We continue our breakdown of the 2012 Pac-12 schedule, with a look at the best games in the month of October.
Week 6 (October 6): Washington at Oregon
If there’s one chink in the armor of the Oregon Ducks, it’s their ability to defend the pass. They allowed the most yards since 2008 last year, and had both Nick Foles and Matt Barkley pick them apart. Considering that the Ducks lose Eddie Pleasant, Anthony Gildon and Cliff Harris, a further regression is probable, which has to make Washington quarterback Keith Price lick his chops. Price threw for 33 touchdowns a year ago, and 438 yards in the Alamo Bowl against Baylor, making him this year’s Robert Griffin III, as the country’s best QB that no one has heard of. Though the Huskies lose Chris Polk at tailback, three starters on the offensive line return, as well as tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who caught 41 passes as a freshman. The Dawgs will put points on the board in Eugene, and are the most likely team to walk out of Autzen with a win this season. With the regression of Stanford in the North, this is the Pac-12 North Game of the Year.
Week 7 (October 13): USC at Washington
For all the reasons noted above, the Huskies are dangerous offensively. Add in the fact that they could be playing in the loudest venue in the Pac-12 this year, in the first of a two-year stay at Century Link Field, they’ll be more than amped up to make the Trojans remember their last trip to the city of Seattle until 2016. The Trojans should be able to move the ball on UW’s inexperienced secondary, although the prospects of Shaq Thompson winning the starting free safety job out of training camp would give the Huskies one of the more talented units in the conference. USC ran for 252 yards on the Dawgs a year ago, and with an entirely new coaching staff on defense, Keith Price may have to outscore the Trojans to beat them. Price was dinged up at the Coliseum in 2011, and the thought of watching a healthy Price go up against the speed of the USC linebacker corps is salivating. Lane Kiffin will want to score early and often to suppress the noise and energy in the building, but there’s no denying that a traditional Pac-12 shootout is possible, if not probable in Seattle.
Week 8 (October 20): Stanford at California
The Big Game being played in October is just all kinds of wrong. Nonetheless, if the game is any bit as close as the 2011 version, it should be a classic. Without Luck, all eyes turn to the Stanford running game, which will be tops in the conference, sans Oregon. Stephan Taylor returns for his senior season and Barry Sanders Jr. joins a backfield that gets to run behind the best O-line in college football, as four starters return. Cal’s defense was solid against the run for the most part in 2011, but had huge breakdowns against Oregon and UCLA, leaving the door open for the Cardinal to run all over the Bears in the first Big Game at the New Memorial Stadium. For Cal, if Zach Maynard can progress from being the left handed Kevin Prince, their offense could be potent. Isi Sofele returns, and Keenan Allen’s 98 catches are back in the mix. Jeff Tedford may be on the hot seat, but this could be his best chance to beat Stanford, which could be a win that saves his job.
Week 9 (October 27): UCLA at Arizona State
For all intents and purposes, UCLA killed ASU’s season last year. The Sun Devils lost to UCLA in dramatic fashion at the Rose Bowl, and then went on to lose their last three games, falling out of contention for the Pac-12 Championship Game. Revenge will be the mantra in Tempe, but without many of the key figures on last year’s team, who knows that means. ASU returns just four starters on each side of the ball, and has to replace its best quarterback since Jake Plummer, Brock Osweiler. UCLA on the other hand, return 16 starters from a year ago, and should pose a significant threat to the Sun Devils in the running game. Jonathan Franklin is back, and Malcolm Jones should finally get a steady amount of reps as the second option for Jim L. Mora’s offense. The Bruins have lost their last two in Tempe, while giving up 55 points in 2010. Looking at the progression of UCLA and the regression of ASU, it’s hard to imagine Sparky’s boys putting up even half that number of points.