Pac-12 Walkthrough: Arizona To Get Its First Test
By Christopher Wuensch
Everything you need to know about the Pac-12 this weekend.
Arizona (3-0) at No. 16 Washington (3-0), 3 p.m. PST (Fox)
All-Time Series: Washington, 18-10-1
If this game hits the final buzzer with less than 80 total points on the scoreboard, fans might be bummed that they didn’t get their money’s worth.
Arizona (43.7 ppg) and Washington (42.7 ppg) enter Saturday’s contest with not only two of the most prolific-scoring offenses in the Pac-12, but in the nation as well (14th and 17th overall, respectively).
The Wildcats and Huskies have traded home wins dating back to 2008, a fact that bodes well for No. 16-ranked Washington, on this, the 15th anniversary (almost to the day) of the fabled “Leap by the Lake.”
But Steve Sarkisian’s squad must rely on its potent offense rather than flying luck if they’re going to deal Arizona its first loss of the season.
The biggest difference between last year’s Huskies squad that lost 52-17 to the Wildcats is along the UW front line, which is finally healthy and clicking.
“The continuity is so much better than it’s been,” Sarkisian said. “The continuity and the communication is where it all begins for us.”
The result of a healthy Huskies line is a revitalized Bishop Sankey, who is second in the country in rushing yards per game with 148.7 per contest. The junior will square up against his backfield counterpart in Ka’Deem Carey, who carved up the Huskies for 172 yards last season en route to claiming the NCAA rushing title. The Wildcats are so deep on the ground that Carey (team-high 299 rushing yards) ranks third on the team in yards per game, behind Daniel Jenkins (79.7 ypg) and quarterback B.J. Denker (74.7 ypg).
With the running games balancing each other out, the difference likely will come down to defense. Washington and Arizona rank No. 1 and 2 respectively in the Pac-12 in pass defense. Saturday’s matchup pits Washington’s Keith Price and his seven touchdown passes and 293.0 ypg-average against an Arizona team that’s averaging one pick-six per game.
It’s the Wildcats' first real test of the season after easily dispatching Northern Arizona, Nevada-Las Vegas and Texas-San Antonio by a combined 131-26.
Loser gets their first loss of the season. Winner walks away with a valuable conference win during a season where every conference victory is coveted.
Last Week: Washington 56, Idaho State 0; Arizona, bye
Next Week: Arizona at USC; Washington at Stanford
Rest Of The Pac
Colorado (2-0) at Oregon State (3-1, 1-0), noon PST (Pac-12 Network)
All-Time Series: Oregon State, 3-2
Colorado has to be chomping at the bit to get back on the gridiron. The Buffaloes return the field after a three-week hiatus due to a bye week and the postponement of their Fresno State game due to widespread flooding in Boulder.
The key for the Buffs will be reclaiming the speed of the game that saw them put up 467.0 ypg in their first two wins over Colorado State and Central Arkansas.
Nearly half of those yards came off the wheels of wide receiver Paul Richardson, who posted 200-yard performances each game. Richardson’s 208.5 ypg is the best in nation, some 50 yards more than the next-closest receiver Brandin Cooks, who will line up for Oregon State.
Cooks leads the nation with seven touchdowns; he’s played twice as many games as Richardson. Slowing the two receivers who are arguably the two best players in the conference in yards-after catch will be the key to winning.
Neither squad is particularly great at preventing air attacks. Colorado (245.7 ypg) and Oregon State (287 ypg) rank No. 9 and 10 in the Pac-12 against the pass.
The two programs have a history that dates back to 1931, but they haven’t faced each other since 1988.
Last Week: Oregon State 34, San Diego State 30; Colorado, bye
Next Week: Colorado at Oregon; Oregon State, bye
Southern California (3-1, 0-1) at Arizona State (2-1, 0-1), 7:30 MST (ESPN2)
All-Time Series: USC, 19-10
When Arizona State and Southern California square off against one another Saturday, fans might be wondering which Sun Devils and Trojans teams will show up in Tempe.
Arizona State struggled last week against Stanford until the fourth quarter, when the Sun Devils finally looked like the team that put up 82 points in their first two games, including 652 yards from quarterback Taylor Kelly.
They’ll face a Southern California team that leads the Pac-12 in sacks and sits fourth nationally in total defense. Protecting Kelly will be vital and isn’t necessarily a strong suit of ASU’s. Last week they surrendered 10 tackles-for-loss and 3 sacks against the Cardinal.
Southern California moved the ball well against Southern Utah last week, but then seemed to drop off. Turns out, quarterback Cody Kessler injured his throwing hand after starting the game completing 10 of this first 16 passes. After that, the sophomore connected on just three passes as the Trojans eked out a 17-14 fourth-quarter win.
Kessler and injured star wideout Marqise Lee are expected to be healthy enough to play Saturday.
The winner will get its first Pac-12 win of the season and a leg up on what likely will be a three-team race for the South Division between ASU, USC and UCLA.
Last Week: USC 17, Utah State 14; Stanford 42, Arizona State 28
Next Week: Arizona State vs. Notre Dame (in Arlington, Texas); USC bye
No. 5 Stanford (3-0, 1-0) at Washington State (3-1, 1-0), 7 p.m. PST (ESPN)
All-Time Series: Stanford, 37-25-1
The last team that took Washington State lightly got burned. Stanford likely won’t overlook the Cougars, but stranger things have happened. Just asked Southern California, which fell victim to Washington State in Week 2.
Washington State head coach Mike Leach, one of the founders of the “Air Raid," is known for his offensive genius, but it’s the Cougars defense that has made Wazzu the surprise team of the Pac-12 this season. The Cougars are 10th nationally in total defense, yielding a 264.8 ypg, and are particularly tough against the run. Then again, Stanford head coach David Shaw already knew that.
“That was probably one of our top-two most difficult games to run the ball,” said Shaw in reference to the Washington State’s run defense which held the Cardinal to 120 yards on the ground last season. “They’re playing smart defense. You don’t see guys out of position.”
Stanford has won seven of the last 10 meetings, including five in a row. If the Cougars are going to shock the Cardinal, this might be the week with star OG David Yankey out tending to family matters and star safety Ed Reynolds suspended for the first half for targeting against Arizona State last week.
Last Week: Stanford 42, Arizona State 28; Washington State 42, Idaho 0
Next Week: Stanford vs. Washington; Washington State at California
California (1-2) at No. 2 Oregon (3-0), 7:30 p.m. PST (Pac-12 Network)
All-Time Series: California, 37-33-1
Oregon last lost to California in 2008. If the Golden Bears win this week, it’ll send shockwaves throughout the entire NCAA.
The No. 2 Ducks bring the nation’s No. 2 offense to the table this week against a Cal defense that ranks 121st in the nation in total defense. Cal gives up an average of 556.3 ypg, which must be a tantalizing prospect to Marcus Mariota and a Ducks team that pasted opponents so far this season with 672 ypg.
Cal’s secret weapon, however, is its young offense powered by quarterback Jared Goff. The freshman leads the nation with an average of 429.7 yards in total offense per game, compared to Mariota’s 383.7 ypg. Goff and California were able to post 34 points last week on No. 3 Ohio State, thanks to Goff’s 371 yards passing and Chris Harper’s 115 yards receiving.
But the Golden Bear defense is a risk and Oregon likes to run, run and run some more.
Last Week: Ohio State 52, Cal 34 (Sept. 14); Oregon 59, Tennessee 14 (Sept. 14)
Next Week: Cal vs. Washington State; Oregon at Colorado
“It seems like three years ago since we last played. We’ve been trying to do everything we can to keep the speed game, so this is almost like another opening game for us in a way. Hopefully we’ll respond well and play at the speed of the game that we like to.” — Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre
“I think that’s awesome knowing what it’s like to go through (that) and try to manage those numbers and plan down the road as we have. Now for Bill (O’Brien) not to have to do that as much is great for him. I had a chance to talk to him a couple of times and he’s doing an awesome job there, so I’m happy for him.” — USC head coach Kane Kiffin on the reinstating of scholarships this week for Penn State
“It’s kind of a unique group. They seem pretty mature and pretty focused, even the young guys. We have over 40-something freshmen on the squad and they’ve been acting more mature than their years in their preparation. It’s been a fun team to coach.” — Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez on his young squad
“I’m very grateful for being a product of Texas high school football and learning how to be a winner growing up. I can’t tell you how excited I am. I grew up a Dallas Cowboy fan, Tom Landry, Roger Staubach, Charlie Waters and Cliff Harris all those guys. I’m real excited about the opportunity to come back to my home town and play where the Cowboys play. Back in 1981 or 1982 I was a security guard for the Cowboys at Texas Stadium. So to get to go back there as a coach is very humbling. I’m very grateful and looking forward to seeing my old coaches, friends and family.” — Arizona State head coach Todd Graham on this team’s neutral-site game next week against Notre Dame in Arlington, Texas
DaVonte Neal, WR: Shoulder, out for season
Dan Pettinato, DL: Knee, probable
Dave Richardson, WR: Foot, probable
Fabbians Ebbele, RT: Ankle, questionable
Marcus Ball, CB: Shoulder, out 3-5 weeks
Jaxon Hood, NT: Hamstring, doubtful
Alani Latu, LB: Ankle, out for season
Junior Onyeali, DL: Shoulder, out for season
Matt Cochran, OL: High Ankle, expected to miss a month
Michael Barton, LB: Knee, cleared to play
Nick Forbes, LB: Back, cleared to play
Michael Lowe, S: Ankle, cleared to play
Terrence Crowder, RB: Suspended indefinitely
Timothy Coleman Jr, DL: ACL, out for season
Pharaoh Brown, TE: Lower leg, expected to play
Justin Addie, OL: Concussion, out
Brandin Cooks, WR; Thigh, expected to play
Josh Mitchell, C: Ankle, game-time decision
Storm Woods, RB: Concussion, out indefinitely
Grant Enger, OL: Knee, out
Henry Anderson, DL: Leg, out a few weeks
Barry Browning, CB: Multiple injuries, out
Ryan Hewitt, FB: Knee, will play
Ed Reynolds, S: Suspension: will miss first half
David Yankey, OG: Personal, out
Cody Kessler, QB: Hand, expected to play
Marqise Lee, WR: Ankle, expected to play
D.J. Morgan, Knee: questionable
Silas Redd, RB: Knee, questionable
Devian Shelton, DB: Foot, out for season
Greg Townsend Jr, DL: Knee, out for season
Erik Kohler, OL: Foot, questionable
Taz Stevenson, DB; Shoulder, out for season
John Timu, LB: Rotator Cuff, probable
|Sean Mannion, Oregon State||133/186||1,604-15-1|
|Jared Goff, Cal||103/168||1,306-7-4|
|Connor Halliday, Washington State||124/187||1,288-10-8|
|Bishop Sankey, Washington||64||446||4|
|Jordon James, UCLA||62||424||4|
|De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon||42||338||6|
|Brandin Cooks, Oregon State||43||639||7|
|Paul Richardson, Colorado||21||417||4|
|Dres Anderson, Utah||18||404||3|
This is look-in week for the Pac-12 as we’ll get our first real look at several teams that have puzzled us so far this season.
Most notably, the 3-0 Arizona Wildcats. UA is putting up points this season, specifically on the ground. But Arizona has yet to face a team that’s considered elite or even legitimate. A win for the Wildcats on the road at Washington could rearrange the South Division and add a fourth team to the mix as a potential champ.
All eyes will be in Tempe this week to see how the Arizona State-USC game shake out. The early-season South Division battle will have plenty of ramifications toward winning the division. A loss for USC drops them to 0-2 in the division and puts a major crimp in their plans on winning the South. Same goes for Arizona State, which lost to Stanford last week. Any slip-ups and it’s possible UCLA will play in the Pac-12 title game going away.
Saturday’s contest between Colorado and Oregon State isn’t without its own implications. Colorado can triple its 2012 win total with a victory over the Beavers. They’ve been off now for three weeks and haven’t faced an opponent nearly as tough as Oregon State. For the Beavers, a win over Colorado will have them back in the North Division conversation with a 2-0 conference record, not to mention momentum after their disastrous Week 1 loss to Eastern Washington.