The much anticipated playoff we thought would put an end to the debate of who should be the champion; to who will play for the championship; to now who is in? In past seasons, the final decision wasn’t made until the final regular season game. Now the month of November will see teams get eliminated from contention as every win counts.
Notre Dame vs Arizona State
Notre Dame and Arizona State are two of many teams with one vying a chance to get into a playoff spot.
Arizona State has come on strong since their debacle against UCLA running off four straight wins with two of the wins on the arm of their backup quarterback Mike Bercovici who stunned the USC fans with a 47 yard hail mary to receiver Jaelen Strong and dismantling a stingy Stanford defense. Now QB Taylor Kelly is back under center and his first start a few weeks ago against Washington had to shake some of the cobwebs out really seems to be getting his legs back under him after leading the Sun Devils down the field to tie the game against Utah last week where they eventually won in overtime.
The Sun Devils are at home this week, and are not looking to be hospitable to their guest Notre Dame who will be looking to change the outcome of their last road defeat at the hands of the Seminoles; where a controversial call pushed their grasps of spot in the playoff out of reach a bit.
Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson is playing some excellent football; one loss as a starter will be looking to keep it that way; as he and his favorite target receiver Corey Robinson will try to come out of the desert with a win, and pull themselves closer to a spot in the playoff.
Oregon vs Utah
Now in the driver seat to represent the PAC-12 in the playoff; the Oregon Ducks was placed in the 4th slot of the College Football Playoff. In control of their own destiny, if Oregon can go pull out a win in Salt Lake City this weekend and win the PAC-12 Championship game they will have stamped themselves into one of the four slots.
Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota has been a tear the last few weeks passing and running ball. Having running backs Royce Freeman and Thomas Tyner alongside Mariota in the backfield gives the Ducks an added dimension that they haven’t had in a the last few years.
Freeman is a strong candidate for freshman of the year in the PAC-12 with 848 yards and 13 touchdowns; averaging over 5 yards per carry.
Another hit to the Oregon O-line seems to be the theme of the Ducks season. Now, a MCL sprain to right tackle Matt Pierson brings feelings of déjà vu to Oregon as when they were struggling it was due to the lack of protection for Mariota when left tackle Jake Fisher was out for a couple of games.
Utah will be licking their chops to take advantage of the right side of that Oregon offensive line. Coming into this week’s game leading the PAC-12 in sacks led by their defensive end Nate Orchard who has 12 sacks on the season; you can expect Mariota to use his legs a lot to take the pressure off the O-line from holding up under the Utes pass rush.
UCLA vs Washington
UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley has taken it upon himself to really shoulder the offensive load for the Bruins since the loss to Utah. Since that time, Hundley has 935 yards in the air; 424 yards on the ground and 9 total touchdowns. The Bruins are 3-1 in that time.
While Hundley has kept the offense afloat; the defense has struggled giving up 30 points per game. Last week against Arizona they finally tightened up on defense not allowing a point after the Anu Solomon touchdown pass to Cayleb Jones.
Normally a defensive disrupter, Shaq Thompson has been given the task of playing both sides of the ball. With Dwayne Washington out due to injury, Shaq Thompson had 15 carries last week for 174 yards and a touchdown against Colorado.
The Bruins will really have their hands full on defense trying to contain Thompson and quarterback Cyler Miles. After the Bruins’ strong performance last week; they will be looking to carry that momentum into Seattle and continue to put themselves in contention for a PAC-12 South title.