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Pac-12 Football: Week 8 preview and predictions

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The Pac-12 is up in the air after the Washington schools were upset last week

Texas A&M v UCLA Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Toss Ups

Arizona State (3-3, 2-1 Pac-12) vs Utah (4-2, 1-2 Pac-12) Sat. 10/21, 12:30 PM MT — FS1

ESPN Matchup Predictor: Utah 60.6%

Arizona State is coming off one of the most miraculous wins in program history after its upset over then-No. 8 Washington. This was the best an ASU team has played on defense in a long time as this was the first time in four years that the Sun Devils have kept a ranked opponent to 10 points or less. Manny Wilkins and the offensive unit didn’t produce a lot of points against the Huskies, and they may struggle again this week against Utah’s 4-3 style defense which is ranked No. 35 in the country. The Sun Devils need to pound the ball with running backs Kalen Ballage and Demario Richard in order to open up the passing game and expose weak spots in Utah’s passing defense which is ranked No. 66 nationally. If the the Sun Devils’ defense shows up to play like they did against Washington and ride the momentum from that game, then Arizona State should win. Utah quarterback Troy Williams will be a key factor for the Utes through the air and on the ground and also Williams’s favorite target, wide receiver Darren Carrington II, who caught the touchdown to defeat the Sun Devils in triple overtime in 2015 when he played for the Oregon Ducks will also be on the field. The Utes run a pass-first offense and their keys to victory are to exploit ASU’s weak pass defense (No. 95 in the country), get Carrington the ball and the offensive line needs to give Williams time in the pocket and mix in the read option.

Final Prediction: Arizona State 24 - Utah 21

Oregon (4-3, 1-3 Pac-12) vs UCLA (3-3, 1-2 Pac-12) 10/21 1:00 PM MT

ESPN Matchup Predictor: 54.7% UCLA

UCLA suffered its first loss to Arizona under head coach Jim Mora last Saturday. The Bruins defense was unable to contain Wildcats quarterback Khalil Tate, as he scorched UCLA for 230 yards on the ground. The Bruins need to make drastic improvements to their run defense, which is No. 127 nationally, in order to contain Oregon’s run fortress headed by Royce Freeman along with Kani Benoit and Tony Brooks-James. The Ducks will need to feed Freeman and play sound defense if they want to take down the Bruins. Oregon will have its work cut out for them in trying to defend Josh Rosen. Rosen has been the nation’s top passer throughout the whole season until this week, but still remains among the top three passers in the country. Rosen threw three interceptions and zero touchdowns against Arizona in his worst performance of the season. He along with the Bruins’ defense will have to make big adjustments if they want to defeat the Ducks on Saturday.

Final Prediction: UCLA 35 - Oregon 27

Arizona (4-2, 2-1 Pac-12) vs California (4-3, 1-3 Pac-12) Sat. 10/21 5:00 PM MT

ESPN Matchup Predictor: Arizona 56%

Both schools had big wins last week as Arizona defeated UCLA and Cal upset then-No. 8 Washington State. Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate is taking the college football world by storm as he has racked up 643 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns and is the team’s leading rusher. Tate has crept into the Heisman Trophy conversation and if Cal’s weak run defense can’t contain him then Tate could have another 200-plus yard game on the ground. Cal running back Vic Enwere had a career game against Washington as he rushed for over 100 yards for the first time since 2016 and added a touchdown for the Golden bears. Running back Patrick Laird and wide receiver Kanawai Noa both didn’t dress last week due to injury, but Laird is expected to return to the lineup this week according to sfgate.com and Noa’s status is unknown. A healthy Noa, feeding Enwere and getting the ball to wide receiver Vic Wharton III are keys to success for the Golden Bears.

Final Prediction: Arizona 38 - Cal 35

Saturday’s Blowout

No. 15 Washington State (6-1, 3-1 Pac-12) vs Colorado (4-3, 1-3 Pac-12) Sat. 10/21 7:45 PM MT

ESPN Matchup Predictor: Washington State 77.4%

Washington State’s offense was shut down by Cal on Saturday, and Luke Falk had one of the worst games of his career, as he threw five interceptions and zero touchdowns. Before the loss, the Cougars looked like they could make a run at the Pac-12 title and possibly even make it into the College Football Playoff. Falk should bounce back this week against Colorado’s weak pass defense, which is ranked No. 95 in the country. Colorado running back Patrick Lindsay has been on a tear these past two weeks, as he’s rushed for over 400 yards and added five touchdowns. The Buffaloes need to continue to feed Lindsay if they want even the slightest chance at an upset on Saturday. However, quarterback Steven Montez has been inconsistent this season to say the least and the Buffs need him to make good decisions in the pocket and on the ground if Colorado plans on being the second team in a row to upset Washington State.

Final Prediction: No. 15 Washington State 42 - Colorado 17

Game of the Week

No. 13 Notre Dame (5-1) vs No. 11 USC (6-1, 4-1 Pac-12) Sat. 10/21 4:30 PM MT — NBC

ESPN Matchup Predictor: Notre Dame 78.3%

This is one of the most prestigious rivalries in college football and there will be no love lost when these two teams meet in South Bend on Saturday night. Notre Dame has completely turned things around after its 4-8 season last year. The Fighting Irish have one of the best running backs in the country in senior Josh Adams. Adams has rushed for 776 yards, which is tenth most in the country and he’s added five touchdowns. Quarterback Brandon Wimbush will be back under-center for the Irish after sitting out last week against North Carolina due to a right foot injury. “He’s 100 percent,” head coach Brian Kelly told the Chicago Tribune. “There are no health issues at all.” Even though Wimbush will be ready to go against the Trojans, he has been inconsistent as a passer. In Wimbush’s first year as a starter, he has only completed 52.3 percent of his passes for six touchdowns and two interceptions. Althgough Wimbush hasn’t excelled as a passer, he is a threat in the running game and is second on the team in rushing with 402 yards and leads the Irish with eight rushing touchdowns. Wide receivers Equanimeous St. Brown and Chase Claypool are both playmakers and could cause problems for USC’s weak pass defense (No. 105 in the country). One notable injury for Notre Dame is senior starting linebacker Greer Martini will be out with a knee injury he suffered in practice according to BlueAndGold.com. If the Fighting Irish have success running the ball, get the ball out to St. Brown in space, use Claypool’s size to their advantage, get pressure on Sam Darnold, and force USC into third-and-long then Notre Dame should be able to win this game.

Sam Darnold and the high-powered USC offense look to continue their momentum, as the top ranked team in the Pac-12. Notre Dame will have their work cut out for them in trying to contain Darnold and Deontay Burnett in the passing game and the one-two punch of running backs Ronald Jones II and Staphen Carr. The Fighting Irish have the No. 45 ranked defense in the nation, but they haven’t quite face a quarterback like Darnold. Darnold has had his ups and downs this season, but is still one of the top passers in the country in terms of yardage and if the Irish secondary can’t manage stops, then this game could get out of hand by halftime.

Final Prediction: Notre Dame 28 - USC 24