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Pac-12 Walkthrough: Day Features Arizona State, Stanford Showdown

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The Pac-12 and national headliner today: Can Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly solve the Stanford defense and vault the Sun Devils into the Top 20? Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images.
The Pac-12 and national headliner today: Can Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly solve the Stanford defense and vault the Sun Devils into the Top 20? Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images.

Everything you need to know about the Pac-12 this week.

Week 3 Players Of The Week

OFFENSE

Brandin Cooks, Oregon State: 210 yards, 3 TDs

If it hadn’t been for back-to-back 200-yard performances from Colorado wide receiver Paul Richardson, we might be celebrating Brandin Cooks’ hat trick of Football.com Pac-12 Player of the Week honors. Cooks broke the 200-yard plateau for the first time this season with a three-touchdown performance in Oregon State’s overtime win over Utah. He now leads the nation in touchdowns with seven, two more than the next-closest receivers. His 498 receiving yards are 20 shy of NCAA leader Mike Evans of Texas A&M. Gaudy numbers aside, Cooks also proved clutch. His third score, a 6-yard toss from Sean Mannion, sealed the Beavers’ 51-49 overtime win.

DEFENSE

Anthony Barr, UCLA: 10 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 2 FF

The NCAA amended Anthony Barr’s forced fumbles tally against Nebraska from 3 to 2, but that doesn’t change our nominee for Pac-12 Player of the Week honors.

Barr tormented the Cornhuskers to the tune of 10 tackles (6 unassisted), including 1.5 of them for a loss of 20 yards. Without the stat change, Barr would be tied with Texas Tech’s Mike Orakpo for the national lead in forced fumbles.

Featured Matchup

No. 23 Arizona State (2-0) at No. 5 Stanford (2-0), 4 p.m. PST (Fox)

All-Time Series: Arizona State, 16-11

Arizona State and Stanford is the marquee matchup this weekend in a slate of games that sees Pac-12 opponents enter with a paltry 5-10 record — a number that dips to 3-10 if you exclude the FCS program Idaho State.

Regardless of feeble foes, the Sun Devils and Cardinal enter Week 4 with a real chance to meet again in the Pac-12 title game. The winner of Round 1 gets a leg up on advancing to aforementioned championship tilt.

Arizona State enters the contest averaging close to 100 yards per game more than Stanford. That's in large part due to quarterback Taylor Kelly (350.5 passing yards per game), who has outplayed Stanford equivalent Kevin Hogan so far this season and sits behind only 11 other quarterbacks in the nation in terms of total offense. Hogan is averaging 197.5 yards against less formidable foes in Army and San Jose State. Kelly is coming off a 352-yard performance against No. 24-ranked Wisconsin.

Kelly hasn’t set up under center yet this season and stared at the likes of Trent Murphy and Shayne Skov. Defensively, all but 12 yards separates the two squads, who each yield roughly 300 yards per game.

But Sun Devils Nation shouldn’t be rushing out to purchase Pac-12 title game tickets. Stanford still has plenty of big-game experience and a running back in Ty Montgomery who has rushed for more than 100 yards in each game this season.

Last Week: Arizona State 32, Wisconsin 30

Next Week: Arizona State vs. Southern California

Rest Of The Pac

New Mexico State (0-3) at No. 13 UCLA (2-0), 7:30 p.m. PST (Pac-12 Network)

All-Time Series: 0-0

UCLA proved its mettle last week with the biggest come-from-behind-win against Nebraska in Lincoln in more than 15 years. Brett Hundley and the Bruins shook off a slow start, but still managed to throw for 292 yards and three touchdowns. The Cornhuskers put up 21 points on the Bruins, all in the first half.

UCLA enters Saturday’s final non-conference game against New Mexico State averaging 575.5 yards of total offense. The Aggies’ defense, eerily, has surrendered an average of 576.7 yards per game.

Last Week: UCLA 41, Nebraska 21

Next Week: Bye

Oregon State (2-1) at San Diego State (0-2), 4:30 p.m. PST (CBS Sports)

All-Time Series: San Diego State, 2-1

Sean Mannion and Brandin Cooks are on fire. The duo has combined for 498 yards and 7 touchdowns. The Aztecs give up an average of 271.5 yards through the air. Expect that number to rise.

Last Week: Oregon State 51, Utah 48

Next Week: Oregon State vs. Colorado

Utah State (2-1) at Southern California (2-1), 12:30 p.m. PST

All-Time Series: Southern California, 4-0

Southern California made huge strides in repairing its image and Pac-12 South title hopes on Saturday by handily beating Boston College. The Trojans have found their answer to the absence of projected starting running back Silas Redd (knee) with the emergence of Tre Madden. The sophomore became the first-ever USC back to rush for more than 100 yards in each of his first three games for the Trojans. With USC finally abandoning their two-quarterback set in lieu of Cody Kessler, the team hopes to build some momentum heading into the Pac-12 slate. The Aggies, however, won’t go down easy. Utah State ranks 13th in the nation in passing defense, giving up a stingy 148 yards per game in the air.

Last Week: USC 35, Boston College 7

Next Week: USC at Arizona State

Utah (2-1) at Brigham Young (1-1), 7:15 p.m. (ESPNU)

All-Time Series: Utah, 53-31

The Utes already have knocked off one Beehive State rival this season and aim to add to their in-state dominance against Brigham Young on Saturday. Utah’s offense has been deceivingly good this season, averaging 539 yards per game, good for 17th in the country. The defense, however, surrenders chunks and BYU likes to churn up yards. Specifically, 520 yards per contest, which is better than all but 21 teams in the country.

Last Week: Oregon State 51, Utah 48

Next Week: Bye

Idaho State (2-0) at No. 17 Washington (2-0), noon (Pac-12 Network)

All-Time Series: 0-0

The Bengals chose an inopportune time to face Washington for the first time ever. The Huskies are red hot and coming off a road win over Illinois. Keith Price has tossed for a devilish 666 yards this season. Idaho State likes to score (34.5 points per game) but they’ll face an underrated Washington defense that ranks 38th in the nation in total defense.

Last Week: Washington 34, Illinois 24

Next Week: Washington vs. Arizona

Idaho (0-3) at Washington State (2-1), 7:30 p.m. (Pac-12 Network)

All-Time Series: Washington State, 52-8-2

The Washington-Idaho-themed weekend continues in Pullman this weekend with two teams going in opposite directions. Cougars quarterback Connor Halliday might be the most underrated quarterback in the Pac-12. The junior is eighth in the country in passing, racking up 942 yards. Only Cal’s Jared Goff and Sean Mannion of Oregon State have more yards in the Pac-12. Idaho gives up 286 yards per game in the air.

Last Week: Washington State 48, Southern Utah 10

Next Week: Washington vs. Stanford

Bye Weeks

Arizona (3-0)

Last Week: Arizona 38, Texas-San Antonio 13

Next Week: Arizona at Washington

Arizona is turning heads in Rich Rodriguez’s second year in Tucson, but many critics point to the Wildcats relatively soft non-conference schedule as the reason for their success. The Wildcats get a week off to prepare for their first real test of the season when they travel to Seattle to face Washington. Arizona has run for an average of 322 yards per game (fifth-best in the nation). The Huskies yield a middling 153 yards on the ground per game.

California (1-2)

Last Week: Ohio State 52, California 34

Next Week: California at Oregon

California has to be asking itself: Who put together this schedule for us? The Golden Bears follow a matchup against No. 4 Ohio State and the Buckeye’s 504.3 yards per game with a tilt versus No. 2 Oregon (672 yards per game). The Jared Goff-led Bears can score. Cal's 556 yards of offense per game average is ninth-best in the nation.

Colorado (2-0)

Last Week: Postponed

Next Week: Colorado at Oregon State

The Beavers best beware. Colorado will be the most rested team in the country when the Buffs finally return to the gridiron. When CU arrives in Corvallis, they’ll have gone three weeks between games, thanks to last week’s postponement (flooding) with Fresno State and this weekend’s bye. Whether the unplanned hiatus will disrupt the momentum quarterback Connor Wood and receiver Paul Richardson built in their first two weeks remains to be seen. The duo has combined for 417 yards and is averaging 19.9 yards per connection.

Oregon (3-0)

Last Week: Oregon 59, Tennessee 14

Next Week: California at Oregon

Nobody is happier to see Oregon on a bye this week than … well, everyone outside of Eugene. The off week still might not be enough for teams to catch up with Oregon’s gaudy numbers. The Ducks finished non-conference play with 2,016 total yards — 188 more than the next-closest team, Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M.

Infirmary

Arizona

DaVonte Neal, WR: Shoulder, out for season

Dan Pettinato, DL: Knee, expected to be ready for Sept. 28 at Washington

Dave Richardson, WR: Foot, hopeful to play Sept. 28 at Washington

Arizona State

Marcus Ball, CB: Shoulder, out 3-5 weeks

California

Matt Cochran, OL: High Ankle, expected to miss a month

Michael Barton, LB: Knee, questionable for Sept. 28 at Oregon

Nick Forbes, LB: Back, questionable for Sept. 28 at Oregon

UCLA

Damien Thigpen, RB: Knee, targeting Oct. 3 vs. Utah to return

Marcus Rios, CB: Infection, doubtful

Colorado

Christian Powell, RB: Thigh bruise, probable for Sept. 28 at Oregon State

Stephane Nembot, OL: Finger, probable for Sept. 28 at Oregon State

Oregon

Pharaoh Brown, TE: Lower leg, expected to play Sept. 28 vs. California

Oregon State

Justin Addie, OL: Concussion, out

Storm Woods, RB: Concussion, out indefinitely

Gavin Andrews, OL: Mono, questionable vs. San Diego State

Grant Enger, OL: Knee, expected to miss two games

Stanford

Henry Anderson, DL: Leg, out a few weeks

Barry Browning, CB: Multiple injuries, out

Ryan Hewitt, FB: Knee, will play

Southern California

D.J. Morgan, Knee: Questionable

Silas Redd, RB: Knee, doubtful

Darreus Rodgers, WR: Foot, doubtful

Washington

John Timu, LB: Rotator, day-to-day

Leaders

PASSING

Player Comp./Att. Yds.-TDs-INTs
Jared Goff, Cal 103/168 1,306-7-4
Sean Mannion, Oregon State 95/131 1,237-12-1
Connor Halliday, Washington State 93/144 942-6-6

RUSHING

Player Carries Yds. TDs
Bishop Sankey, Washington 60 369 3
Tre Madden, USC 66 362 1
De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon 42 338 6

RECEIVING

Player Rec. Yds. TDs
Brandin Cooks, Oregon State 29 498 7
Paul Richardson, Colorado 21 417 4
Chris Harper, Cal 21 324 3

POINT AFTER

The Pac-12 made a statement last weekend with wins over Boston College, Illinois, Nebraska, Tennessee and Wisconsin. But how is the conference, which enters Week 4 with a combined 25-6 record, racking up the wins, as well as the reputation?

The answer is passing, followed closely by more passing. But there’s another, unnoticed element: defense.

The conference has eight of the Top 25 passing offenses in the country. That includes the nation’s top two passers in California’s Jared Goff and Oregon State’s Sean Mannion, who have combined to throw for more than 1.5 miles this season.

The Pac-12 has five teams in the Top 25 in total defense. The biggest surprise in the bunch might be Southern California. The Trojans are fourth in the nation as shutting down opposing offenses and are particularly tough where it counts: in the red zone, where they’re tops in the NCAA.

USC hasn’t just given up a score inside their own 20-yard line, they’ve only let opponents penetrate the red zone twice all season. And this is a team with a loss on their record.

Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon and Washington have proven just as tough when opponents are driving deep in their territory.

Passing gets the conference in the news, but the defense that keeps them there.