn't looked that good in his limited time, but I'm not sure how many more interceptions Leach can take from his starter. Meanwhile, the WSU defense - which looked so fantastic vs. USC - has been thrashed by Stanford and Oregon State and only survived Cal thanks to three recovered fumbles.
It's not easy to admit, but this edition of Oregon looks like their best team yet. Marcus Mariota is the real deal, and vaulted himself to front-runner status in the Heisman race with a terrific performance vs. Washington last week. The speed all over the Duck offense is remarkable, from Mariota to WR's Bralon Addison and Josh Huff to RB Thomas Tyner (not to mention D'Anthony Thomas). Short of self-inflicted mistakes, it's hard to imagine any defense containing Oregon. This in turn allows the Duck defense to play very loose and aggressive, knowing their offense can bail them out if they get burned. With their talent though, that rarely happens, and they sport probably the best starting CB pair in the West (if not the country) in Terrance Mitchell and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. At home at Autzen, this should be a name-your-score kind of affair, with the only thing holding the Ducks back being a possible let-down in between big games vs. Washington and UCLA. Oregon 55, WSU 20
Oregon State (-11) @ Cal, 7:30PM PST, ESPN2
In most years, QB Sean Mannion would be the talk of the conference (if not the country), but he's got to compete with Mariota and Hundley for mindshare. A throwback these days as a big pocket passer, he's a classic Mike Riley guy with a big arm that takes a season or two to really blossom. He's definitely putting himself on the radar of NFL scouts. He's got a dynamic target in WR Brandin Cooks who hasn't missed a beat with his old buddy Markus Wheaton off the NFL. And it's a good thing the Beaver passing game has been so lethal, because they haven't had much luck getting a consistent run game going (same as last year), a head-scratcher for a Riley offense. The OSU defense got some confidence going facing Colorado and WSU in back to back weeks, and will try to take advantage of the one-dimensional nature of Cal's offense. The Beaver's have picked off 12 passes so far this year and will look to add to their total vs. Fr. QB Jared Goff.
Cal's season looks in real danger of spiraling into oblivion. Any optimism generated early in the season appears to be out the window as talent issues, youth and a remarkable rash of injuries has combined to send the Bears in a race to the bottom with Colorado for the worst team in the conference. The Bear D - which has been awful - actually managed to shut down UCLA's running game last week, but were carved up through the air (a constant theme this season for Cal) and now faces the most prolific passing attack in the country - uh oh. And Goff has started to look less like a prodigy and more like the true frosh he is in recent weeks as defenses have learned they don't need to respect the Bear run game. Anything can happen in college football, but I don't see much chance for Cal in this one: Oregon State 49, Cal 20
Record last week:
Vs. the spread: 4-2
Record this year:
Vs. the spread: 28-23-1