Dane Miller’s Week 12 Pac-12 Football Previews

Posted on November 18, 2021

  By Dane Miller, SuperWest Sports

The weekend’s games kick off on Friday, when Arizona faces Washington State in Pullman.

Pac-12But the nation’s attention is on the Saturday night showdown between No. 3 Oregon and No. 23 Utah. An Oregon win would go far in quieting the doubters back east, and bring the Conference one step closer to the CFP.

The battle between the Pac-12’s top two programs may be the main storyline, yet two rivalry games are just as important to the teams involved.

UCLA faces USC on Fox and the Big Game between Stanford and Cal is airing on the Pac-12 Network.

I preview all six matchups in the Conference of Champions, and the picks of our football writers appear at the bottom.

Arizona football Pac-12
Arizona at Washington State

Martin Stadium, Pullman, WA
Friday, November 19
6:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

Coming off a loss last weekend, the Cougs look to rebound against Jedd Fisch’s 1-9 Wildcats. But if the Washington State players think this game will be a cake walk, it could be closer than expected.

Arizona’s passing defense is No. 20 in the nation and second in the Pac-12, allowing just 193.6 yards per game.

Don Brown’s press-man, blitzing schemes allow the Cats to get pressure on the quarterback, forcing opposing offensive coordinators to lean more on their run game.

WSU’s Max Borghi | Tyler Tjomsland, Spokesman-Review

But Brown’s defense is No. 95 in the country in stopping the run, giving up 176.2 yards per night.

Look for WSU to have its most balanced run-pass ratio of the season, with Max Borghi and Deon McIntosh scampering for first downs throughout the game.

So long as Wazzu wins or draws the turnover battle, the Cougars should walk away with the win and reach bowl eligibility.

Washington football pac-12
Washington at Colorado

Folsom Field, Boulder, CO
Saturday, November 20
Noon PT, Pac-12 Network

In the first game since the termination of Jimmy Lake, the Dawgs travel to Boulder to face a confident Colorado team. Despite starting the year 3-7, the Buffs are playing their best football of the year, as quarterback Brendon Lewis has settled into his role.

Over the past five games, the freshman is completing 65 percent of his passes and has an 8-to-1 touchdown to interception ratio.

The emergence of Colorado’s passing game has opened lanes for Jarek Broussard and Alex Fontenot to run through, setting the table for a potential upset at Folsom Field.

Colorado’s Jarek Broussard | Will Navarro/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

But UW’s secondary is elite and leads the nation in passing yards allowed per game. The result could be a low-scoring affair where field position comes at a premium.

The X-Factor, though, is the play of Washington’s quarterback. Dylan Morris or Sam Huard could sway the game in the Huskies’ favor with a strong start, and the Dawgs might never look back.

usc logoUCLA at USC

Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, CA
Saturday, November 20
1:00 pm PT, Fox

Facing a USC team that has struggled throughout the year, Chip Kelly and his staff face what might be a must-win matchup to keep their jobs in Westwood.

Jerry Azzinaro’s 4-2-5 scheme is a mismatch for Graham Harrell’s Air Raid, making UCLA susceptible to the Trojans’ pass-heavy game plan.

True freshman Jaxson Dart is starting for the first time of his career, and will be motivated to begin his legacy with a bang. It wouldn’t be surprising if the quarterback threw for more than 350 yards and three touchdowns on Azzinaro’s defense.

USC’s Jaxson Dart | Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The clash of schemes comes amidst the L.A. media’s drum beat for the termination of the coordinator and reports appearing to link Kelly to the Washington opening. With so much on the line, the X-Factor from the off-field distractions seem to favor USC.

But Dorian Thompson-Robinson doesn’t want to end his career against the Trojans with a loss. The senior quarterback could be the difference in the game, with his threat to run and decision-making in the passing game leading UCLA to victory.

California at Stanford

Stanford Stadium, Stanford, CA
Saturday, November 20
4:00 pm PT, Pac-12 Network

The Tree could ruin Cal’s season with a victory over the Bears.

COVID protocols kept some of Justin Wilcox’s best players off the field against Arizona, arguably throwing away what would have been a surefire victory in the desert.

The defeat made California’s path to a bowl game narrower, with the Bears needing to win out to reach six wins.

Standing in the way is Tanner McKee and the Cardinal. Stanford has fallen short of expectations this season, particularly at the running back position.

Stanford’s Tanner McKee | Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

At the start of the year, Austin Jones was projected as one of the top backs in the Pac-12, but his production hasn’t lived up to his success in 2020.

The lack of a run game has hampered the Tree’s offense, making them one-dimensional and entirely reliant on McKee. And coming off an injury, it’s anyone’s guess how the quarterback plays against an angry California team.

But if Stanford finds success moving the ball on the ground, David Shaw could end up with another win in the Big Game.

Oregon Ducks Logo Pac-12
No. 3 Oregon at No. 23 Utah

Rice-Eccles Stadium, Salt Lake City, UT
Saturday, November 20
4:30 pm PT, ABC

The Ducks and Utes square off in one of the most important Pac-12 regular-season games since the Conference expanded in 2011.

Oregon’s chances of making the College Football Playoff are on the line at Rice-Eccles Stadium, where a loss would likely end UO’s run.

The Ducks’ defense is second in the Pac-12 in turnovers forced with 19 on the year, and the Utes have coughed the ball up 11 times this season. In a game that figures to come down to the fourth quarter, taking care of the ball could be the difference.

Oregon’s Anthony Brown | Andy Nelson/Associated Press

Anthony Brown’s decision-making on passing plays will loom large, with the grad transfer either making-or-breaking the Ducks’ chances.

But Mario Cristobal could challenge Oregon’s secondary to step up. Utah quarterback Cameron Rising hasn’t thrown an interception in five games, and his willingness to run is one of the reasons why.

Yet, a pick in this matchup could ultimately tip the scales, and Cristobal knows it. At the end of the day, the team that scores more points off of turnovers figures to walk away with the win.

Arizona State at Oregon State

Reser Stadium, Corvallis, OR
Saturday, November 20
7:30 pm PT, ESPN

Having already achieved bowl eligibility, the Beavers and Sun Devils square off for the nightcap in the Conference of Champions. Sharing mirrored philosophies on offense, the efficiency of each team’s run game is the tell-tale sign to watch.

Oregon State’s B.J. Baylor has been limited over the past three games, failing to breach 100 yards rushing over the stretch and posting below five yards per carry in each matchup.

Arizona State’s Rachaad White, on the other hand, has been on fire. The junior has five touchdowns over the past two games, 386 yards rushing, and 88 yards receiving.

ASU’s Rachaad White. | Abbie Parr/Getty Images

The onus is on the defensive coordinators to slow down the opposing backfield, while keeping both quarterbacks in check.

Jayden Daniels has stumbled over the past three games, throwing five interceptions to just two touchdowns, while consecutively passing for fewer yards than the prior game.

Chance Nolan has faired slightly better, pitching five touchdowns to three picks over the same period.

In a game focused on the running backs, the team with a better night passing probably emerges with the win.

SportsPac12 Football Writers Week 12 Game Picks

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