College football: Why Washington is the most at-risk Pac-12 contender this week

The Pac-12 Conference is still an open race. Undefeated Washington leads the way, with one-loss Oregon sitting right behind. Although the spread would indicate otherwise, Washington and Oregon both have tests this week that could push either off track.

Utah at Washington (-9.5, 50)

The Utes bounced back from a rout to Oregon with a 55-3 win over Arizona State, generating 352 yards of rushing offense at 7.2 yards per carry. Utah will need that same fire against the Huskies, who allowed 203 rushing yards in 52-42 win over USC. Washington may have the No. 1 passing offense, but defensively it ranks 79th in total EPA (expected points added) and 117th in EPA per play against the run.

It was a contributing factor in the Huskies' 15-7 win over Arizona State on Oct. 21, allowing 4.7 yards per carry to the Sun Devils, who average 3.2 overall.

Ultimately, Washington finds itself in a bit of a sandwich spot, coming off a big conference win over the Trojans with Oregon State next week. The last three times the Beavers and Huskies played, the game was decided by one score. Utah is not a conference opponent to overlook, making this a brutal spot for Washington. Back Utah at +9.5.

USC at Oregon (-15, 75)

Oregon is getting a lot of respect and rightfully so. Since losing to Washington, the Ducks have outscored their last three opponents 136-49. On one hand, you have Bo Nix and Co. still in contention for the Pac-12 title and even possibly a shot as a CFP contender, while Caleb Williams and USC are out of the playoff race, Heisman race and likely the conference title game. How does USC respond?

The Trojans did fire defensive coordinator Alex Grinch, but it’s too little, too late. Oregon may be the most complete team in the country, with Nix leading the nation in completion percentage and boasting the fourth-best passer rating and a balanced offense with RB Bucky Irving and a running game that is No. 3 in rushing success rate. Oregon also has a defense that’s top 10 in opponent touchdowns allowed.

The Ducks' offense will shred USC’s defense, which has allowed 41 points or more to opponents in five of its last six games. Back Oregon at -15. The respect is earned.

Arizona at Colorado (-10.5, 54.5)

Arizona is good. The Wildcats have three straight wins over ranked opponents, plus a one-score loss to Washington. It’s not a fluke. Against Washington's Michael Penix Jr., USC's Caleb Williams and Washington State's Cameron Ward, Arizona allowed just one passing touchdown. The three-point win over Oregon State looks close but seven points were allowed in garbage time.

Offensively, Wildcats quarterback Noah Fifita has been stellar, answering the call each week. In his five starts, he has completed 75% of his passes. Against one of the better Pac-12 defenses in Oregon State, Fifita had three passing scores despite four sacks.

Shedeur Sanders is at risk of being the most sacked quarterback in the nation. Last week, he went into the locker room against Oregon State down 20-5. He finished the game, but the eye test tells you he is not 100% healthy. Prior to last week, Sanders even said he was "banged up and sore." Now Sanders has to face what could be the best defense in the Pac-12. Arizona should keep the train rolling as a 10.5-point road favorite.

The most at-risk Pac-12 contender this week is Washington. It’s a tough stretch of opponents for the Huskies. The clock could be ticking on their top spot in the Pac-12.