Posted on October 28, 2022
The slate kicks off with a test for BYU at home and ends with a showdown in the Mountain West on Saturday night.
Without a marquee matchup, the two most-watched games might be BYU-East Carolina and Stanford-UCLA. But Oregon faces California for an early afternoon kickoff that might draw some eyes, too.
I preview all seven games here, and the picks of our senior writers and broadcasters appear at the bottom.
No. 8 Oregon at California
Saturday, October 29
12:30 pm PT, FS1
The trio have the pieces in place along the offensive line and skill positions to make a legitimate case for the Playoff.
Coming from the SEC, they each know the importance of winning out and keeping the pedal to the floor.
The result should be a laser-focused Oregon team that doesn’t miss a beat.
The California offense has been inept this year, held back by an outdated offensive scheme and an O-Line that is among the bottom of the Pac-12. Jaydn Ott is a dangerous running back, but the problems in the trenches are too much to overcome.
Jack Plummer has been sacked 23 times this season and the Bear offense is No. 117 in the nation in sacks allowed per game.
Yet, Oregon’s defense hasn’t put up numbers that scare Justin Wilcox. The Ducks are 98th in tackles for loss per game and 83rd in sacks per contest.
The analytics indicate there’s a slight chance for California to take advantage of certain situations, although it would be a shock if the Bears pulled off the upset.
If anything, this matchup is probably a “get right” game for the Oregon defense to begin taking steps forward.
No. 10 USC at Arizona
Saturday, October 29
4:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network
Arizona has given up 49 points to three of its last four Conference opponents and might surrender 60 to USC on Saturday.
The Wildcats have a history of posting upset victories on Homecoming, but there’s little to no hope of hampering Lincoln Riley’s scheme.
With such an ineffective defense, the only way for Arizona to win would be to score touchdowns on virtually every possession.
Turnovers and punts will kill any momentum the Cats are able to generate, requiring Jayden de Laura to be in top form.
But the Trojans are No. 9 in the country at forcing TO’s and figure to bring pressure on de Laura to create mistakes. The sophomore has thrown seven interceptions this year, often when playing from behind and trying to make a play.
That makes the first and second quarters pivotal.
If the Cats generate stops early and convert the possessions into touchdowns, the UA offense has the firepower to maintain the advantage.
On the other hand, if the USC defense forces early punts and marches down the field for six, the game could be all but over by halftime.
Colorado State at Boise State
Saturday, October 29
4:00 pm PT, FS1
The crowd at Albertsons Stadium promises to be lively with Taylen Green arguably single-handedly turning the Broncos’ season around.
Just the fourth home game of the year, the matchup with lowly Colorado State is a bridge game to the showdown with BYU next week.
Andy Avalos’s team may be overlooking the Rams, yet CSU doesn’t have a strong enough offense to pull off the upset. Jay Norvell’s team puts up just 12.9 points per game and his quarterback has thrown nearly as many interceptions (4) as touchdowns (5).
The Rams have yet to score more than 19 points in a game and have been held to 10 points or less three times.
In a matchup like this, staying healthy and keeping questionable players off the field is the primary goal.
Running backs George Holani and Ashton Jeanty have been battling injuries over the past two games, potentially setting the table for Utah State transfer Elelyon Noa to carry the load.
And even though Green is a capable runner, if his two primary backs aren’t able to play the game plan could once again be focused on the air.
Arizona State at Colorado
Saturday, October 29
4:30 pm PT, ESPNU
Trenton Bourguet’s sample size is limited, yet the ineffectiveness of Jones in the second half against Stanford can’t be overlooked.
A wildcard in the quarterback battle, though, is the implementation of new playcalling and an up-tempo style.
Aguano has taken over the playcalling duties from offensive coordinator Glenn Thomas and is reportedly expanding the scope of the offense.
Expected to play more up-tempo, the new principals arguably favor Jones’s style of play. The result could be another matchup with Jones under center and a second chance at keeping the job.
In the opposing quarterback room, Colorado quarterback Owen McCown’s status is doubtful. After sustaining an injury against California, the heart and soul of CU’s re-energized roster is unlikely to play.
That leaves JT Shrout to handle the Arizona State secondary.
The ASU defensive backs are nowhere near the caliber of Oregon State, but the group kept Tanner McKee and the Cardinal out of the end zone.
However, one of the keys to a potential Buffaloes’ upset is the effectiveness of its ground game.
The Buffs ran for only 84 yards rushing last week and are 113th in the FBS in rushing offense. If CU has a stronger-than-expected day running the ball, Shrout has the capability to lead the team to an upset.
Stanford at No. 12 UCLA
Saturday, October 29
7:30 pm PT, ESPN
The Tree are on a two-game winning streak and have done it on the back of an improved defense.
Yet, the opponents employed struggling offenses and the wins may have been overvalued. Facing a competent scheme and personnel for the first time in four games, Stanford could fall behind quickly.
And making matters worse, Tanner McKee hasn’t thrown a touchdown in the last two weeks while being whittled down to his third-string running back.
Reportedly out for the rest of the season, Casey Filkins suffered an arm injury against Arizona State last weekend. Combined with the loss of E.J. Smith earlier this year, the Cardinal offense is in trouble.
The resulting storyline creates an emphasis on Bill McGovern’s defense. For the first time this year, McGovern’s group was exposed and unable to contain an opposing offense.
Whether or not the 45 points surrendered damages the confidence of the staff and players remains to be seen.
But matched up with a struggling Stanford offense without its top two running backs, it’s fair to expect UCLA to limit the Tree to 14 points or less.
San Diego State at Fresno State
Saturday, October 29
7:30 pm PT, FS1
Injuries have damaged Fresno State’s campaign, while offensive issues have hindered San Diego State’s year. The results are two programs that limp into the matchup with the trajectories of their season at stake.
Whichever winds up with the victory will probably make a bowl game and could win all the remaining games on their schedule.
Jake Haener’s status is doubtful, leaving freshman Logan Fife the keys to the car once again.
He faces an Aztec defense that’s been inconsistent. The group gave up 38 to Arizona, 35 to Utah, and 35 to Boise State, but held Toledo, Hawaii, and Nevada to two touchdowns or less.
Fife may be coming off the most productive game of his career, yet the SDSU defense is exponentially stronger than New Mexico’s.
It’s a toss-up, but the advantage may slightly favor the Aztec defense.
That potentially makes the game-deciding matchup the battle between the Bulldog defense and Brady Hoke’s struggling offense.
The Fresno State “D” has played well the last two games and isn’t facing an offense that is much stronger than what its last two opponents fielded.
The result could be a low-scoring game where turnovers determine the winner.
Final: East Carolina 27, BYU 24
Friday, October 28
5:00 pm PT, ESPN2
The Cougar defense hasn’t been able to stop anyone this year, slotting in at No. 109 in the FBS in scoring defense with 31.6 points allowed per game.
The Pirates bring in a fairly balanced attack, running the ball roughly 45 percent of the time.
But it’s the ECU passing attack that’s deadly.
Quarterback Holton Ahlers has thrown for 2,435 yards and 18 touchdowns in eight games. Averaging 8.2 yards per attempt, the fifth-year senior spreads the ball around to three primary targets.
Wide receivers Isaiah Winstead and C.J. Johnson have combined for over 1,400 yards receiving and 11 touchdowns.
Tight end Ryan Jones is the third go-to option, snagging 33 catches on the season for 344 yards and four touchdowns.
And with a potent primary running back in Keaton Mitchell, the Pirates have an offense more than capable of securing the win.
Tripling the threat, Ahlers is mobile enough to get out of trouble and has three rushing touchdowns to his name.
The Pirates may not have the strongest defense BYU has faced this year, but if this matchup turns into a track meet the Cougars might be in trouble.
To secure the win, BYU must contain the ECU passing game and force the Pirates to beat them on the ground.
Game Picks from our Senior Writers and Broadcasters
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