Athlon previews the coming week of gridiron action in the Pac-12 Conference.
The race in the Pac-12 South continues to entertain. Arizona's loss to UCLA was costly, both in the standings and on the injury report. USC's loss to Oregon didn't end their title hopes as the two L.A. schools are now headed on a collision course for Nov. 17. But both need to take care of business this weekend against overmatched opponents to ensure next weekend's game sends the winner to Eugene in December. Otherwise, all eyes should be pointed northward to Palo Alto, where the Beavers come to town, and Seattle, where Utah is fighting for a bowl game.
Pac-12's Top Storylines to Watch in Week 11:
1. Stanford's nasty front against Oregon State's young O-Line
The Cardinal have the best front seven West of the Mississippi. They have allowed a grand total of minus-16 yards rushing in three wins since losing to Notre Dame, twice in a row holding the opposition to negative rushing yards. Stanford is also leading the nation in sacks after taking down the other teamâs quarterback 17 times over the last two weeks. No, the Bears, Cougars and Buffaloes donât offer the same type of challenge as the Beavers, but this will easily be the toughest test Oregon Stateâs offense will have faced all season. A young offensive line, a back up quarterback, and talented but diminutive skill players make this an awfully tough match up for Mike Riley. There is some good news, however, asâ¦
2. Kevin Hogan makes first start against No. 2 defense
Oregon State trails only Stanford in pass efficiency, rushing and scoring defense in the Pac-12. So Hoganâs first career start wonât come easy as the Beavers have been outstanding at rushing the passer and stopping the run all season long. However, as points will be extremely tough to come by in this one for Oregon State, the pressure falls to Rileyâs defense to play perfect football if it wants to get the road win. Hogan was extremely efficient last weekend in spot duty, completing 18-of-23 passes for 184 yards and two touchdowns and nary a turnover. But that was Colorado â and this is Scott Crichton and Jordan Poyer (who should play after missing last week). This will be a physical, blue-collar slugfest.
3. Revenge on the mind of the USC Trojans
Lane Kiffinâs bunch was 10-2 last fall with wins over Notre Dame, Washington, Oregon and Utah. And a eight-point overtime loss to Stanford and Andrew Luck is nothing to be ashamed of. However, allowing 43 points in a three-touchdown loss to a 6-6 Sun Devils team with a coach in his final season likely hasnât sat well with Mr. Barkley and company. The USC quarterback had his worst game of the 2011 season against ASU, throwing for 227 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. The embarrassing loss to Arizona State last fall, as well as the beatdown the Trojans defense took last weekend, should have this team ready to play. Arizona State has allowed 124 points and 454.7 yards per game during its current three-game losing streak. Best wishes to Todd Grahamâs defense.
4. Can Travis Wilson handle Seattle?
Kyle Whittingham officially switched to touted freshman quarterback Travis Wilson four games ago. He kept his team competitive on the road against UCLA (21-14) and Oregon State (21-7) before breaking through the last two weeks. The Utes were scoring 20.1 points per game and were ranked 105th nationally before Wilson led his team to 49 points in each of the last two weekends. Certainly, the ground game has emerged and the defense has improved, but if Utah wants to win a third straight game and keep its bowl hopes alive, Wilson will have to handle the rowdy crowd in Seattle. Itâs safe to say the Huskies are a different team at home. They are 4-1 at home with wins over previously unbeaten Stanford and Oregon State and have allowed more than 17 points only once (USC, 24). Good luck youngster.
5. Oregon shooting for an NCAA record
Fresh off of a 62-point blasting of USC, Oregon sits tied with Oklahoma State (2010-12) and Hawaii (2006-07) with an NCAA-record 22 straight games with at least 30 points scored. LSU was the last team to keep the Ducks under 30 back in the 2011 season opener. Additionally, the Ducks have scored at least 34 points in 18 consecutive Pac-12 games, dating back to, you guessed it, a road trip to Cal in 2010. It was by far the best defensive effort Chip Kellyâs bunch faced en route to the BCS National Championship Game. So even though multiple scoring streaks are at stake, I am positive Kelly would take a guaranteed berth in the BCS title game if it meant another low-scoring two-point win this weekend.
6. Brett Hundley and Johnathan Franklin must roll on the road
The Bruins quarterback (306.8 ypg) and running back (133.8) tandem trail only Matt Scott (357.4) and KaâDeem Carey (112.8) in combined total offense in the Pac-12. And since they just obliterated the Wildcats duo 66-10, this could be considered the most productive QB-RB tandem in the league. In fact, only Texas A&M star Johnny Manziel produces more total offense nationally as a freshman than Hundley. With Washington State struggling at unprecedented levels â try 76 total yards rushing in six Pac-12 games â this should be a cakewalk for UCLAâs dynamic backfield.
7. Matt Scott's health and Arizonaâs ability to bounce back
The dynamic play-maker suffered a concussion against UCLA last weekend and is listed as questionable. He wonât be needed in this home game against Colorado, so I would expect to see Rich Rodriguez to play it safe with his star quarterback. Look for KaâDeem Carey and a host of talented skill players to pick up the slack and abuse the Buffs with or without their quarterback. This will get ugly real quick and the only negative thing that could possibly happen is another injury to Scott. So keep him on the sideline RichRod.
Week 11 Pac-12 Predictions:
|Week 11 Pac-12 Games||Braden Gall||Mitch Light||Steven Lassan||David Fox|
|Colorado at Arizona||Arizona, 38-7||Arizona, 48-0||Arizona, 55-17||Arizona, 35-10|
|Arizona St at USC||USC, 45-21||USC, 37-23||USC, 45-31||USC, 38-28|
|Oregon St at Stanford||Stanford, 20-17||Stanford, 30-27||Stanford, 24-20||Stanford, 27-14|
|Utah at Washington||Washington, 24-20||Washington, 33-10||Washington, 27-20||Washington, 35-10|
|UCLA at Washington St||UCLA, 41-14||UCLA, 47-10||UCLA, 48-20||UCLA, 31-10|
|Oregon at Cal||Oregon, 41-17||Oregon, 44-17||Oregon, 48-17||Oregon, 49-14|
by Braden Gall
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