Last week's games
A few things surprised me in last weekend's games. Fresno State and Stanford battled on the road to make games interesting. I predicted that the home teams would prevail by a healthy margin in hostile home environments. Autzen and Alumni Stadium are not easy places to play. Many people are saying Oregon was lucky to win. In some respects, they are correct. The Ducks got the benefit of a few plays going their way, especially on a couple of spots (one that gave Oregon a first down, and one that prevented Fresno from moving along). But it must also be noted that the Ducks gained 100 more yards than the Bulldogs. Fresno also got a huge boost from a spectacular catch that was tipped up in the air on third down. Oregon only got two points on the blocked punt that would have been a sure touchdown if a great play wasn't made to knock the ball out of the back of the endzone. The Ducks caught a few breaks, but so did Fresno State.
Stanford's performance also caught me by surprise. They have a tough schedule to start the season, with just one home game in the first month. It's especially tough when considering they are breaking in an entire new defense, having lost 10 starters from last year, a new coach, and starting a redshirt freshman in place of suspended Chris Lewis. The Cardinal had a 10-point lead late in the third, but allowed 17 points in the fourth quarter, including a 12-yard touchdown run with 36 seconds left. This shows that Stanford has some talent, but needs some more experience, especially some experience in pressure situations when the game is on the line on the road. It doesn't matter what a player does in practice, there's no simulating that. Stanford will be better as the year goes on. There are truly no cupcakes in the Pac-10.
UCLA showed another strong early season performance. For most teams, this would send up a signal that they will be contenders. For UCLA this means, it's only a month until they collapse. They'll probably beat Colorado on the way, but wait until November to pencial UCLA into a bowl.
Maybe I got a bit too hyped up about Central Florida. They certainly showed they could throw the ball against Penn State. They only managed 152 yards against ASU. To be fair, UCF starting QB Ryan Schneider was injured late in the third, but he was only 7 of 24 passing. What does this mean? Penn State's pass defense is awful.
I would be tempted to hop on the Cal bandwagon now if their next five games weren't against Michigan State, Air Force, Washington State, Washington, and USC. If they go 2-3, they should be very pleased. The Bears could prove to be a tough player in the Pac-10 race.
The Toe's Power Poll
1) Washington State
2) Oregon State
8) Arizona State
It pains me to make anyone tenth in this poll. I've made a commitment to myself to not have ties. But the bottom five teams could go in any order. There are no weak sisters in the Pac-10. Oregon State moves ahead of Oregon after the Ducks vulnerable showing against Fresno. The Bulldogs are a good team, but the Beavers will win by a bigger margin than the Ducks September 21st.
The Beavers are leading all sorts of categories statistically. The most impressive are that they are tied for the national lead in interceptions with 7, first nationally in pass defense efficiency, and first in the conference in red zone defense. Among the notable individual leaders, Derek Anderson is leading the Pac-10 in touchdown passes, Steven Jackson leads the Pac-10 in rushing, and Nick Barnett and Richard Seigler are first and second in tackles in the conference. Also notable are the following:
OSU is 5th in country in total offense, 15th in scoring offense
OSU 13th in country for pass defense, 3rd in Pac
OSU is 6th in scoring defense in country, 2nd in Pac
OSU is 3rd in country for turnover margin at +4 per game
OSU is 15th in pass efficiency nationally
OSU leads Pac-10 in total offense
OSU has largest average margin of victory in Pac-10 at 35.5
OSU 2nd in Pac-10 in 3rd down conversions
OSU is 1st in conference in Red Zone defense (3 trips, only 1 FG)
Farley, Newson, and Boyd in top 10 receiving yards/game in Pac-10
Mitch Meeuwsen is tied for 4th in country in interceptions per game
Michigan State 31, Cal 28. Cal is 0-2 all-time against Michigan State. They haven't played since the Bears last appeared in the Rose Bowl, which was 1958. Cal has scored 104 points in two games this season. Michigan State needs to come into this game prepared to play or else Cal will beat them. Bobby Williams does a great job preparing his teams and they won't be caught with their guard down. It's Cal's first big test. If they win this one, they'll have some serious momentum going into the following games against some tough opponents.
Oregon 42, Idaho 10. Oregon should come out and dominate this one. Idaho got blown out last week by Washington State and this week shouldn't be much different for the Vandals. Oregon rolls big against Idaho and Vandal QB Michael Harrington, Joey's little brother.
USC 21, Colorado 13. Colorado QB Craig Ochs will not play after suffering a concussion against San Diego State. The Buffalos haven't been that impressive this year with Ochs. Without him, they'll probably become too one dimensional running the ball. It came on a crushing hit that made me cringe. USC should be anxious to get back on the field after playing only one game so far. The Trojan defense must play better than they did against Auburn. But Carson Palmer and company should be victorious with Ochs out.
Washington State 34, Ohio State 30
The last time these teams met, in 1991, Kirk Herbsteit and Drew Bledsoe were the starting QBs. Ohio State has won six out of seven all-time meetings. Washington State has a share in the conference's longest winning streak (5 games, tied with Oregon) on the line. If the Cougs want a chance at the national title or a shot at the Heisman for Jason Gesser, they'll need a good showing at the Horseshoe. Washington State's offensive line has an average of more than 20 starts each. They are experienced on both sides of the ball and shouldn't be too intimidated in this game. They had a tendency to crumble in tough games last year (Oregon and Washington). That experience will hopefully bring them over the top. The big concern will be shutting down the Buckeye running game.
UCLA 24, Oklahoma State 7. UCLA should roll in Stillwater. The Bruins should still be good for another month. The scary part is, they will probably still be rolling when they come to Corvallis on October 5th. If I could ask for one scheduling favor, I'd ask for the Stanford and UCLA games to be switched dates.
Arizona State 34, San Diego State 10. ASU should win this one big over a San Diego State team that is better than advertised. The Sun Devils have been coming together with some tough defense over the past few weeks.
Stanford 31, San Jose State 17. Even though it seems this one is always close, Stanford does hold 43-13-1 all-time lead in series. I mentioned the Spartans' tough schedule last week. This game won't be easy either.
Arizona 35, Utah 20. Arizona only gave up three points in its opener. Defense will be key for them this year. Their offense will be solid, with Bobby Wade, Clarence Farmer, and Jason Johnson at the skill positions. The question mark is whether the defense will improve over last year's shaky showing. Utah is a tough team and gave USC more than they could handle last year. The Utes will give Arizona a challenge, but the Wildcats will surprise people this year.
Oregon State 34, UNLV 13
The Rebels provide the Beavers most significant challenge this season. They will probably be the first team to score a touchdown against the Beaver defense. But they won't be able to maintain the level over the whole game. Jason Thomas has the potential to have a huge game, but I have a feeling after the game he'll be happy he doesn't have to see Richard Seigler again in his college career.
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