Two of the three PAC-12 Conference leaders tangle in Seattle this week as #5 Oregon takes on #8 Washington (Rankings are from my Savvy Index, not wire services, etc.)
Both teams are 5-0 and consistently surpassing expectations.
Before we get to that, let’s talk a little about former Oregon coach Mario Cristobal and his blundering game management. If you haven’t heard, the Miami coach needed to kill 36 seconds to walk away with a home win over Georgia Tech. Most coaches would take a knee. Instead, Cristobal ran the ball, resulting in a fumble and a game-winning score by Georgia Tech.
We all know that Coach C. is a high I.Q., but game management was a shortcoming with fans when he was at Oregon.
Like humorist and author Douglas Adams once said about a friend: “He was a dreamer, a thinker, a speculative philosopher. Or, as his wife would have it, an idiot.”
We know Cristobal is not an idiot, but perhaps his superior brain activity causes him to overlook the obvious and simply sensible things in favor of the superfluous and spectacular.
Fans and one player have been vocal in their discontent, and can you blame them? Miami was undefeated and nationally ranked. Georgia Tech was 1-4 and barely in the top 100.
Savvy Index is my system of algorithms that ranks teams and predicts games, and it has predictions for all FBS games this week (which can be seen here) and for all three games involving teams from the Northwest.
#5 Oregon (5-0) at #8 Washington (5-0)
Not only is this the biggest game of the year so far in the PAC-12 Conference, but it is one of the biggest in the nation, so big that College Gameday will cover it.
Besides being one of the most important games this season, it will be among the most exciting.
Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. leads the nation in yards gained per passing attempt (11.2), while Oregon quarterback Bo Nix leads the nation in passing accuracy (80.4%).
Washington leads the nation in total offense per game (569), while Oregon is second (558).
Oregon leads the nation in yards gained per rush (7.1), while Washington is 47th. Oregon also has an advantage in total defense as the Ducks rank 6th in the nation, and Washington is 64th.
Penix and the Huskies are a whopping 80 yards per game ahead of everyone else in the country regarding passing yardage.
Washington downed the Ducks by three last year in Eugene, and bookmakers favor the Huskies again by three this year at home.
My Savvy Index favors Washington 32-31.
That prediction is partially based on the notion that Oregon’s pass defense has been successful when it can get to the quarterback and not all that successful when it can’t.
Washington ranks fourth in the nation for not allowing sacks.
#17 UCLA (4-1) at #16 Oregon State (5-1)
No team in the nation is playing this week with more positive trends in my system than UCLA.
Wire services and Savvy Index favor Oregon State, but the Bruins are among the best-performing teams in America, and, for me, that makes this game a toss-up.
Both of these outfits have rush-first kind of offenses. I expect UCLA only to go the air enough to keep OSU safeties out of the box or to manifest some points if the Bruins and the clock are a problem.
Oregon State will run the ball because the Beavers are in the top 15 for most yards per carry. However, they will have to work because the Bruins defense allows opponents less than two yards per carry (2nd in the nation).
The difference in this game will be Oregon State’s ability to effectively pass the ball while UCLA quarterbacks have combined for just 53% completions and one of the worst interception rates (4.5%) in the nation.
These two haven’t played each other since Oregon State defeated UCLA by 17 in Los Angeles in 2019.
Bookmakers favor OSU by four. My index projects Oregon State, 27-24. (Originally posted as 28-25 on savvygameline.com but revised).
Arizona (3-3) at #19 Washington State (4-1)
This will be an exciting catfight on the Palouse as the surging Arizona Wildcats look to upend the Washington State Cougars.
Anyone who thinks Arizona is a typical 3-3 outfit is not paying attention. All three of the Wildcats’ losses have been by a single possession, and those were against the likes of Mississippi State of the SEC and PAC-12 leaders Washington and USC.
Adding fuel to the notion of an upset, the ‘Cats have found a new quarterback in Noah Fifita, who is statistically outperforming former Washington State leader Jayden de Laura, who has been out because of a calf injury and, as of Monday, had not been cleared to play.
Addition by attrition may be in play here because Fifita has been magnificent in de Laura’s absence. Plus, he doesn’t come with the legal battles that have hindered de Laura.
Last week against USC, Fifita completed 71% of his passes for 303 yards and five touchdowns. Washington State may be second in the nation for most passing yards per game, but it’s apparent that the Fifita has what it takes to keep pace.
Expect Arizona to leverage the ground game to post an upset. The Wildcats have a top-30 rush attack, whereas WSU is 73rd for stopping opposing running backs.
Conversely, Washington State is 118th for running the ball, while Arizona is 29th for stopping the run.
I don’t see a favorite in this one, but my Savvy system calls it for Washington State, 36-24.
In other PAC-12 games …
#12 USC 33, #22 Notre Dame 30
Utah 31, California 20
Colorado 39, Stanford 21