PAC-12: Week 14 Preview

All the focus most of the season has been on the SEC (West) and how deep it is.  The sleepers of the PAC-12 (South) have truly been awaken.  Can you say 9-2, 6-2?  Three teams in the South have the same record vying for that empty spot in the PAC-12 Championship game and of course the South Division title.  Arizona, Arizona State and UCLA are in a fight for the title.  UCLA is in the driver seat.  If they win they’re in; on the hand when Arizona and Arizona State battle it out the winner can do is sit back and hope for a Stanford win.   Both fans of the Arizona schools will be cheering hard for their respective teams to win, but they will be also major fans of Stanford has they will earnestly look up at the scoreboard in Arizona Stadium for updates on the Stanford-UCLA game.

Arizona State vs Arizona

The battle of the Territorial Cup back up for grabs in Tucson this weekend the Sun Devils are looking to bring the Cup back to Tempe for the third straight year.  2013 South Division Champs Arizona State rolled over the Wildcats 58-21.

The “Big Three” for Arizona State, Kelly, Foster and Strong put the Wildcats hopes to a screeching halt.   Kelly threw for 274 yards with 2 touchdowns; Foster had 124 yards on the ground and 2 touchdowns; All-American Jaelen Strong had 4 catches for 142 yards with a touchdown.   Arizona QB B.J. Denker had 3 interceptions; one returned for a touchdown by Arizona State corner Damarious Randall.

Even with the massive blitz package of the Sun Devils, they are not playing the same team from a year ago.  After the way the Beavers exploited openings against their run blitz, Arizona quarterback Anu Solomon and freshman backfield teammate Nick Wilson will also look to gash Arizona State blitz.

Missing last week’s game against Washington State due to concussion symptoms suffered against Oregon State, receiver Jaelen Strong will be expected to play against the Wildcats.  This will take some of the pressure off of Taylor Kelly who really appeared to miss his star receiver early on in the game against Washington State.

dm_141109_Colorado_Arizona_State_Highlight345 Anu Solomon has a few targets of his own that he relies on; senior receiver Austin Hill and sophomore Cayleb Jones combined for 98 receptions this year for 1,344 yards and 12 touchdowns.

If Arizona State will have to contain Solomon and Wilson, because Arizona will spread the Sun Devils out and gash them up the middle.

Stanford vs UCLA

So, does defense really wins championships?  Statistics says yes, but you need some kind of offense to put points on the board.  The Stanford Cardinal are a game above .500 with the top scoring and total defense in the PAC-12 Conference; but on the flip side they are ranked last in scoring offense and 11th in total offense.  That is not a good sign for pulling off an upset against UCLA who has the 3rd ranked defense in the conference.

Bruins quarterback Brett Hundley looking to leave UCLA with a conference title under his belt.  With the conference leading rusher Paul Perkins to balance the UCLA offense, the Cardinal will have to do more than put 8 in the box to stop the run.

The Sanford rushing game hasn’t been the effective rush attack that it was last year.  Head Coach David Shaw has four running backs in his rotation, and neither has broken out to be the main guy.  All the pressure has gone on the shoulders of Senior quarterback Kevin Hogan and teammate Ty Montgomery.  Montgomery has had a rollercoaster season.  Without a threatening running game all the focus on the opposition’s defense pointed straight to Montgomery.

Oregon vs Oregon State

Once again, Oregon State has the opportunity to play spoiler to a playoff contender.  The Beavers are planting a big “Duck” trap for Oregon and their Heisman front-runner quarterback Marcus Mariota; much like they did against Arizona State a few weeks ago.

Oregon State running backs Storm Woods and Terron Ward lit up Arizona State for 273 combined and two touchdowns.  Oregon will not blitz as frequently as Arizona State but will play a lot of man coverage, because they trust their two corners Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and Troy Hill.  So they will put 8 and sometimes 9 men in the box to stop the run for Oregon State, but Sean Mannion has to be able to throw against that coverage.

If the Beavers don’t find a way to contain Mariota and Royce Freeman the “Civil War” will be one sided, and the Beavers will find themselves in retreat mode early.  They can’t let Mariota beat them; they have to put some kind of pressure on him.  Rattle him; hurry him up; get Mariota out of rhythm.  If Oregon State can do that and the running game is effective they may have a chance of trapping themselves a “Duck” for the holidays, which will be a sweet gift to end the season.

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