Pac-10 Weekend Preview

With California and Oregon in bye weeks, some of the shine is off the Pac-10. However, what that means is it's time for ASU and UCLA to share the spotlight and prove to the nation that they too are worthy of their rankings. Another key game takes place in Corvallis where Arizona looks to make it two wins in a row while the Beavers are still searching for their first conference victory.

 

 

ARIZONA STATE @ WASHINGTON STATE

October 6, 2007

1 PM PST

Television:  FSN and FSA

 

(5-0, 2-0 Pac-10)

(2-3, 0-2 Pac-10)

For the third time this season, Dennis Erickson leads his Sun Devils against a school that he's previously coached at.  In such games, ASU has outscored their opponents 99-35.  Saturday afternoon's game, which is being broadcast in HD, should be much more of the same assuming ASU is not looking past Wazzu.  How could they though after WSU head coach Doba made statements earlier this week that the Arizona school to the south (Arizona) was the best team in the state.  If that's not motivation enough, I don't know what is.  Whatever the spread is at game time, it probably won't be enough.  For the season, ASU's defense has only give up 65 points compared to 182 surrendered by the Cougars.  Sun Devils QB Carpenter is now completing 66 percent of his passes while throwing for 1,286 yards and 12 TD's.  WSU's QB Brink has better numbers (67.5%, 1459 yards, 15 TD's) but Carpenter has the better supporting cast.  In last year's game that saw the Sun Devils beat the Cougars 47-14, ASU rushed for 196 yards while limiting the WSU ground attack to a mere 27 yards.  That can't happen this weekend if the Cougars expect to have any chance of winning.  With RB Torain splitting carries with RB Herring, ASU has a nice one-two punch in the backfield that can force Wazzu to put eight in the box to stop the run.  This, of course, opens the door for Carpenter to run play action which is something he is very good at.  The only advantage WSU has is it's a home game and Pullman is a brutal place to travel too for visiting teams.  As long as ASU is focused on football, they'll win by at least three touchdowns.  If they're thinking ahead to Washington, or worse, California (Oct. 27), then any problems they have on Saturday will be of their own doing.

 

Clarence D. Martin Stadium – 35,117

Field Turf 

 

 

 

ARIZONA @ OREGON STATE

October 6, 2007

1:05 PM PST

No television scheduled

 

(2-3, 1-1 Pac-10)

(2-3, 0-2 Pac-10)

This is easily the most intriguing game of the Pac-10 slate and yet it's the only conference game not televised this week.  Makes complete sense.  Um…not really.  In this day in age, if a game's played and it's not being televised, did it really happen?  It's a great question because according to the Pac-10, there will be no live feed whatsoever so not even SportsCenter can show a highlight of this game unless someone's dad is filming it on a camcorder from the bleachers.  Sadly, this is a game that Arizona fans are dying to see.  After last week's stunning second half performance against Wazzu, a half that saw the ‘Cats offense click for 28 unanswered points and the defense finally string together stops by flying all over the field and getting hands on just about every ball, how the team responds this Saturday is weighing heavily on everyone's mind.  Under Stoops, the ‘Cats have not exactly handled success well.  Outside of last season's three-game winning streak, Arizona has played some of its worst games under Stoops after posting big wins.  Much of their success will depend on how much defensive pressure Arizona can apply to Beavers QB Canfield who already has 11 INT's this season.  If Arizona can force Canfield into committing turnovers, Arizona now has the offense to capitalize on OSU mistakes by converting them into points.  Two things favor the Beavers:  One, the game is played in Corvallis; two, OSU has a very strong OL which will help to protect Canfield from an Arizona DL that's been pretty good, but far from great.  Expect Arizona QB Tuitama to continue to improve as he adjusts to the new offense.  He should again throw for decent yardage but like Canfield will need to limit the mistakes while avoiding costly turnovers.  If RB Grigsby can again provide a running game, then Arizona's balanced attack should be good enough to pull off the mild upset.  If OSU's LB's – easily the best unit on the OSU defense – can shut down the Arizona rushing attack, teams have proven that they can beat a one dimensional Arizona team whether they are running or throwing the ball all the time.

 

OSU has won 7 of the last 8 games.  The lone UA victory did however come two years ago in Corvallis when Arizona upset OSU 29-27.  That game was highlighted by the stellar play of UA safety Johnson who has since graduated.  However, what makes that an interesting parallel is with Arizona's starting FS Patrick sidelined due to injury, the ‘Cats will be platooning younger guys like Hall and Tatum to see if either can step up and assume the starting role.  Their ability to roam the field, break up passes and perhaps get an interception could be the difference between Arizona confidently heading into the  USC game with a 2-1 Pac-10 record or limping into the Coliseum at 1-2.

 

Reser Stadium – 45,674

Field Turf

 

 

STANFORD @ USC

October 6, 2007

4 PM PST

Television:  Versus

 

(1-3, 0-3 Pac-10)

(4-0, 2-0 Pac-10)

This game is your classic #1 versus #10 match-up.  The only problem is we're talking conference rankings and not national rankings. Unfortunately for Stanford, this game was over during the summer when head coach Jim Harbaugh commented about how Pete Carroll was finished at USC and would be taking an NFL job after the season.  While everyone from Kirk Herbstreit to the USC Sports Information Director has commented on the subject, apparently Harbaugh was the only person willing to state it as fact.  As such, its payback time for Carroll and his team who would love to send a clear message to Harbaugh that cheap recruiting tactics don't sit so well with coaching staffs in this conference.

 

USC has now won 35 straight games at home.  Strangely, it was Stanford who was the last team to beat USC in the Coliseum but that was way back in 2001.  Since, USC has paid them back in spades at home in besting the Cardinal by scores of 44-21 (2003) and 51-21 (2005).  Last season, USC shutout Stanford 42-0 in Palo Alto.  If these numbers aren't bad enough, here's one that is:  30 carries for 30 yards.  That's Stanford's rushing totals from their 2006 game and this season USC's front seven are even better.  To make matters even worse, Stanford will be playing without the services of senior QB Ostrander who suffered a seizure on Sunday and is being held out of this week's game for precautionary reasons.  Back-up QB Pritchard will make his first start for the Cardinal.  USC frosh OL O'Dowd underwent arthroscopic surgery on his knee Tuesday and will sit out the Stanford game.  Starting RB Johnson has been in a boot all week and will be a game decision.  Fortunately, for the banged up Trojans, they're loaded at least three deep at all positions, which means it should be business as usual in Los Angeles on Saturday.    

 

Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum – 92,000

 Natural Grass 

 

 

NOTRE DAME @ UCLA

October 6, 2007

5 PM PST

Television:  ABC (Regional Coverage)

 

(0-5, 0-3 away)

(4-1, 3-0 Pac-10)

UCLA is 16-2 in their last 18 non-conference home games and are 20-5 overall at home under head coach Dorrell.  If you're an Irish fan, last year's game at Notre Dame was epic as QB Quinn threw a 45-yard TD with :27 to play to beat the Bruins 20-17.  This weekend, if the game is even remotely close the Bruins will only have themselves to blame.  UCLA, from top to bottom, is just flat out better.  If they do have one area of weakness it's at QB but the Notre Dame defense is not going to strike fear in anybody so starting QB Olson will simply be asked to distribute the ball and let his teammates make the big plays.  UCLA will further look to take the pressure off Olson by relying on their rushing attack, which is currently average 199 YPG.  Incredibly, the offensive statistics for Notre Dame are mind-boggling bad and when you consider that UCLA has one of the top defenses in the country, look out because this could be Notre Dame's worst loss of the season.  Currently, the Irish are ranked 119th in total yards (237.4) and points scored (11.5).  They do rise to 91st in passing yards (207) but fall even farther to 120th (30.4) in rushing yards.  When Weiss was originally hired and more so, when he was given his 10 year "I'm the richest coach in the country" contract, I seriously doubt ND administrators and boosters could ever even imagine a scenario where the Irish ranked so close to dead last in almost all offensive team categories.

 

If there is any light at the end of the tunnel for the Irish, the Bruins are the type of team that can get star struck, or dare I say, intimidated, by the mere sight of a team like the Irish.  Granted, under Dorrell, they have steadily improved and last season they did do everything in South Bend but beat the Irish.  Still, this is a team that has a lot of questions to answer for some inexplicable losses in recent years.  The 52-14 loss to an Arizona team that was 2-6 at the time, the 44-27 bowl loss last year to an inferior Florida State team, and then this season's 44-6 pounding at the hands of Utah.  These are all games that the Bruins should not only have won, but won easily.

 

A team that UCLA probably stacks up comparably to that Notre Dame has already played is Penn State.  The Nittany Lions won 31-10, but Notre Dame did make them work for the victory.  The stats tell the story of that game and I wouldn't be surprised if this weekend's final box score end up being very similar.  The Irish only had 144 total yards of offense and a woeful zero (0) yards of rushing on 26 attempts.  Conversely, Penn State had 164 yards of rushing while only throwing for 131 in the air.  If I had to guess, the Bruins will continue to ease Olson into this offense and keep his pass attempts under 25.  They'll give the Irish a steady does of running plays and force Notre Dame to put eight in the box before they even try to go downfield.  This strategy might keep the score a bit closer than it should be but if you watch the game for all four quarters it'll probably be a game where once over you'll say, "even if the Irish had scored that one touchdown, it never really felt like they could win that game anyway."  

 

Rose Bowl – 91,500

  Natural Grass

 


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