Posted on October 21, 2021
The battle between Washington and Arizona will air on ESPN2, but the Game of the Week starts at midday on Saturday when No. 10 Oregon takes on UCLA in Pasadena. The College GameDay crew will be in attendance for the matchup, providing a national stage for both programs.
Kicking off at the same time, Colorado faces California in Berkeley while Washington State hosts BYU. And later on Saturday, Utah travels to Oregon State and USC heads to South Bend to try their luck against Norte Dame.
I preview all six matchups here. As always, our football writer’s picks appear at the bottom.
Washington at Arizona
Arizona Stadium, Tucson, AZ
Friday, October 22
7:30 p.m. PT, ESPN2
That doesn’t bode well for a team on an 18-game losing streak, but it presents a get-right opportunity for Washington.
Facing a team that could be forced to play a walk-on at quarterback if Will Plummer is injured, the Dawgs’ only real challenge in Tucson figures to be Don Brown’s defensive schemes.
The press-man blitzes the defensive coordinator calls could hurry Dylan Morris into poor throws, potentially keeping the matchup close into the second half.
But the easy solution is to run the ball on first and second down. Arizona has struggled to stop the run, and keeping Morris out of situations where he could turn the ball over is a surefire way to limit game-changing mistakes.
Look for Sean McGrew to have his most productive game of the season, and for the Huskies to put UA to bed before the end of the first half.
Colorado at California
California Memorial Stadium, Berkeley, CA
Saturday, October 23
12:30 p.m. PT, Pac-12 Network
The CU offense was able to move the ball effectively against Arizona in the fourth quarter last weekend, but that was only after the Wildcats had lost heart due to a game-deciding Pick Six and punt block returned for a touchdown.
Other than the final fifteen minutes, Colorado struggled on offense the way it has all season. If Wilcox’s defense isn’t able to stifle Karl Dorrell’s gameplan, the writing could be on the wall for a change in Berkeley over the offseason.
But the battle to watch is the Colorado secondary against Chase Garbers and the Cal receivers. The senior has passed for over 1,400 yards in six games, and five different wideouts have double-digit receptions.
If California hits its average passing yard total, the Bears should leave the stadium with a victory.
No. 10 Oregon at UCLA
Rose Bowl, Pasadena, CA
Saturday, October 23
12:30 p.m. PT, ABC
Oregon’s offense has struggled to meet expectations at times, with quarterback Anthony Brown receiving most of the heat.
And facing a UCLA defense that’s top in the Pac-12 and ninth in the country at defending the run, the pressure is on Brown to get the job done through the air.
Raising the stakes, the Bruins’ offense is third in the Conference in points per game and figures to take advantage of any extra possessions obtained through stalled drives.
Averaging 33.8 points per game, the UCLA offense has advanced to another level due to Dorian Thompson-Robinson’s decision-making.
The senior has a 13-to-2 touchdown to interception ratio, over 1,400 yards passing, more than 300 yards rushing, and 18 total touchdowns.
The dual threat allows his running backs to average over six yards per carry, making the Bruins’ offense almost unstoppable.
To pull off the win, Oregon must slow down Chip Kelly’s run game and force DTR to beat them through the air.
BYU at Washington State
Martin Stadium, Pullman, WA
Saturday, October 23
12:30 p.m. PT, FS1
The interim head coach is reported to be one of the potential coaching candidates to replace Nick Rolovich, and a win against BYU would probably bump him higher on the list.
Dickert’s defensive scheme and play calling has revitalized the program in just his second season, allowing WSU to win games with its offense.
But without Rolovich to operate the Run-and-Shoot, it remains to be seen how effective the Cougars will be. Jayden de Laura leads the Pac-12 in touchdowns thrown, and the BYU defense ranks 87th in the country at defending the pass.
Yet, the Cougs lost their play caller in Craig Stutzmann, and might find it challenging to replicate the system.
The X-Factor is the unpredictable response of the Washington State roster. It wouldn’t be a shock if the team came out flat on both sides of the ball, taking the game out of reach by the third quarter.
Utah at Oregon State
Reser Stadium, Corvallis, OR
Saturday, October 23
4:30 p.m. PT, Pac-12 Network
Sticking to the run game figures to be Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C, after Jonathan Smith’s staff appeared to throw the ball too often against Washington State.
Getting back to the bread and butter that’s made the Beavers successful figures to be a winning game plan, with Chance Nolan likely attempting 15 passes or less.
But the Utah run defense is third in the Pac-12 and fresh off a game against Arizona State in which it held the Sun Devils to their fewest yards rushing since 2019.
Mix in the mobility of quarterback Cameron Rising and his 9-to-2 touchdown to interception ratio, and Smith faces a confident Ute roster that won’t get flustered.
The deciding-factor could be interceptions forced by the Beaver secondary. Despite the bye week, Oregon State is tied for fifth nationally in INT’s and could capitalize on Rising’s mistakes.
USC at Norte Dame
Notre Dame Stadium, Notre Dame, IN
Saturday, October 23
4:30 p.m. PT, NBC
But Norte Dame is 118th in the country in rushing yards per game, and averages less points per night than USC.
Reliant on their passing game, the Irish are vulnerable to blitzing packages. Quarterback Jack Coan isn’t mobile and has been sacked 20 times through six games.
With Coan’s -85 total yards rushing on the year, Todd Orlando’s gameplan should be simple: Bring the heat.
The redshirt senior does take care of the ball, though, having thrown just three interceptions. But the absence of a running threat opens the door for USC’s defense.
Still, that might not matter if Kedon Slovis continues to struggle. The 64 percent completion rate is the lowest of his career, as is his 7.2 yards per attempt.
If the leader of USC’s offense takes care of the ball, escapes pressure, and has an efficient run game, the Trojans could walk away with the upset victory.
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