With both Arizona and Oregon having a week off last week after emotional wins; Oregon in a dog fight against Washington State and Arizona having to come back to win on a hail mary pass against Cal, both teams will be looking to come out strong and carry those emotions and momentum onto the field Thursday night. For Oregon, it is a chance for redemption. Last season in Tucson, Arizona RB Ka’Deem Carey ran roughshod over the Oregon defense; rushing 48 times for 204 and 4 touchdowns. Oregon will be working to prevent that from happening again. Arizona RB Nick Wilson may not be as durable for Head Coach Rich Rodriquez to have that kind of game plan for Wilson, but with his backfield partner QB Amu Solomon, they can force Oregon to put 8 and sometimes 9 people in the box on defense. But if that happens, that can leave the outside open for receivers Cayleb Jones and Austin Hill to stretch the field. Scouting report says play Amu Solomon for the pass because he is more dangerous as a runner, but he can pass the ball effectively if his offensive line gives him time.
Two of the top 5 scoring defenses will clash on Saturday afternoon. The Stanford Cardinal allows only 6.5 points per game, which is tops in the country, while Notre Dame allow 11.5, which is 4th in the country. Both Stanford and Notre Dame play somewhat similar physical defense up front trying to contain the run game and throw off the timing in the pass game. In the last two seasons each team has won on their own home field. In 2012, the Irish stuffed Stepfan Taylor inches from the end zone before a controversial whistle blew the play dead on fourth down, sealing a 20-13 overtime victory in South Bend, and allowed the Irish to continue on their magical leading to the BCS Championship appearance. Last season Tommy Rees was able to throw 2 touchdown passes in the 3rd quester to bring the Irish back in striking distance after being down 21-6, but he ran out of magic in the 4th giving the Cardinal a 27-20 victory in Stanford. Everett Golson so far this season is showing why he was the missing to Irish’s up and down season in 2013. Stanford had great success in putting tremendous pressure on Washington QB Cyler Miles last week. They will need the same game play for Everett Golson, who is completing close to 70 percent of his passes and making very few mistakes. The first team to get to 20 will win the game.
Good offense or bad defense? And is good offense taking advantage of the bad defense? I have never seen such high scoring games in all the time I have been watching college football. The game between Cal and Washington State will probably not be any different. Two spread high air raid offenses with two quarterbacks Cal’s Jared Goff and Washington State’s Connor Halliday who are no strangers to throwing the ball 40 or more times in a game. In fact, Connor Halliday is averaging 60 pass attempts per game.
You would think that with all that passing either one of two things: 1) Washington State is always behind and they have to pass to get back into the game; or 2) they don’t have any run game. For the Cougars it’s a combination of both. With a lack of a defense to prevent the opposition from scoring regularly they have to depend on their strength, which the pass game. They don’t have any balance attack which allows defenses to zero in on being physical with their receivers and throwing off the timing of Halliday. Cal has the same concept but the threat of running backs Daniel Lasco and Khalfani Muhammad who are dynamic and can break a play open at any time. Against Colorado last week Lasco showed that with a spectacular 99 yard touchdown pass catch that should’ve been only a 10 to 15 yard swing play, but several missed tackles Lasco was able to show his speed and take it the end zone.
Whichever defense can put the most pressure on the opposing quarterback and get some stops, and the quarterback who makes the least amount of mistakes that team will eke out the win.
Arizona State QB Mike Bercovici had his first collegiate start last week replacing injured quarterback Taylor Kelly. He played pretty solid game throwing for 488 yards and 3 TDs but also had 2 interceptions. But the team seemed to fall apart in the second quarter. Now Mike Bercovici will be experiencing his first hostile environment has a starter since Taylor Kelly is still nursing a right foot injury, going into the L.A. Coliseum to face 16th ranked USC. D.J. Foster will need to have more than 30 yards rushing in order for Arizona State to be successful on offense. If the Sun Devils depend on Mike Bercovici to have a big game and they come out with a win, they are in for a surprise. USC is vulnerable in the run game. Tyler Murphy of Boston College exploited them up front. But USC was able to control Oregon State’s pass offense, keeping Oregon State QB Sean Mannion rattled. If D.J. Foster and the running game are not effective to take some of the pressure off of Mike Bercovici, the Sun Devils will not have any chance, and even more important no chance to contend for back to back division titles.