This Week with the Toe

The Toe starts off the 2003 season a perfect 7-0 and give his take on the full slate of Pac-10 games this weekend. Also, Duck uniforms, what makes a good quarterback, and the battle in the valley.

Things We Learned After One Game

Even though much of the offensive playbook was left in the garage, we definitely saw some key differences between the Riley era versus the Erickson last Thursday. The old regime never would have given the ball to Steven Jackson that many times in a row. There were definitely more short passes, which should help Derek Anderson’s completion percentage. And finally, we saw a few blitzing linebackers, which were as common as spotting fullbacks under Erickson and company.

 

Things We Didn’t Learn After One Game

After the first week of Pac-10 play, it’s easy to jump to conclusions about where everything stands. USC had a very impressive win at Auburn, showing that their defense is still top notch, even after a few losses last year. Washington, however, was not so impressive. The Huskies found that they still cannot run the ball and have a few holes on defense.

But before we jump to any conclusions, we ought to remember that this is a long season. Year after year, we see teams overrated early in the year that end up flopping. We also see teams that struggle early that end up making noise in their conference races down the road. Washington State, although not in their first game, got beat thoroughly at Ohio State, and still managed to win the Pac-10 and play in the Rose Bowl. Last week, I predicted that the Huskies would win the Pac-10. While I may not be as confident as I was a week ago, primarily because of the severe lack of a running game, I will stick by my pick.

 

Ducks Uniforms

Many people have been critical of Oregon’s uniforms, so I won’t shift course. They were ugly, just plain U-G-L-Y. But I think they are fixable. First the “Oregon” on both shoulders needs to go. And second, the pants need some sort of continuity from the shirts. The stripe on the pants seems like it ought to continue up the side of the top jersey, but instead it makes it look like they don’t go together. But the bottom line, Mike Bellotti insists that his players and recruits love them. And the kind of publicity they have received has been priceless.


What makes a good quarterback?

With all the criticisms of Derek Anderson, it makes me think that most people forget how difficult it can be to play quarterback. A look back to Jonathon Smith is warranted. In his first two seasons, his completion percentage was below 50%, and he finished barely over 50% (50.5%) after his junior year. Smith’s opening game in the 2000 Fiesta Bowl season was not pleasant. He was 13 of 29 for just 132 yards, two interceptions, and no touchdowns. It didn’t get better right away either (12 of 28 for 78 yards against New Mexico and 10 of 29 for 157 yards against USC). It five games and the Beavers first loss for Smith to have his first better than average game (13 of 24, 314 yards, three touchdowns).

I know numbers may not tell the whole story, but I think we tend to forget about quarterbacks bad moments when their good moments were so great. Anderson surely has not had his greatest moments yet. Give him a chance to get to that level.

 

Battle in the Valley

Oregon State makes their return to the San Joaquin Valley this week for what may be the final meeting between OSU and Fresno State for some time. There are no games between the two on future schedules, but the Bulldog’s athletics director, Scott Johnson, would like to change that. Johnson is hoping he can convince Bob De Carolis to schedule a return trip. It remains to be seen if that will happen.

So enjoy this one, as it may be the last battle between the two for awhile.

And let me just take this opportunity to say that I hope the senseless personal fouls are over. As we all saw last week, hitting a defenseless punt returner before he catches the ball or after signaling for a fair catch is dangerous and is not something that should be cheered. EVER. Hopefully the illegal hits are over.

 

Corrections

Last week I mentioned Mike Bush as WSU’s star receiver. While I know that Bush is an outstanding receiver, he has graduated and is no longer in school. Had I not been so hasty, I would have saved myself from the throngs of e-mails I received to notify me of this error. I meant to refer to Devard Darling, but mistakenly used Mike Bush. I apologize to all you Cougs for the mistake. It won’t happen again.

 

Last Week’s Record: 7-0.

After a perfect week, I return for another round of picks. Granted, some of my picks weren’t dead on (I thought the Washington-Ohio State, Auburn-USC, and Cal-Southern Miss games would all be a little closer than they turned out to be), but winning is all that counts, right? Here’s another round of predictions.


Oregon State 34, Fresno State 24. Fresno State is banged up again. Expect to see more diversity and excitement in the OSU playbook. We saw a very vanilla version of what Mike Riley’s offense contains. I expect this one to be a much closer matchup than the previous two games. Steven Jackson will be the Beavers key again, but look for Fresno to do all they can to shut him down and force Derek Anderson to beat them down the field. After a close first half, look for the Beavers to pull away later in the game.


Washington State 24, Notre Dame 21. The Cougars showed quite a bit of rust against Idaho last week as they took a few quarters to get going. Matt Kegel did not look impressive, although he was solid, and the Cougar defense took care of the rest. I should mention the stellar ground attack WSU put up with two rushers not named Jermaine Green going for over 100 yards each. These teams are very well matched and I think each has a distinct advantage. WSU has a game under their belt, which always helps in a situation like this. And Notre Dame has the homefield advantage, which I believe is a little more significant than usual because it’s NOTRE DAME. With all the tradition, the dome, and Touchdown Jesus, it would be easy to be in awe. But I like the Cougars to pull it out because of their defense.

Colorado 31, UCLA 20. The Buffs looked quite impressive last week against Colorado State, a team many predicted would have a great season. UCLA, however, was idle. UCLA begins the Karl Dorrell era in Boulder and I have a feeling they will struggle a bit. They do have the revenge factor after losing in Pasadena last year, but revenge is one of the most overrated factors in sports. I wonder if many of those UCLA boosters may be watching OSU to see how Mike Riley fits in as coach. The Bruins could have had Riley, but chose Dorrell instead.

Oregon 38, Nevada 10. Chance Kretschmer is said to be back on the same level he was a few years ago, but look for the Ducks to come out and scare the Wolfpack with their next ridiculous uniform color combination. Actually, the Ducks are saying that they will wear their usual home green home jerseys. The Ducks will be without Haloti Ngata, who is out with a strained knee ligament, but will be looking to prove they can still dominate the line of scrimmage. I believe they will and win this game handily.

Washington 45, Indiana 6. Reggie Williams and Cody Pickett were both embarrassed in Columbus last weekend, having their slim Heisman hopes dashed. Without a running game, Pickett will find things hard, but I believe they will rebound against a lesser Big 10 opponent and have big games this weekend.

Cal 31, Colorado State 27. In my opinion this is the most intriguing Pac-10 game of the week. A few weeks ago, I would have said this was a sure Rams win. But after last week’s loss to Colorado, State looks beatable. Cal was impressive against Southern Miss, with their defense not giving up any points. Look for Bradlee Van Pelt to rebound after his failed guarantee (he may have riled up the Buffs by proclaiming they would win). I think this one is essentially a toss-up, but I like the Bears to win at home.

USC 24, BYU 13. This one could be a lot closer than most people expect. The Trojans were simply amazing to watch against Auburn. The defense is full of athletes and playmakers. But the one thing that seemed apparent to me was that USC’s strengths played well to Auburn’s strengths and USC weaknesses were not things that Auburn was able to exploit.

LSU 31, Arizona 7. This one could be nasty. Both teams opened against cupcake opponents and performed well. If LSU can get their offense going early, it could be a long day in Tucson. However, if Arizona can keep the Tigers from amassing to many points, they may be able to make this a competitive game. While I think it is likely that Arizona will finish in the bottom portion of the Pac-10, they could be significantly improved if Farmer stays healthy and Nic Costa or Ryan O’Hara turns into a steady performer at QB. I think LSU will just be too tough.

Arizona State 42, Northern Arizona 10. The Lumberjacks travel to Tempe to take on the Sun Devils in their season opener. ASU is trying to prove they can contend for the Pac-10 title without Terrell Suggs and Shaun McDonald. They return plenty of talent and should get a big season from Darryl Lightfoot. This one will be over early.

Stanford 27, San Jose State 24. San Jose State’s ability to upset Stanford is well-known. But I’m not even sure if this can be called an upset. With two games under their belts against Grambling State and Florida, San Jose State will be prepared to go up against a team that struggled against UC-Davis in a controlled scrimmage last week. Apparently, if the game was played for keeps and not as a scrimmage, UC-Davis would come away victorious 17-13. The bottom line, though, Stanford will pull out a close one in a game that counts.

Until next week...

The Toe joined BeaverFootball.com during the first Mike Riley era. He received his infamous nickname after attempting a 10-yard field goal at halftime during a Beaver game; the ball never made if off the turf. The Toe can be reached at thetoe@beaverfootball.com.


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