EL PASO, Texas – There were surprises and upsets last week in the ACC and Pac-12 and the experts anticipate another exciting week of play this week. With teams in each conference battling for spots in bowl games, we take a look at some of the action coming up this week between potential Hyundai Sun Bowl participants.
Oregon and Washington lived up to the hype as the Ducks earned a 30-27 overtime win over the Huskies. USC continues to rise in the standings after defeating No. 19 Colorado, 31-20 last week. Utah kept momentum going after taking down Stanford, with a 42-10 win over Arizona. UCLA would not throw in the towel on the season, earning its first victory in a 37-7 win over California.
The Pac-12 has shown that it’s a place for exciting football, and this week should be no different. Here’s some games to keep an eye on with teams that may be playing in El Paso at year’s end.
Stanford at Arizona State (Thursday)
Arizona State (3-3, 1-2 Pac-12) comes into this game off its bye week. In their last game, the Sun Devils lost 28-21 to then No. 21 Colorado. Arizona State is averaging 30 points a game, while gaining 416 yards of offense and allowing 385 yards a game. All three of the Sun Devils’ losses have come by just seven points. They host a Stanford team coming off its second consecutive loss, 40-21 to Utah. The loss dropped Stanford to 4-2 overall and 2-1 in conference play. Stanford was without running back Bryce Love, who sat out with an injury he suffered against Notre Dame. Despite the loss, Stanford gained 423 yards of offense against a Utah defense that was allowing just 300 yards a game.
No. 12 Oregon at No. 25 Washington State
Washington State (5-1, 2-1 Pac-12) comes into this game off its bye week. Quarterback Gardner Minshew leads the nation in passing yards with 2,422, including 430 yards and five touchdowns in the Cougars’ 56-37 victory over Oregon State last week. Hidden behind all the offensive numbers is a Washington State defense that allows just 311 yards a game, which ranks 14th nationally. Oregon (5-1, 2-1 Pac-12) makes the trip to Pullman coming off a 30-27 overtime victory over then No. 7 Washington. The Ducks found success in the running game, gaining 177 rushing yards against the Huskies’ defense, which included a six-yard run that sealed the victory for the Ducks in overtime.
USC at Utah
Utah improved to 4-2 (2-2 Pac-12) with a 42-10 victory over Arizona in its last contest. The Wildcats average 183 rushing yards a game but were held to just 72 yards on the ground by the Utes’ 11th-ranked defense, a defense that is allowing just 16 points a game. USC (4-2, 3-1 Pac-12) enters the game coming off a 31-20 win over then No. 19 Colorado. The Trojans are averaging 31 points a game in their last three contests, all victories. The Trojans jumped out to a 21-7 halftime lead and had to hold off a comeback attempt by the Buffaloes in the second half.
Other Pac-12 Games
Colorado (5-1, 2-1 Pac-12) @ No. 15 Washington (5-2, 3-1 Pac-12)
California (3-3, 0-3 Pac-12) @ Oregon State (1-5, 0-3 Pac-12)
Arizona (3-4, 2-2 Pac-12) @ UCLA (1-5, 1-2 Pac-12)
Virginia flipped the script and used its defense to take down then No. 16 Miami, 16-13. Pittsburgh gave No. 4 Notre Dame all it could handle before losing 19-14. Duke’s defense showed up and held Georgia Tech’s rushing attack in check on its way to a 28-14 win. Boston College regrouped after its loss to NC State to earn a 38-20 victory over Louisville. North Carolina gave Virginia Tech a scare before losing 22-19 in the final seconds of the game.
Several teams had their bye week last week, but there was still plenty of good football and surprises in the ACC. Here’s a few games that could paint a clearer picture of the upcoming bowl season.
Virginia at Duke
Duke improved to 5-1 (1-1 ACC) with a 28-14 victory over Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets average 352 rushing yards a game, but the Blue Devils’ defense held them to just 229 yards on the ground. Duke’s defense and special teams forced three Georgia Tech fumbles, which Duke’s offense turned into three touchdowns, putting the game out of reach. Virginia (4-2, 2-1 ACC) travels to Durham after defeating then No. 16 Miami 16-13. It was the Cavaliers’ defense that rose to the occasion allowing just 13 points to a Hurricanes team that entered play averaging 41. They also forced three turnovers on the day. Duke’s defense is allowing 18 points a game, while Virginia’s allows just 19.
North Carolina at Syracuse
Syracuse (4-2, 1-2 ACC) enters play coming off a bye week. After winning its first four games of the season, Syracuse has lost two consecutive games to No. 3 Clemson and Pittsburgh. Both losses have come on the road, but the Orange return home this week to face North Carolina (1-4, 1-2 ACC). Syracuse averages 48 points a game at home this season. North Carolina lost in heartbreaking fashion to Virginia Tech last week, 22-19, surrendering the game-winning touchdown with just 19 seconds left to play in the game. In defeat, the Tar Heels had their best offensive output of the season with 522 yards gained on the day. They also posted 235 rushing yards against the Hokies’ defense, another season-high.
No. 16 NC State at No. 3 Clemson
Both teams enter this contest off their bye weeks, undefeated, ranked in the AP Top 25 and ranked in the top 10 defensively. Clemson (6-0, 3-0 ACC) ranks as the second-best defense in the country. The Tigers allow just 261 yards and 15 points a game. The Tigers were tested in their last home game, earning a 27-23 victory over Syracuse. NC State (5-0, 2-0 ACC) travels into town with the nation’s eighth-ranked defense, allowing 341 yards and 17 points a game. The last three games between the two have been decided by an average of 10 points, all Clemson wins.
Other ACC Games
Wake Forest (3-3, 0-2 ACC) @ Florida St. (3-3, 1-3 ACC)
Bye Week: Boston College, Louisville, Miami, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame.
Visit www.sunbowl.org for a chance to win tickets to the 2018 Hyundai Sun Bowl. A team from the ACC/Notre Dame will take on a team from the Pac-12 on Dec. 31, 2018 at noon in El Paso, Texas.
By Michael Lujan on behalf of the Hyundai Sun Bowl
Sun Bowl Association
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