November 26, 2020
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Story tips, concerns, questions?

USC celebrates on the sideline after narrowly beating Arizona State. Photo by John McGillen, USC Athletics.


By Daniel Tom, Staff Reporter

Updated 4:25 p.m. Pac-12 Conference announced UCLA and California will now play a game against each other due to cancellation of previous games. Preview and predictions are added below.

Updated 2:00 p.m. Added information on the cancellation of Utah at UCLA game on Saturday and image for the UCLA game.

Week 2 of the Pac-12 football season is upon us as is Week 11 of the college football season. The race to the finish line will be here in the blink of an eye and in a shortened season, it provides for excitement and some surprises. Let’s take a look at some games to keep an eye on this weekend.

No. 20 USC (1-0, 1-0 Conference) @ Arizona (0-0, 0-0 Conference)  12:30 p.m. TV: FOX

Last Week:

USC: 28-27 win over Arizona State

Arizona: N/A (first game cancelled due to COVID-19)

USC & Arizona meetup in Tucson on Saturday afternoon. USC looks to build on momentum after an emotional victory over the Sun Devils last Saturday. Arizona opens up their 2020 campaign after a COVID outbreak at Utah forced the game’s postponement 24 hours prior.

A look at USC:

Besides committing four turnovers, stalled offensive drives, and not being able to make open field tackles, the Trojans persevered and came up clutch twice in the final three minutes to squeeze past Arizona State. They’ll have to clean things up and look more poised if they plan to shake up the conference picture in the coming weeks.

A look at the opponent:

Arizona begins the 2020 season with third year head coach Kevin Sumlin. Last season for the Wildcats was dismal by going a measly 4-8 and winning 2 conference games finishing in the cellar of the Pac-12 South Division. With only four spring practices in prior to the world shutting down, the roster has lots of question marks that have yet to be answered.

Offensively, the Wildcats lose dual-threat quarterback Khalil Tate to the NFL and now sophomore Grant Gunnell who shared the job with Tate, looks to step in the role with ease. In 2019, Gunnell threw for 1,239 yards, completed 65% of his passes and only threw a single interception. Additionally, he returns a veteran wide receiver corps in Brian Casteel, Boobie Curry, and Stanley Berryhill III among others who combined to catch 153 passes in an otherwise dismal season.

Defensively, Arizona needs work. They’ve allowed an average of 34 points a game (a stat that dates back to 2014) which is the league’s highest total over that span. The defense returns 10 players from last season and is now under a brand new scheme from recently hired defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads who came to U of A via Iowa State. The Wildcats strength on defense comes from the linebacker spot with the return of three-year starter Colin Schooler and senior Anthony Pandy who produced last season.

Keys to the game + Prediction:

With USC having a game under their belt, they should be ready for anything that comes their way right? That sounds like wishful thinking. It took them a miracle to pull out last week’s win, let’s hope they don’t rely on late game heroics once again. USC’s offense can take last week’s performance and spread the ball around to Arizona’s defense work all day. While the Wildcats have a solid linebacking corps, they’ve always struggled with defending the run and the pass rush, I think this poses an issue for the Cats.

For Arizona to have a chance to win, force USC to make quick decisions with the ball. On film this week, you should see the running backs and the offensive line don’t know how to play balanced football and move the pile. Additionally, the Trojans committed four turnovers. Use that to your advantage. Furthermore, the offense needs to be hot from the start with no margin for error.

After being at last season’s 41-14 smackdown at the Coliseum, I expect to see a similar result. I think Arizona will hang around in the first half, but turnovers might be the difference in this game considering one team has had a week to prepare. Expect the Wildcats to get on the board, but USC to pull away in the second half.

Prediction: (45-20 USC)


The Rose Bowl sits empty, as UCLA preps for it’s home opener. Photo courtesy of UCLA Athletics.


Cancelled: Utah (0-0, 0-0 Conference) @ UCLA (0-1, 0-1 Conference)  7:30 p.m. TV: FOX

Last Week:

UCLA: 48-42 loss to Colorado

Utah: N/A (first game postponed due to COVID-19)

As of Friday, the Pac-12 Conference announced the cancellation of Saturday’s game between Utah and UCLA, due to Utah not having the minimum number of scholarship players available as a result of a number of positive COVID-19 tests and subsequent contact tracing.

Originally, Utah and UCLA were set to battle on Saturday night from the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. The Utes cancelled their season opener last week against Arizona after multiple players and some staff tested positive for the coronavirus. As a result, a game that was initially scheduled for Friday night was moved to Saturday to allow extra time for Utah to complete testing protocol.

A look at UCLA:

The Bruins have a week under their belts, but it’s probably one they would love to forget. Positively, their quarterback threw for over 400 yards and used his feet to pick up 109 of his own along with three touchdowns. Although the Bruins put up 42 points it wasn’t all that impressive against a fairly-weak Colorado squad. To make this game look interesting, UCLA will need to dial in offensively and hope they catch Utah off guard with the inexperienced defense.

A look at the opponent:

The last time we saw the defending Pac-12 South Division champions, they were outplayed and overwhelmed against the Texas Longhorns in the Alamo Bowl, and just weeks prior they were outplayed in the conference championship game against the Justin Herbert-led Oregon Ducks.

Two late season losses cannot overshadow what the team from Salt Lake accomplished. The Utes had one loss to an unranked USC team entering conference championship weekend and won the division for the second year in a row. In 2020, this team will look comparably different.

Utah replaces all-conference selection and dual-threat signal caller Tyler Huntley, along with run game producer Zack Moss & sack leader Bradlee Anae. Looking to fill these voids, Utah was in the midst of some tightly-contested position battles during spring practice.

At the quarterback spot, Utah picked up graduate transfer Jake Bentley from South Carolina and also has rising sophomore Cameron Rising. In his career at South Carolina, Bentley started 33 games in his four years in Columbia. However, Rising has never started a collegiate game but has worked with offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig. As of today, the Utes have not named a starting quarterback, so we’ll wait and see who trots out on Saturday.

The run game was the meat of Utah’s offensive production. Losing Zack Moss is a killer for the Utes. But there are players ready to step up in Devin Brumfield and Lawndale product Jordan Wilmore who saw considerable action last year.

Defensively, last year’s team was veteran heavy to the point where the Utah defense was once ranked sixth nationally (out of 129 teams). With much of that leadership gone, there are holes that need to be filled and fast. Look out for junior Mika Tafua, who was named an conference honorable mention selection last season.

Keys to the game + Prediction:

If this game were to happen as scheduled, it’s a tossup for me. Utah has inexperience all over the field, yet UCLA remains to be seen after allowing almost 300 yards of total offense last week, allowing Colorado to dominate time of possession.

I think Utah would’ve played a clean game given everyone a chance to get some reps. The key to a Bruin victory is to eliminate the mistakes.

Utah would’ve been short-handed defensively as this hypothetical game went underway, but if they found their groove it could’ve been a troublesome night for the Bruins. Have an offensive explosion and get stops defensively and UCLA has a shot to steal this “game.”

I do think Utah’s offense could have given UCLA’s secondary fits. Thinking how the game would happen if it was still happening, I expect to see Jake Bentley to trot out for the first offensive drive for the Utes. Given his experience at an SEC powerhouse and months to learn the playbook, Utah shouldn’t have much of a problem on this now-canceled game.

Prediction: 35-17 (Utah)

California (0-0, 0-0 Conference) @ UCLA (0-1, 0-1 Conference)  9:00 a.m. TV: FOX Sports 1

Last Week:

UCLA: 48-42 loss to Colorado

California: N/A (first game cancelled due to COVID-19)

On Friday Nov 13, the Pac-12 Conference announced UCLA and California agreed to play Sunday Nov 15 at the Rose Bowl. The teams initially had games scheduled against Utah and Arizona State respectively, but those games were cancelled due to COVID-19 outbreaks among those teams.

A look at UCLA:

The Bruins have a game under their belts, but it’s probably one they would love to forget. Positively, their quarterback threw for over 400 yards and used his feet to pick up 109 of his own along with three touchdowns. Although the Bruins put up 42 points it wasn’t all that impressive against a fairly-weak Colorado squad. Defensively, the Bruins could not make open field tackles and gave up the big play more than once. As a team, UCLA allowed 34 points a game and struggled to stop the passing game giving up 300 plus yards a game. Last week, UCLA allowed 261 pass yards to the Buffaloes. They look to limit those numbers this weekend.

A look at the opponent:

Cal storms into the Rose Bowl under fourth year head coach Justin Wilcox. Since taking over in 2017, the Bears have been on an upward trajectory. Cal made back-to-back bowl game appearances for the first time since doing it seven years in a row dating back to 2009. Additionally, they’ve racked up two winning seasons after going 5-7 in Wilcox’s first season at the helm.

Offensively, veteran shot caller Chase Garbers in back under center for the Bears in 2020. After missing some time due to injury, Garbers found himself in a groove completing 66 percent of his passes for 787 yards, tossing six touchdowns, and only one interception. 

This season, Cal brings in new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave to usher in a new system. On the ground, Cal returns the majority of their run game spotlighted by junior Christopher Brown Jr. who rushed for 914 yards and found the end zone 8 times. Garbers also has a corps of veteran receivers back in junior standout Nikko Remigio who over the final three games caught 18 passes for 251 yards and found pay dirt twice.

Defensively, the Bears need to replace consensus all-american linebacker Evan Weaver who was drafted in the sixth round of the 2020 NFL Draft by the Arizona Cardinals. Without Weaver, the Bears look solid with plenty of experienced talent back for more. Keep a close eye on senior defensive ends Luc Bequette and Zeandae Johnson who look to disrupt opposing quarterback play as the season progresses.

Keys to the game + Prediction:

In an otherwise unpredictable time, Cal plays their first game of 2020 on a short turnaround after expecting a second weekend off. It may take the Bears a bit to adjust, but they hope they can get some help defensively so the offense can mold into place and fast. 

For the Bruins, stick to what you know and run an effective passing game. While last weekend wasn’t what most UCLA fans hoped for, there is promise in quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson and the ability to make big plays. Catch Cal’s defense off guard and score quick and often.

 UCLA has an edge here due to the fact, they have a game on their record. Cal now quickly adjusts to play an opponent it wasn’t scheduled to play this season and they’re the ones who have to travel on two days notice. You know how the saying goes, ‘anytime, anywhere’ and that’s exactly what’s happening.

I think UCLA gets on the board first and gets into a rhythm Cal will look to keep up with. Don’t count out the Golden Bears, as they have a stout defense and an offense looking to make a statement in game 1. Cal gets a score late, and escapes out of Pasadena with a win.

Prediction: (26-20 California)


San Diego State takes the field at Dignity Health Sports Park on Friday, Nov 6. Photo by Derrick Tuskan, San Diego State Athletics.


Hawai’i (2-1, 2-1 Conference) @ San Diego State (2-1, 1-1 Conference)  1:00 p.m. TV: Stadium

Last Week:

San Diego State: 28-17 loss to San Jose State

Hawai’i: 39-33 win over New Mexico

After seeing a four-game winning streak snapped at the hands of San Jose State, the Aztecs look to bounce back as they welcome the Rainbow Warriors of Hawai’i to the mainland on Saturday afternoon. 

A look at SDSU:

After a back and forth battle, which saw many lead changes over the course of the night, San Diego State committed turnovers on their next three possessions which resulted in points for San Jose State who came away with a 28-17 victory which snapped an eight game winning streak in the series for the Aztecs. On the bright side, senior running back Greg Bell rushed for over 100 yards in his third consecutive game, making him the first in school history to do so. 

A look at the opponent: 

Hawai’i makes the trip to Southern California, coming off a 39-33 come from behind win over New Mexico last week. Quarterback Chevan Cordeiro threw for a career-high 410 yards and tossed four touchdowns in last week’s win. All of his touchdown passes went for 40-plus yards. On the ground, running back Calvin Turner rushed for 39 yards and the game winner in the fourth quarter.

Defensively, keep an eye out for linebackers Darius Muasau and Quentin Frazier who combined for 19 total tackles along with forcing an interception late in the fourth quarter to seal the win to spearhead the Warriors defense.

Keys to the game + Prediction:

For Hawaii to win this game, they can rely on both a heavy passing attack and an exceptional running game looking to break through the barriers of the Aztecs defensive front. San Diego State needs to get back to the drawing board and do what they do best and that’s break through the defense with a powerful run/pass combo. Expect San Diego State to play with a chip on their shoulder and to force Hawai’i into leaving the pocket. I think San Diego State bounces back to make the conference standings interesting.

Prediction: 24-10 (San Diego State)

Happy Saturday of football watching! & I’ll catch you next week with a week two recap.

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