Colorado lingers as last remaining unbeaten Pac-12 team

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For a Colorado team that finished 2017 short of a bowl game, being 4-0 is a bona fide step in the right direction. Quarterback Steven Montez’s consistent ability to make plays has propelled the team into the AP Top 25.

Now ranked No. 21, the Buffaloes will host Arizona State at home Saturday to finally give fans (and voters) a legitimate metric to gauge Colorado’s true potential. The Buffaloes have not come across much resistance in the form of Colorado State (1-3), UCLA (0-4), Nebraska (0-4) and Football Championship Subdivision team New Hampshire.

Arizona State, meanwhile, has fought through a tough early season schedule. The Sun Devils earned a marquee win in their upset over now-No. 20 Michigan State. Herm Edwards’ team also gave a scare to No. 10 Washington, falling short by a single score.

ASU’s running back and Pac-12 Player of the Week, Eno Benjamin is averaging more than 6 yards per carry on the season and ripped Oregon State last week for a ridiculous 312 rushing yards — the most in a game in school history and the top showing of anyone in college football this season.

Based on how it has performed against the strong competition it has faced, Arizona State looks like the best team in the Pac-12 South. The Buffaloes better not get too high on their entrance into the AP poll.

No. 14 Stanford will host Utah on Saturday after suffering its first loss of 2018 in South Bend last week against No. 6 Notre Dame. Utah (2-2) will also need to bounce back from a difficult road loss, albeit a close one to Washington State.

The Utes have been described as Stanford Jr., thanks to their stingy, physical play in the Pac-12 South and a propensity to running the ball up the middle.

This year, though, Utah’s defense has performed much better than Stanford’s. The Utes have surrendered just 264.8 yards per game, good for fifth in the country, while Stanford’s unit is ranked 85th. Bryce Love has not been the Heisman contender many expected; in fact, he is not even the star of the Stanford offense.

Strangely enough, the passing game has been the focus of the Cardinal offense, thanks to the rising connection between K.J. Costello and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside.

Stanford may show signs of fatigue in this one after two straight games against ranked opponents.

Looking at Cal-Arizona in Tucson, last year’s double-overtime drama in Berkeley looms large. The Wildcats came away with a single-point victory after thwarting the Bears’ two-point conversion attempt for the win. Cal’s defense had no answer for Khalil Tate’s speed, who ran wild for 137 yards.

What’s good news for the Bears is that Tate has spent a lot more time in the pocket this season, based off a new coaching framework that is working toward making Tate a more pure passer.

Cal suffered its first loss of the season against Oregon last weekend, and the offense showed poor ball security — two of the five Bears’ turnovers led to 14 points directly. If Cal’s quarterbacks can’t protect the ball, its defense is in for a long night in Tucson.

Armen Aprahamian writes for Bear Bytes, the Daily Californian’s sports blog. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @armnhammer_.