Wilner Hotline: Ten Need-To-Knows For Pac-12 Week Six

. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Story by Jon Wilner

Ten need-to-knows for Week Six of the Pac-12 football season …

1. The weekend begins early, with Stanford visiting Arizona State on Friday night.

The Sun Devils are fresh off an impressive win at UCLA, ranked No. 22 in the AP poll and favored by 13 points.

The temperature at kickoff is expected to approach 90 degrees. Today in Palo Alto, the thermometer settled in the 60s.

In other words, the circumstances are stacked against Stanford, which is probably just fine with coach David Shaw and his team.

Forced into a nomadic existence for most of the 2020 season, the Cardinal has played seven of its last nine games away from home.

It has won five consecutive conference road games.

2. Stanford saves its best work for short weeks.

Since the Pac-12 added Colorado and Utah, split into divisions and renegotiated its TV deal, conference games on Thursday and Friday have become common.

The Cardinal is 9-3 in regular-season conference games played on weekdays.

On Fridays specifically, Stanford is 5-1.

3. Meanwhile, Arizona State is 5-8 in weekday games over the past decade.

However, under coach Herm Edwards, the Sun Devils have won two of three, with the loss coming against Stanford on a Thursday evening in 2018.

However, they are 2-0 in Friday games under Edwards.

4. The key to stopping the Sun Devils: limiting big plays.

They have 29 plays of 20 yards or more this season, tops in the Pac-12, and they average 7.23 yards per play, which also leads the conference (and is fourth in the nation).

5. This is the largest bye week of the season for the conference, with four idle teams: Oregon, Cal, Colorado and Washington.

No other upcoming week features more than two teams on break:

Oct. 16: Oregon State and USC
Oct. 23: ASU and Stanford
Nov. 6: UCLA and Washington State

UCLA already had one open date (Sept. 11) because it started earlier than everyone else, leaving WSU with the latest bye week in the conference, by far.

6. Pac-12 players among the national leaders:

Utah’s Britain Covey leads the nation in punt returns with an average of 19.75 yards per return.

Oregon safety Verone McKinley is tied for first in interceptions (four).

USC’s Drake London is second in receiving yards per game (134) and catches per game (9.6).

Utah linebacker Devin Lloyd is tied for third in tackles-for-loss per game (2.0).

7. Arizona coach Jedd Fisch will face his former team Saturday night.

Fisch served as UCLA’s offensive coordinator in 2017 and spent two games as the interim head coach after Jim Mora’s late-season dismissal.

With Fisch in charge, the Bruins beat Cal to qualify for a bowl berth, then lost to Kansas State in the Cactus Bowl.

8. Speaking of the Wildcats: Their last victory was 733 days ago, at Colorado on Oct. 5, 2019.

Since then, Arizona has lost 16 in a row, the longest losing streak in the Power Five.

9. Oregon State is alone in first place in the North for the first time since the divisions were formed in 2011.

To remain there, the Beavers must handle a nemesis:

They have lost seven consecutive games to Washington State, including a 38-28 loss to open the 2020 season.

10. WSU’s defense is one of the most improved units in the conference under coordinator Jake Dickert.

Two years ago, the Cougars were No. 121 nationally in yards-per-play allowed.

Last year, they were No. 117.

This year, they’re No. 74.


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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.