SportsPac12: Week 14 Previews
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Week 14 Previews

Week 14 Previews & Predictions


Colorado's Laviska Shenault Jr. carries the ball last week against the Huskies. | Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Every Thursday during the football season our SportsPac12 writers bring you previews and predictions for each of the Pac-12 football games. Eleven teams are engaged in Conference play this week.


   


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WSU (3-5, 6-5) at Washington (3-5, 6-5)


Friday, November 29
1:00 p.m. PT, FOX
Husky Stadium, Seattle, WA

Straight-Up Pick: Washington in a Comfortable Win
Against the Spread: Washington (-7.5)


What the Cougars Must Do to Win

The Cougars can't expect to beat the Huskies the way they beat the Beavers last week. They certainly can't turn the ball over five times. To have a realistic shot at beating the Huskies in Seattle, Wazzu must play consistently for all four quarters, and in all three phases. Specifically, the offense needs to continue going through Max Borghi. With more than 1,200 yards in total offense and 14 touchdowns this season, he remains the key to getting WSU's record-breaking passing attack going. Senior quarterback Anthony Gordon already has 4,900 yards and 45 touchdown passes, but he'll need to add significantly to those nation-leading totals on Saturday. On defense, the Cougs need to force turnovers. Quarterback Jacob Eason figures to throw the ball all over the Cougar secondary, so WSU must cripple the Husky running game, much in the same way Colorado did last week. Wazzu also needs to score a lot of points, daring U-Dub to keep pace in the always-intense and explosive Apple Cup.

What the Huskies Must Do to Win

Washington hasn't had the season they expected, but if nothing else, a victory over the Cougars would assure them of a winning record, even with a bowl loss. The Huskies haven't lost to a Mike Leach-coached WSU team, and they don't intend to change that this week. To win, the Dawgs must do what they couldn't do last week at Colorado: Establish the run early, keeping the ball out of the hands of Gordon. Washington is much bigger on the offensive front, and should be able to wear down WSU over time. Other than Oregon's Justin Herbert, the Cougs haven't faced a more pro-ready quarterback than Jacob Eason. Despite his recent struggles, he should be able to pick apart the weak Cougar secondary. In particular, the Dawgs need to get the ball to junior tight end, Hunter Bryant, who should pose a matchup problem all game long. On defense, UW needs to force some turnovers, and take the run game away from Wazzu. They have the athletes to cover WSU's talented wide receiver group. If they can force the Cougar offense to be one-dimensional, they have a good chance of coming out on top. 
  
What Happens on the Field

This is going to be a high-energy game, with the prospect of a bowl upgrade and State bragging rights at stake. Expect a lot of scoring, with plenty of passing yards on both sides. Each team has a quarterback capable of connecting deep, and a running back capable of breaking loose. The contest should be close early on, with Washington's physical play taking over late. Momentum will swing in favor of the Huskies once they post consecutive unanswered scores, allowing their defense to dictate the tempo. The Huskies will prevail by a of couple touchdowns, logging their seventh-straight Apple Cup victory.

Notes: Washington leads the all-time series 73-32-6, and has won nine of the last 10 dating back to 2009.  A win over the Cougars would guarantee the Huskies their sixth consecutive winning season under coach Chris Petersen. Gordon set Pac-12 single-season records last week for most passing touchdowns (45) and passing yards (4,920). His 606 passing yards was his third game passing for more than 500 yards in 2019. UW's Salvon Ahmed ranks third in the Pac12 in rushing, with 91.5 yards per game. He needs 85 to give the Huskies a 1,000-yard rusher for the fifth consecutive season. Borghi's 109 all-purpose yards marked the seventh he has exceeded 100 all-purpose yards this year.


 
    


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Oregon State (4-4, 5-6) at #14 Oregon (7-1, 9-2)


Saturday, November 30
1:00 p.m. PT, Pac-12 Network
Autzen Stadium, Eugene, OR

Straight-Up: Oregon in a Comfortable Win
Against the Spread: Oregon State (+19.5)

What the Beavers Must Do to Win

Oregon State enters this matchup with nothing to lose and everything to gain, making them extremely dangerous to the physically and emotionally wounded Ducks. On offense, quarterback Jake Luton needs to carry the Beavers to the Promised Land of bowl-eligibility. In what would otherwise be the sixth-year senior’s final game, he’ll be chomping at the bit. OSU may choose to use dynamic wideout Isaiah Hodgins as a decoy, opening up space for other receivers such as Champ Flemings and Noah Togiai. Either way, the future NFL receiver is sure to get his share of catches. On defense, the Beavers—who rank high in Pac-12 sacks—need to hurry Duck signal caller Justin Herbert, prompting him to make bad decisions throwing the ball. While he's bound to make big plays, forcing him to a give up a turnover or two could make all the difference. The Beavs won't be able to match Oregon's physicality up-front, so trusting their defensive backs and stacking the box may be the most viable option. Head coach Jonathan Smith has shown a willingness to gamble, so expect OSU to try anything and everything to steal a win in Eugene.

What the Ducks Must Do to Win

Oregon needs to come out of the gate fast, and not let the Beavers stick around or take the lead the way the Sun Devils did last week. From a tactical standpoint, the Ducks must lean on their offensive line and control the game with the run. Oregon State lacks the physicality to hang with the Ducks for four quarters, but would be happy to trade scores in rapid succession. Running the ball consistently and eating the clock is the best way to break OSU's spirit. Herbert should have no problem passing the ball, but he need not carry the entire load. On defense, the Ducks must limit the effectiveness of Luton and Hodgins, who have a game-changing connection. UO will likely double team Hodgins, but even that's not a sure thing, given his one-handed circus catches. Bottom line, Oregon cannot take their rivals lightly. The Ducks are the better team, but if they disrespect the Beavers, they could find themselves limping into the Pac-12 Championship game with two straight losses.

What Happens on the Field

There are two different ways this contest could play out. The first involves Oregon running the ball consistently and winning ugly. The second would be a high-flying shootout that works in Oregon State’s favor. The Ducks know better than to get into an aerial arms race with the Beavs, and will likely ride CJ Verdell, Travis Dye, and Cyrus Habibi-Likio for long drives, letting them consume yards and time. Herbert will play much better than he did last week, so when OSU stacks the box to try and defend the run, he'll make them pay downfield. Oregon's athleticism will stymie OSU enough for the Ducks to win by two touchdowns or more.

Notes: The Ducks lead the all-time series 65-47-10 and won last years matchup 55-15. OSU wideout Hodgins is the seventh leading receiver in Beaver history with 2,237 receiving yards. He now has 168 career receptions, seventh-best in OSU history. Herbert set an Oregon career record for completions with 781 last week, passing Marcus Mariota's 779. He also became just the second Oregon quarterback to reach 10,000 career passing yards.  OSU tight end Noah Togiai had five receptions for 67 yards last week, becoming the sixth Beaver tight end to reach 1,000-plus career yards receiving.



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#16 Notre Dame (9-2) at Stanford (3-6, 4-7)


Saturday, November 30
1:00 p.m. PT, FOX
Stanford Stadium, Palo Alto, CA

Straight-Up: Notre Dame in a Blowout
Against the Spread: Notre Dame (-16.5)

By Nicholas Bartlett

What the Irish Must Do to Win

Above all, the Fighting Irish must avoid turnovers. If they take care of the ball, they should be able to dispatch the Cardinal without much trouble. Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book needs to get multiple receivers involved to keep Stanford’s secondary off-balance. He’ll also want to avoid throwing the ball near the Cardinal's game-changing junior cornerback Paulson Adebo. The Irish will want to run the ball and take advantage of their physicality, gaining yards in chunks on the ground. As long as the Irish mix up their play-calling, they should be able to light up the scoreboard. On defense, Notre Dame needs to make Cardinal signal caller Davis Mills uncomfortable in the pocket. The junior quarterback has shown flashes of greatness, but lacks mobility. Notre Dame should look to get players in his face, forcing him to make questionable throws. As long as the Irish avoid catastrophic mistakes, they should be alright.

What the Cardinal Must Do to Win

No matter what happens on Saturday, this will be Stanford’s last game of the season. Having already been eliminated from bowl contention, the Cardinal will be focused on reaffirming their culture of toughness. Given all their injuries, there isn't much outmatched Stanford can do to keep pace with the No. 16 Irish. This much seems certain: Mills will target wideout Simi Fehoko. The sophomore receiver is Stanford’s best playmaker, and the most consistent threat. The Cardinal will also need a quality performance from running back Cameron Scarlett, whose 797 rushing yards rank eighth in the Conference. On defense, Stanford needs to limit Notre Dame's rushing success, forcing Book to beat them through the air. As the dual-threat signal caller, he's less-effective without a productive ground attack. On paper, Stanford has no business winning this one, but anything can happen in what has become a second if less-intense rivalry for the Cardinal.

What Happens on the Field

The Irish have dominated less-talented opponents all year long, and it's reasonable to expect that trend to continue. Book will slice up the Stanford secondary, with Notre Dame wideout Chase Claypool putting up impressive numbers. Irish running back Tony Jones Jr. will keep the Cardinal defense guessing, scoring at least two touchdowns. Stanford's depletion of talent and lack of depth will make it difficult for them to keep pace. Fehoko will make some nice catches, but it won't be enough to keep Stanford in the contest. The Fighting Irish will have the game locked up by halftime.

Notes: Notre Dame leads the all-time series 19-13 and won last year’s matchup 38-17. The Cardinal have won three of the last four meetings, and seven of the last 10. That includes a current string of five straight over the Irish at Stanford Stadium. Stanford’s football program has won 98 games this decade, the eight most in college football in that timeframe. Twenty different true-freshman have played in games for the Cardinal this year. All told, 38 different Cardinal have started a game this season. Notre Dames’s defense has held 23 out of their last 24 opponents to under 30 points. 




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Colorado (3-5, 5-6) at #6 Utah (7-1, 10-1)


Saturday, November 30
4:30 p.m. PT, ABC
Rice-Eccles Stadium, Salt Lake City, UT 

Straight-Up: Utah in a Blowout Win
Against the Spread: Colorado (+28.5)


By Ian McCollam

What the Buffaloes Must Do to Win

The Buffs will have to play a complete, near perfect game to beat No. 6 Utah. That begins with establishing the run game against a stout Ute defensive front—not an easy task, especially at Rice-Eccles. Colorado's offensive line play and clock management will be critical to preventing the Utes from putting up multiple scores in a hurry. CU quarterback Steven Montez, wideout Laviska Shenault Jr., and running back Alex Fontenot need to bring their 'A' game for the Buffs to keep pace with Utah's prolific offense. Defensively, Colorado must keep the Utes well below their average of 35 points per game. Limiting the production of explosive Utah running back Zach Moss will be essential. CU pass rushers must also pressure poised Ute quarterback Tyler Huntley, who is capable of engineering a scoring drive every time he takes the field. Ultimately, the Buffs will need to create turnovers, limit penalties, and perform well on special teams to have a chance of pulling off a shocking upset.    

What the Utes Must Do to Win

The Utes have manhandled opponents en route to a seven-game win streak, and they show no signs of slowing down. Utah’s offense centers around Huntley and Moss, a pair of dynamic playmakers, both of whom can change the game in an instant. They will look to deflate Colorado’s improving run defense by starting fast. Wide receiver Bryan Thompson and tight end Brant Kuithe should both have big games against Colorado’s weak pass defense. Defensively, the Utes lead the Pac-12 in nearly every category, but should nonetheless have their hands full with Shenault. The best way to contain him is to pressure Montez, who has thrown 10 picks, most of them under duress. Bradlee Anae and the rest of Utah's aggressive front should bring enough intimidation to make things difficult on the senior, while also keeping Fontenot and fellow CU running back Jaren Mangham from finding their strides. In sum, the Utes simply need to stay the course while avoiding catastrophic mistakes.

What Happens on the Field

The game will start out closer than expected, with Colorado's improved defense keeping the Buffaloes within striking distance in the first half. Utah will exert its dominance on both sides of the ball in the second half, however, allowing the Utes to widen their lead with unanswered scores. Moss will pound CU's front line over the course of the game, and eventually break a long run or two, with Huntley leading a pair of late time-consuming drives. Colorado can use this game as a measuring stick of its improvement, but won't have an answer for the Utes, who will win by three touchdowns or more.  

Notes: Colorado leads the all-time series 32-30-3, but have lost eight of the last 10. The Utes have held six opponents to single-digit points this season, including four games holding an opponent without a touchdown. CU snapped a nine-game losing streak to the Huskies last week on the strength of five sacks. The Utes notched their fifth game this season with more than 500 yards of total offense, their most since 2005. Shenault notched his eighth 100-yard receiving game against Washington.  Over the last five games, Moss has averaged 191.4 all-purpose yards.


    


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Arizona (2-6, 4-7) at Arizona State (3-5, 6-5)


Saturday, November 30
7:00 p.m. PT, ESPN
Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, AZ

Straight-Up: Arizona State in a Comfortable Win
Against the Spread: Arizona State (-14)

By Dane Miller

What the Wildcats Must Do to Win

Arizona needs to swarm the ball, gang-tackle, and play with high effort on defense to have a chance. In short, the Wildcats must impose their will on the Sun Devils early and often, sending a message that every yard must be earned. Arizona may use a mix of man and zone coverages, trusting their corners in one-on-one situations in the face of linebacker blitzes. The defense has to play with confidence, limiting ASU scores early, and avoid costly penalties and mistakes. On offense, the Cats must limit Arizona State's time of possession by extending drives and converting third-down opportunities. Running back J.J. Taylor needs to use the edges to his advantage, scoring more than once. In short yardage plays, Gary Brightwell or Nathan Tilford could be utilized for inside power runs. Bam Smith and Michael Wiley can’t be expected to execute inside runs, and should only be used in the short passing game or outside runs.  Whoever starts at quarterback, whether Khalil Tate or Grant Gunnell, must be allowed to play the entire game and establish a rhythm without fear of being yanked.  
  

What the Sun Devils Must Do to Win

Arizona State needs Eno Benjamin to run all over Arizona's shaky defense. An effective run game will enable Jayden Daniels to showcase his arm for a second straight week, finding open receivers for big plays over the top and in the middle of the field. ASU wideout Brandon Aiyuk should be targeted heavily, especially on run-pass option plays where the defense bites on the run. If the run game doesn't prove effective initially, Daniels must scramble out of trouble and keep the defense guessing. That should open up passing lanes and provide more space for Benjamin. On defense, the Sun Devils need to bring heavy pressure throughout. The Wildcat offensive line is down three starters and lacks chemistry, a weakness ASU needs to exploit. Bringing four defensive lineman should allow them to penetrate the backfield, with linebacker blitzes producing sacks or tackles-for-loss. Following their upset of Oregon last week, Herm Edwards’ squad also needs to guard against being over-confident, and play disciplined, avoiding personal-foul penalties.

What Happens on the Field

Historically, the Territorial Cup has produced more than its share of shocking upsets, outright chokes, and last-second victories, making fools of expert and amateur prognosticators alike. The only truly surprising result would be Arizona winning in a blowout. Most likely, ASU jumps to an early lead and never looks back. The Wildcats won't be able to contain Benjamin, allowing Daniels and Aiyuk to record career passing and receiving performances. Don't be surprised if the Cats make a furious and valiant comeback effort late in the second half, but it will fall well short in the fourth quarter. The Devils win by two touchdowns or more.

Notes: The Wildcats lead the all-time series 49-42-1, but lost last year's matchup after giving up 19 fourth-quarter points in an ASU comeback. Since the teams joined the Pac-10/12, Arizona leads the series 21-19-1, but ASU is 6-4 over the last ten. The Wildcats last won in Tempe in 2011. ASU has held opponents to under 155 yards rushing in 10 games this year. Wildcat starting linebackers accounted for 32 tackles against Utah, with Anthony Pandy posting a career-high 11, Tony Fields II adding 11, and Colin Schooler 10. The Sun Devils rank 18th nationally in turnover margin.



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California (3-5, 6-5) at UCLA (4-4, 4-7)


Saturday, November 30
7:30 p.m. PT, FS1
Rose Bowl, Pasadena, CA

Straight-Up: Cal in a Close Win
Against the Spread: Cal (+1.5)

By Kamron Azemika

What the Golden Bears Must Do to Win

Cal needs to replicate its defensive performance of last week and keep the score low to avoid getting into a shootout with Dorian Thompson-Robinson and Chip Kelly's offense. That won't be as easy against the high-octane Bruins as it was against a banged-up and short-handed Stanford squad. Offensively, the Bears can't rely solely on the legs of quarterback Chase Garbers; nor can they afford for him to get injured again. Fortunately, Chris Brown Jr. is close to getting back to full health, and could be a major factor in the contest. Having become bowl-eligible with its win over the Cardinal, Cal is hoping to move up in the standings while fighting for a more prestigious bowl bid and the assurance of a winning season. A second productive offensive performance in a row would represent a significant step forward in the evolution of offensive coordinator Beau Baldwin's system, which has been rendered inconsistent this season by injuries at multiple positions.

What the Bruins Must Do to Win

UCLA needs to win the strength-on-strength matchups through the air against Cal. The Bruin passing attack must continue to lead the way, despite facing one of the more talented defensive secondaries they’ve seen this year. A solid performance from Demetric Felton, both on the ground and catching the ball out of the backfield will be key. His presence as a checkdown receiver creates coverage problems, requiring help from the linebackers. Defensively, UCLA must contain Garbers and keep Brown from getting loose. The Bruin rush defense has been their strong suit, and that needs to continue. However, the best defense for the Bruins has often been a good offense, and they can't revert to the conservative play-calling that plagued them early in the season. UCLA's prospects of bowl-eligibility were dashed last week, so this game will serve as a character-check to see if the Bruins will fight for the sake of fighting, out of pride, with the prospect of future improvement. 

What Happens on the Field

UCLA will have to earn its rushing yards against Cal. Big plays won't come easy through the air, either. Pressure at the line of scrimmage will require the mobile Thompson-Robinson to escape regularly. The Bruin passing attack will click for the most part, but stall on key drives. Cal's offense will generate its share of productive plays, but won't put up a lot of points. In the end, it will fall on the Golden Bear defense to win the game, as it so often has, and the unit that bears coach Justin Wilcox's stamp will once again be up to the task. Cal wins this one 28-21.  

Notes: UCLA leads the all-time series 54-33-1, and has won four of the last five meetings. Cal inside linebacker Evan Weaver leads the nation in total tackles with 164 on the season, ranking him second in school history. UCLA running back Joshua Kelley ranks second in the conference in rushing with 984 yards. Sophomore defensive back Stephen Blaylock leads UCLA in tackles with 78. Cal is bowl eligible in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2008 and 2009. Bruin receiver Kyle Philips had a career-high 12 receptions for a career-best 123 yards last week.

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