Washington State proved its worth among the nation’s top 25 teams after a convincing win over Oregon State last week. The Cougars shocked OSU’s defense by passing for more than 400 yards. In the process, WSU vaulted to a three-possession lead, which forced the Beavers to the air and neutralized their elite rushing attack.
The win pushed WSU up to 17th in my Savvy Index rating system’s top 25, and that sets up a terrific showdown with division leader Oregon on October 21st.
The loss dropped Oregon State from 9th to 18th in Savvy weekly rankings, but it is only one lost game in a schedule that still has redemptive potential. And, as any Beaver will tell you: If you wanna get rainbows, you gotta handle rain.
Here’s an interesting fact about the PAC-12 this week:
Four of the top five points-per-game teams in America are from the PAC-12.
Three are from the PAC-12 North (Oregon, Washington, and Washington State).
Along with UCLA, Washington State is idle this week, but Oregon State has a showdown with repeat PAC-12 champion Utah.
So, let’s take a look at the PAC-12 schedule and see what we can expect:
#21 Utah (4-0) at #18 Oregon State (3-1)
Most football experts I’ve seen consider Utah a top 10 team, but my Index shows trend lines that drop Utah outside of the top 20.
The Utes have yet to allow more than one touchdown to an opponent this season. That’s spectacular, considering their FBS opponents have been Florida, Baylor, and UCLA.
But for Utah, there is an elephant in the room, and that elephant is Rising.
The absence of spectacular quarterback Cam Rising has caused the Ute offense to sputter, and only because of a 9.5 defense has Utah avoided a loss.
Rising has been cleared to practice “without limitations,” and he was in full uniform for last week’s game against UCLA, but as of Monday, he had not been approved to start against the Beavers.
Without Rising, the Utah offense has averaged less than 20 points per game against FBS opponents and scored just one touchdown last week while producing less than 220 yards of total offense.
Coaches have not allowed quarterback Nate Johnson to throw more than a dozen passes per game, possibly because he is a pure freshman and probably because top receiver Mycah Pittman and terrific tight end Brant Kuthe are also on the Ute injury list.
Without a passing attack, Utah will be forced to go to its rushing attack, which ranks 103rd in the nation for yards-per-carry. Oregon State ranks eighth in the country for allowing the fewest yards per carry. We all see where the Utah ground game is going: Nowhere.
Oregon State will find it difficult to get yardage, but the roster is in better health than Utah’s, and this is a home game for the Beavers.
Oregon State quarterback D.J. Uaigalelei has shown indecision when pressured, which the Ute’s do very well. In fact, Utah’s Jonah Elliss already has 5.5 sacks, which is the most in the entire nation, and he’s fifth in getting tackles for loss.
Beaver coaches need to know where Elliss is and deal with him better than they did the Washington State Cougars.
Before the UCLA game last week, Utah had 16 players on the injury list. Many of them are set to return against OSU.
If Rising and other players are back, Utah’s win potential will improve, but as things stand today, Oregon State is favored by Savvy Index to win a 28-24 slugfest.
College football analysts will define the OSU win as an upset. They have to. Utah is higher ranked by the coaches than Oregon State. Savvy disagrees. It has the teams ranked inversely, and for Savvy, that makes this an expected win for the Beavers, not an upset.
#4 Washington (4-0) at Arizona 3-1
The betting world has set the spread at just 18 points for Washington. But we’re talking Huskies here! You know, a top-five team. A team that has Michael Penix Jr., a team with a nation-leading offense.
Penix has already thrown 17 touchdown passes (tops in FBS) and done it in just four games. In addition, the 6’3″ left-hander has completed 75% of his passes and thrown just two interceptions in 138 passing attempts.
None of those successes have come against a pass rush like that of Arizona, which is in the top 25% of all pressure groups in America. But this quarterback’s name is Michael Penix, not Michael Panics. He played three seasons in the Big 10, so he’s dealt with the best. Arizona is good, but it’s not Big 10.
Besides, Washington leads the nation in the fewest sacks allowed this season, so the Huskies are the best for picking up blitzes. That is the flip side to Arizona’s pressure. The Wildcats won’t get to Penix, so he will have plenty of time to locate a dizzying frenzy of fabulous receivers.
Experts say Huskies by 18. My Index favors Washington, 40-14.
#6 Oregon (4-0) at Stanford (1-3)
Remember the days when you would show up for a game at Stanford, and you knew beforehand the stadium would be only half filled?
Yeah. Me either.
But for this Oregon outfit, that is what they can expect because, in two home games, the 60,000-seat Stanford Stadium has averaged just 31,000 fans.
But wait, you say! It’s Oregon. Everyone wants to see Oregon. Well, maybe not so much after Stanford hasn’t won at home all year and lost two weeks ago at home to Sacramento State of the FCS.
But can you blame Stanford fans? There’s so much to do in Palo Alto besides watching your team get creamed. And please keep in mind that this IS the big weekend for the annual Winterizing Your Garden Festival.
They will miss a Ducks’ offense that is purely mesmerizing, though. UO’s offense ranks number one in the nation in rushing (7 ypc), number one in completion percentage (80%), and number two in points per game (54) as well as total offense (570 ypg).
Stanford’s defense ranks 121st in FBS, so we may be looking at more yardage than even the Stanford post-grads can calculate.
Stanford’s offense will counter that with a “prevent offense,” you know, where you play stall-ball and try to run the clock down so your opponent can’t run the score up.
The Cardinal will try to get some yardage by focusing on a ground game. They have to. I would say their air game is for the birds, but there’s no need for foul vilification.
How is the Stanford air attack?
Well, sophomore quarterback Ashton Daniels threw just one pass last week against Arizona and was then yanked by head coach Troy Taylor. Syracuse transfer Justin Lamson replaced Daniels, but after six passes of his own, he was pulled, and Daniels finished the game.
It’s been that way this year. Neither quarterback has done well. Combined, they’ve completed a mere 55% of their passes while throwing as many interceptions as they have touchdowns.
In my preseason preview of Stanford, I predicted this problem and said that by mid-October, head coach Troy Taylor would switch to reclassified pure freshman Myles Jackson, who would become Stanford’s permanent starter. I think we’re getting close to that change.
I don’t believe Stanford will start Jackson this week against the Ducks. Why? Well, he’s reclassified, which means he should still be in high school. Not a good enough reason? Maybe the Cardinal offensive line being ranked 118th for protecting quarterbacks would be enough. If not, how about Oregon ranked 18th for getting to quarterbacks? One more. Jackson didn’t show up on campus until August.
He may play, but he won’t start.
Experts say Oregon will win by 26. Savvy says it will be 47-14.
Elsewhere in the PAC-12 . . .
#7 USC 46, Colorado 28
California 32, Arizona State 24
California coach Justin Wilcox finally decided to return Samuel Jackson V to the starting quarterback position in the third quarter last week, and the TCU transfer lit up the scoreboard, directing three touchdowns against the Washington Huskies. It’s a decision that I believe was late in coming but increases Cal’s offensive potential as long as Jackson stays healthy.
Last week . . . my Savvy Index was 51-16 in predicting winners and now stands 3% better than bookmakers. The system is an amazing 26 games better than betting lines in determining total game points, although it remains two games less in setting point spreads.
You can see all 59 of this week’s college football predictions here.