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Pac-12 Football: Week 4 Preview and Predictions

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We take you through Week 4 of Pac-12 football with predictions for how the conference will fare.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish v USC Trojans
The USC Trojan horse mascot prances into the end zone at the Los Angeles Coliseum
Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

NEW QB FOR USC? NOT AN ISSUE.

(1-2) USC vs. (3-0) #24 Utah 6:00 p.m. MT Sept. 23 FS1---ESPN Matchup Predictor: USC 53%

The USC Trojans are off to their worst start since 2001, and things are moving quickly in Southern California. USC has managed four coaching changes in their past three seasons and redshirt junior Max Browne has already lost his starting job as quarterback to redshirt freshman Sam Darnold. After starting three games and throwing 87 passes Browne has two touchdowns and two interceptions.

In only 22 pass attempts this season, Darnold already has two touchdowns and only one interception. Darnold has proved that he can create a spark in the Trojan offense and will bring his “A game” to Salt Lake City and potentially save the job of head coach Clay Helton.

The Utah Utes have played excellent football all year defensively. Offensively though, Utah has had trouble. First year Junior quarterback Troy Williams has thrown just as many INT’s as TD’s at four, and the Utes have managed to fumble the ball in every game this season.

Utah had an easy 34-17 road win against San José State, but struggled at home against BYU - committing six turnovers against the rival Cougars. They will need to play clean and efficient if they want to win this game.

Though USC is 1-2, both losses were away from home against top-10 opponents. The Trojans will get it done in Salt Lake City.

Final Prediction: USC 24, Utah 20

OFFENSE ONLY ZONE IN THE DESERT

(2-1) California vs. (3-0) Arizona State 7:00 p.m. MT Sept. 24 ESPN2---ESPN Matchup Predictor: Arizona State: 55.7%

Two teams, both struggling on defense and impressive on offense will face off in the desert on Saturday night. The Arizona State Sun Devils have already been in a very similar situation and proved that they can keep up with a high-powered offense in their 68-55 victory over Texas Tech. The California Golden Bears are bouncing off their biggest win this season in a 50-43 upset over then #11 Texas.

California has the upper arm passing the ball. Senior Davis Webb is second in the nation in passing yards with 1359 and his favorite receiver junior Chad Hansen is first in the nation with 546 receiving yards. The Golden Bears will score big against ASU’s pass defense that ranks last in the nation.

California though, owns the 125th worst rush defense in the nation. Arizona State is no joke when it comes to the run. Junior running back Kalen Ballage is tied for a nation lead in touchdowns scored (10) and with redshirt sophomore QB Manny Wilkins and junior RB Demario Richard on his side the Sun Devils will plow through California’s defensive line and run for 205 plus yards for a fourth game in a row.

This should be a very high scoring game in Sun Devil Stadium. Home field advantage will ultimately put ASU ahead.

Final Prediction: Arizona State 48, California 41

NCAA Football: Texas Tech at Arizona State
Arizona State quarterback #5 Manny Wilkins hurdles a Texas Tech defender at Sun Devil Stadium
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

IN A CONTEST FULL OF INJURIES, OREGON KEEPS SAME GAME PLANE: RUN IT

(2-1) Colorado vs. (2-1) Oregon 2:30 p.m. MT Sept. 24 PAC12---ESPN Matchup Predictor: Oregon 62%

The Colorado Buffaloes haven’t beat the Oregon Ducks since 1998 and with Sefo Liufau being listed “questionable” for Saturday’s game in Eugene it puts this PAC-12 home opener even more in the Ducks’ favor. Both teams are coming off road losses to Big Ten teams. Oregon was neck and neck with now #20 Nebraska and fell by three points on an end of the game touchdown run by the Cornhuskers’ QB. Colorado had a surprising 21-7 lead over #4 Michigan at the end of the first quarter, but couldn’t keep up with the wolverines as they fell 45-28.

The Buffaloes have injury issues, and the Ducks do as well. Star junior running back Royce Freeman exited last week’s contest early after a knee injury in the first quarter. Without Freeman the Ducks still flew by the defense with 305 yards on the run and five rushing TD’s. The Buffaloes are without junior linebacker Derek McCartney, which will create an even bigger running lane for Oregon.

This year, an experienced Colorado team can compete with the best of the PAC-12, but injuries will hold the Buffaloes back.

Final Prediction: Oregon 38, Colorado 27

Virginia v Oregon
Oregon Ducks wide receiver #88 Dwayne Stanford celebrates a touchdown at Auzten Stadium
Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

ORANGE AND BLACK HIT ORANGE AND BLUE IN CORVALLIS

(2-0) Boise State vs. (1-1) Oregon State 12:30 p.m. MT Sept. 24 FS1---ESPN Matchup Predictor: Boise State 83.9%

The road to a possible perfect regular season continues for the Boise State Broncos who are playing one of the easiest schedules in recent history. The Broncos just beat Washington State 31-28 at home and then had a bye week to rest up for the only other power five team in their schedule, Oregon State. Luckily for the Beavers, this is a home game. Oregon State fell to a good Minnesota team 30-23 and beat Idaho State at home last week 37-7.

The Broncos win the quarterback competition with sophomore Brett Rypien who has proved he can sling it for Boise State in his second year as the starting QB. Rypien has thrown 68 pass attempts for 646 yards and three touchdowns, while junior Darell Garretson has let the ball loose 70 times resulting in only 400 yards and three TD’s. Garretson already beat the Broncos last season as a Utah State Aggie, but he only watched Rypien and BSU from the bench.

Oregon State will have to play catch up against Boise State offensively as the Broncos like to get ahead early.

Final Prediction: Boise State 35, Oregon State 21

Washington State v Boise State
The Boise State Broncos burst out of the tunnel into Albertsons Stadium
Photo by Loren Orr/Getty Images

NORTH VS. SOUTH, FEATURING A HEISMAN HOPEFUL.

(2-0) #7 Stanford vs. (2-1) UCLA 5:00 p.m. MT Sept. 24 ABC---ESPN Matchup Predictor: UCLA 56.3%

Last season, this game was an atrocity for the UCLA Bruins who traveled to Palo Alto, CA and fell 56-35 to the Stanford Cardinal. Junior running back Christian McCaffrey set a school-record with 243 yards on the run and accounted for four touchdowns. This season, the Bruins haven’t faced a running attack quite like the Cardinal’s and gave up 209 yards on the run including 94 to senior quarterback Trevor Knight of Texas A&M in their first game.

No doubt Stanford will run the ball, but its defense will be the main focus in this competition. Sophomore quarterback Josh Rosen of UCLA is far more talented than senior Ryan Burns of Stanford. The Cardinal total defense is ranked 10th in the nation and will bring it against Rosen.

Stanford allowed just 10 points to USC’s offense and has forced three interceptions in two games this season. UCLA had trouble against BYU scoring only 17 points against a defense that ranks at 85th in the nation.

The Bruins won’t allow for McCaffrey to have record type numbers, but that’s not enough to stop a Stanford team that has beat UCLA eight times in a row.

Final Prediction: Stanford 28, UCLA 17

NCAA Football: Rose Bowl-Stanford vs Iowa
Stanford running back #5 Christian McCaffrey in the 2016 Rose Bowl
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

HUSKIES TO SHOW OFF THEIR DOMINANCE IN TUSCON

(3-0) #9 Washington vs. (2-1) Arizona 7:30 p.m. MT Sept. 24 PAC-12---ESPN Matchup Predictor: Washington 78.3%

Plagued by injuries from junior running back Nick Wilson and junior quarterback Anu Solomon, the Arizona Wildcats will be lucky to keep it close against a healthy and dominant Washington Husky team. Washington is not a top 10 team just because of its cakewalk non-conference schedule. The Huskies have proven to be extremely productive on offensive, but forcefully equipped on defense.

In the first half this season, Washington has not given up a touchdown and has outscored its opponents 97-3. Sophomore quarterback Jake Browning and the rest of the Dawgs will come out strong in Tuscon to make a big statement in their first road game of the season.

Washington 38, Arizona 17

Record this season: 37-4