WHITWORTH (4-0, 1-0 NWC) at PUGET SOUND (2-1, 1-0)
1 p.m. Saturday, Baker Stadium, Tacoma
Series: Whitworth leads, 38-25-1. UPS has lost its past 19 meetings against the Pirates — its second-worst drought in school history behind the current 24-game skid to Linfield.
What to watch for: If you like offense, Baker Stadium is the place to be Saturday afternoon. These are the top two offenses statistically in the conference (Whitworth at 504.8 yards per game; UPS at 457.7 ypg). The biggest difference between the two high-powered units? When the Pirates have had chances to score, they’ve cashed in (14 touchdowns in 22 red-zone trips). On the other hand, UPS has been hit or miss (five of 12 TDs in red zone). Whitworth has seen big gains in two areas — the rushing attack with running back Duke DeGaetano (64 rushes, 310 yards, seven TDs) and on defense (conference-leading 20 sacks, 13 turnovers). Meanwhile, UPS quarterback Hans Fortune (84 of 140, 1,102 yards, 11 TDs) shook off a lethargic three quarters to lead a comeback victory last week against Willamette, 24-20.
What’s at stake: Way back in 2000, the Loggers beat Willamette and Lewis & Clark to open 2-0 in conference play. They would like to repeat that bid come Saturday.
TNT pick: Whitworth, 45-38.
WILLAMETTE (0-3, 0-1 NWC) at PACIFIC LUTHERAN (0-3, 0-1)
1 p.m. Saturday, Sparks Stadium, Puyallup
Series: PLU leads, 27-16-2. After losing four in a row to the Bearcats (2002-05), the Lutes have won the past five meetings, their longest winning streak since the 1980s when they went on a six-game roll. PLU won last year, 56-14, in Puyallup.
What to watch for: It seems odd that these two traditional conference powerhouses are winless in October. How odd are these starts? Go back to 2002 for the last time the Lutes and Bearcats dropped their NWC openers. While both defenses have had their shutdown moments, both offenses could use efficient, mistake-free efforts from their quarterbacks — PLU’s Jon Schaub (76 of 128, 867 yards, four touchdowns, five interceptions) and Willamette’s Trent Spallas (46 of 95, 559 yards, three TDs, four INTs). Alert secondary members on both sides could see a few opportunities for big plays.
What’s at stake: At this point, a win would be nice to snap PLU’s longest skid to start a season since 2009.
TNT pick: PLU, 19-16.