Orac's Blog

Pac-12 and the Next Best 3, Week 7

Lots of off-field news this week, led by Arizona's firing of head coach Mike Stoops. Initial BCS ratings come out this week as well, and Stanford, Oregon and Arizona State all figure to be in the top 20. And to top it all off, the circus comes to Eugene in the form of ESPN's College Game Day. On to this week's games.

Pac-12 Game of the Week

#18 Arizona State (5-1, 3-0) at #9 Oregon (4-1, 2-0)

South division-leading Arizona State will visit the toughest place to play in the conference when they make the trip to Autzen Stadium this week. The Sun Devils are a game up on UCLA in their division and are coming off a fairly dominating win over Utah last week. Quarterback Brock Osweiler is still the key to Arizona State's success. He's been an efficient passer, but then he's needed to be. The Sun Devil running attack ranks ninth in the conference and has been abysmal. Starting running back Cameron Marshall has been nursing a sprained ankle. That explains his low output against Utah last week, but he should be in better form this week. Defensively they've been respectable, especially against the pass. But it's safe to say they've not faced a team like Oregon.

As for Oregon, they've got some rather large shoes to fill. Running back LaMichael James dislocated his elbow in the game against California last week. Given that James, the nation's third leading rusher, contributes an average of 170 yards per game--and 9 yards per carry. That's a lot of offense to make up. Fortunately for the Ducks they have the stable of backs to do it. Kenjon Barner, Tra Carson and De'Anthony Thomas should all see increased playing time. Quarterback Darron Thomas got off to a slow start last week. Without James in the lineup he'll have to play better.

Bottom Line

This will be a true test for Oregon. Arizona State completely stymied Southern California's high powered offense. Without LaMichael James Oregon still has a formidable offense. But can the Ducks' defense contain Brock Osweiler? If last week's game is any indication, the answer is yes. Oregon completely shut out California in the second half, which is a testament to the adjustments the Oregon coaches were able to make as well as their motivational prowess. On paper this game looks close, but it won't be on the field. Oregon 44, Arizona State 21

The Rest of the Conference

Southern California (4-1, 2-1) at California (3-2, 0-2)

California was absolutely blasted by Oregon last week. The Trojans are coming off a bye week. On some levels that's all you really need to know to predict the outcome of this one. The Trojan defense has been suspect for much of the season, and teams have scored on them fairly regularly. Fortunately Matt Barkeley is a top flight quarterback, and the offense has been able to make up for the defensive shortcomings. In order for California to have a chance, running back Isi Sofele will need to have a big day, and Zach Maynard will have to be much more accurate than he was last week. The Golden Bears defense is a tough bunch, and for a time they can contain a good offense. But if they wear down like they did against Oregon this game will be over at halftime. Southern California has owned this series for the past few years and they will continue to do so this week. But it will be closer this time. Still, the Jeff Tedford's seat has to be getting a little bit warm right about now. Southern California 38, California 30

#7 Stanford (5-0, 3-0) at Washington State (3-2, 1-1)

The Cougars fell short at UCLA last week but still played a solid game. Former starting quarterback Jeff Tuel has been cleared to play this game, but backup Marshall Lobbestael will get the start. Lobbestael has played extremely well since Tuel's injury, and Washington State ranks seventh in the nation in passing yards. This week they host the top defense in the conference. Stanford has been beating up on nominally inferior competition, but the Cougars could provide a challenge. They have a good pass defense, although they have yet to face someone like Andrew Luck. The key to this game will the perfomance of the Stanford defense. You just can't run on Stanford. Is it as shocking to anyone else as it is to me that the Stanford defense is second only to Alabama in stopping the run? Their pass defense is much more suspect, and against Lobbestael they'll need to step it up. Even in Pullman, Stanford should win this going away. But the Cougars won't make it easy on them. Stanford 42, Washington State 27

Colorado (1-5, 0-2) at Washington (4-1, 2-0)

Say what you will about the Buffaloes, you have to appreciate how well they're holding up in the face of another losing season. Coach Jon Embree showed his true colors by indefinitely suspending five defensive backs last week for unspecified misconduct. If there was any question Colorado was in good hands, I think that question has been answered. Colorado has been a great fit for the conference, academically and, eventually, athletically. The wins will come. Unfortunately not this week. Against the Huskies, the Buffaloes are simply overmatched.Washington 45, Colorado 10

Utah (2-3, 0-3) at Pittsburgh (3-3, 1-1 Big East)

Utah has the burden of upholding the honor of the conference on the road at Pittsburgh this week. Unfortunately for the Utes, starting quarterback Jordan Wynn is done for the season thanks to a separated non-throwing shoulder. He'll be having surgery on the shoulder again. Backup Jon Hays got a rather rude introduction to FBS football last week. Fortunately Pittsburgh is also having a mixed season. They played well against Notre Dame and South Florida but otherwise they've struggled. They were blown out by Rutgers last week. Utah has a shot. But given the travel distance for the Utes I have to give Pittsburgh the edge. Despite that I'm going to make an upset homer pick. Utah 24, Pittsburgh 21

Brigham Young (3-2) at Oregon State (1-4, 1-2)

You can almost see the game beginning to slow down for Oregon State freshman quarterback Sean Mannion. He got his first win last week against Arizona, and looked cool doing it. Now he'll have to do it again against a Brigham Young squad that's shown it knows how to lose to the Pac-12. Utah absolutely destroyed them, although of course that was a rivalry game. BYU still seems to feel like they should have been invited to the Pac-12 along with Utah. Now that they've also been rejected by the Big 12 they have to be smarting, at least a little. This will be their last chance to show what they can do against a BCS conference foe. With more Beaver players returning from injury the answer will be not much. Oregon State 37, Brigham Young 27

Bye: Arizona, UCLA

The Next Best 3

#11 Michigan (6-0, 2-0) at #23 Michigan State (4-1, 1-0)

Is this the week Michigan comes back to Earth? Michigan State has the defense to stop the Wolverines and their Heisman candidate quarterback Denard Robinson. Unfortunately they don't seem to have the offense. I doubted Michigan's defense earlier in the season, but no longer. This could be another low scoring game like Michigan State - Ohio State. If it is, advantage Michigan. Michigan 20, Michigan State 17

#6 Oklahoma State (5-0, 2-0) at #22 Texas (4-1, 1-1)

Last week I said Texas was overrated at #11. They're still overrated at #22. Oklahoma State is looking at back-to-back blowouts here. Oklahoma State 52, Texas 28

#19 Virginia Tech (5-1, 1-1) at Wake Forest (4-1, 3-0)

The little school that could. Wake Forest may be the smallest school in the FBS but they're looking pretty large in the ACC. Their one loss came to Syracuse in overtime. They beat a ranked (and perhaps overrated) Florida State last week. This week it's Virginia Tech's turn. If the game were in Blacksburg I'd pick the Hokies. But they're beginning to believe in Winston-Salem, and rightfully so. Wake Forest 34, Virginia Tech 27

October 14, 2011  01:23 PM ET

Very well written, Orac. I've enjoyed your NB3.

October 14, 2011  01:31 PM ET

Nice blog Orac. Good to see PAC stuff out there.

Another nice thing, for a Troy Fan at least, was the fact that the D is no longer presumed dead. Very opportunistic, which was one of the markers of the PC era.

So we got Stoops gone (I thought he had more breathing room than the next 2), 'Tricky Ricky' Neuheisel as good as, and Teddy on a VERY hot seat. Already been some shakeup in the PAC with reallignment, this will add to the confusion.

Zac Maynard will certainly NOT be confused with Aaron Rogers (was he the last Cal QB to beat SC in the 2003 triple OT game that cost Troy a shot at the crystal FB?). It was his decisions that cost Cal so dearly last night; but still, Teddy is the one where the Buck will stop.

toOSU (the other OSU) is a machine on offense, not sure Texas can score 28 tho. WF over VT? Hmmm... could be, could be...


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