No. 8 Washington, Michael Penix head to Michigan State to headline Pac-12 action

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Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. walks on the field after a win over Tulsa in an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)

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


No. 8 Washington (2-0) at Michigan State (2-0), Saturday. The Huskies will travel to East Lansing to face either a distracted Spartans team or one that is especially motivated. Michigan State coach Mel Tucker was suspended after USA Today reported he allegedly sexually harassed an activist and rape survivor. This is Washington's last nonconference game, and though Michigan State is a name opponent, this isn't a typical Spartans side. Washington is favored by 16 1/2 points, according to FanDuel Sportsbook, so anything but a convincing victory would be a disappointment for a school with a shot at the College Football Playoff. Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. is making an early case for the Heisman Trophy, with a pair of 400-yard passing performances. Michigan State QB Noah Kim was named Big Ten Conference offensive player of the week after completing 18 of 22 passes for 292 yards and three touchdowns in a 45-14 victory over Richmond.


Colorado State (0-1) at No. 18 Colorado (2-0). It's Deion Sanders — or Coach Prime — all the time these days in college football. The Buffaloes have already doubled their win total from last season, and two players (Prime's son Shedeur Sanders and two-way sensation Travis Hunter) have been mentioned in early Heisman talk. Colorado's most recent victory was a convincing 36-14 win over Nebraska. Now the Buffaloes host nearby rival Colorado State, which lost its opener 50-24 to Washington State and is a 22 1/2-point underdog. This will be their first meeting in Boulder since 2009; 18 of the previous 22 were in Denver.


Eight Pac-12 teams are ranked, its highest-ever number. Six of those teams will be headed to other conferences after this season, though the future Pac-2 teams Oregon State (16th) and Washington State (23rd) are in the rankings. The conference's previous high was six teams, which happened several times. Its 20-3 nonconference record is the nation's best. ... Three USC players since 1971, when records were first kept on this topic, have touchdowns receiving and on kickoff and punt returns. The latest is freshman Zachariah Branch, who was named conference special teams player of the week after returning a punt 75 yards against Stanford. He also has a 96-yard kickoff return this season and two TD catches. ... Five of the nation's top eight quarterbacks in passing yards per game play in the Pac-12. That includes the top two in Sanders (451.5) and Penix (429.5). USC's Caleb Williams, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, leads the country in passer rating (240.5) and passing touchdowns (12).


Washington WR Rome Odunze. His six receptions for 20 or more yards is tied for the national lead, giving Penix his top deep threat. Odunze is hardly a secret in Seattle. He made first-team All-Pac-12 last season and was an AP third-team All-American after catching 75 passes for 1,145 yards.


Fresno State (2-0) at Arizona State (1-1). This is a lousy week to pick an upset because many Pac-12 teams are facing FCS opponents or other school that just don't stack up with them. Not so at Arizona State, which is a 3-point underdog. The rebuilding Sun Devils — aren't they always? — are looking for something positive under first-year coach Kenny Dillingham. They need it after disappointing performances against Southern Utah and Oklahoma State and with USC up next week. Fresno State has won 11 consecutive games, second nationally to Georgia's 19. But the Bulldogs had to go to double overtime to beat Eastern Washington on Saturday.


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