Analysis: Why Michigan State might have reason to worry about trip to UW

Five things to know for week three…

1. Voyages of the Big Ten

Michigan State coach Mel Tucker said he was sufficiently concerned about this weekend’s trip to Seattle for the showdown in Washington that his staff “spoke to experts” about the impact of a westward journey.

We could have saved him some time: it’s a long way.

The flight from East Lansing to Seattle will cover nearly 2,000 miles and take approximately four and a half hours.

A review of the Big Ten’s recent history on the West Coast should give Tucker additional cause for concern.

The Hotline has looked at every Big Ten vs. Pac-12 game this century and filtered out the circumstances MSU will face on Saturday: regular season games played in the Pacific time zone.

Dating back to the 2000 season, the Pac-12 is 26-10 in head-to-head matchups against Big Ten opponents in Arizona, California, Oregon and Washington.

Dig one more layer and the disparity becomes more extreme: Big Ten teams are 2-9 in regular-season games in Washington and Oregon.

Michigan’s specific history is no better. The Spartans are 0-3 on the West Coast in the regular season since 2000, with losses to Cal, Oregon and Arizona State.

2. Hello, Old Enemy

At least three Pac-12 quarterbacks will face familiar opponents this weekend.

Utah’s Cameron Rising was 19 of 32 for 153 yards and three touchdowns last year in relief against San Diego State, though the performance was a bit late to save the Utes from a 33 loss -31.

Cal’s Jack Plummer completed 25 of 36 passes for 187 yards and a touchdown last year for Purdue in a 27-13 loss to Notre Dame.

Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. faced Michigan State twice during his tenure with Indiana and completed 58 of 80 passes for 606 yards, with six total touchdowns and two interceptions.

Additionally, Colorado’s Brendon Lewis started against Minnesota last year as a rookie — and fared poorly — but the Buffaloes haven’t announced their starter. (They might choose JT Shrout.)

3. In pursuit of mini-perfection

The Pac-12 is 16-6 against other leagues over two weeks, with 11 games scheduled Saturday and three more later in the season.

Five teams are in position Saturday for non-conference 3-0 records: UCLA, Cal, Oregon State, Washington and Washington State.

The Pac-12 produced five perfect non-conference records in 2019, when it sent seven teams to bowl games.

4. Exposure issues

Week three marks the peak of live television exposure for the conference, with four games on three broadcast networks.

The games are well placed during the day, starting with Cal visiting Notre Dame on NBC (11:30 a.m.), followed by BYU at Oregon on FOX (12:30 p.m.), then Michigan State duel with Washington on ABC (4:30 p.m.) and, finally , the game between Fresno State and USC on FOX (7:30 p.m.).

At the other end of the visibility spectrum, there are four games on the Pac-12 networks at three-hour intervals beginning at 11 a.m. with UCLA-South Alabama and ending at 8 p.m. with Arizona-North Dakota State.

5. Notables and statistics

Nuggets that caught our attention…

– Utah scored 73 points last week against Southern Utah while Oregon plastered Eastern Washington for 70, marking the first time since 1925 that two Pac-12 teams have scored at least 70 points the same weekend, according to the conference.

–Oregon State hosts Montana State on Saturday at Providence Park in Portland, the Beavers’ first game in Rip City since 1986.

— Arizona’s defense forced five turnovers in two games. The Wildcats forced six in 12 games last season.

–USC is 35-1-1 all-time against teams from Mountain West, the only loss suffered by Fresno State in the 1992 Freedom Bowl.

– With a win over Colorado State this weekend, Jake Dickert would become the first Washington State coach to start 3-0 in his rookie year since Mike Price in 1989. Price went 4-0 before a one-point loss to USC.

–The Pac-12’s top rusher for two weeks is Arizona State’s X Valladay, a transfer from Wyoming who has 234 yards; that’s good for 10th nationally.

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