The Beaver Beat (October 12, 2007)

Once upon a time, there was a world where USC was the best team in the Pac-10. It was a world where teams didn't break into the Top Ten on the heels of a bye week and a home loss. It was a world where Stanford's starters were really bad, let alone their backups. All of that seems very far away now.

WHAT THE BLEEP DO WE KNOW?

USC is the third best team in the Pac-10? Stanford won a conference game? UCLA gets blown out by Utah AND gives Notre Dame their first win (!!!) and is leading the Pac? And how did Arizona ever beat Washington State, or anyone else this year?

Your intrepid reporter got back from the Beaver game last week and, seeing as there wasn't a Duck game to check out, decided to pass out for a little bit. Sometime in those lost three hours, Football God (not the Notre Dame one) pulled down his pants and took a giant crap over the college football landscape.

Put into perspective how huge the Stanford win was. Some brainy sportswriter pointed out this week that the 41 point spread for the game was probably more than what the line would've been for the Appalachian State debacle in the Big House. That's right – up until last week, Vegas considered the Cardinal worse than a D-1AA team. That's baaaaaaaad.

If you're a Pac-10 fan, you look at the loss and say, "Damn, conference is crazier than usual this year." Of course, if you're an SEC fan, last week was simply proof that USC (and by extension the Pac-10) is overrated.

There are only two sure lessons to take away from last Saturday: Whoever takes a 41-point favorite in a conference game needs to cease betting immediately, and the Pac-10 is a straight-up tough place to play this year.

USC will bounce back and make a run at the Ducks and Bears. Cal will and should be favored in every game for the rest of the year. Oregon's most important game of the season now comes against the Trojans in two weeks.

Behind them, ASU hasn't proven anything, beating a bunch of patsies and, um, good teams with self-destructive tendencies. The Sun Devils WILL NOT go through the USC-Cal-Oregon gauntlet unscathed.

And after that? UCLA is the BEST TEAM IN THE CONFERENCE according to the standings (please read that last sentence, watch their last two games and then proceed with setting yourself on fire). The biggest question from last week's game isn't how bad UCLA is, but rather (as someone pointed out on the boards) if the game was enough for Notre Dame to clinch that BCS spot.

Stanford is still probably terrible, Arizona is definitely terrible and the "resurgent" Huskies have won less conference games than both of them. Wazzu is college football excrement.

WHAT ABOUT THE BEAVER(S)?

On paper, the season is still young. OSU is only two games out of the lead shared by ASU and UCLA, and is closer than that to USC, Oregon and Cal, with games remaining against all three. Catch fire like last year, and the sky's the limit…still.

Off paper, the story's the same as it's always been. The offense can play well for 15 minutes before deciding it's naptime. The defense can stop the run like nobody's business, but the pass defense is suspect. Special teams manages to get their uniforms on straight every game, and for this we're all thankful.

What do you say about this team? The hard part for OSU isn't that they don't have an identity, but that their identity is very well-defined and it's just really crappy. The team is amazingly consistent in its inconsistency. Throw downfield, throw screen passes, hell, take a knee and somehow the team will find a way to turn the ball over. Then the defense will play more or less lights-out ball until finally the offense decides to start giving away points instead of just picks. Repeat ad nauseum.

What's the solution? On defense, keep doing what's working. A suspect pass defense can be helped with defensive line penetration, as shown last week against Zona. The outcome of the Cal game will break down to this: Who had the bigger day, Nate Longshore or Dorian Smith? Longshore's bum leg and lack of practice time this week make this matchup especially critical.

On offense, just please, for the love of Allah, find something that works. If nothing's working, FORCE something that works. Here's a little secret that I'll let you in on, Mike: 30-yard punts by Alexis Serna are only marginally better than downfield picks. Heck, if the picks are long enough, they're probably a BETTER option. It's six games in – "developing a balanced offense" hasn't really panned out too well, Mike. And it ain't gettin' any better than Canfield – we've all seen Moevao. Sean could go throw 25 picks against the Bears and you wouldn't get too much grief giving him the start against Stanford. Make Sean into Colt Brennan and have him throw the ball 70 times. Bring back the wishbone. Run Rodgers on the end around, or pull a Fumblerooski on every freaking play – just move the ball!

And special teams? Well, let's just say I never punt on 4th down when I play on my Xbox, and the Awesome State Red Rockets are the national champions two years running.

PREDICTION TIME!

Oregon will dismantle the Coogs, ASU will continue their exhibition game winning streak, Dirty Sanchez jokes will (thankfully) replace "Booty Calls", and Stanford will make everyone in the Pac proud by choking against Texas Christian.

And the Beavers? Keenan Lewis, Jeremy Perry and Sammie Stroughter will all be watching this game from the bench, but Longshore's ailment will be the one that matters most in this game. If Canfield takes advantage of a mediocre Cal pass defense, and if the defense keeps OSU +2 in turnovers, the game will be a lot closer than anyone thinks. If either one doesn't happen, it'll be a long bye week for Beaver fans.

As always, your intrepid reporter is an optimist. 31-28, Beavs.

Curtis Haley really doesn't have any kind of schedule for this column anymore. thebeaverbeat@beaverfootball.com

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