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Pac-12 Football: Week four preview and predictions

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It’s finally time for the first weekend of conference play

NCAA Football: Mississippi at California Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Closer than you think

No. 23 Utah (3-0) vs Arizona (2-1)

Fri., Sept. 22, 7:30 PM MT

FS1

ESPN Matchup Predictor: Arizona 69.3%

Although Utah is a ranked team and Arizona is not, this game should be close solely because of the high level of quarterback play from both teams. Utah sophomore quarterback Tyler Huntley and Arizona junior quarterback Brandon Dawkins lead their team in both passing and rushing. Despite ESPN’s Matchup Predictor favoring the Wildcats, the spread favors the Utes (-3.5).

Final Prediction: Utah 35 – Arizona 24

UCLA (2-1) vs Stanford (1-2)

Sat., Sept. 23, 7:30 PM MT

ESPN

ESPN Matchup Predictor: Stanford 73.5%

UCLA is coming off a loss after the Bruins were upset by the Memphis Tigers on Saturday. Stanford was also upset on during week three. The Cardinal lost to the San Diego State Aztecs as Rashaad Penny rushed for more than 175 yards. This game will be a shoot-out, as neither team has a good defense. Stanford’s defense is ranked No. 92 in the country and UCLA’s defense is ranked No. 119 (one spot behind ASU). This should be an offensive heyday for both offenses and especially for UCLA quarterback junior quarterback Josh Rosen, who leads the country in passing yards, and for Stanford quarterback Keller Chryst and senior running back Bryce Love, who is second in the country in rushing yards.

Final Prediction: Stanford 45 – UCLA 41

Not even close

No. 24 Oregon (3-0) vs Arizona State (1-2)

Sat., Sept. 23, 7:00 PM MT

PAC12

ESPN Matchup Predictor: Oregon 80.9%

Oregon and ASU have high-powered offenses and have shown they can both put up a lot of points this season. Neither team has a spectacular defense, but ASU’s unit is by far worse than Oregon’s. The Ducks have the No. 44 ranked defense in the country and the Sun Devils are No. 118, according to ESPN. Oregon’s high-octane offense — ranked third in the country in total yards — is headed by sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert and senior running back Royce Freeman, shouldn’t have a problem moving the ball against the Sun Devils.

ASU has gotten off to a rough start to its season, but one of the positive aspects of this team is the fact that Manny Wilkins hasn’t thrown an interception this season. Wilkins has shown a lot more poise in the pocket and, for the most part, has been making very good decisions with the football. If the Sun Devils are going to win this game, Wilkins needs to continue making good decisions with the football, they will have to continue to get the ball to N’Keal Harry and the defense will have to contain Herbert and Freeman. The Ducks should win this game if Herbert and Freeman continue to play like they have been this season, but Oregon cannot sleep on defense. This is a game that Sun Devil fans don’t have pleasant memories of and if the Sun Devils don’t play exceptionally well on defense then the result will be similar to last year’s matchup.

Final Prediction: Oregon 49 – ASU 38

No. 5 USC (3-0) vs California (3-0)

Sat., Sept. 23, 12:30 PM MT

ABC

ESPN Matchup Predictor: USC 82.7%

USC and Cal are both undefeated coming into this game, but the Trojans have faced far tougher opponents than the Golden Bears. Cal will have their work cut out for them as they will have to attempt to defend sophomore quarterback Sam Darnold, junor running back Ronald Jones II and junior wide receiver Deontay Burnett. Cal sophomore quarterback Ross Bowers led the Gold Bears offense and has racked up 799 yards and five touchdowns through the air, and shouldn’t have a hard time moving the ball through the air against USC, which has the No. 52 ranked passing defense in the country. Darnold shouldn’t have much trouble through the air on Saturday either because Cal is No. 114 is passing defense. If USC can shut down Bowers then the Trojans should run away with this one.

Final Prediction: USC 42 – Cal 17

No. 18 Washington State (3-0) vs Nevada (0-3)

Sat., Sept. 23, 3:00 PM MT

PAC12

ESPN Matchup Predictor: Washington State 96.7%

Washington State is the clear favorite in this game and for good reason. WSU senior quarterback Luke Falk is one of the most prolific quarterbacks in the nation with 900 yards passing and nine touchdowns while tallying only one interception. Faulk is the main reason why the Cougars are 3-0 and besides Boise State, Falk has dominated. Granted Washington State hasn’t played the toughest schedule and their defense is questionable, but Falk and the offense has put the team on their back and have carried them to the Cougars’ first 3-0 start since 2005.

Final Prediction: Washington State 52 – Nevada 6

No. 7 Washington (3-0) vs Colorado (3-0)

Sat., Sept. 23, 7:00 PM MT

PAC12

ESPN Matchup Predictor: Washington 83.3%

Washington junior quarterback Josh Browning has played great in the first three games of the season, but senior wide receiver Dante Pettis has been the spark plug for the Huskies. Pettis has three receiving touchdowns, already has three punt return touchdowns and on Saturday he broke the Pac-12 all-time punt return for touchdown record which was previously held by DeSean Jackson. Colorado’s spread/pro-style hybrid offense is led by sophomore quarterback Steven Montez and senior running back Phillip Lindsay. Colorado will have a tough time moving the ball against Washington’s defense which is ranked No. 25 in the country according to ESPN. Defense hasn’t been a strong suit for the Buffaloes this season, but they will have to be able to stop the passing game if they want to make this a competitive game.

Final Prediction: Washington 45 – Colorado 17