Dane Miller’s 2022 Week 8 SuperWest Football Previews

A road victory over Oregon would make the Pac-12-leading Bruins legitimate Playoff contenders

Posted on October 20, 2022

  By Dane Miller, SuperWest Sports

Week Eight in the SuperWest has potential to define the season for several teams.

Undefeated No. 9 UCLA heads to Eugene with ESPN’s College GameDay in attendance to battle No. 10 Oregon. A road victory would make the Bruins a legitimate Playoff contender and put Chip Kelly into National Coach of the Year consideration.

Kicking off at the same time, BYU faces a substantial test on the road at Liberty. Later in the day, Boise State and Air Force do battle in what might be the top Mountain West game of the year.

I preview all eight games here, and the picks of our Senior Writers and Broadcasters appear at the bottom.

No. 9 UCLA at No. 10 OregonOregon Ducks Logo Pac-12

Saturday, October 22
12:30 pm PT, FOX

Chip Kelly returns to Autzen Stadium with a team capable of taking down the Ducks.

Dorian Thompson-Robinson is in top form and Zach Charbonnet is arguably the No. 1 running back in the Pac-12.

But it’s new defensive coordinator Bill McGovern that has pushed the program to the next level. He schemed up the blueprint to stopping Washington’s potent offense and held Utah’s powerful group in check.

UCLA has added several transfers on defense that have contributed, too, headlined by linebacker Darius Muasau.

Yet, this is Autzen Stadium, not a half-empty Rose Bowl.

Oregon RB Bucky Irving runs for a TD vs Arizona | Rick Scuteri/AP

The Bruins may have notched respectable wins in L.A. over ranked opponents, but putting it together on the road is a different animal.

The matchup in Eugene is only UCLA’s second road game of the season, and the first was against Colorado.

The home crowd will certainly play a role in pivotal moments, although the Oregon offense will still need to do its job.

In that sense, Bo Nix is arguably the deciding factor. If he plays poorly, the Ducks could struggle. But if he plays well, it’s hard to see UO losing at home.

Look for the Oregon offense to try and establish Nix on the ground to help open lanes for its traditional ground game. If the quarterback keepers aren’t working, the Ducks might not score enough points to keep up with Kelly’s offense.

BYU at Liberty

Saturday, October 22
12:30 pm PT, ESPNU

Kalani Sitake brings his struggling defense to Lynchburg, Virginia to face off against a capable Liberty roster.

Led by Hugh Freeze, the Flames operate an offense that skews towards the run. With a roughly 6-to-4 run-pass split, the Cougar defense faces another ground-based challenge.

Running backs Dae Hunter and Shedro Louis have combined for 12 rushing touchdowns and over 1,000 yards of total offense.

But unlike Arkansas last week, Liberty has quarterback problems. Current starter Johnathan Bennett is only completing 50.5 percent of his passes and has thrown the same amount of interceptions (6) as touchdowns.

Backup Kaidon Salter didn’t play any better earlier in the year, throwing five interceptions to just six touchdowns.

BYU wide receiver Kody Epps had 9 catches for 125 yds vs Arkansas | BYU Athletics

Utah transfer Charlie Brewer broke his hand in the first game of the season and hasn’t played since, although Freeze hasn’t ruled him out for the matchup.

That’s likely just gamesmanship, setting the table for the BYU defense to make amends.

There’s little doubt Jaren Hall and the Cougar offense has the firepower to score points on the Flames. The question is: Can Sitake’s defense hold Liberty in check?

Forcing interceptions is a clear objective against a struggling quarterback and promises to be high on BYU’s game plan.

But if the Cougar defense doesn’t create turnovers and is unable to hamper the Flames’ passing offense, another embarrassing loss could be in the cards.

Arizona State at Stanford

Saturday, October 22
1:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

The starting quarterback job at Arizona State is reportedly staying in Emory Jones’s hands.

At least for the first few series. Interim head coach Shaun Aguano has publicly stated that injury won’t be the reason Jones loses the role, while also making it clear that he’s going to play the quarterback that puts them in the best position to win.

Reading between the lines, Jones is on a short leash.

Backup Trenton Bourguet rallied the team to victory against Washington two weeks ago and is primed to do it again.

But whichever quarterback leads the ASU offense, he will have to contend with an improved Cardinal defense.

David Shaw’s group has put together back-to-back games with noticeable improvement. Safety Jonathan McGill is fresh off his Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week honor and corner Kyu Blu Kelly had his top game of the season on Saturday.

Stanford S Jonathan McGill recovers a fumble vs Notre Dame | Nam Y. Huh/AP

The Stanford secondary will need to be prepared to face both quarterbacks, with Bourguet presenting a greater passing threat and Jones creating a threat to run.

On the other side of the ball, the Tree face an Arizona State defense that has struggled. Allowing 30.2 points per game, the Sun Devils have yet to hold an FBS team to fewer than 30 points.

With ASU decimated in the secondary over the offseason, Stanford’s Tanner McKee projects to have a strong night against the unit.

But, as always with Stanford over the past few seasons, the ground game holds the key. If Casey Filkins efficiently eclipses 100 yards rushing, Shaw has to like his chances.

Fresno State at New Mexico

Saturday, October 22
3:30 pm PT, FS2

Logan Fife secured the first win of his career last weekend and heads to Albuquerque hoping to replicate it on the road.

Jake Haener’s status remains doubtful for the matchup, with Jeff Tedford continuing to describe his condition as “Week to week.”

That’s code for, “He’s not ready yet,” and sets the table for another opportunity for Fife. The redshirt freshman threw the first touchdown of his career in his maiden win, while throwing for a career-high 230 yards passing.

Bulldog WR Nikko Remigio hurdles a SJSU defender | Gary Kazanjian/AP

Yet, it was Fresno State’s defense that won the game, and the Bulldogs’ “D” will once against be the catalyst in the Duke City.

The Lobos operate a run-heavy option predicated on quarterback keeps. Miles Kendrick is tied for first on the team in rushing attempts, on par with primary running back Nathaniel Jones.

Containing the option is always a challenge, but Kendrick has thrown seven interceptions to just three touchdowns. Generating turnovers when New Mexico throws the ball promises to be an emphasis of the FSU game plan.

And with a young Fresno quarterback that has struggled to put up points, the outcome of the game rests on Tedford’s defense.

Boise State at Air Force

Saturday, October 22
4:00 pm PT, CBS Sports Network

In one of the top matchups in the Mountain West this season, Boise State travels to Colorado Springs to take on Air Force.

Tasked with slowing down the Falcons’ option, Andy Avalos’ defense faces its steepest challenge yet. Wyoming and Navy produced the tape on how to properly defend it, establishing a form for Avalos to copy.

Identifying what those two programs did to limit Air Force is one matter, but reproducing it is a different ball game. Similar to other option run offenses, the play calling tends to be somewhat narrow and repetitive.

But the beauty of the scheme is the number of options available on any given play and the synchronized adjustments to the looks the defense is giving.

Bronco QB Taylen Green will face a tough test vs Air Force | Boise State Athletics

The ball goes where the opposing personnel are schematically weakest, creating an unstoppable monster when executed properly. It’s an extraordinary challenge for Boise State to slow down.

With limited offensive possessions to score points, the Broncos can’t have empty trips. Taylen Green might need to be aggressive in RPO plays, keeping the ball and hitting the holes quickly.

Going for it on fourth down is arguably a must, too, due to the Falcons’ projected time of possession advantage.

If Boise State can keep Air Force under 20 points, Green and the Bronco running backs should move the ball effectively enough to win the game.

Colorado at Oregon State

Saturday, October 22
5:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

Owen McCown’s status is up in the air after the true freshman was injured against California.

Backup J.T. Shrout stepped in to lead CU to victory, but McCown is arguably the engine that has sparked the Buffs’ resurgence.

No matter which quarterback gets the nod, the challenge Oregon State’s secondary presents is immense.

Arguably the top secondary in the Pac-12, the group creates turnovers and is No. 1 in the league in pass efficiency defense.

Beaver QB Ben Gulbranson to start again vs Colorado | AP Photo

Throwing the ball will be risky, but interim head coach Mike Sanford probably won’t back down.

In a game they aren’t projected to be competitive in, Sanford may throw caution to the wind and test the OSU defensive backs from the onset. Shrout has an arm capable of making difficult throws, but decision-making will be key.

On the other sideline, Chance Nolan remains out due to concussion protocol. That allows Ben Gulbranson another start, this time with bowl eligibility up for grabs.

Prior to the California game, the Buffaloes were the worst run defense in the nation. And unlike the Bears, Jonathan Smith promises to exploit that weakness.

Look for OSU to pound the ball all game and effectively utilize play-action to produce strikes downfield.

San Diego State at Nevada

Saturday, October 22
7:30 pm PT, CBS Sports Network

Brady Hoke and the struggling Aztec offense head to Reno in a bellwether game for the rest of their year.

Braxton Burmeister has reportedly transitioned to wide receiver and converted safety Jalen Mayden is taking over at quarterback.

The drastic position changes midseason are indicative of the offensive problems San Diego State has faced this year.

The Aztecs haven’t breached 17 points in a single game since facing FCS Idaho State in Week Two. Mayden could change that on Saturday, but SDSU has struggled even more on the road.

Averaging just 10.0 points per game in their two away contests, it’s fair to wonder if Hoke’s team will score more than one offensive touchdown.

Miss St. transfer Jalen Mayden to get the start at QB for the Aztecs | SDSU Athletics

Yet, Nevada’s defense gives up points. FCS Incarnate Word put up 55 on the Wolfpack, while Air Force lopped 48. Even Iowa’s incapable offense scored 27.

And fortunately for the Aztecs, Nevada struggles to stop the run. Ken Wilson’s team is 110th in the FBS in run defense, presenting an opportunity for SDSU to take advantage.

Mayden is a strong passer and the gameplan could skew more towards the air, but it would be odd if Hoke didn’t exploit Nevada’s weakness.

Look for San Diego State’s defense to step up and will the program to victory in an ugly game.

Washington at California

Saturday, October 22
7:30 pm PT, ESPN

With bowl eligibility up for grabs, Kalen DeBoer and the Washington offense travel to Berkeley to face a reeling California roster.

The Bears’ defeat to Colorado was undisputedly embarrassing. Justin Wilcox’s defense played well enough to secure the win, but the Cal offense was laughingly ineffective.

Starting quarterback Jack Plummer is reportedly dealing with an injury, but that’s no excuse for under-utilizing Jaydn Ott.

Regardless of what happened last week, the Husky defense doesn’t present a substantial challenge.

Opponents are putting up 41.3 points per game over the last three contests, and the Dawgs have yet to hold an FBS team to fewer than 20 points.

Cal LB Jackson Sirmon will face his former team Saturday | Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY Sports

The defensive issues are covered up, though, by an elite offense. Apart from the first three quarters of the UCLA game, DeBoer’s system has been deadly.

Predicated on pre-snap movement and getting receivers into open space, the Bears figure to utilize zone to keep Washington’s offense contained.

The onus is on Michael Penix Jr. to take care of the ball. Turnovers could change the momentum of the game, giving Cal hope if the score is close.

But if the Huskies win or draw the turnover battle, they should find enough success on offense to win the game.

Game Picks from our Senior Writers and Broadcasters

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