Dane Miller’s Week 6 Pac-12 Football Previews

Posted on October 7, 2021

  By Dane Miller, SportsPac12

Only four games are on tap for Week Six in the Conference of Champions, but the result of each will shape the races for the North and South divisional championships.

Pac-12Stanford traveled to Tempe to face the surging Sun Devils to kick things off on Friday night and ASU handled the Cardinal 28-10.

Today, Oregon State heads to the Palouse to take on Jayden de Laura’s Cougars, Utah battles USC at the Coliseum on Fox, and Arizona renews its rivalry with UCLA in Tucson.

I preview all four games here, and our Football Writers’ picks appear at the bottom.

Oregon State at Washington State

Martin Stadium, Pullman, WA
Saturday, October 9
1:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

The Beavers’ start to the 2021 season has been historic, but Jonathan Smith’s team arguably faces its toughest challenge of the year.

The Cougars have won seven-straight against OSU, and Jake Dickert’s defense has seemingly turned the corner. The 4-2-5 scheme stifled Utah and Cal’s rushing offense, forcing both teams to become one-dimensional.

And Dickert’s secondary stepped up.

Washington State held Utah to 137 yards passing with zero touchdowns through the air, and stunted California to just 152 yards passing, with zero touchdowns and one interception.

Oregon State’s B.J. Baylor | Amanda Loman/Associated Press

But the Beavers are content to run the ball 40 times a night and averaged less than 20 passing attempts per game over the last three weeks.

The unique offensive system presents a challenge for Dickert’s scheme, but it’s a more manageable task than USC’s Air Raid.

Special teams and penalties figure to play an oversized role, with missed field goals and first downs surrendered through penalties being the X-Factor.

But the little plays might not matter if Oregon State’s B.J. Baylor eclipses his average of 106.6 yards on the ground.

At the end of the game, if Washington State holds the Beaver rushing attack to less than 5.0 yards per attempt, it should be in position to pull off the upset.

usc logo
Utah at USC

Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, CA
Saturday, October 9
5:00 pm PT, Fox

The Utes are 3-4 against the Trojans over the past seven seasons, but haven’t won in Los Angeles since 1916.

That could change this Saturday night on Fox as Utah faces an inconsistent Kedon Slovis and a Trojan program in relative turmoil.

The junior quarterback is averaging career-lows in completion percentage, yards per game, yards per attempt, and quarterback rating. And the USC administration continues the search for its next head coach.

USC’s Kedon Slovis | Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

But the Trojans are coming off their best performance of the season in Boulder, with Drake London in the mix for the Pac-12’s Offensive Player of the Year award.

The matchups to watch are Todd Orlando’s run defense against the Utah running backs and Clark Phillips III on London. The Utah offense has struggled at times to put up points, but if it moves the ball effectively on the ground it should find success.

And Phillips vs. London is a matchup of two of the Conference’s top players at their respective positions.

Arizona football Pac-12
UCLA at Arizona

Arizona Stadium, Tucson, AZ
Saturday, October 9
7:30 pm PT, ESPN

Splitting the series over the past four seasons, UCLA travels to Tucson where it hasn’t won since 2015.

But the Wildcats are on a 16-game losing streak and have dealt with inconsistent quarterback play through four games.

Jedd Fisch has started three different QBs, finally landing on Jordan McCloud after his late-game performance against NAU, and despite the five interceptions thrown against Oregon.

Arizona’s Jordan McCloud | Tom Hauck/Getty Images

The mobile McCloud allows Fisch’s Pro Style offense to operate more smoothly, with the threat to run opening lanes for Arizona’s running backs and easing the burden on its offensive line in pass protection.

Yet, the UCLA defense is designed to stop the run and its offense should take advantage of UA’s poor run defense.

Dorian Thompson-Robinson figures to shine in Run-Pass option plays, with Greg Dulcich reaping the benefits of a secondary focused on the backfield.

A defeat in Tucson would arguably go down as one of the worst defeats in UCLA history.

Result: Arizona State 28, Stanford 10

Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, AZ
Friday, October 8
7:30 pm PT, ESPN

The Sun Devils lead the Pac-12 in yards per game (444.0), points allowed per game (17.4), yards allowed per game (284.6), and sacks (16).

The combination of a potent offense and strong defense has put ASU into position to win the South for the first time since 2013.

But to get there, it must first take care of Stanford.

The Tree historically present a matchup problem for Arizona State, reflected in the Cardinal’s 6-1 advantage in the series dating back to 2009.

But the size and strength advantage the Stanford roster once enjoyed has been negated by strong recruiting classes under Herm Edwards.

Arizona State defensive lineman Tyler Johnson | Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The Sun Devil staff is confident in its roster, and probably won’t shy away from blitzing Tanner McKee. The Stanford gunslinger has avoided throwing a pick through five games, posting an 11-to-0 touchdown to interception ratio.

But facing an ASU defense led by defensive coordinator Antonio Pierce, that streak could come to an end. With the strongest rushing defense in the Pac-12, the Sun Devils could force the Cardinal to become overly reliant on the pass, allowing Pierce to pass blitz all night.

At the end of the game, the team that wins the turnover battle should come out on top.

SportsPac12 Football Writers Week 6 Game Picks

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