Saturday, October 26th
Utah @ USC (-6.5), 1PM PST, Pac-12 Networks
It was perhaps predictable that the Utes would suffer a letdown the week after their big win over Stanford, but you have to wonder if they would have lost had QB Travis Wilson not gone down early in the game with a hand injury. His status is up in the air this week, and though early indications are that he'll play, you have to wonder how much he'll be affected if he does play. Perhaps of bigger concern was how the defense was unable to contain Ka'Deem Carey and gave up big plays in the passing game. Their task will be easier this week as they face the more conventional offense of the Trojans, but will their offense rebound?
The Trojans have injury issues themselves with star WR Marqise Lee's status questionable. While Lee hasn't had half the season most expected of him so far, his presence in the lineup opens things up for the other receivers. Back at home in the Coliseum, the Trojans will look to stay in contention in the South as Ed Orgeron continues to audition for the head coaching job full-time. His defense has been the strength of the team, and though they've been gashed at times, they have been one of the better units in the country. Of more concern is how their OL will hold up to the aggressive Utes defense - QB Cody Kessler will try to lean on RB Silas Redd and RB Tre Madden to keep the Utes in check, but he's likely to face a lot of pressure in the pocket when he throws. Tough call on this one given the injury uncertainty, and in close calls I tend to favor the home team - call it USC 23, Utah 20
UCLA @ Oregon (-23), 4PM PST, ESPN
UCLA faces part two of the same gauntlet Washington went through, only the Bruins get the 'pleasure' of taking on Oregon in Eugene. Their injury woes along the OL and at RB come at a bad time, and Stanford's physical front 7 took full advantage, sacking Brett Hundley 4 times and limiting their RB's to 48 yards on 15 carries. Meanwhile a surprisingly good Bruins defense got pounded by Tyler Gaffney and the Stanford run game and their green secondary was ripe for Kevin Hogan to pick apart. Things don't get any easier this week against the Ducks as it appears they'll be starting 3 true frosh OL, without LB Eric Kendricks and possibly RB Jordon James. Hundley is good, but you can be sure he's going to see a lot of heat from the Ducks.
Oregon's offense is a force that just keeps getting better and better. As expected, the passing game has become a bigger part of their arsenal this year, and with targets like Bralon Addison & Josh Huff and an ideal trigger man in Marcus Mariota, it seems there's nothing they can't do. Play nickel and double their receivers? You'll get run over by Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner. Blitz the house? Mariota will likely slip the pressure and take it to the house. Play zone and keep the run game in front of you? Their passing game will have a field day. The efficacy of the offense allows the defense to take risks and sub constantly, knowing that the offense will be there to bail them out if they have a breakdown. But their aggression usually works. This week they'll be able to tee off against a very green OL, and while Hundley is also dangerous on the run, he's vulnerable to being sacked and with James out, the Bruin run game hasn't been much of a threat. While Oregon no doubt will looking forward to next week and Stanford, I don't think they'll completely overlook UCLA with Gameday in town. Oregon 44, UCLA 17
Arizona (-14) @ Colorado, 5PM PST, Pac-12 Networks
It's taken a while, but Arizona finally appears to be getting a little more balance to their offensive attack. QB B.J. Denker had a huge game two weeks ago against USC, and while he wasn't fantastic last week vs. Utah, he was a lot better than he'd been earlier in the season, and it helped allow Ka'Deem Carey to have a huge game. It helps this offense tremendously to add a legitimate passing threat to the equation. This weekend won't really tell us a lot about Arizona - they should win without too much sweat - but it should help build more confidence for Denker and a win will keep them just one loss back of ASU and UCLA in the South.
The Sefo Liufau era is underway in Colorado, and he got a nice confidence boost last week in their game vs. FCS Charleston Southern. He was efficient and fed his big playmaker WR Paul Richardson. Maybe even more importantly, it was a chance for Fr. RB Michael Adkins to further cement himself as a threat at RB as he picked up 137 yards on just 13 carries. The defense also got to feel good about themselves as they throttled their FCS opponents. However now it's back to reality as they face Arizona. Being at home will give them a slim chance, but given how badly they've been steamrolled so far in conference, it's hard to see them putting up a significant fight. Arizona 38, Colorado 20
Stanford (-3.5) @ Oregon State, 7:30PM PST, ESPN
Stanford got up off the mat and hit back hard last week as they rebounded from their loss to Utah by bludgeoning UCLA. It wasn't a blowout, but the Cardinal did what they do - they ran all over the Bruins, played stingy, physical defense and got efficient QB play from Kevin Hogan. That's their gameplan, and they do it well. They'll need their defense to step up again this week as they get challenged by the aerial assault of the Beavers in a statement game in the North. Lose, and the Cardinal are basically out of the running, so you'd have to think they'll be playing with purpose.
Mike Riley continues to prove he's one of the best in the business. Despite an embarrassing opening-week loss to FCS Eastern Washington, the Beavers have rallied to win 6 straight and sit tied with Oregon atop the North standings. This, despite a defense that has been poor and a running game that, for the 2nd straight year, has been virtually a non-factor. He's not running a Run 'N Shoot or some wide open spread passing attack, yet his group leads the country in passing yards behind QB Sean Mannion and WR Brandin Cooks, both putting up video game numbers so far on the season. However the soft portion of the Oregon State schedule is over, and they face their toughest opponent of the year. Being at home will help, and I don't think the Cardinal will be able to keep Cooks contained, but I also think their defense will prove to be their Achilles Heel. Stanford 38, Oregon State 31
Record last week:
Vs. the spread: 2-4 (no line on the Colorado/Charleston Southern game)
Record this year:
Vs. the spread: 30-27-1