Ore­gon will play in Utah with im­pli­ca­tions for the Pac-12 South

Merced Sun-Star - - Sports - BY ANNE M. PETER­SON

Here are some things to watch in the Pac-12 Con­fer­ence this week:

GAME OF THE WEEK

Ore­gon at Utah: This game has lots of drama, with Utah miss­ing quar­ter­back Tyler Hunt­ley, who is out for the reg­u­lar sea­son with a bro­ken col­lar­bone. The Utes will start red­shirt fresh­man Ja­son Shel­ley as the team seeks to re­main atop the jum­bled Pac-12 South. “Los­ing Tyler, he was a heck of a player, so we have to make sure Ja­son knows we have com­plete con­fi­dence in him and I be­lieve he does,” coach Kyle Whit­ting­ham said. The Ducks, mean­while, are bowl el­i­gi­ble and on the up­swing af­ter snap­ping a two-game los­ing streak with a vic­tory over UCLA.

MATCHUP OF THE WEEK

Wash­ing­ton State quar­ter­back Gard­ner Min­shew II vs. Colorado’s de­fense: The Buf­faloes are in the bot­tom half of the league for pass de­fense, al­low­ing 237 yards a game, which means Min­shew may get a chance to up his Heis­man pro­file with a big day. Min­shew has thrown for at least 300 yards in ev­ery game this sea­son and leads the na­tion in com­ple­tions per game (36.36), pass­ing yards per game (390.8) and to­tal of­fense per game (397.4). Min­shew is a must-watch this sea­son.

NUM­BERS GAME

The Pac-12 has four of the top seven run­ning backs at the FBS level: Ari­zona State’s Eno Ben­jamin (fifth, 123.7 yards per game), Ari­zona’s J.J. Tay­lor, (sixth, 122.1 yards), Ore­gon State’s Jer­mar Jef­fer­son (tied for sev­enth, 121.3 yards), Utah’s Jack Moss (tied for sev­enth, 121.3 yards per game). … There is the pos­si­bil­ity that all of the Pac-12 South’s teams could end the sea­son tied for first in the stand­ings. … In the North, if Wash­ing­ton and Wash­ing­ton State win out, the divi­sion will be de­cided by the Ap­ple Cup. … Home teams hold just a 22-16 edge this sea­son in con­fer­ence play. … Wash­ing­ton linebacker Ben Burr-Kir­ven leads the league with 134 tack­les this sea­son. He has 10 or more in eight games this sea­son. .. Eno Ben­jamin tops the league in rush­ing. His 1,113 to­tal rush­ing yards are the third-most for the Sun Devils since they joined the con­fer­ence. He’s got 100-plus rush­ing yards in six games this sea­son.

UPSET WATCH

Not a lot of upset spe­cials in the league this week, but the most in­trigu­ing would be a UCLA vic­tory over Ari­zona State in Tempe on Satur­day — just be­cause it would re­ally stir up more chaos in the South. And it feels like Bru­ins coach Chip Kelly may be poised to pull off an en­cour­ag­ing win in a dis­ap­point­ing first sea­son. The Sun Devils are 13 1⁄2-point fa­vorites.

IM­PACT PER­FORMER

Ore­gon safety Ugochukwu Amadi: Amadi had a 56-yard punt re­turn for a touch­down early in Ore­gon’s vic­tory over UCLA last week­end for the Ducks’ first punt re­turn for a score since 2015. Amadi is the only FBS player to score on both a punt re­turn and an in­ter­cep­tion re­turn this sea­son. He has two pick­sixes this sea­son, and three in­ter­cep­tions over­all.

THOMAS BOYD AP

Ore­gon safety Ugochukwu Amadi (7), runs back a punt re­turn for a touch­down against UCLA last Satur­day in Eu­gene, Ore. It was the Ducks’ first punt re­turn for a score since 2015.

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