Pac-12 Week 11 Preview

The marquee matchup for the Pac-12 features a non-conference clash between Notre Dame and Arizona State. Cal, Stanford and USC have the week off. All the other conference teams are in action on Saturday.

Below are some key participants to watch and comments from coaches and players on their prior and upcoming games. 

Notre Dame (7-1) at Arizona State (7-1, 5-1)

No. 10 Notre Dame travels West for their nationally televised (ABC) clash against the No. 9 Arizona State Sun Devils in Tempe, Ariz. ASU’s riding a four-game winning streak after last week’s 19-16 overtime victory over Utah. The Fighting Irish are coming off a 49-39 win over Navy.

Against the Midshipmen, quarterback Everett Golson became the first Notre Dame player to record three rushing and passing touchdowns. Golson’s passed for 22 touchdowns, 2,311 yards and has a 17-2 record as a starter. Receiver Will Fuller’s caught 46 of Golson’s passes for nine touchdowns and 599 yards.

The Irish will be missing their leading tackler Joe Schmidt.  He suffered a season-ending ankle injury in last week’s game. Schmidt had recorded 65 total tackles prior to leaving the game in the third quarter.

ASU junior running back D.J. Foster is averaging 144.1 all-purpose yards, good enough for 19th nationally and third in the conference. On the year, Foster’s rushed for 701 yards and six scores. He’s also caught 38 passes for 452 yards and two touchdowns. 

Sun Devil quarterback Taylor Kelly will be making his third-consecutive start after missing four games due to injury. Since his return, Kelly’s thrown for three touchdowns, two interceptions, 385 yards and completed 32-of-57 passes. Receiver Jaelen Strong is the team leader with 57 catches for 821 yards and eight touchdowns. 


Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly.


ASU head coach Todd Graham.


Washington State (2-7, 1-5) at Oregon State (4-4, 1-4)

The Cougars will be without quarterback Connor Halliday, who suffered a season-ending broken leg in the 44-17 loss to USC. At the time of his injury, Halliday was the nation’s leading passer. Freshman Luke Falk took over for Halliday behind center. In three quarters of play, Falk threw for two touchdowns, 370 yards and one interception on 38-of-57 passes.

Oregon State lost their third game in a row in their 45-31 defeat to Cal. Beaver quarterback Sean Mannion passed for 320 yards, two touchdowns on 30-of-45 passes. Mannion became the Pac-12’s all-time passing leader with 12,454 yards. 

Washington State head coach Mike Leach.


OSU head coach Mike Riley and quarterback Sean Mannion.


UCLA (7-2, 4-2) at Washington (6-3, 2-3)

The 18th ranked UCLA Bruins play the Washington Huskies in Seattle for their final road trip of the regular season. With the 17-7 win over Arizona, the Bruins won their third straight game. Washington ended a two-game losing skid with their 38-23 victory over Colorado.

UCLA Brett Hundley is ranked fifth in the conference in total offense with an average of 310.1 yards per game. In nine games, Hundley’s passed for 2,245 yards and gained 397 yards on the ground. Running back Paul Perkins is averaging 119.3 yards rushing, which is third in the conference and 19th in the country.

Bruin linebacker Eric Kendricks is tied for the league lead in tackles with 97.  He’s even with Arizona’s Scooby Wright.  

Washington’s defense is led by Hau’oli Kikaha, the NCAA’s sack leader with 15.5. Senior linemen Danny Shelton and Andrew Hudson are fifth and sixth in the conference with seven and six sacks, respectively.

Husky linebacker-turned-running back Shaq Thompson is averaging 7.9 yards per carry and gained 363 yards on 45 rushing attempts. Washington head coach Chris Petersen expects Thompson to stay as his primary running back. Petersen did not rule out Thompson taking a few reps on defense.    


UCLA players Brett Hundley, Jordan Payton and Myles Jack on the upcoming game against Washington.


Husky head coach Chris Petersen.


Washington linebacker and NCAA sack leader Hau’oli Kikaha.


Colorado (2-7, 0-6) at Arizona (6-2, 3-2)

Colorado heads to Tuscon, Ariz. for their encounter against the Arizona Wildcats. The Buffs remained winless in Pac-12 competition after losing 38-23 to Washington. Arizona was defeated 17-7 by UCLA for they second loss of the season.

Colorado’s sophomore quarterback Seo Liufau’s is second in the Pac-12 with 420 passing attempts and completed 65.2 percent of his passes for 2,590 yards and 25 touchdowns. On the downside, Liufau leads the conference with 12 interceptions. Receiver Nelson Spruce has caught a league-leading 11 touchdowns.

Arizona’s freshman signal-caller Anu Solomon is third in the conference with 325.6 passing yards per game. Solomon’s thrown for 21 touchdowns and 2,605 yards. Receiver Cayleb Jones has caught 50 passes for 716 yards and eight touchdowns.

Wildcat linebacker Scooby Wright leads the Pac-12 with 97 tackles and five forced fumbles. Wright’s second in the conference with 20 tackles totaling 71 yards in losses.


Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre.


Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez.


Oregon (8-1, 5-1) at Utah (6-2, 3-2)

The No. 4 Ducks ran over an outstanding Stanford defense 45-16 to stay atop the North Division. No. 17 Utah lost 19-16 in overtime to South Division leaders Arizona State. The clash pits Oregon’s league-leading offense (45.4 ppg) against Utah’s  second-ranked scoring defense (21.2 ppg).

Oregon’s junior quarterback Marcus Mariota’s thrown at least one touchdown in his last 35 games, two or more touchdowns in 27 games and 89 scores overall. In last week’s win over Stanford, the Pac-12’s best defense, Mariota threw for two touchdowns, 258 yards, one interception and completed 19-of-30 passes.

Running back Royce Freeman is fourth in the conference with an average of 94 rushing yards per game. Freeman’s 13 touchdowns places him atop the Pac-12 for the best scoring average for non-kickers (8.7 ppg).

The Utes have multiple weapons defensively and on special teams: Junior linebackers Jared Norris and Gionni Paul are ranked six and seventh in the conference with 9.0 and 8.7 tackles each game. Defensive end Nate Orchard has recorded 11 sacks this year, tying him for second in the Pac-12.

On special teams, kicker Andy Phillips is the league scoring leader with 81 points (30-30 on PATs and 17-20 on field goal attempts). Returner Kaelin Clay leads the league with 22.4 yards per punt return. Clay is third in kickoff returns with a 27.8 yard average. Punter Tom Hackett is second in the conference with an average of 47 yards per kick.

A problem area for Utah is behind center. Travis Wilson threw for only 57 yards on 12-of-22 passing attempts in last week’s loss. Head coach Kyle Whittingham left the door open to replace Wilson at quarterback with Kendal Thompson.


Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham.

Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham.

“We’d like to throw the ball a lot better than we have been,” head coach Kyle Whittingham said of Utah’s ineffective passing game. “…If you had to determine one thing that’s really held us back this year, it’s the lack of production throwing the football. That’s been an ongoing problem, and we’ve got to get that solved. The quarterback position is a competition this week – it’s opened back up.”

On the Oregon matchup, Whittingham praised Oregon’s quarterback: “[Marcus Mariota] is throwing the ball exceptionally well. In addition, he’s lightning quick as a runner. He’s a guy who can pull it down and rip off 60 yards without blinking an eye. You’ve got to be able to defend it all. That’s the thing about a dual threat quarterback that truly is a dual threat. He may be the best in the conference overall, and we have our work cut out for us. The defense has a big order. You have to keep him in the pocket and your lane distribution and pass rush has to be really good so you don’t give him any escape routes out of the pocket. You also have to play good in the secondary because he’s an accurate thrower. He presents as big a problem as you can have from a defensive standpoint, a quarterback who can do both really well. You can’t load up for one or the other.”


Oregon head coach Mike Helfrich.

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John Zielonka

John Zielonka has covered the Seattle Sounders FC, Seattle Seahawks and University of Washington men's basketball and football. He's written for Yahoo! Sports, 710 ESPN Seattle, Goal.com and is a member of the North American Soccer Reporters.


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