Pac-12 preview: Arizona hosts UW, 'GameDay' to UCLA, Dickert's WSU debut and a huge game in Corvallis

UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson (1) runs past Fresno State defensive back Justin Houston (13) during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021, in Pasadena, Calif.

UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson (1) runs past Fresno State defensive back Justin Houston (13) during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)



Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

Eight need-to-knows for Week 8 of the Pac-12 football season …

1. Arizona will attempt to break its 18-game losing streak Friday night against Washington with a first-string quarterback who was recently a second-stringer until he got demoted to third string.

No, wait, Will Plummer was a second-stringer, then became the starter, then dropped to third string.

Either way, Plummer's vertiginous ride up and down the depth chart reflects the relentless chaos that has consumed the Wildcats at the most important position.

Plummer started the year as the No. 2 quarterback behind Gunner Cruz, was elevated to No. 1, lost his job and dropped to No. 3, then moved back to No. 2 after Jordan McCloud's season-ending injury and is now all the way back to No. 1 after Cruz's season-ending injury.

Not many teams lose their top two quarterbacks for the year; we cannot remember the last time it happened in the Pac-12.

More unusual is that cursed team that loses its top two quarterbacks in the first year of a massive rebuild under a new head coach.

The script playing out in Tucson for Jedd Fisch and Co. couldn't be more horrific had it been written in a Tempe bar on Halloween.

But the Wildcats have no choice. The only other quarterbacks on the roster are walk-ons, unless they turn to a receiver (Jamarye Joiner) who used to be a quarterback.

Actually, that makes perfect sense the way things are going.

2. Fortunately for Arizona, the visitor has a weakness.

Two weaknesses, actually:

The Huskies are in not-so-proud possession of one of the worst offenses in the country and are shockingly porous against the run, allowing 4.78 yards per carry (No. 109 nationally).

Plummer doesn't need to play at a high level. He just needs to perform adequately: Complete the high-percentage passes, don't take sacks, avoid interceptions.

If the Wildcats don't relinquish field position and force UW to drive the ball 60 or 70 yards each possession, they have a fighting chance to make a game of it down the stretch.

3. Anyone who glanced at the Pac-12 schedule for Saturday might have noticed something odd:

There are no night games.

On a single Saturday night a few weeks ago, there were five games.

This week, there are none: The latest kickoffs are USC-Notre Dame and Utah-Oregon State, both at 4:30 p.m.

(Why the curveball? Our best guess is baseball: Game 7 of the ALCS would be Saturday evening.)

It has only been two years (Nov. 9, 2019) since a Pac-12 Saturday came and went without a night game. But that feels like a decade ago.

4. UCLA hosts No. 10 Oregon on Saturday in the most anticipated game of the weekend.

The one-loss Ducks are undefeated in Southern California under coach Mario Cristobal, with two wins at USC and one victory in the Rose Bowl game.

Meanwhile, the Bruins haven't beaten a top-10 team at home since 2007, when they flummoxed ninth-ranked Oregon 16-0.

Incidentally, that was the only time the Ducks were shut out in Chip Kelly's six seasons as offensive coordinator or head coach.

5. One game features two teams that control their division destiny: Utah at Oregon State.

If the Beavers win out, they are champions of the North.

If the Utes win out, they take the South.

With a victory this weekend, Utah would be 4-0 in conference play for the first time since joining the Pac-12.

6. We're intrigued by USC's biennial trip to Notre Dame for one reason.

The high-profile nature of the showdown gives Trojans receiver Drake London a platform to enter the Heisman Trophy race.

London won't win the award and probably won't even be invited to New York for the ceremony. But a huge game in South Bend and a strong finish to the season could boost his chances for a spot in the top 10.

The conference hasn't had a top-10 finisher since Washington State quarterback Gardner Minshew in 2018.

7. Washington State takes aim at its fourth consecutive victory in the coaching debut for Jake Dickert, the defensive coordinator who will serve as acting head coach for the rest of the season.

Dickert, who played receiver at Wisconsin-Stevens Point, is 38 years old and the only under-40 coach in the conference.

The next youngest is Oregon State's Jonathan Smith, who's 42.

8. ESPN's 'College GameDay' will broadcast from UCLA's campus starting at 6 a.m. — the iconic show's first appearance ever in Westwood and first visit to Pac-12 territory in three years.

Between UCLA alumni and L.A.-based entertainers, there is no shortage of options for the guest picker.

By all rights, it should be Ed O'Bannon, the former Bruins basketball star who sparked a revolution in college sports by fighting in court to receive compensation for the use of his name, image and likeness.

Of course, that choice by ESPN wouldn't sit well at NCAA HQ.


Jon Wilner's Pac-12 Hotline is brought to KSL.com through a partnership with the Bay Area News Group.


Jon Wilner has been covering college sports for decades and is an AP Top 25 football and basketball voter as well as a Heisman Trophy voter. He was named Beat Writer of the Year in 2013 by the Football Writers Association of America for his coverage of the Pac-12, won first place for feature writing in 2016 in the Associated Press Sports Editors writing contest and is a five-time APSE honoree. You can follow him on Twitter @WilnerHotline or send an email at jwilner@bayareanewsgroup.com.

Pac-12 Hotline: Subscribe to the Pac-12 Hotline Newsletter. Pac-12 Hotline is not endorsed or sponsored by the Pac-12 Conference, and the views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the views of the Conference.

Jon Wilner

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