A 4-2 result in week eight puts the season record at 39-21. Oregon State and Washington take the bye, USC travels to Boulder to start things off against Colorado on Friday leaving a four game slate for Saturday. Before venturing out on that limb is our review of last weeks’ activity.
Thursday, October 17
UCLA 34 – Stanford 16 (pick: Stanford 34-17)
Down to a third string quarterback the Cardinal took a backyard whippin’ at the hands of the Chipsters. Jack West completed only 15 of 32 pass attempts and the UCLA defense smothered any notions of a Stanford running game while on offense, the Bruins ran over, around and through the Cardinal defense. Running back Joshua Kelley gained 176 yards on 18 carries and quarterback Darian Thompson-Robinson added 66 yards on 13 touches.
Saturday, October 19
Utah 21 – Arizona State 3 (pick: Utah 44-23)
How good was Utah defensively? ASU quarterback Jayden Daniels was held to 25 yards passing, completing four of 18 attempts and one of them was picked off. Running back Eno Benjamin broke the 100-yard barrier with four to spare but as a team the Sun Devils could grind out only 111 yards rushing. The Utes broke open a scoreless game with a pair of second quarter touchdowns and were never threatened.
Washington State 41 – Colorado 10 (pick: WSU 42-35)
Steven Montez was intercepted twice by the WSU defense and the Buffs never got anything going as the Cougars snapped a three game losing streak and picked up their first Pac-12 win. Anthony Gordon threw of 369 yards and four touchdowns, going 35 for 51 and sneaky quick running back Max Borghi slashed the Colorado defense for 105 yards and a score on 12 carries.
USC 41 – Arizona 14 (pick: USC 44-28)
Arizona’s struggles continue. Head coach Kevin Sumlin made a switch at quarterback, benching senior Khalil Tate in favor of freshman Grant Gunnell after Tate had been sacked six times by the Trojan defense and limited to seven completions for 51 yards. By that time USC was leading 34-0 and most of those in the Coliseum were headed for the freeways. With a game in hand over Utah, the Trojans have battled through an injury ravaged roster and are in the driver’s seat for the south division title.
Oregon State 21 – California 17 (pick: California 31-17)
A really good win for the Benny’s… one that was there to be taken and for the first time is some while, Oregon State found a way to avoid letting a close game slip away. Granted, the California offense frightens no one but defensively the Bears are no picnic but OSU Jake Luton made judicious use of receiver Isaiah Hodges and got a solid performance from running back Artavis Pierce to earn the win on the road. It was anything but a wire-to-wire performance with the Beavers surrendering a 14 point lead late in the game but putting together an 80-yard game winning drive with B.J. Baylor scoring from 13-yards out with 4:41 left to ice it. Defensively Oregon State recorded nine sacks.
Oregon 35 – Washington 31 (pick: Oregon 32-17)
Perhaps not as dramatic a win as “The Pick” but don’t sell the historical importance of Saturday’s win in Husky Stadium short. Facing a two touchdown second half deficit, the Oregon defense lived up to its press clippings holding Washington to a field goal from that point. Cyrus Habibi-Likio and the Ducks’ offensive line set the tone and Justin Herbert and the passing attack took advantage with nine different receivers combining for 24 catches and four touchdowns.
Friday, October 25
USC @ Colorado
If nothing else, the Trojans have been resilient in 2019, leading the southern division despite a depleted roster. For Colorado the issue has been depth, beyond a handful of players on offense, there has been little to highlight the first year at the helm for head coach Mel Tuckers. Depth is precisely why USC has been able to keep their season afloat and there is nothing the Buffaloes will be able to do to reverse that disparity by Friday night. USC 45-10.
Saturday, October 26
California @ Utah
Blanket statements are dangerous in college football. The minute one declares authoritatively this will happen or that will happen one sets the stage for a face plant when just the opposite takes place. But in this instance one should be able to state unequivocally California has no chance – none – and get away with it. Utah 37-10
Arizona @ Stanford
Halfway through the schedule, neither team is anywhere near where they imagined they would be when fall camp opened. Injuries have been the stumbling block for Stanford while for the Wildcats the itemized list of what has gone wrong in Tucson would be several pages in length. With both the Cardinal and the Wildcats scrambling to reverse their fortunes but little to separate them, the home field advantage is the decisive factor. Stanford 27-23
Arizona State @ UCLA
Dorian Thompson-Robinson and Joshua Kelley have become a potent 1-2 offensive punch for Chip Kelly and the Bruins, but don’t overlook the improvements UCLA has made defensively of late. After being man-handled by Utah, the ASU offense can be confused and lacking in discipline when quarterback Jayden Daniels in contained in the pocket and not allowed to improvise. Not saying the UCLA defense is on par with Utah, but they have enough speed and enough size to disrupt the ASU game plan. Given reasonable execution of the game plan, Kelly is crafty enough a play caller to outscore the Sun Devils 38-33.
Washington State @ Oregon
With a four game losing streak to the Cougars one can reasonably expect a change in approach for the Ducks when Washington State comes calling on Saturday evening. With a rushing game that looks to have matured last week against the Huskies and passing attack that is just beginning to find its potential the easy answer for the Ducks is to maintain possession, move the chains and keep the WSU offense on the sidelines. Defensively Oregon will need to be cognizant of a dangerous running back in Max Borghi but the focus will have to be on getting pressure to quarterback Anthony Gordon. Head coach Mike Leach and his Air Raid offense are averaging more than 50 passing attempts per game so it will be up to Oregon defensive coordinator Andy Avalos to limit the time Gordon has to locate one of several talented receivers. Sound execution on both sides of the ball and a dose of momentum from the win in Seattle leads to a 44-23 Oregon win.
~ Rick Morgan