Athlon Sports previews every contest, identifies the most pivotal players and picks every Pac-12 game.
All things have fallen into place for the powers that be in the Pac-12. Oregon and Stanford have reached the “rematch” — but that won’t take place until next Thursday. Both the Ducks and Cardinal, as well as Utah and Washington, will be on bye this weekend with extra time to prepare for whatever may await in Week 11.
With those four quality teams not playing this weekend, the Pac-12 slate isn’t the juiciest fans have seen this season. That said, Larry Scott and company did an excellent job spreading the games out this weekend for viewers. Fans get three straight nights of Pac-12 football.
Pac-12 Week 10 Game Power Rankings
1. USC (+5) at Oregon State (Fri., 9 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
The Trojans continue to battle with less than 50 scholarship players and no permanent head coach. Interim leader Ed Orgeron used a tremendous defensive effort to top Utah at home last week, but his roster is on life support as injuries continue to ravage the depth chart. Oregon State is coming off its worst performance of the season after allowing eight sacks to Stanford and posting a season-low 288 yards of offense. USC’s starting 22, when healthy, is dramatically more talented than the Beavers' starters, but with a rash of injuries and little depth, Oregon State’s potent offensive attack will stretch the Trojans defense to the limit. Mike Riley has been a thorn in the Trojans’ side for years, winning three straight at home and four of the last five in Corvallis — even against the mighty Trojans of 2000, '06, '08 and '10.
2. Arizona State (-11.5) at Washington State (Thurs., 10:30 p.m., ESPN)
The Sun Devils have to be buoyed by UCLA’s two-game losing streak but will be on upset alert in Pullman this weekend. Arizona State now leads the Pac-12 South but has to prove it can win away from Tempe, something it hasn’t done yet this season (0-2). Todd Graham’s squad has won two straight by scoring at least 53 points in both games with over 1,100 yards of offense. Conversely, Washington State has lost two straight and has allowed 114 points in the process. Both teams had an extra weekend to prepare for the Thursday night tilt and there is plenty on the line for both. The Cougars need to split in their final four to make a bowl game and ASU has eyes on a division title. If the Sun Devils can disrupt the line of scrimmage like it did against Washington (7.0 sacks, 12.0 TFL), then they should return to the desert with The Evergreen State sweep.
3. Arizona (-16) at Cal (3:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network)
The Sonny Dykes era began with big offensive fireworks. The Bears topped 500 yards of offense in four of the first five games and scored at least 30 points in each of the first three. However, quarterback Jared Goff has struggled mightily of late, as the offense has failed to score more than 17 in four of the last five. Meanwhile, behind the dynamic backfield duo of B.J. Denker and Ka’Deem Carey, 'Zona has won two straight in the league and finds itself in a cloudy Pac-12 race. Carey is leading the nation in rushing (153.3 ypg) and Denker is leading all Pac-12 quarterbacks in the same category (74.1 ypg). Against the nation’s 123rd-rated defense (540.0 ypg), Rich Rodriguez’ spread should have a field day.
4. Colorado (+27) at UCLA (7:30 p.m., FS1)
The Bruins learned what the Washington Huskies had learned a few weeks earlier. Stanford and Oregon are really good. The difference between the two, however, is UW had to play on the road against Arizona State following its two losses while UCLA gets a home game against the Buffaloes. While the Buffs are improving under Mike MacIntrye, they aren’t capable of scoring with Brett Hundley — who is dealing with his own off-the-field issues. Jim Mora’s offense has been totally shut down the last two weeks, so look for the Bruins to stretch their legs this Saturday at home against Colorado.
Pac-12 Week 10 Pivotal Players:
Listen to Athlon Sports writers Braden Gall and David Fox talk about Oregon's move in the BCS, Stanford's defense and the Pac-12 South race in this week's Athlon Sports Cover 2 Podcast.
Like every other position on the field, the Trojans' secondary is seriously talented. Josh Shaw, Su’a Cravens, Dion Bailey and Demetrius Wright are as gifted a starting group as there is in the nation. But they have dealt with nagging injuries and will be faced with stopping the nation’s No. 1 QB-WR duo in Sean Mannion and Brandin Cooks. On the road, this group will decide the Trojans' fate this weekend.
2. Oregon State’s offensive line
On the flip side, Beavers quarterback Sean Mannion needs to be resilient in the face of another quality Pac-12 defense and he needs to get some help from his front line. After getting battered around by Stanford to the tune of eight sacks, the Beavers' offensive line needs to prove it can give Mannion a pocket and time to throw. Getting a running game that has watched its rushing totals drop from 120 yards four weeks ago to 17 last weekend would certainly help.
3. Osahon Irabor, CB, Arizona State
The top coverman and playmaker in the Sun Devils secondary will be faced with slowing down the Mike Leach Air Raid offense this weekend. He is the team’s No. 4 tackler (28.0) and will be used in blitz packages from time to time. Defensively, this team hasn’t played well away from Tempe and it falls to Irabor and the rest of the secondary to bend but not break this weekend against Wazzu’s No. 6-rated passing attack.
4. Connor Halliday, QB, Washington State
When Halliday throws more touchdowns than interceptions, the Cougars are 3-0 in 2013. Unfortunately, the Washington State signal-caller has been too turnover-prone of late. He has seven INTs in his last two games and Arizona State is too good to beat if he continues to turn the ball over. This has upset alert written all over it but Halliday must protect the ball if Wazzu is gonna have any chance to win.
5. B.J. Denker, QB, Arizona
If the Wildcats quarterback plays the way he has the last three games, Arizona won’t have any issue rolling past lowly Cal. He has averaged 345.0 yards of total offense per game and has led the zone-read attack to two straight victories. With an outside shot at a Pac-12 South division title, Denker must avoid a letdown in Berkeley.
Pac-12 Week 10 Predictions:
|Game||Braden Gall||Mitch Light||Steven Lassan||David Fox|
|USC (+5) at Oregon St||Ore. St, 27-20||Ore. St, 27-17||Ore. St, 31-24||Ore. St, 31-24|
|Arizona St (-11.5) at Wazzu||Ariz. St, 41-34||Ariz. St, 41-14||Ariz. St, 45-30||Ariz. St, 42-24|
|Arizona (-16) at Cal||Arizona, 38-24||Arizona, 48-13||Arizona, 45-24||Arizona, 31-13|
|Colorado (+27) at UCLA||UCLA, 42-17||UCLA, 41-7||UCLA, 48-17||UCLA, 38-14|