Oregon vs UCLA at the Rose Bowl
Last season Oregon embarrassed UCLA in Autzen Stadium 42-14. The Ducks shut out the Bruins in the second half 28-0. Brett Hundley was ineffective in the passing game going 13-19 for 64 yards one touchdown and 2 interceptions. Most of his yards came in the run game off of scrambles and read option. UCLA this time will be at home and with the bitter taste of the loss to Utah last week and the pummeling from Oregon last year, UCLA will be looking for retribution Saturday afternoon.
Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota and UCLA QB Brett Hundley have been the talk of the PAC-12 regarding Heisman Watch, but all Utah and Arizona cared nothing of the sort. Arizona sacked Mariota 5 times last Thursday night in their 31-24 upset win over Oregon; while Utah put significant pressure on Brett Hundley sacking him 10 times. If either team is going to be successful this week the offensive line will have to do a better job protecting their quarterback.
Both teams are effective in both the run game and passing attack. Of course Mariota and Hundley are dual threat quarterbacks, but have solid backs that can carry the run load when called upon. UCLA running back Paul Perkins averages 19 carries this season, while Oregon splits between freshman Royce Freeman and sophomore Thomas Tyner together averages 23 carries, and in a pass dominant conference that can very effective in slowing down the pass rush of the defense.
Oregon and UCLA are so evenly matched you have to focus on the mistakes. Who will make the big mistake to cause their team a chance to win? Who will win the turnover battle? Which team’s special teams will be most effective, winning the field position battle? And of course in the trenches, the big guys up front. Who will establish the advantage on the offensive and/or the defensive line? Whoever comes up with the most intangibles will come out on top?
USC vs Arizona in Tucson
No respect for the Wildcats of Arizona. Undefeated and just coming off a big win against then No. 2 Oregon; Arizona is still the underdog going into this week’s game against USC at home in Tucson. Is there any levity to this? Was last week’s game just a fluke? Well, that’s a debate for another day, but if Arizona ever needed a reason to have a fire lit up their rear ends or not to ease of the gas; they have just been handed the gasoline.
Arizona QB Anu Solomon has to stay grounded and not let the success of the season overwhelm him.Solomon can ill afford to lose his focus. He has been very efficient while keeping mistakes to a minimum. On the year, Solomon is completing 64 percent of his passes and has 3:1 touchdowns to interception ratio. So, he has to continue to be thorough and succinct in his progressions. He has to be effective in the pass game early against USC. They can’t fall behind early and try to play catch like they did against Cal, because the Trojans are more solid on defense. Especially with Leonard Williams up front and Adoree Jackson covering the ‘Cats top receiver Cayleb Jones.
The Trojans are looking for a fight and want to show why Arizona’s high ranking is a fluke. USC let their guard down against Arizona State last week before the game was over and the Sun Devils took advantage. Head Coach Steve Sarkisian knows they will be in a battle Saturday night on the road in Tucson. The crowd will be ruckus and ready to create problems for his quarterback Cody Kessler to communicate on offense. Linebacker Scooby Wright leads the ‘Cats in tackles and sacks will look to be in Cody Kessler’s face all night.
Junir receiver Nelson Agholor the Trojans top receiver and Kessler’s go to guy have to be on the same page; the same with freshman JuJu Smith. If they aren’t able to get the crowd quiet and out of the game early the pass game will struggle and all burden will be put on Javorius Allen, plays right in the hands of the Wildcats, who allows only 3 yards per rush.
Washington vs Cal in Berkley
While Cal is no slouch when it comes to putting points on the board; they are 2nd in the nation averaging 50 points per game. Washington has put up big points themselves this season. On the season, Cal allows over 40 points per game against them. If Cal is to avoid another up and down the field; back and forth game against the Huskies they will need to contain Washington QB Cyler Miles, who couldn’t get anything going two weeks ago against Stanford. The only problem Cal has with this is that, well, they’re not Stanford.
California’s defense; against teams who run a spread offense and the ability to pass as well as run out of it have trouble getting them off the field consistently for 60 minutes. They have positive moments here and there. Against Arizona, Cal held their offense to 222 total yards and only 6 points in the first half. But in the second they could not keep a strong hold on QB Anu Solomon, who threw for 248 yards and 4 touchdowns in the 4th quarter alone. Now Cyler Miles may not beat you with his arm most of the time, but he can with his legs along with his backfield teammates running backs Dwayne Washington and Lavon Coleman.
If Cal wants to be successful on defense against Washington, they have to plug up the middle and stay disciplined on the edge. They can’t break containment, because the Huskies backs and receivers on reverses and swing passes will burn them.
For Washington, they need to lock down on the Cal receivers. Don’t allow Cal QB Jared Goff to beat you; force Cal to establish the run game with their running backs Daniel Lasco and Khalfani Muhammad to have big games on the ground.
Washington State vs. Stanford in Palo Alto
Looks of despair, frustration and bewilderment were on the faces of the fans, players and coaches of both Stanford and Washington State coming off of last second loses last week. Stanford who was the top defense in the country averaging 198 total yards allowed; last week against Notre Dame gave up 37o yards; 241 in the air. Everett Golson was held to under 50 percent passing, but when it counted the most the Stanford defense couldn’t keep him contained, has he threw a last minute touchdown pass to give the Irish the lead in the 4th quarter.
They will really have their hands full this week against Washing ton State QB Connor Halliday, who had an historical night last Saturday against Cal; throwing for a FBS single-game passing record 734 yards, but it was not enough has place kicker Quentin Breshears missed a game winning chip-shot field goal with a few seconds to go in the 4th quarter last Saturday night.
Both teams are coming into Friday’s game with a chip on the shoulder and want to bounce back. For Stanford, having two loses their opportunity to play in the College Football Playoff are pretty much gone by the waist side, they are in the position to play spoiler to Oregon and/or Cal, who both stand at 4-1 and have one lose in the conference at the top of the North division; ironically, both Oregon and Cal’s lone loss came at the hands of undefeated 10th ranked Arizona.
Stanford has to get pressure up front on Connor Halliday with their 4 and sometimes even 3 down linemen, because they are going to have to play a lot of man and deep safety coverage in the secondary. The linebackers and nickel corners will be major factors in covering the slot receivers and running backs. If Stanford plays zone and try to blitz out of that zone; Halliday and his menu of receivers will find the holes and dunk and dink down the field. But if Stanford can keep Halliday under pressure and force some throws they won’t have any trouble in slowing down Washington State’s passing attack, which would avoid getting into a shootout with them, because their (Stanford) offense won’t be able to keep up the tempo
For WSU, three things you need to do effectively: 1) protect Connor Halliday; 2) score on every opportunity you can, because if you get into a slugfest, you lose; and 3) tackle..tackle..tackle. Tackle anybody you see with the ball, especially Stanford WR Ty Montgomery.
The showdown everyone associated with the PAC-12 has been waiting for, of course predictions figured both Oregon and UCLA would be still unbeaten. But this can possibly be round one of a two rounder. They could possibly meet again in December in Santa Clara for the PAC-12 Championship.