Stanford snuck past Washington last weekend and neither team has time to dwell on what happened in Palo Alto. The Huskies return home and get to try to stop the Oregon Ducks while the Cardinal have a testy road trip to Salt Lake City.
While those two tilts are easily the league’s top showdowns in Week 7, there is plenty else to keep an eye on in the Pac-12. The Beavers-Cougars North Division matchup is basically a pick 'em with large bowl implications and Ed Orgeron makes his USC coaching debut against Rich Rodriguez on Thursday night.
Arizona State and UCLA aren’t technically on bye this week but both should steamroll their inferior competition.
Pac-12 Week 7 Game Power Rankings
1. Oregon (-14) at Washington (4 p.m. ET, FS1)
Steve Sarkisian’s team proved it belonged on the field with Stanford last weekend by nearly doubling the Cardinal in total offense. The Huskies get no breaks as they return home and prepare for a Ducks offense operating on unprecedented levels. Marcus Mariota has played flawless football all season long and he picked up the slack for the injured De’Anthony Thomas last week in a big way by accounting for seven touchdowns. Thomas isn’t likely to be back this weekend but that might not mean much for Washington, as it will still have to deal with Byron Marshall (448 yards, 4 TDS) and Thomas Tyner (204 yards, 5 TDS). So it falls to Keith Price to put up points in a big way, something he’s struggled to do in each of his two meetings against Oregon as the starter. The U of W quarterback hasn’t topped 145 yards in either game and has four interceptions and just two scores in the last two meetings. If Coach Sark wants to compete in the Pac-12 North, he can’t go 0-2 against the Cardinal and Ducks on back-to-back weeks.
2. Stanford (-9) at Utah (6 p.m., Pac-12 Network)
After taking care of business last weekend against Washington at home, Stanford must avoid a major letdown when it travels to Salt Lake City for just the first time since 1995 and the second time since 1902. The home team has never won in this series and if that trend is to change Utes quarterback Travis Wilson, who threw six interceptions last week, must protect the football against arguably the nation’s most vicious front seven. On the flip side, it will fall to Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan, who has yet to lose as a starter (10-0), to keep his team focused and driven in an obvious upset alert situation on the road. This will be a battle of strength-on-strength all game long and should be as physical as any game in the Pac-12 all season.
3. Oregon State (+1) at Washington State (ESPNU)
The 98th meeting between the Beavers and Cougars should feature plenty of excitement. Led by quarterback Sean Mannion, Oregon State is second only to Baylor in passing offense nationally (420.6 ypg). Mike Leach’s Cougars aren’t far behind, ranked eighth nationally at 359.7 yards per game. And with the way these defenses have been playing, four figures worth of passing yardage isn’t out of the question. Washington State gave up 521 yards to Cal through the air last week while Oregon State allowed 625 yards to Eastern Washington and 539 to Utah. These two teams are No. 1 and No. 2 in the Pac-12 in interceptions, so one of these secondaries will make a big second half stop, right?
4. Arizona (+6) at USC (Thurs., 10:30 p.m., FS1)
The Coliseum’s first-ever non-Thanksgiving/non-bowl Thursday game will also be interim head coach Ed Orgeron’s first in charge of the Trojans. So very little is known about what this USC team will look like after an abrupt coaching change and fans on both sides should expect the unexpected. Ka’Deem Carey is one of the few proven commodities on either side and the Wildcats star tailback will be leaned on to loosen up the talented and aggressive Trojans defense. These two have split their last four, including a split in the last two in L.A. Either way, this should be a close contest as each of the last six meetings have been decided by seven points or fewer.
5. Colorado (+25) at Arizona State (10 p.m., Pac-12 Network)
The Sun Devils are in dire need of a tune-up game. Consistency has been a huge issue in their last four games — three of which ASU basically lost. Taylor Kelly has thrown for over 300 yards in every game this fall but couldn’t deliver on key fourth-quarter drives against Notre Dame. That type of clutch play shouldn’t be necessary this week, however, as Arizona State has never lost to Colorado (4-0). The Sun Devils have outscored the Buffaloes 99-31 in two years as division foes. Mike MacIntyre’s team hasn’t been competitive since Week 2.
6. Cal (+25) at UCLA (10:30 p.m., ESPN2)
Brett Hundley and UCLA survived Salt Lake City last Thursday night but it wasn’t pretty. The Bruins committed 13 penalties and two turnovers and needed 10 fourth-quarter points to topple the mistake-prone Utes. Should UCLA get back to playing fundamentally sound football, Cal should pose no threat in the Rose Bowl. The Bears threw the ball 63 times for 521 yards last weekend and lost by 22 at home to Washington State.
Pac-12 Week 7 Pivotal Players:
1. Washington’s front seven
The Huskies allowed 299 yards rushing on 52 attempts in the 52-21 blowout at the hands of Oregon last season. Additionally, Washington has allowed 199 yards and 179 yards rushing and four total rushing touchdowns to Arizona and Stanford respectively in its last two games. Even without DAT, stopping Oregon’s running game is virtually impossible. Washington's defense needs to slow the Ducks down on the ground just enough to give its offense a chance to put together some long drives.
2. Keith Price, QB, Washington
In two games as the starter against Oregon, Price has been anything but productive. He threw for 145 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions last year and totaled 143 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in 2011. His 87.68 rating against Oregon last year was his second-worst efficiency mark of the season while his 110.32 rating was his worst game of the ’11 season. This is a legacy-defining game for a long-term starter like Price.
3. Trevor Reilly and Tenny Palepoi, DL, Utah
The Utes are leading the Pac-12 in sacks (3.6 per game) and are No. 2 in tackles for a loss per game (7.6). Reilly and Palepoi have combined for 4.5 sacks and 10.0 TFL thus far, but the duo was held nearly completely off the board last weekend against UCLA (0.0 sacks, 0.5 TFL). Stanford boasts arguably the best offensive line in the nation and will be the toughest test Utah’s defensive front will face all season long. These two must play well to pull the upset.
4. Ka’Deem Carey, RB, Arizona
The star tailback is averaging 143.7 yards per game in three games in 2013, good for fifth nationally. He carried 28 times for 119 yards and a TD in last year’s win over USC at home. Only one other time last year did Carey carry the ball more (29, Washington) and he has had two weeks to recover from his career-high 30 carries against the Huskies. He will need to be fresh as the Trojans boast the Pac-12’s No. 1 rushing defense (99.6 ypg) and are allowing just 3.5 yards per carry this season.
5. Oregon State’s secondary
The Beavers (8) rank behind only Washington State (9) in interceptions this season in the Pac-12 and Mike Riley will needs his defensive backfield to be prepared this weekend against Leach’s Air Raid. Steven Nelson is tied for the nation’s lead in picks (4) while Tyrequek Zimmerman is the team’s leading tackler. Along with Ryan Murphy and Rashaad Reynolds, the Oregon State secondary must continue its solid play from last game. Riley’s bunch allowed just 146 yards on 41.2 percent passing to Colorado the last time OSU was on the field.
Pac-12 Week 7 Predictions:
Oregon (-14) at Washington
Stanford (-9) at Utah
Oregon St (+1) at Washington St
Oregon St, 37-34
Oregon St, 34-31
Oregon St, 49-38
Arizona (+6) at USC
Colorado (+25) at Arizona St
Arizona St, 41-20
Arizona St, 38-13
Arizona St, 48-24
Arizona St, 38-21
Cal (+25) at UCLA