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Pac-12 Walkthrough: Stanford And Washington To Slug It Out

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Stanford and Washington will each try to grab the upper hand in the Pac-12 North on Saturday with a heavyweight matchup on The Farm. Photo by Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images.
Stanford and Washington will each try to grab the upper hand in the Pac-12 North on Saturday with a heavyweight matchup on The Farm. Photo by Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images.

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

Featured Matchup

No. 15 Washington (4-0, 1-0) at No. 5 Stanford (4-0, 2-0) 7:30 p.m. PST (ESPN)

All-Time Series: Washington 41-37-4

If history is any indication, Saturday’s matchup between Stanford and Washington will be settled on the ground. But watch out for the air.

The two programs have swapped wins the last two years, mostly based on the run game. The Huskies have had a 144-yard rusher in each of those games, including Bishop Sankey last season. Sankey has become a force this season, rushing for 607 yards in just four games to lead the Pac-12.

Washington limped to a 7-6 record, but the highlight of the season arguably was the Huskies' win over No. 8 Stanford. If you ask head coach Steve Sarkisian, however, this year’s Huskies are a completely different squad led by quarterback Keith Price and DB Will Shamburger — the only remaining players left with Sarkisian from the start of his tenure in Seattle.

Thanks to the resurgence of those two players, the Huskies are posting almost 130 more yards per game than Stanford on offense and roughly 55 less YPG on offense than their Pac-12 North rivals. Washington is tops in the conference in passing efficiency on offense and on defense.

But quarterback Kevin Hogan and Stanford seem to find a way to win decisively each week and can’t be discounted, especially on the Farm, especially with its speed on the perimeter, which Sarkisian says is the best the Cardinal has ever had.

The Cardinal defense is stingy against the run, yielding 105 yards per game. That should force Washington to the air where Stanford is somewhat susceptible, giving up 238.5 yards per game — eighth-worst in the conference.  

Regardless of the numbers, this game figures to be a battle with heavy stakes involved for the each team’s quest for a Pac-12 North title.

Last Week: Stanford 55, Washington State 17; Washington 31, Arizona 13

Next Week: Stanford at Utah; Washington vs. Oregon

Thursday

No. 12 UCLA (4-0, 2-0) 34, Utah (3-2, 0-2) 27

All-Time Series: UCLA 10-2

Brett Hundley can do it all. Against Utah the UCLA quarterback threw, ran and caught a touchdown. He even punted once to pin the Utes inside their own 20. Hundley put the Bruins up with a late, 36-yard touchdown run, but it was the UCLA defense that proved to be the difference, picking off Utah quarterback Travis Wilson six times.

UCLA entered the game with one interception the entire year. They now have seven and are tied for second-best in the conference.

Read the full recap of the Bruins win here.

Next Week: UCLA vs. Cal; Utah vs. Stanford

Rest of the Pac

No. 22 Arizona State (3-1, 1-1) at Notre Dame (3-2), 5:30 p.m. MDT in Dallas (NBC)

All-Time Series: Notre Dame 2-0

Todd Graham can tell you a thing or two about security at Texas Stadium. The Arizona State head coach once served as a security guard at the Dallas Cowboys home prior to his coaching days.

Saturday, he’ll be trying to secure a win for his Sun Devils squad that is renewing a series with Notre Dame that last occurred in 1998 and 1999. Beating the Irish is no easy task, but it isn’t impossible, given Arizona State’s recent play.

The Sun Devils are coming off a 62-41 thrashing of Southern California that was so bad that USC fired head coach Lane Kiffin hours after the debacle.

The key for ASU will be reducing mental mistakes and getting a lead early and holding on to it. The Sun Devils fell behind by 21 points to USC last week before orchestrating a second-half throttling of the Trojans. The previous week, despite a valiant comeback effort in the fourth quarter, Arizona State just couldn’t overcome the 29-0 deficit they dug themselves into against Stanford.

Notre Dame gives up an average of 364 yards per game on defense. Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly is fourth in the nation in total offense with 373.5 yards per game. A win for ASU will give them back-to-back wins over two teams that began the season ranked in the AP’s Top 25.

Last Week: Arizona State 62, USC 41; Oklahoma 35, Notre Dame 21

Next Week: Arizona State ; Notre Dame, bye

No. 2 Oregon (4-0, 1-0) at Colorado (2-1, 0-1), 4 p.m. MST (Pac-12 Network)

All-Time Series: Oregon 9-8

Mark Helfrich will experience a homecoming of sorts when he returns to Colorado and a place that gave his coaching career a boost. The first-year Oregon head coach manned the Buffaloes’ offensive coordinator position from 2006-08 before taking the same title for the Ducks in 2009.

Since then, Colorado has struggled. But Helfrich already sees a change in the elevated Boulder air under fellow first-year head coach Mike MacIntyre.

“I think their culture. You can see it on film. They’re just … better,” said Helfrich of the revamped Buffaloes. “I think coach MacIntyre has done a great job in resetting the standards and starting from scratch in his way.”

Colorado will set up the Pac-12’s top run defense (91.3 yards per game) against a Ducks team that flat out loves to run and is No. 2 in the nation in total offense (599.3 yards per game). You’d think the absence of the Ducks’ top running back De’Anthony Thomas, who will sit out nursing an injured ankle, would be a boon for the Buffaloes, but Oregon simply is too deep in the backfield.

Oregon has a pivotal Pac-12 North rivalry game next week against Washington. Don’t expect the Ducks to fall into a trap game against Colorado, however.

Last Week: Oregon State 44, Colorado 17; Oregon 55, Cal 16

Next Week: Colorado at Arizona State; Oregon at Washington

Washington State (3-2, 1-1) at California (1-3, 0-1), 1 p.m. PST (Fox Sports)

All-Time Series: California, 44-25-5

Both California and Washington State are coming off losses in with the opposition has tallied 55 points against them. Not exactly confidence builders, especially for a Cougar team that had given up less than 10 points in each of its last three games.

Wazzu doesn’t have much of a run game this season. Their highest rushing performance to date was a 53-yard effort by Teondray Caldwell in the season-opener against Auburn. Since then, Washington State running backs have put up a high of 24, 26, 41 and 23 yards in those games. Fortunately, the Cougars can pass, as Connor Halliday is averaging 327.4 yards per game in the air.

Making matters worse, statistically speaking, for the Bears is Cal’s dismissal of 2012 Pac-12 honorable mention linebacker Chris McCain from the squad for conduct detrimental to the team. Even with McCain, the Golden Bears have the nation’s 119th-ranked defense.

Washington State boasts the No. 2 pass defense in the Pac-12, a statistic that doesn’t bode well for California. Golden Bears quarterback Jared Goff began the scorching defenses and led the nation for the better part of the first four weeks of the season. But the freshman struggled last week and was replaced by Zach Kline. Goff will start against the Cougars, but Kline will be waiting in the wings.

Last Week: Oregon 55, Cal 16; Stanford 55, Washington State 17

Next Week: Cal at UCLA; Washington State vs. Oregon State

Quotable

“I only laugh because it’s like it was just invented. I remember watching Mouse Davis teams and watching the K-Gun offense in Buffalo and watching Warren Moon down in Houston run fast-paced, no-huddle offenses. So this is not a completely new thing. It’s just that more teams are doing it, which is great. At the same time it’s all about being efficient. There are teams doing the hurry-up who are not having the same success as Washington. Washington is having great success, it fits their quarterback. It fits their personnel.” — Stanford head coachDavid Shaw on the whether or not the no-huddle offense is a fad or not

"I really believe this is the best the conference has been since I’ve been in it. There is so much depth and there’s high-quality, obviously, I think we have five teams ranked in the top 25 right now, but the depth of the conference is better than it’s ever been. Every week if you’re not ready and prepared to play, you can get beaten. It’s awesome to be a part of it. It’s been fun to watch this conference grow and get better and better and better.” — Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian on the strength of this year’s Pac-12

“What I do is spend all my time evaluating them, watching film, evaluating personnel. Much is made of the emotions, if you’re a team that’s emotional up and down you’re not going to be very good.” — Stoic ASU coach Todd Graham on the importance of emotions

“Without question, our son was born in Boulder, so that’s my slam-dunk most positive memory,” — Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich, who served as Buffs’ offensive coordinator from 2006-08

“I was his G.A. back in ’97 at Kentucky and I doubt either one of us knew what the future held. That’s what’s interesting about our profession is you never know where you’re going to end up. If you’re in it long enough, you’re going to coach against friends and people you’ve worked with and for. Part of it is just getting old. I don’t think either one of us envisioned us ending up where we have.” — Cal head coach Sonny Dykes on facing the Mike Leach-led Washington State

Infirmary

Arizona State

Marcus Ball, DB: Arm, Expected to miss 1-2 weeks

Jaxon Hood, NT: Leg, probable

Alani Latu, LB: Ankle, out for season

Junior Onyeali, DL: Shoulder, out for season

California

Matt Cochran, RG: Ankle, out

Maurice Harris, WR: Shoulder, questionable

Kameron Jackson, CB: Ankle, questionable

Mustafa Jalil, Knee, out

Chris McCain, LB: Dismissed from team

Steven Moore, RT: Head, probable

Khalfani Muhammad, RB: Head, probable

Brennan Scarlett, DE: Hand, out

Avery Sebastian, SS: Achilles, out

Colorado

Justin Castor, PK: Leg, out for season

Terrence Crowder: RB: Discipline, out

Clay Jones, RB: Neck, probable

Oregon

De’Anthony Thomas, RB: Ankle, doubtful

Pharoah Brown, TE: Leg, questionable

Stanford

Henry Anderson, DE: Knee, out 3-4 weeks

Barry Browing, CB: Undisclosed, probable

Blake Martinez, DB: Undisclosed, out 2 weeks

David Yankey, OG: Personal, probable

Washington

Connor Cree, DL: Back, probable

Erik Kohler, DL: Foot, doubtful

Washington State

Daquawn Brown, DB: Undisclosed, probable

Connor Halliday, QB: Ankle, probable

Leaders

Passing

Player Comp./Att. YDs.-TDs-INTs
Sean Mannion, Oregon State 160/238 2,018-21-2
Connor Halliday, Washington State 14/223 1,479-10-9
Travis Wilson, Utah 96/159

1,406-11-9

Rushing

Player Carries YDs. TDs
Bishop Sankey, Washington 104 607 5
Tre Madden, USC 110 583 3
Jordon James, UCLA 74 463 5

Receiving

Players Rec. YDs. TDs
Brandin Cooks, Oregon State 52 807 9
Paul Richardson, Colorado 26 487 5
Jaelan Strong, Arizona State 31 433 2

Point After

Discipline is vital in football. Nothing says more about a team’s discipline than the number of penalties a team accrues. The Pac-12 only has two schools inside the nation’s Top 25 in terms of yielding the fewest penalties per game, and both of them are the Arizona schools. Perhaps something about the heat makes players want to violate the rules less.

The most curious stat, however, is the correlation of wins and yards penalized. All told, eight Pac-12 teams are in the bottom half of the nation in penalty yards per game. The most baffling of those stats is that UCLA and Washington — two of the conference's powerhouses — are penalized more than any other school in the country. Oregon, arguably the nation's top team, ranks 115th in yards penalized per game. They say cheaters never win ... but the stats might disprove that axiom.

A look at how the Pac-12 stacks up in terms of fewest penalties allowed:

Team Penalties Penalty Yards National Rank
Arizona State 14 33.75 14
Arizona 17 34.0 15
Stanford 19 38.5 25
Washington State 28 45.2 50
Utah 28 49.8 66
Oregon State 40 60.2 91
Southern California 36 61.2 94
Colorado 22 65.33 103
California 32 66.25 106
Oregon 33 76.5 115
UCLA 43 89.25 122
Washington 43 92.5 123