It’s time for another Saturday of Pac-12 football. Here’s a look at this weekend’s slate of games:
USC at California, 12 p.m., FOX
Trivia question: When’s the last time the Trojans beat the Golden Bears? Answer: a game in which Aaron Rodgers was benched. That’s right, USC has beaten Cal 11 straight times, and the last Bears victory came in a 2003 triple-overtime thriller in which Reggie Robertson relieved Rodgers in the second half. Yeah, that was a long time ago.
Can Cal break its long hex against the Trojans this year? They’re underdogs again, but they do expect to return a fully healthy Daniel Lasco, whose presence at running back can help stabilize an offense that’s struggled unexpectedly so far. When it comes to scoring, believe it or not, the Bears actually ranked ninth in conference play (28.0 ppg). If they sputter again Saturday while not receiving the benefit of any turnovers, expect Cody Kessler and USC’s clicking arsenal to roll. This game will be all about setting an early tone.
Colorado at UCLA, 12 p.m., Pac-12 Network
Last week at Oregon State, the Buffs won their first conference game since 2013. But now the going gets considerably more difficult. The Bruins appear to have at least partially righted the ship following a rough two-game slide against Arizona State and UCLA. Josh Rosen should have a chance to continue to build on his 399-yard momentum of a week prior against a less-than-stellar Colorado defense. UCLA, though, isn’t at 100 percent on that side of the ball, either. Maybe the Buffs will have some room to do damage in this one, but they’ll likely have to accomplish that on the ground -- the Bruins’ 5.5 yards allowed per pass attempt leads the Pac-12 by a significant margin.
Oregon State at Utah, 4 p.m., Pac-12 Network
The unenviable label of “Pac-12’s worst team” has been slapped onto the Beavers following their home loss to Colorado. Now, they get to play one of the league’s best clubs, and the Utes probably won’t be too pleased following a bitter defeat at USC last week. Oregon State’s biggest problem here is their lack of offensive firepower: They sit in the conference cellar when it comes to scoring and passing, and the path won’t get any easier for Seth Collins and Co. against the Utes. On the other side, Kyle Whittingham’s focus should be on a return to clean football: Travis Wilson threw four interceptions against the Trojans, and Utah needs the good version of their quarterback to hold onto their Pac-12 South lead down the stretch. The interesting subplot of this story involves the return of Oregon State defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake, who was an integral part of Whittingham’s staff in Salt Lake City just last year.
Stanford at Washington State, 7:30 p.m., ESPN
The league’s two best offenses square off on what could be a rainy Halloween night in the Palouse. We’ll see which rebuilding defense is better. Washington State has been porous against the run -- they’ve allowed 203.9 yards per game -- so this could potentially become ugly against a Stanford offense that’s been a juggernaut on the ground. If the Cougars can’t neutralize Christian McCaffrey's bunch, it’ll be up to Luke Falk's arm to keep them in the hunt for an upset win. Stanford’s pass rush has struggled this year and the Air Raid is clicking, so a shootout certainly seems possible -- but keep an eye on those weather conditions, because they could turn this into a more ground-heavy game. Also, the Cardinal appear to have a distinct advantage on special teams: Washington State has already allowed four return touchdowns, so hold your breath whenever McCaffrey fields a kick.
Arizona at Washington, 8 p.m., Fox Sports 1
The Wildcats have been all over the map this year. The Huskies haven’t been consistently good, either, but we do seem to be getting an idea of what Chris Petersen’s team is about: Young quarterback, emerging rushing attack, and solid defense. Those last two variables have made the Huskies slight favorites in this game. Freshman running back Myles Gaskin has posted three straight 100-yard games with at least 6.0 yards per carry in each, while Washington’s defense still leads the Pac-12 in important categories (18.9 points per game, 5.0 yards per play).
Though they’ve played erratically, Arizona leads the conference at 6.5 yards per rush, so this is actually a match-up between the league’s best ground attack and its top run defense (Washington is allowing only 3.2 yards per carry). The winner of that pairing will have the decided upper hand in this one, so keep an eye on Wildcats co-quarterback Jerrard Randall, whose legs have been put to effective use.