It’s not a nationally important weekend in the Pac-12 but there are four important and intriguing matchups for both the South and North Division races out West.
The North could officially become a two-horse race if Washington cannot overcome 10 years worth of struggles against Oregon. (Especially, if Stanford can handle its business in Tempe.)
In the South, UCLA, Arizona State and Utah could be dealt significant title blows with losses OR could find themselves near the top of the heap with key wins.
Week 8 Previews and Predictions:
ACC| Big 12|Big Ten|SEC
Pac-12 Week 8 Game Power Rankings
1. Washington (+21) at Oregon
8 p.m., FS1
One of the most fascinating games within the game takes place this weekend in Eugene. Washington’s front seven is one of the most talented and difficult to move in the nation while Oregon’s offensive line, while healthier, still has major concerns. Despite running for his life, Marcus Mariota has been downright filthy managing his offense (try zero interceptions) but he may be forced to work his magic once again. On the flip side, Cyler Miles has developed into one of the league’s better players and should be able to move the ball against the porous Oregon defense. If the Huskies can slow the Ducks rushing attack and pressure Mariota consistently, Washington should be able to keep it close. If not, history will repeat itself. Washington hasn’t beaten Oregon since 2003 (10 straight) and hasn’t lost by fewer than 17 points. The average score over that span has been 43.6 to 18.2. Only once (2011) has this game been within 20 points.
Listen to the Week 8 preview podcast:
2. Stanford (-3.5) at Arizona State
10:30 p.m., ESPN
The Sun Devils have lost four straight to Stanford including both meetings a year ago. After huge numbers from backup Mike Bercovici at quarterback, Todd Graham is expecting Taylor Kelly to be back under center. He will have an interesting decision to make after Bercovici threw for 998 yards (yes, 998) in two games if Kelly is fully healthy and ready to start. Either way, the ASU signal caller will face one of the nation’s nastiest defenses and will be hard-pressed to produce the same type of numbers against the Cardinal. The key will be the rebuilt ASU defense and how it handles the slowly-but-surely developing Stanford offense. Kevin Hogan had arguably the best game of his career last week but that was against lowly Washington State. Another solid outing from Hogan on the road against in a tough environment against a quality team would prove to doubters that the Cardinal can be a most complete team. A statement win for Stanford could put David Shaw’s bunch right back into championship conversations out West.
3. UCLA (-7.5) at Cal
3:30 p.m., ESPN2
It will be a tall order for the Bears reeling defense to stop Brett Hundley and what should be an angry Bruins squad. On defense, Cal is 124th in the nation at 518.2 yards allowed per game but had balanced that out with huge offensive numbers. But Sonny Dykes’ group hit a wall against Washington posting season lows with 368 yards, seven points and 4.3 yards per play. The Bruins are in danger of losing three straight and will be tested on the road but Hundley should have no issue moving the ball against a defense that doesn’t pressure the QB (91st nationally with 10.0 sacks) and doesn’t force turnovers (96th with seven). Jared Goff and company could make things interesting but the Bears’ lack of defense gives UCLA a severe edge.
4. Utah (-3) at Oregon State
10 p.m., P12 Net
Kyle Whittingham is playing it coy against Mike Riley. He won’t announce who is playing quarterback after both Kendal Thompson and Travis Wilson took reps during the off weekend. Meanwhile, the Utes head man knows exactly what he’s dealing with in Oregon State’s Sean Mannion. The Oregon State quarterback has had two weeks to get his supporting cast healthy and should be prepared for the brutal test against a tough Utah front seven that is leading the nation in sacks (28.0). This was a thrilling 51-48 win for the Beavers in Salt Lake City last fall in which Mannion threw for 443 yards, five touchdowns and no turnovers. Whittingham’s defense (and elite special teams) will have to play much better this time around to upset Oregon State on the road.
5. Colorado (+19.5) at USC
6 p.m., P12 Net
The only game in the league severely lacking in intrigue will take place in Los Angeles. USC is coming off a critical road win over Arizona and sits in control over the Pac-12 South race. That makes this situation a must-win for a team that has proven to be wildly inconsistent. In three Pac-12 games with the Buffs, USC has won all three 139-52, so odds are the Trojans move to 4-1 in the league.
Off: Arizona, Washington State
Wash. (+21) at Oregon
Stan. (-3.5) at ASU
UCLA (-7.5) at Cal
Utah (-3) at Ore. St
Colo. (+19.5) at USC