The nation will be tuned into Eugene, Oregon, this week as Deion “Prime Time” Sanders leads his Buffaloes to the first true test. Can he bring one more miracle to a team that was just 1-11 last year?
Before we get to that, let’s review how experts have talked about the PAC-12 as the Conference of quarterbacks and how they have praised the names of Caleb Williams (USC), Michael Penix Jr. (Washington), Bo Nix (Oregon), D.J. Uiagalelei (Oregon State), and Cam Ward (Washington State).
Indeed, their accolades are well-deserved. But I want to add one more name: Dante Moore of UCLA.
In three games, the five-star freshman has completed 63% of his passes at an astonishing 12 yards per attempt! In addition, he has thrown just one interception, and he’s led the Bruins to 40 points per game.
Okay, so he can’t run. Coach Chip Kelly loves running quarterbacks. But Kelly has designed his system to take advantage of Moore’s incredible vision, accuracy, and throwing power to make the pure freshman one of the best in the nation.
With all the talk of fabulous quarterbacks and passing attacks, we can’t overlook that UCLA, Oregon, USC, Oregon State, and Arizona are also all in the national top 10 in yards-per-carry ground games.
My Savvy Index mathematical rating system has predictions for all FBS games across the nation, including all PAC-12 games, but today, we’ll focus on games involving just PAC-12 Northwest teams.
Colorado 3-0 at Oregon 3-0
While College GameDay is in South Bend, Indiana, a heckuva lotta fans will focus on the Eugene invasion of the Colorado Buffaloes and their audacious and entertaining head coach, Deion Sanders.
Although most ranking services have Colorado in their top 25 teams, my Savvy Index doesn’t consider the Buff roster strong enough for this group to be ranked.
Indeed, Colorado has a top-25 passing attack led by the talent and maturity of quarterback Shedeur Sanders, who completes 79% of his passes, has a 10-to-1 touchdown touchdown-to-interception ratio, and leads the nation in number of completions (107).
But Oregon’s passing attack is equal if not better behind sensational senior quarterback Bo Nix, who is also completing more than 77% of his passes and has yet to throw an interception. Nix has a stable of fast and talented receivers, whereas Colorado’s receiving corps has fewer and suffers some injuries.
You would think that a program with a Buffalo name would stampede the ground and make all kinds of ruckus. But these Buffs must have some tippy-toe ballet dancers in their genealogy because they can’t even get two yards per rush attempt. That ranks CU as one of the five worst rushing teams in Division 1.
The Boulder boys have done well to beat unranked opponents with a one-dimensional attack, but that won’t fly against a ranked group like the Ducks.
On the other side of the ball, CU has been unable to stop opposing running attacks—the Buffaloes rank 121st for stopping the run. Meanwhile, Oregon’s running backs have the second-best yards-per-carry average in the nation (7 ypc).
Fans will miss the talent of the nation’s best two-way (receiver and safety) player, Travis Hunter, who was brutalized by an illegal hit in last week’s game against Colorado State. It has been confirmed that the NFL prospect will not play this week.
Fans will also suffer through a torrent of yellow rain as these two outfits are tied at 112th in penalties per game. If you prepare for 20 flags, you should be okay.
Colorado can’t run and can’t stop the run. Those issues help affirm what I mentioned in preseason assessments, which said that CU’s roster overhaul brought in talent at the speed and skill positions, but there hasn’t been much of a change in the rest of the roster. CU does not yet have the bodies in the trenches to deal with teams that do.
Oregon is a team that “do” and the Ducks will win this one 42-27.
Oregon State 3-0 at Washington State 3-0
I have to hand it to Washington State offensive coordinator Ben Arbuckle. Since he was hired last August, I have wondered how the Cougars could possibly install a long-ball passing offense when its offensive line has been among the weakest in FBS.
Talent in the offensive line is only a little better than before. Yet, Arbuckle has successfully taken WSU’s yards-per-pass-attempt from 6.5 to 9.3 while at the same time elevating Cougar success against blitzing defenses.
The change has been so successful that after more than 100 passing attempts, quarterback Cameron Ward has yet to throw an interception.
Even with Ward’s success, the offensive line is still an issue because it is worse this year than it was last regarding rush blocking, and it ranks 97th in America for yielding tackles for loss.
Those will be huge problems against an Oregon State defense that is eighth in the nation for stopping the run, 10th for tackling running backs in their own backfields, and 7th for sacking quarterbacks.
WSU is pretty good at stopping opposing rush attacks, but the Cougars haven’t seen the likes of Oregon State, which has yet to be stopped and averages over six yards per carry.
Expect this to be a very clean and well-played game.
Depending on how PAC-12 legal events go, this might be a preview of the Conference Championship football game as well as championships in all sports in next year’s PAC-2.
Oddsmakers figure Oregon State will win this by 2.5. My Index rates Oregon State a 35-28 favorite with moderately high upset potential.
California 2-1 at Washington 3-0
Washington’s offense looks every bit like a national championship contender. Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. leads the nation in passing yardage, throwing touchdowns at a rate of four per game.
The Husky ground game is good enough, and the defense only yields 12 points per game.
What bothers me is that the UW defense appears incapable of bringing pressure. Trendlines in my Savvy system rank the Huskies 107th for bringing pressure, which will be a problem when it comes to getting to the national championship.
The Cal Bears have played better than expected behind the leadership of quarterback Sam Jackson V. As an elite sprinter, Jackson adds a dual-threat aspect to the Cal offense, and that has raised the Bears’ point production from 24 points per game last year to 33 points per game so far in 2023.
Switching to a dual-threat scheme has cost Cal in other ways. For example, While Penix is throwing interceptions at a rate of less than 1% per passing attempt, Cal quarterbacks (Jackson and Ben Finley) are over 3%.
Cal’s rushing attack has been more effective than Washington’s, and that should appear even better because the Bears expect Jaydn Ott to be ready this week after suffering an injury two weeks ago.
Experts set the spread at 21 points in favor of the Huskies. My Savvy system says it will be Washington at home, 42-14.
Last week, the Savvy Index was 61-14 in predicting winners and now stands at 213-41 for the season. That is 6% better than bookmakers. The Index is two games worse in setting point spreads but 15 games better in setting total game points.