Thursday, October 3rd
UCLA (-5) @ Utah, 7PM PST, Fox Sports 1
UCLA is coming off a bye week, where they presumably had time to think about the unpleasant visits they've had to Rice-Eccles Stadium their last two trips there. This however is a different team - different coach and different approach. The Bruin offense is rolling behind So. QB Brett Hundley, ranking 2nd in the country in yards/game (614.3) and 9th in yards/play (7.26).has taken over at RB and is making folks forget about Jonathan Franklin. They've also done quite well on defense, ranking 18th in yards/play (4.42). If there's a chink in the armor, it's probably pass defense, where a young and mostly inexperienced secondary ranks 44th in pass efficiency defense (117.51) - one would expect Utah to take their shots through the air.
Utah has been a much different team this year than their prior two in the conference. Significant attrition has rendered their defense much less effective, ranking 50th in yards/play (5.16) and 76th in yards/game (406.5). Conversely on offense, they've seen a major uptick, ranking 8th in yards/play (7.37) and 16th in yards/game (504.8), and in So. QB Travis Wilson, they finally have a possible star in the making at the position. He doesn't wow you looking at him - he's kind of gangly and has an almost side-arm slinging throwing motion, but he's very effective both on the ground and through the air, and he, WR Dres Anderson and WR Sean Mitchell represent the Utes' best hopes for notching the upset. Unfortunately for Utah, I don't see their defense being able to keep the Bruins from outgunning whatever Wilson can produce. UCLA 42, Utah 30
Saturday, October 5th
WSU (-1.5) @ Cal, 1PM PST, Fox Sports 1
How quickly momentum can shift during the season. The Cougars were flying high after a surprise upset over USC and a demolition of sad-sacks Southern Utah and Idaho. But getting steamrolled by Stanford has let much of the air out of the tires of the Cougars. Fortunately for them, they get to face Cal this week and build back some confidence. The offense is still mediocre at best - like most Mike Leach teams, the run game is a distant afterthought, and unlike most Leach teams, the passing game is merely average. QB Connor Halliday had a rough go of it vs. the Cardinal, but he should find much easier sledding vs. the Bears - look for him to bounce back in a big way. The defense - which has been their strong suit - got shredded by Stanford, and their secondary will get tested repeatedly by the Bear Raid attack.
This has not been a fun first season for Sonny Dykes in Berkeley. Faced with the toughest schedule in the country, they've predictably struggled, and one has to wonder if belief and confidence among the Bears players is irreparably broken. Given the talent level on hand, it's been shocking just how bad Cal has been defensively, ranking near the bottom in the country is virtually every significant category. In WSU, they get to face an offense that is very similar to their own, so this might provide some benefit to the defense in terms of familiarity. Offensively they've been strong, running at a very fast pace and boasting one of the most prolific passing attacks in the country (4th in yards/game at 371.8) despite starting true Frosh Jared Goff at QB, though the run game has been surprisingly meek despite having the dynamic Brendan Bigelow at RB. I think the misery in Berkeley continues: WSU 38, Cal 27
Oregon (-38.5) @ Colorado, 3PM PST, Pac-12 Networks
Oregon has not missed a beat thus far under Mark Helfrich, with the offense as explosive as ever (2nd in yards/play at 8.27 and 2nd in scoring at 59.8) and the defense better than most think (4th in yards/play at 3.82). With weapons like QB Marcus Mariota, RB De'Anthony Thomas, TE Colt Lyerla, WR Josh Huff and RB Byron Marshall it's a matter of pick your poison for opposing defenses. Thomas will be out this week with an ankle injury, but between Marshall and true Frosh RB Thomas Tyner the run game should suffer little drop-off. Defensively they remain very aggressive and boast one of the top secondaries in the country which should enable them to keep in check Colorado's Paul Richardson. One thing to watch for - they've picked up 8 fumbles so far this season, and lost only 2 fumbles (and had no picks) - they're due for a bit of regression to the mean.
The Buffaloes returned to action after an abnormally long layoff due to a cancelled game and a bye week back to back, and they got stomped in Corvallis in the same monsoon that drenched Husky Stadium. The passing game, which has rolled in their first two games, was held in check by a previously porous Beaver defense, and their own secondary was powerless to slow down Sean Mannion. They face a different, but even more difficult task in trying to slow down the Ducks this week. They'll need QB Connor Wood and Richardson to have big games and for Fr. RB Michael Adkins to follow up his breakout game vs. Oregon State with another strong showing, but I wouldn't count on it. Coach Mike MacIntyre has the Buffs playing better football, and they'll notch an upset somewhere along the way this year, but not this weekend: Oregon 49, Colorado 17
ASU (-5.5) @ Notre Dame, 4:30PM PST, NBC
Notre Dame had a magical season last year, rolling up a 12-0 record to earn a date in the BCS Championship Game. Since then though it's been tough sledding - they were rag-dolled by Alabama in that game, and have stumbled to a 3-2 start this season, with their two wins coming over two of the weakest teams in the country this year in Temple and Purdue. QB Tommy Rees has been under fire and struggled with his accuracy, and the Irish run game has been tepid (though RB George Atkinson has looked impressive). They've been serviceable on defense, though both Oklahoma and Michigan had few troubles against them.
Arizona State notched a big win over a storied but over rated program last week, and now find themselves facing...a storied and over rated program again this week. It's a neutral-site game in JerryWorld (aka AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX). The Sun Devil defense has been surprisingly weak this year, ranking 104th in yards/play (6.16), 93rd in rush yards/game (192.3) and 65 in passing efficiency defense (127.09) despite the return of DT Will Sutton and DE Junior Onyeali. QB Taylor Kelly continues to be a deft triggerman for Todd Graham's offense, showing accuracy and good decision-making, with a variety of weapons in support like RB's Marion Grice and Deantre Lewis and WR's Jaelen Strong and . Arizona State's pace of play inflates their overall numbers, but they still rank 38th in yards/play (6.25). I expect the Irish to stay close for the first half, but look for Arizona to wear them down and pull away in the second half: ASU 34, Notre Dame 27
Record last week:
Vs. the spread: 3-2
Record this year:
Vs. the spread: 21-19-1