Here are some things to watch this week in the Pac-12 Conference:
GAME OF THE WEEK: Seventh-ranked Oregon continues its march toward the Pac-12 championship game with a road game against USC. The Ducks (7-1, 5-0 Pac-12) have won seven straight games following the season-opening loss to Auburn. Despite a roller-coaster season, the Trojans (5-1, 4-1) are undefeated at home and still in play for a possible Pac-12 South title. They need just one more win for bowl eligibility. USC quarterback Kedon Slovis is coming off a big win over Colorado, with 406 yards passing and four touchdowns. His Oregon counterpart, senior Justin Herbert, has been masterful in guiding the offense. In his 36 career starts, the Ducks are averaging 37.8 points. CJ Verdell is the reigning Pac-12 offensive player of the week after rushing for 257 yards and three touchdowns in Oregon’s victory over Washington State last weekend.
MATCHUP OF THE WEEK: The Oregon State Beavers (3-4, 2-2) have already collected as many wins this season as they had in the previous two seasons combined, showing incremental progress under second-year coach Jonathan Smith. They’ll try to get another on Saturday against slumping Arizona, which has lost three straight. But the Beavers will need to prepare for the possibility of two quarterbacks. Kahlil Tate passed for 205 yards and a pair of touchdowns and rushed for 103 yards and another score touchdown in a loss to Stanford last weekend. But freshman Grant Gunnell is also seeing some field time for the Wildcats (4-4, 2-3). “The offense isn’t totally different when the other guy is in. They can score in bunches. You just look at their stats and the tape, and they present some problems,” Smith said.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS: There are four games on the Pac-12 schedule while four teams have the weekend off, including Arizona State, California, Washington State and Stanford. … Oregon’s No. 7 ranking is the team’s highest since 2015. … Herbert and Utah’s Zack Moss are among 20 semifinalists for the Maxwell Award. … California linebacker Evan Weaver leads the nation with 15.9 tackles per game. … Oregon State leads the nation for fewest turnovers with no fumbles lost and only two interceptions. … Washington State’s quarterback Anthony Gordon leads the nation with an average of 423.4 passing yards. … Washington kicker Peyton Henry and Washington State’s Blake Mazza haven’t missed a field goal this season.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Oregon wide receiver Juwan Johnson, a graduate transfer from Penn State, was expected to be one of Herbert’s main targets this season but was sidelined for four games at the start of the season by a calf injury. He was lackluster in three games but is now healthy. He showed a flash of his potential as an impact playmaker last weekend against Washington State, with four catches for 64 yards. Expect his connection with Herbert to develop as the season heads into the final stretch.
UPSET WATCH: Ninth-ranked Utah at Washington. Likely the Huskies (5-3, 2-3) will be super motivated at home now that the Utes have cracked the top 10. The Huskies are also coming off a bye after a disappointing loss at home to Oregon, on homecoming no less, when they squandered a 29-14 third-quarter lead. The Utes (7-1, 4-1) have only beaten Washington once since joining the conference. Last season the Huskies beat Utah 10-3 in the Pac-12 championship game.
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