Athlon Sports previews Week 2 of the Pac-12 season.
All of college football should be watching the Pac-12 this weekend.
The two biggest games of the Week 2 slate will be played out West and will feature four teams ranked in the top 15 of the AP Poll. One of which will feature two top-10 teams.
In fact, over the last 10 years, only four times has a Pac-12 team ranked in the AP top 10 faced a non-conference foe also ranked in the AP top 10 during the regular season. USC won both legs of a home-and-home with Ohio State in 2008-09 while the Trojans also topped Notre Dame in the famed Bush Push in ‘05. The last such meeting was an Oregon loss to LSU to start the 2011 campaign.
This puts into perspective just how big Michigan State’s visit to Oregon will be this weekend.
1. Michigan St at Oregon
6:30 p.m., FOX
The hyperbole heaped upon this meeting may sound over the top, but it’s not. The loser of this contest could easily be knocked out of national title contention, as both teams could be vying for the same playoff spot at season’s end. Moreover, it’s a philosophical showdown between the fastest of up-tempo offenses and the stingiest of physical defenses. But while the Marcus Mariota-Pat Narduzzi chess match will be fascinating to watch on literally every play, it’s the other side of the ball that could determine the outcome. Connor Cook is developing into one of the best quarterbacks in the nation and the Ducks defense — now led by Don Pellum — will have to stop what has become an extremely balanced MSU attack. I won't bore you with Xs and Os schematic breakdowns (although, there are some great ones out there) but the bottom line is whichever defense stays disciplined and makes the fewest mistakes will be the victor. For what it’s worth, the home team has won all four meetings between these two programs (2-2).
Listen to the Week 2 preview podcast:
2. USC at Stanford
3:30 p.m., ABC
Conference play begins in style with what has developed into one of the best West Coast rivalries in the game today. Both USC head coach Steve Sarkisian and Stanford defensive coordinator Lance Anderson debuted in impressive fashion as the Trojans ran nearly as many plays (105) as the Cardinal allowed yards (115) in their openers last week. A year ago, USC used three Stanford turnovers and a game-winning field goal in the final half-minute to pull off the upset at home. It was the first win in the series for the Men of Troy since 2008 — the last time USC won in Palo Alto. This could be Cody Kessler's toughest test of the year and it comes in Week 2.
3. Arizona at UTSA
Thurs., 8 p.m., FS1
The Wildcats and Roadrunners come into this Week 2 primetime meeting after decidedly different showings in Week 1. Both won but how they won was totally different. Arizona, behind the debut of Anu Solomon at quarterback, rolled up a school-record 787 yards of offense and scored 58 points. UTSA struggled mightily on offense, averaging just 3.55 yards per play, but was stifling on defense. The once-powerful Houston offense was held to just 2.85 yards per play, minus-26 yards rushing and just seven points. This will be much closer than the experts think. Rich Rodriguez is attempting to move his non-conference record at Arizona to 10-0 with a win Thursday evening.
4. E. Washington at Washington
3:05 p.m., Pac-12 Net
Eastern Washington isn’t an average FCS opponent. Just ask Oregon State. Chris Petersen gets Cyler Miles (thankfully) back under center after the Huskies' abysmal showing against Hawaii. And this offense will have to be much better if it expects to beat the No. 2-ranked FCS team in the nation. Especially, one filled with players who likely grew up dreaming of playing in the Purple and Gold.
5. Washington St at Nevada
Fri., 10:30 p.m., ESPN
One Evergreen State school that needs to rebound in Week 2, Washington State must face an always tricky Nevada team in Reno. Both quarterbacks will be on display as Connor Halliday, fresh off a 532-yard performance, will battle with the dynamic Cody Fajardo (303 pass, 68 rush in Week 1). The Wolfpack, whose offense started slowly last week but finished with 547 yards, won’t be scared of the mighty Pac-12, as Nevada has played UCLA, Arizona and Cal in the last two years. The Wolfpack have gone 1-2 in these games, beating Cal and nearly upsetting Arizona. Needless to say, Mike Leach’s bowl hopes may hang in the balance Friday evening.
6. Fresno St at Utah
3 p.m., Pac-12 Net
Fresno State will face its third consecutive Pac-12 foe and is hoping for a better outcome than the first two after getting boat-raced by USC last weekend. Utah used three different quarterbacks, eight different ball-carriers and nine different receivers in an easy Week 1 victory over Idaho State. Look for Travis Wilson to play most of the game, however, after a triumphant return to the field (13-18, 265 yds, 2 total TDs). This is a must-win situation for Kyle Whittingham if he wants to get his Utes back into the postseason.
7. Oregon St at Hawaii
10:30 p.m., CBS Sports
Washington struggled mightily in their trip to the Islands last weekend and Oregon State didn’t exactly dominate Portland State as expected. Did Sean Mannion throw for more than 300 yards? Sure, but Mike Riley is looking for a more complete performance against a bad Hawaii team – although one that has traditionally been tricky to beat in Honolulu.
8. Memphis at UCLA
10 p.m., Pac-12 Net
Jim Mora’s bunch escaped with a win over Virginia but he couldn’t have been happy with the way his offensive line played. Memphis won its opener 63-0 but that was against Austin Peay. Fans should expect some aggression to be enacted upon the poor Tigers after what was likely a rough week of practice in Los Angeles.
9. Arizona St at New Mexico
7 p.m., CBS Sports
The Sun Devils have won three consecutive road games and New Mexico doesn’t figure to be much of a test for Todd Graham’s bunch. Taylor Kelly and D.J. Foster were excellent on offense and the totally reworked defense pitched a shutout deep into the third quarter. The Lobos, coming off a loss to UTEP in Week 1, should be easy fodder for ASU in Week 2.
10. Colorado at UMass
3 p.m., ESPN3
After a fast start last week, the Buffaloes allowed their in-state rival to roll off 24 consecutive points and it resulted in a crushing defeat. Mike MacIntrye’s bunch needs to improve on defense against both the running and passing games if Colorado wants to get into the win column this week against a Minutemen team that posted just seven points, nine first downs and 202 yards of offense against Boston College.
11. Sacramento St at Cal
3 p.m., Pac-12 Net
The Bears might have been the nicest surprise in the league last week when they upset Northwestern on the road. Now, against a totally overmatched Sacramento State squad, Sonny Dykes could improve on his win total from last year in just two games. This should be a fun home opener for the fans in Berkeley.
|Game||Braden Gall||Mitch Light||David Fox||Steven Lassan|
|Mich. St (+12) at Oregon||Ore., 31-27||Ore., 30-24||Ore., 35-28||MSU, 31-27|
|USC (+2.5) at Stanford||Stan., 24-17||USC, 27-24||Stan., 27-17||Stan., 27-24|
|Arizona (-7) at UTSA||Zona, 38-21||Zona, 40-20||Zona, 42-14||Zona, 34-20|
|E. Wash. at Wash.||Wash., 31-17||Wash., 41-20||Wash., 24-10||Wash., 38-24|
|Wazzu (-4) at Nevada||WSU, 45-28||WSU, 34-20||WSU, 41-21||WSU, 34-31|
|Fresno St (+10.5) at Utah||Utah, 31-21||Utah, 27-17||Utah, 28-14||Utah, 34-24|
|Ore. St (-10.5) at Hawaii||OSU, 34-13||OSU, 28-13||OSU, 35-10||OSU, 34-20|
|Ariz. St (-26) at N. Mexico||ASU, 54-10||ASU, 37-10||ASU, 49-14||ASU, 48-17|
|Memphis (+24) at UCLA||UCLA, 41-13||UCLA, 30-13||UCLA, 31-10||UCLA, 38-13|
|Colo. (-17) at UMass||Colo., 30-14||Colo., 27-13||Colo., 27-10||Colo., 40-13|
|Sacramento St at Cal||Cal, 35-17||Cal, 44-17||Cal, 35-14||Cal, 48-10|