Pac-10 Weekend Preview

Arizona and Oregon are in a bye week while the rest of the conference will attempt to clarify the conference's bowl picture. OSU and UCLA both look to become bowl eligible with victories while USC and Cal go head-to-head in a game that will resurrect a disappointing season for the winner while adding momentum to the snowball that continues to build for the loser.

Arizona State (8-1, 5-1 Pac-10) @ UCLA (5-4, 4-2 Pac-10)

Kickoff: 12:30 PM Television: ABC Regional Coverage Stadium: Rose Bowl (91,500)

Both teams enter the game off of tough losses. The Sun Devils most likely saw their national title hopes dashed in a loss to Oregon while UCLA continued their string of poor performances against teams with inferior records by falling to Arizona. Third string QB Rasshan gets the nod for the Bruins while Carpenter will again get the start for the Sun Devils. Although ASU RB's Herring and Nance were able to rush for 126 yards against a good Oregon defense, it's clear that the Sun Devils sorely miss season starter Torain. Torain's speed and bruising running style added toughness to the tailback position that the others lack and although they're capable, neither lacks the game-changing ability of Torain. That's not to say that they can't succeed against the banged up Bruins, but it makes it more difficult for the Sun Devils to exploit a depleted UCLA defense. To make matters worse, ASU will be limited in the direction they want to run because UCLA's DE Davis is an absolute terror who's getting better from week-to-week. Trailing Arizona 34-14 last week, Davis almost single-handily rallied the Bruins back with his spirited play, pass rush, and knack for deflecting Tuitama's passes out of the air. He'll need help this week, though, especially in the secondary where Arizona's passing attack carved up the Bruins for 341 yards and 3 TD's. ASU was able to throw the ball against Oregon last week (379 YDS) and Carpenter will be called upon to do so again this weekend. The Sun Devils will need to have to find a way to run the ball though because if they don't Davis may have a field day if he's allowed to pin back his ears and chase Carpenter out of the pocket. The X-factor for UCLA of course is Rasshan. He's a duel threat QB who gave the Wildcats fits in the second half when UCLA was mounting their comeback. He was only 3 of 10 passing, but managed to throw for 78 yards because his scrambling ability bought his receivers enough time to break free from otherwise solid Arizona pass coverage. Rasshan was unexpectedly thrown into the game last week, but now has a full week of practice to prepare. Naturally, the Sun Devils also have a week to prepare for him so whichever team figures out a way to either make Rasshan comfortable or uncomfortable behind the center will win the game. The spread in this game is seven and I like the Bruins to keep things close as they're 3-1 at home this season, including a win over then No. 12 California. Arizona State 27, UCLA 24.

Stanford (3-6, 2-5 Pac-10) @ Washington State (3-6, 1-5 Pac-10)

Kickoff: 3:30 PM Television: FSNW and FSNPrime – DirecTV Channels 651 & 653 Stadium: Martin Stadium (37,600)

Last week, Stanford QB Pritchard was taken to the locker room after the second drive and never returned. Apparently, the rest of the Cardinal failed to show up after that as well as they lost to Washington 27-9, dropping their record to just 1-10 at home since opening their new stadium last season. The setback put a huge dent in Stanford's bowl hopes, but it wasn't as big as the dent UW RB Rankin left behind after gaining 255 yards on the ground. The Huskies as a team rushed for a season-high 388 against the Cardinal, which doesn't bode well under any circumstances. Well, maybe there is one. Their opponent this week, WSU, has only rushed for 1,086 yards as a team through nine games and last week, could only find a way to muster a total of 52 yards rushing against Cal. The good news for Wazzu fans is their QB Brink has thrown for 2,656 yards this season to go along with 20 TD's against 9 INT's. Last week, a speedy Cal secondary combined with an aggressive pass rush forced Brink into his least efficient game of the season (22/45 completions). Still, Brink threw for 306 yards. The temperature tomorrow in Pullman is expected to be around 44 degrees, but it should feel more like 38. There's rain in the morning forecast and knowing what I know about the accuracy of meteorologists, I expect it to be raining cats and dogs by kick off. All in all, I just can't see Stanford winning this game despite the Cougars only having one win on the season. Stanford will be without star receiver Sherman who's been suspended for the game for his unsportsmanlike conduct, or as head coach Harbaugh called it, "poor sportsmanship," while on the sidelines during the Washington loss. They'll also be without QB Pritchard, leaving the role to Ostrander who struggled somewhat in back up duties last week (16/28, 133 YDS, 0 TD's). WSU will turn up the pressure on Ostrander and should, at the very minimum, hold the Cardinal to less than 100 yards on the ground. Expect Brink to return to his season-average completion rate of 60.6 percent and as a result of his performance, expect the Cougars to win an easy one. Washington State 31, Stanford 10.

USC (7-2, 4-2 Pac-10) @ California (6-3, 3-3 Pac-10)

Kickoff: 5:00 PM Television: ABC Regional Coverage Stadium: California Memorial Stadium (72,516)

Don't be fooled by the surprising records of these teams. Both are still very good and very capable of beating anyone on the right day. Each squad has been plagued by injuries and while the Trojans have somewhat nursed themselves back to health Cal is still hobbling somewhat. The Bears do have their big-three weapons though (Longshore, Forsett and Jackson), so the cupboard isn't exactly bare. The key in this game is turnovers. USC head coach Carroll believes in the magic number of three. He wants his team to have a positive turnover margin of three each game. Shockingly, the Trojans have a turnover margin of minus-5 for the season, good enough for last place in the conference. QB Booty will again get the start. He'll bring experience to the Trojans, but he'll also bring with him his rather un-Trojan-like QB stats (1,396 YDS, 14 TD's and 8 INT's). Cal will look to turn up their defensive pressure as Booty has never really faired well when opponents can find a way to collapse the pocket. Cal has been good, but not great at getting to opposing QB's this season and will look to take advantage of the one unit for USC that hasn't fully healed, the OL. Since upsetting then No. 3 ranked USC in 3OT in 2003, Cal has lost three straight to the Trojans. USC was the higher ranked and, quite frankly, better team in all three games and the same can be said this time around. Although Cal has the better win this season (Tennessee) and the better offense, USC is resoundingly better on defense. That should be good enough to contain Cal's offensive firepower enough to keep USC in the game, giving Booty time to find his groove. Last week against Oregon State, Booty was just okay (2 TD's), but he did have a good week of practice, according to reports, and is one step further away from the broken finger injury he suffered against Stanford one month ago. For USC, the success of Booty is everything although they'll look to their ground game to set up the pass. If Booty is accurate, the Trojans receivers should be able to find holes in the Cal secondary. Plus, assuming they can establish a running game, the play action to indefensible TE Davis will prove too much for Cal. On the flipside, Cal will most likely load the box and dare Booty to pass. If they can force the Trojans into a one-dimensional passing team, then the tables will certainly be turned and Booty can find himself throwing more passes away or worse, being sacked, which is a situation he just hasn't excelled at. This game will be close with Cal having the added advantage of Jackson returning kick offs and punts. If he breaks just one, that could be good enough to propel the Bears to victory. If he doesn't, I think the Trojans stellar defense will hold up long enough for USC to win the game in the fourth quarter. USC 23, California 17.

Washington (3-6, 1-5 Pac-10) @ Oregon State (5-4, 3-3 Pac-10)

Kickoff: 7:15 PM Television: FSN and FSNPrime – DirecTV Channels 651 & 653 Stadium: Reser Stadium (46,000)

Washington got their first conference win of the season last week against Stanford while Oregon State was completely shutdown by USC in a 24-3 loss. The Beavers have three games remaining on their schedule and need one win to become bowl eligible and two to finish the season with a winning record both overall and in conference. They play at WSU next week and close out play against the rival ducks in Corvallis on Dec. 1. On paper this looks to be the easiest game left for the Beavers, but with UW's renewed rushing attack who knows. The good news is a running team plays right into the hands of OSU's aggressive, swarming defense. Last week the Beavers held the Trojans to only 100 yards rushing on 36 carries. They'll look to do the same against the Huskies, forcing UW QB Locker to throw the ball in order to beat them. The weather in Corvallis should help as temperatures are expected to be around 44 degrees by game time. Add to that the potential for some fog and the Huskies will have to find a way to control the line of scrimmage in order to open up passing lanes for Locker. Although UW's defense is nothing to write home about, OSU QB Canfield is in a class by himself right now for Pac-10 QB's. He has only 8 TD passes against 14 INT's for the season, which has put a ton of pressure on the Beavers' ground game week in and week out. When their rushing attack has succeeded OSU has faired well. When it hasn't they've struggled, mightily. Some troubling news for OSU is their leading rusher Bernard has a bruised shoulder and sat out the USC game. His status remains a game day decision, although preliminary reports are leaning to Bernard playing. If he does, the Beavers will win. If he doesn't, or if he's forced out of the game early, the Beavers will still win but it'll be very close. Oregon State 24, Washington 20.

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