Thoughts From Last Weekend
After a big win over the Ducks, the Washington State Cougars have moved one win away from clinching the Pac-10 title. Because of their head-to-head victories, the Cougars hold tiebreakers over USC and Arizona State. UCLA still has an outside shot, but they must beat USC and hope Washington wins the Apple Cup. I wouldn't hold my breath.
But not only are the Cougars inching closer toward the Rose Bowl, they may be inching a little further east, to the Fiesta Bowl, the site of this year's BCS National Championship game. They may only be as far as a Miami loss, coupled with a defeat of either Texas or Oklahoma. It's hard to figure out all possible scenarios, but WSU is in much better shape now than Oregon was a year ago.
The Huskies were able to intercept the Beavers chance of winning in Husky Stadium for the first time since 1985. I guess that means there is still plenty of motivation for that next trip to Seattle. It would have been one of Derek Anderson's best games of the year if it weren't for his five picks.
USC is playing just as well as Washington State these days and if that early season contest had been in Los Angeles and not in Pullman, it may have been a different story. Carson Palmer and Jason Gesser are vying to become the Pac-10 Offensive Player of Year. It's as good a case as any to have co-players of the year for the first time since 1998 when Cade McNown and Akili Smith shared the honor.
Cal is still awaiting the reply from their appeal on bowl eligibility for this season. The Golden Bears have not folded and will almost certainly have a winning record this year. The Bears finish the year with the two worst Pac-10 teams, Arizona and Stanford. With wins, they will push their record to a more than respectable 8-4. That's pretty impressive for a team coming off a 1-10 season with the lone win coming against perhaps the worst team in 1-A football last year, 0-11 Rutgers.
With the conference title virtually wrapped up, the question now will be whether the Pac-10 sends two teams to BCS bowls. As I mentioned last week, if USC and Washington State both win out, it becomes very possible that both edge their way into BCS bowls. Here's how the Pac-10 bowls should work out, assuming Cal loses their appeal and the BCS jobs the Pac-10 and only takes one team.
Rose: Washington State
Sun: Arizona State
Las Vegas: Oregon
Silicon Valley: Oregon State
The last three are pretty much interchangeable, as I'm guessing they'll all end up with 4-4 records. It will come down to which teams the Bowl Committees find more attractive. If Cal becomes eligible for a bowl, it would mean that one of the three teams tied at 4-4 would probably end up in the San Francisco Bowl, Seattle Bowl, or the Humanitarian Bowl, which will all likely have at-large bids.
3) Arizona State
7) Oregon State
There's something in the Arizona air. The Wildcats have been riddled with injuries most of the year, but now it's spreading to their cross-state rival, Arizona State. Safety Riccardo Stewart is out for the season because of a shoulder injury that required surgery. Running back Cornell Canidate is out with a sprained ankle. Linebackers Mason Unck and Josh Amobi will play, but it's not known how much.
Earlier this week, it was a foregone conclusion that Arizona Head Coach John Mackovic would step down. But after meeting with his players and the administration, Mackovic will get one more chance. There have been some serious communication problems amongst the team and players have complained about being verbally abused by Mack. He retained a momentary reprieve, but don't be surprised if things regress further in their last two games and a new coach takes over before next year. Arizona didn't have huge expectations, but seeing Arizona State succeed with younger and less hyped talent makes those cross-state folks a little more antsy.
This Week's Focus
Season Record: 47-14
Last Week: 3-1
The Huskies are coming off a big home victory over Oregon State. Now, Washington only must beat one of its two final opponents to be bowl eligible. They get their best shot this weekend at Autzen Stadium. The Ducks are 1-2 at home in conference play. They have had a winning conference record every year since 1993, when they were 1-3 at home. In other words, there is some pride at stake here. Not that they need any of this added motivation. There's plenty to talk about when these two meet up.
The Ducks will try to establish their running game, which they haven't really done successfully with Onterrio Smith since the October 19th loss to Arizona State. That had been his seventh consecutive game with more than 100 yards rushing.
The Huskies will once again rely on their passing attack to put some points on the board. Cody Pickett must play as well as he did last week for Washington to make this a competitive game. Pickett, in all likelihood, will become the all-time single season passing yardage record holder this week if he throws for 135 yards. Turnovers must be limited. Look for Reggie Williams to have a huge day against the undersized defenders, especially with Keith Lewis' uncertain game status.
The Ducks should win this one at home in a shootout. Onterrio Smith could have his best game of the season.
Oregon 44, Washington 36.
Cal 42, Arizona 10. Look for the Bears to win this one big. Cal had an impressive win last week at Arizona State. Kyle Boller had a terrific game and Arizona State couldn't make the plays when they needed to. It will be interesting to see how Arizona overcomes the distractions this week. Maybe they'll play their best game of the year. But most likely, they'll just get demolished by the Bears.
USC 35, Arizona State 21. Had the Sun Devils knocked off Washington State two weeks ago, this game would have a whole lot more importance. USC has been playing incredible football lately, and getting very little notice while doing it. What is really interesting to think about is how crazy it would be if USC had beaten Kansas State.
Oregon State 27, Stanford 10. Stanford's offense, undoubtedly their strength, has not been spectacular by any means. Much of this can be attributed to their lack of continuity with the injury to Chris Lewis. But Kyle Matter has come in and played well in his place. He is learning the Pac-10 and could be the starter when next season comes around, even with a healthy Lewis. Teyo Johnson and Luke Powell have not been factors this year while adjusting to Buddy Teevens new offense.
But it's the Stanford defense that has been most responsible. They replaced all but one starter from last year's squad, which is always a recipe for disaster. While a decent 7th in total defense, they are last in scoring defense, which is obviously the most important category.
Derek Anderson will play, and Adam Rothenfluh will be available if necessary. Look for the Pac-10's leading rushing team to give the ball to Steven Jackson and let him do his thing. The Beavers should win this one big.
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