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Pac-12 Football: Week five preview and predictions

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Our fearless picks and predictions for this week.

NCAA Football: Nevada at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Highlight Game of the Week

No. 5 USC (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12 ) vs. No. 16 Washington State (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12), Fri. 7:30 PM MT — ESPN Matchup Predictor: USC 56%

This is going to be the most entertaining game of the week solely because of the quarterback play of Sam Darnold and Luke Falk and their high-octane offenses that will be on display Friday night. USC and Washington State are two of the three teams that are still undefeated in the Pac-12 (the other being Utah, 4-0). USC is battered and beaten up and many of their key players are doubtful or probable against WSU. WR Deontay Burnett (shoulder), DL Rasheem Green (ankle), RB Ronald Jones II (quad/ankle), and WR Josephy Lewis (abdomen) are all probable and WR Steven Mitchell (goin) is doubtful. All these injuries for the Trojans could give the Cougars an edge if the game is close late in the fourth quarter. Colin Cowherd also picked the Cougars to upset the Trojans on his show on Wednesday because of USC’s injuries.

Another advantage Washington State will have is its defense ranked No. 23 in the country. On the other hand, USC’s ranks No. 76. This will also be the fifth team USC has faced that went to a bowl game last season which no other team in college football has done, but despite its tough schedule, the Trojans have still managed to find ways to win.

Final Prediction: USC 38 – Washington State 35

No Brainers

ASU (2-2, 1-0 Pac-12) vs Stanford (2-2, 1-1 Pac-12) Sat. 1:00 PM MT PAC 12 Network — ESPN Matchup Predictor: Stanford 90.8%

Arizona State and Stanford will meet for the first time in three years on Saturday in a game that should be high scoring. Both teams have defenses that are worse than No. 110 in the country which will give offenses plenty to show for. ASU quarterback Manny Wilkins has thrown for over 1200 yards, eight touchdowns and still hasn’t thrown an interception this season, which is impressive to say the least. The Sun Devils knocked off the then-ranked No. 24 Oregon Ducks last week and most of the success ASU had was because they got the ball to sophomore wide receiver N’Keal Harry. Harry had is second game over 140 yards receiving. Harry has hauled in three touchdowns this season and will give the Cardinal defense a tall task to defend on Saturday.

Stanford running back Bryce Love is the spark plug for the Cardinal offense and has accumulated 787 yards and five touchdowns. Senior quarterback Keller Chryst was injured last week against UCLA. The Cardinal will turn to redshirt freshman K.J. Costello who was originally the third stringer, but came in to replace Chryst and helped the Cardinal to victory. Although there will be a new starter under center for the Cardinal, Stanford could still run away with this one if the ASU defense doesn’t come to Palo Alto ready to play. But if the Sun Devils play like they did for the most part of their game against Oregon, ASU will have a shot to win. This has all the makings of a shootout, but if Stanford gets off to a hot start, the things could get ugly before halftime.

Final Prediction: Stanford 45 – ASU 34

No. 6 Washington (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) vs. Oregon State (1-3, 0-1 Pac-12) Sat. 5:00 PM MT, PAC 12 Network — ESPN Matchup Predictor: Washington 97.1%

Simply put, there’s no reason why Washington shouldn’t wipe the floor with Oregon State. Washington has way more fire power on offense and its defense is ranked No. 27 in the country. Three more reasons why the Huskies will win this game is because quarterback Jake Browning, Myles Gaskin and Dante Pettis. Browning has almost 1,000 yards passing and nine touchdowns and doesn’t seem like he will be slowing down anytime soon. Gaskin has 355 rushing yards along with five touchdowns. He is a legit threat and will help open up the passing game. Pettis is a threat on offense and on special teams, as he just broke the Pac-12 record for all-time punt returns for touchdown (eight) and could very well improve on that record against the Beavers.

Final Prediction: Washington 56 - Oregon State 13

Toss ups

Colorado (3-1, 0-1 Pac-12) vs. UCLA (2-2, 0-1 Pac-12) Sat. 7:30 PM MT, ESPN 2 — ESPN Matchup Predictor: UCLA 78.1%

Colorado and UCLA were two of the better teams in the Pac-12 last year and now neither one is ranked. Of the two teams, Colorado is the only team to receive any type of votes to be ranked, which was three votes received in the Coaches Poll. This will be another offensive showdown because neither team has a top 50 defense. Josh Rosen is having a solid year with 16 touchdowns, which leads the nation. Colorado quarterback Steven Montez and running back Phillip Lindsay will lead the Buffaloes into Pasadena for what should be another offensive showdown in the Pac-12. Although UCLA’s defense (No. 125) is by far worse compared to Colorado (No. 58), I give the edge UCLA.

Final Prediction: UCLA 35 – Colorado 31

California (3-1, 0-1 Pac-12) vs. Oregon (3-1, 0-1 Pac-12) Sat. 7:30 PM MT, FS1 — ESPN Matchup Predictor: Oregon 87.2%

After a disappointing loss to Arizona State last week, the Ducks are looking to rebound this week against a Cal team that is coming off a tough loss to USC. Cal kept the game close for three quarters until USC broke it open early in the fourth quarter. Oregon running back Royce Freeman was held under 100 yards for the first time this season against the Sun Devils. Although ASU has a worse defense than Cal, Freeman and quarterback Justin Herbert should have their way with the Golden Bears defense.

Players to watch for the Golden Bears are quarterback Ross Bowers, who has over 1100 yards passing already this season, running back Patrick Laird, and linebacker Devante Downs, who was named the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week for his week two performance. Cal is going to need to step up its rushing defense, which is ranked No. 71, if it is going to stop “Rolls Royce” Freeman and the Oregon Ducks high-powered offense.

Final Prediction: Oregon 41 – Cal 34