Affiliate Disclosure This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through them, we may earn a commission.

Dane Miller’s 2023 Week 2 Pac-12 Football Previews

Several teams have impactful matchups that could continue to move the needle forward

Posted on September 8, 2023


  By Dane Miller, SuperWest Sports

The Pac-12 enters Week Two of the College Football season with half of its teams ranked in the AP Top 25.

The strong start, however, could be meaningless if it is not sustained. Several teams have impactful matchups that could continue to move the needle forward.

Colorado hosts Nebraska, Utah travels to Baylor, Oregon plays Texas Tech, and Washington State hosts Wisconsin, just to name a few.

I preview all 11 games here and the picks of our writers and broadcasters appear at the bottom.

Nebraska at No. 22 Colorado

Saturday, September 9
9:00 am PT, Fox

Shedeur Sanders and the Colorado offense rolled in Fort Worth.

Facing an arguably weaker opponent in Boulder, the Buffs look to replicate the firepower. Offensive coordinator Sean Lewis’s system was executed to perfection and there’s no sign of it changing against Nebraska.

The CU defense should be less threatened by the Cornhusker offense, too.

Operating a run-first system, the Big Ten opponent managed to score just 10 points in the opener. Nebraska’s leading rusher was its quarterback, Jeff Sims, creating a relatively straightforward game plan.

Colorado won the last meeting in 2019 | Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

As long as the Buffs keep Sims contained on the ground, the Cornhusker “O” should be limited. But, if Sims is able to bust substantial runs on the ground, the Nebraska passing game will be opened up and become more effective.

Still, the performance of the Colorado defense might not matter so much. If the opener against TCU is any indication, the Buffs will win games by putting up an avalanche of points.

Nebraska’s defense limited Minnesota to just 196 yards passing, but the scheme CU runs is far more advanced.

Look for Sanders to dice up the Cornhuskers with chunk plays from high-tempo RPO’s that get the Colorado receivers and running backs into open space.

No. 12 Utah at Baylor

Saturday, September 9
9:00 am PT, ESPN

The status of Cam Rising is up in the air.

But Baylor will be without their starting quarterback, too, after Blake Shapen suffered an MCL injury in the opener. Sawyer Robertson will take over for the Bears and make the first start of his career.

A transfer from Mississippi State, the redshirt sophomore quarterback will have to contend with Utah’s vaunted defense.

Dealing with injuries of their own, the Utes must get pressure to slow down Baylor’s pass-happy scheme. The future Big 12 opponent attempted 44 passes in their opener while posting just 108 yards on the ground.

This is the first game vs. Baylor for WR Money Parks & the Utes | Rick Bowmer/AP

That should bode well for Utah’s experienced secondary.

But, the key to securing the win figures to come down to UU’s offensive output. Bryson Barnes and Nate Johnson were shaky in the second half against Florida.

The duo managed to score just once in the final two quarters and the offense ground to a halt.

That can’t be repeated against a Baylor offensive scheme that should be stronger than what Florida ran. The Utah rushing attack, in particular, will need to be more effective than the 105 yards it put up at home.

As long as the Utes are effective running the ball, their offense should put up enough points while its “D” keeps Baylor in check.

Tulsa at No. 19 WashingtonWashington football pac-12

Saturday, September 9
2:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

Kalen DeBoer’s offense looks to continue its dominance against Tulsa. Dissecting Boise State last weekend, UW could realistically put up 70 against the Golden Hurricanes.

No opponent has been able to contain Washington’s system since DeBoer arrived in town. The fewest points the Huskies have scored is 24 and the team has put up 35 points or more in 10 of the 14 games played.

Tulsa starting quarterback Braylon Braxton left last week’s game with an injury, but not before throwing two picks. His replacement, redshirt freshman Cardell Williams, completed 13 of 14 passes for three touchdowns.

Huskies host Tulsa after a big win over Boise State | Alika Jenner/Getty Images

How that translates against UW’s untested secondary remains to be seen, but Hurricane head coach Kevin Wilson is a proven offensive mind, having honed his chops over the past five seasons as the OC at Ohio State.

Still, this isn’t the Arkansas-Pine Bluff defense and the game is not in Oklahoma.

The key to watch is the performance of William Inge’s defense, which should be able to generate at least two turnovers and limit Hurricane rusher Jordan Ford, who gained 110 yards on 19 carries last week.

Look for Washington to pile on the points in Seattle while keeping Tulsa under 21.

Oregon Ducks Logo Pac-12No. 13 Oregon at Texas Tech

Saturday, September 9
4:00 pm PT, Fox

After Texas Tech dropped a double-overtime game on the road to Wyoming last week, the expectations for Oregon to dismantle the Red Raiders are high.

It’s never easy to win on the road, but a team with Playoff expectations doesn’t lose to a program fresh off a loss to Wyoming.

For most college football fans in America, the matchup on Fox will be their first look at the Ducks after UO was tucked away on the Pac-12 Network for Week One.

This is the 1st game between UO & TT since 1992 | Troy Wayrynen/USA TODAY Sports

Will Stein’s offense put up 81 on Portland State and enters Lubbock smelling blood in the water. The Red Raiders will be without starting linebacker Jacob Rodriguez and figure to struggle to contain Bo Nix.

With weapons at every position, the Ducks should show the Big 12 opponent what the Pac-12 is all about.

The key to the game, though, might come down to Oregon’s defense. Texas Tech is led by former Duck quarterback Tyler Shough and operates an offense predicated on the pass.

As long as the Ducks limit big plays through the air, Dan Lanning’s group should get the job done.

Arizona football Pac-12Arizona at Mississippi State

Saturday, September 9
4:30 pm PT, SEC Network

Arizona’s rebuilt defensive line will go toe-to-toe with Mississippi State’s offensive line.

The Wildcats were unable to do much against the Bulldog’s front line last season and quarterback Will Rogers made them pay.

But the UA unit has been rebuilt with transfers and fields depth that it didn’t have in last year’s matchup.

Getting pressure on the veteran quarterback will be key.

Yet, Mississippi State is utilizing a more balanced attack under new head coach Zach Arnett, and keeping the MSU running backs contained will be just as important.

UA travels to Starkville to avenge last year’s loss | Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports

On the other side of the ball, Jayden de Laura figures to have his hands full with Mississippi State’s linebacking corps. Led by two fifth-year seniors, the Bulldog linebackers should make plays in both the passing and run games.

Still, Arizona has a stronger offensive line this season and a quarterback far more comfortable with the scheme. The bellwether for the Wildcats’ success figures to be their rushing attack.

If UA is able to create chunk plays on the ground, de Laura should be given enough time to find open wide receivers downfield.

That might not matter, though, if Rogers is given all day to run the offense. An upset isn’t out of the question, but Arizona will need a stellar performance from its defensive line to get the job done.

UCLA at San Diego State

Saturday, September 9
4:30 pm PT, CBS

Until UCLA gets its quarterback situation fully resolved, the keys to winning will rest primarily on the shoulders of defensive coordinator D’Anton Lynn.

Facing an arguably more straightforward opponent in Week Two, the Bruin defense should shine.

San Diego State’s offense rises and falls with the production of quarterback Jalen Mayden. If the converted safety is able to make plays on the ground, the Aztec offense is effective.

But, if teams contain his threat to run and force Mayden to beat them through the air, SDSU inevitably struggles to put up points.

That’s easier said than done, but there’s plenty of game film to study and build a plan around. Lynn’s NFL pedigree should shine through at Snapdragon Stadium with Laiatu Latu and the defensive line having a productive night.

SDSU upset UCLA in Pasadena in 2019 | Tanmay Shankar/Daily Bruin

The other side of the ball is a slightly different story.

Dante Moore was more effective running the offense than Ethan Garbers, yet Chip Kelly still may rotate his quarterbacks.

Whoever gets the majority of the snaps must contend with the Aztec secondary that’s 29th nationally in passing efficiency defense.

As long as the Bruins are able to open up the pass with an effective ground game, Lynn’s defense should create interceptions and keep SDSU out of the end zone enough to secure the win.

No. 19 Wisconsin at Washington State

Saturday, September 9
4:30 pm PT, ABC

Ben Arbuckle’s offense gets its first test of the season with a matchup against a Big Ten defense.

Wisconsin gave up 17 points to Buffalo in the opener but held the Bulls to 2-for-15 on third down. The key to beating the Badgers, though, could be limiting turnovers.

The Badgers have two productive running backs and figure to have a time-of-possession advantage while converting their drives into points.

Any extra possessions would double the difficulty of climbing out of an early hole and play directly into the hands of Wisconsin’s game plan.

WSU upset Wisconsin in Madison in 2022 | WSU Athletics

At the same time, the Wazzu defense could change the game by generating interceptions.

Wisconsin quarterback Tanner Mordecai has thrown 24 picks over the last two seasons and Jake Dickert’s group is known for creating TOs.

That’s a dangerous combination for a Badger team playing on the road.

The Wisconsin defense will be tested by Arbuckle’s pass-heavy scheme, as well. There are questions surrounding the Badger secondary and Cam Ward could feast.

If there’s any upset potential in the Pac-12 this weekend, this game in Pullman has to be at the top of the list.

UC Davis at No. 16 Oregon State

Saturday, September 9
6:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

DJ Uiagalelei and the Oregon State offensive line take the field for the home opener against UC Davis.

Buy-games such as this one are injury traps that may as well not be played. But, the schedule is what the schedule is, and the game should provide some opportunities for players lower on the depth chart.

Damien Martinez and Deshaun Fenwick should have strong games on the ground with Uiagalelei finding open targets out of play action.

The result figures to be an easy, lopsided victory that doesn’t really prove anything about Oregon State this season.

DJU had five touchdowns in his opening game for OSU | Josie Lepe/AP

One potential storyline to watch, however, is backup quarterback Aiden Chiles. Assuming the Beavs have the game blown out by halftime, Chiles should see some substantial snaps in the second half.

It’s unknown how long Uiagalelei will stay in Corvallis, but the future seems to be in the hands of Chiles for the long run.

The game could provide a peek into his talents and acumen running Jonathan Smith’s offense. Regardless, Oregon State should roll and leave with an easy win.

Auburn at California

Saturday, September 9
7:30 pm PT, ESPN

This is not the Auburn Football program of old.

The Tigers are 17-19 over the last three seasons and haven’t finished the year above .500 since 2020.

Hugh Freeze was brought in to turn the program around, starting his tenure off on the right foot with a 59-14 drumming of Massachusetts.

Using a run-based offense, the Tigers should be able to somewhat limit California’s strength in the secondary. Yet, the Bears held North Texas to just 41 yards rushing and zero touchdowns on the ground.

Cal RB Jaydn Ott ran for 188 yards vs. North Texas | Pac-12.com

Whether or not the efficiency of the run defense was more attributable to the quality of the opponent Cal faced is yet to be determined.

However, Justin Wilcox’s identity as a head coach has been quality defenses and he should have a strong game plan to defend Auburn’s attack.

Assuming the battle between the Tiger offense and Bear defense is somewhat of a wash, the key figures to come down to the production of Jake Spavital’s offense.

California exceeded expectations by putting up 58 against UNT and the Bears have one of the top rushing offenses in the Pac-12.

If Jaydn Ott has a strong game on the ground, Cal could pull off the upset at home.

Oklahoma State at Arizona State

Saturday, September 9
7:30 pm PT, FS1

Oklahoma State comes to Tempe for a matchup between future Big 12 foes.

The Sun Devils did not look right in the opener for a myriad of potential reasons. But the dust storm, lightning delay, and all its corresponding consequences in Week One don’t matter facing the Cowboys.

Entering the game with a quarterback controversy, OK State faces an experienced secondary that is the strength of the Arizona State defense.

Under such circumstances, there’s arguably a greater emphasis on Oklahoma State’s run game.

ASU freshman QB Jaden Rashada gets his 2nd start vs Okla St | Arizona Sports

The Cowboys ran for 149 yards in the opener but didn’t have any player exceed 50 yards rushing.

If ASU is able to keep Oklahoma State’s running backs under control, the Sun Devil secondary and defensive line should make it a long game for the Big 12 program.

On the flip side, if OK State moves the ball effectively on the ground, the passing game will open up and put the Sun Devils into a tough spot.

On offense, Jaden Rashada has to limit his mistakes. Turnovers could be game-changers and might not be overcome with chunk plays. Game management from Kenny Dillingham could play an oversized role, too.

If the Sun Devils are aggressive in their fourth down decisions, it could come back to bite them and cost them the game.

Stanford at No. 6 USCusc logo

Saturday, September 9
7:30 pm PT, Fox

The Cardinal played better than expected in Hawaii, but USC is not the Rainbow Warriors.

Fielding an exponentially stronger defensive line, Stanford quarterback Ashton Daniels will be tested. Troy Taylor’s offense is creative and the Tree may have an underrated O-Line.

Yet, the Trojans have the speed, skill, and depth to make it a long night for Stanford’s offense.

On the other sideline, USC’s offensive line will be tested in the trenches.

The Cardinal have a strong defensive line headlined by David Bailey. With size that obviously outmatched Hawaii, the unit’s production against USC’s front will be watched closely.

USC hosts Stanford for a Pac-12 conference game | USC Athletics

Many seem to have an opinion on the Trojan’s roster and love to pick at its flaws. Whether it’s the offensive line or defense generally, there’s always noise generated about the position groups.

Such talk is to be expected of a team with Playoff potential, but the microscope seems greater at USC.

The game presents an opportunity on national television to display the strength of the program and show the rest of the country what they have been missing on the Pac-12 Network the past two weeks.

Look for Caleb Williams and Company to drop 50 or more with Alex Grinch’s defense holding the Cardinal to less than three touchdowns.


Game Picks from Our Senior Writers and Broadcasters




—More from Dane Miller—