Clardy's Corner: Midterm Report

In this week's Clardy's Corner, Troy grades the Pac-10. He may be a Stanford alum, but, folks, there's no grade inflation here, with half the league no higher than a C+. Plus, as always, Troy has his Pac-10 picks and thoughts -- including some nuggets on Jim Harbaugh's future on the Farm.

You know them, you love them…and sometimes you disagree with them! It's time for the annual Clardy's Corner tradition of…

PAC-10 MIDTERMS

Washington State
Yays:
None.
Nays: Trust me, we don't have the time. I may have to devote next week's Corner to this.
Outlook: A moose on Sarah Palin's front lawn has a better chance of survival than the Cougs do.
Midterm grade: 0. Not an F. A zero.

Washington
Yays:
Jake Locker is the most exciting individual quarterback to watch in the Pac-10. Their game against BYU was one of the most exciting in college football so far this season.
Nays: We haven't seen Locker since the final week in September. And we've seen way too much of the Huskies' defense. Way. Too. Much.
Outlook: Tyrone Willingham's agent will be working the phones soon, if he isn't already.
Midterm grade: When you're one of only two winless teams left in the FBS in late October, there's only one grade I can give. F. Do they really have to play the Apple Cup this year?

Arizona State
Yays:
On paper, this is one of the better teams in the Pac-10. QB Rudy Carpenter, RB Keegan Herring, and WR Chris McGaha are all impact players when healthy.
Nays: Carpenter, Herring, and McGaha haven't been healthy. K Philip Weber and CB Omar Bolden have struggled. And that galling home loss to UNLV started A-State's uncontrollable spin.
Outlook: Unless they turn it around, the 2008 Sun Devils could become the Pac-10's biggest disappointment since the 1999 Wildcats.
Midterm grade: D+

UCLA
Yays:
With that incredible finish against Tennessee, their season started off with a bang. They found a way to finish Stanford, too. DTs Brigham Harwell and Brian Price can get the job done. WR Terrence Austin is a real playmaker on offense and special teams…and it was good to see him playing one week after getting ambulanced out of Autzen Stadium.
Nays: QB Kevin Craft is learning on the job, and it shows. His young offensive line isn't helping him out much. It would be nice to have LB Kyle Bosworth back in the starting lineup, but a knee injury has cost him the last five games. They've also struggled in run defense all year. And any time you lose a game 59-0, it's going to put a blemish on your season.
Outlook: It all rests on this weekend's game against cal.
Midterm grade: C-

Arizona
Yays:
For the first time in recorded history, Arizona has an offense with legitimately good skill players. QB Willie Tuitama and TE Rob Gronkowski form a dangerous connection. The way they were able to dominate cal in the second half had to erase most of the disappointment from their loss at Stanford.
Nays: Yes they're 5-2. But after their joke of a non-conference schedule, and after winning just one of three games away from Tucson, you get the feeling that no one really fears this team…and that they still don't quite know how to win big yet.
Outlook: OK, so they beat cal. At home. You don't get true respect in the Pac-10 until you can start winning on the road. Their last chance comes November 15 at Oregon.
Midterm grade: C+

Stanford
Yays:
It used to be that you could push Stanford around with relative ease. Those days are over. Stanford's physical style of play on both sides of the ball has served notice to everyone in the Pac-10. The Cardinal are strong up front on offense and defense. FB Owen Marecic continues to do what he does (can we please start a fan club for him?).
Nays: Can you imagine what this offense would be like if it could execute the forward pass? Can you imagine what this defense would be like if it could stop the forward pass?
Outlook: This team has had problems finishing games for most of the year. Can they turn it around and finish the season?
Midterm grade: B-. Maybe that's a little higher than it should be, but a little attitude goes a long way.

Oregon State
Yays:
The Brothers Rodgers have lived up to the hype. The offensive line, a major question mark coming into the year, wiped out the mighty U$C Trojans' front. More important, all five guys have stayed healthy all year. QB Lyle Moevao has been impressive.
Nays: They couldn't close out Utah. And they got smoked at Penn State, although that loss is looking better and better.
Outlook: Do you get the feeling this team is gaining momentum? They'll need it for an interesting stretch run (vs. Arizona State, @ UCLA, vs. cal, @ Arizona, vs. Oregon).
Midterm grade: B

cal
Yays:
For a while, Jahvid Best was playing well enough to receive fringe consideration for the Heisman. Worrell Williams and Zach Follett help lead a dangerous and active linebacking corps. They have four home games left on the schedule.
Nays: Here we go again… instability at the QB position between Nate Longshore and Kevin Riley puts a cloud over the team. Their defense took a step back last week. We haven't heard much from their young receivers. And that loss at Maryland is still a headscratcher.
Outlook: I don't know what it is, but I can't really get a feel for these guys. Their two remaining road trips (at U$C and at Oregon State) may tell the story.
Midterm grade: B

Oregon
Yays:
Jeremiah Johnson has looked good. No more Jonathan Stewart? Just plug in LeGarrette Blount, who sometimes out-Stewarts Stewart. ROV Patrick Chung continues to rack up big hits each week. QB Jeremiah Masoli has played well enough that he won't step aside to a healthy Justin Roper when he returns.
Nays: They can't keep a QB healthy, which has thrown a major monkey wrench into their passing game. That development cost them the Boise State game. Their defense is constantly fooled silly by play-action.
Outlook: They have two chances to make a statement: November 1 at cal, and November 29 in the Civil War.
Midterm grade: B

U$C
Yays:
Once again, U$C is clearly the cream of the Pac-10 crop. This year, that isn't saying much, but it's still something. They jackstomped Ohio State in that week's Game of the Century. Mark Sanchez is blossoming into a complete passer; he's just as accurate on the run as he is in the pocket. The defense is nasty as usual.
Nays: RB Joe McKnight's year hasn't developed as hoped so far. That defense got freight trained by Jacquizz Rodgers and the Beavers' offensive line on national TV. As good as this team is, they won't be mistaken for previous Trojan squads.
Outlook: Barring another conference loss (or too many Big XII and SEC teams beating up on each other), the Trojans will be in Pasadena on January 1. Again.
Midterm grade: A-

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RANDOM PAC-10 THOUGHTS

I'm getting sick of Stanford walking out of the Rose Bowl coming up short. If it wasn't for Hutchinson-to-Manning in 1996, the Card's last win at Arroyo Seco would have come while George Bush was president. No, the older one…

Pritchard is a rhythm QB. He tends to gain momentum as the game goes along, and he looks better when he has a chance to establish himself. Given that, I'm not sure the rotation between him and Loukas is doing Pritchard many favors in the passing department…

Stat of the week: in the first half at Pullman, U$C outgained Washington State in total offense, 408-17…

I'll be darned…ABC/ESPN actually chose the matchup (Oregon-cal) instead of the markets (Washington-U$C) on November 1…

Nice job by Lincoln Kennedy, who was providing color commentary for FSN's cal-Arizona broadcast. Why wasn't he available for FSN Northwest's debacle of a Stanford-Washington broadcast back in September?

Not a Pac-10 thought, but…doesn't it make you feel good to watch what Trent Edwards has done for Buffalo so far? Don't forget Greg Camarillo in Miami or O.J. Atogwe in St. Louis, either…

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CLARDY'S CORNER INBOX

Jim Harbaugh's long-term future continues to be a hot topic in the Inbox. Bill from parts unknown writes: "I think that one of the big reasons that Stanford can't draw big crowds is that when they do get a good coach he only stays a couple of years and then he is off to some other university or pro team.  Then the chance of selecting a bad coach increases again.… The only way Stanford starts to draw good crowds again is the pay the good coach what he is worth in the general market.  Of course if the good coach stays, then Stanford wins more games also.  It has to start with keeping a coach like Jim Harbaugh."

Bill, I agree with the larger point, but disagree somewhat with the details. Stanford had a good coach in the ‘90s with Tyrone Willingham, and he stayed for seven years. But attendance didn't do much unless the Card were winning. And even with the victories, sometimes the crowds didn't respond.

I do agree that a lot of things start with keeping Harbaugh in the fold on The Farm for the foreseeable future (say that three times fast!). But the one surefire way to put yourself in a position to do well at the gate is to win games.

Josh in Manteca doesn't like the Pac-10's contract with FSN, but likes watching the Big XII (this year, who doesn't?). Josh disagrees with me on how to handle Harbaugh's contract, writing: "SIGN HARBAUGH NOW!!!…He loves the place, he is a great guy, [and] he works hard to make everything good for the guys…such a positive coach…his results are great on the field and right now they're #12 in recruiting!!! Amazing…"

There's no question that right now, despite the result in Pasadena, this program is on the right track. Right now. Let's see how things finish up. I'm not saying that if Stanford finishes 5-7, then any extension should be thrown out the window. But let's see if this program can maintain the momentum it has gained on and off the field. I have a feeling those types of things will take care of themselves this upcoming offseason, and that Stanford fans will be happy with the results.

Agree with this Corner? Disagree? Got something else on your mind? Drop me a line at my Scout.com inbox (username: troyc) or e-mail me at troyc@thebootleg.com . The best e-mails will be answered in next week's Clardy's Corner Inbox!

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PAC-10 PICKS

UCLA @ cal. This game will be won in the trenches. If UCLA's offensive line can somehow hold up against cal's front seven, they've got a shot. But even if the line gives Kevin Craft time, will he make the right decision? No matter who cal's QB is, I like cal by 16.

Oregon @ Arizona State. Will Keegan Herring's hamstring finally allow him to bust out? That would take a huge weight off the Sun Devils, who desperately need to rely on something else other than Rudy Carpenter's ankle. But, in the week's best Pac-10 game that won't be televised, I like Oregon by 9.

U$C @ Arizona. We all know that the Wildcats are tough at home…and this will be the biggest test of that theory. Wildcats make it interesting, but I can't pick them to win. I like U$C by 12.

Last week: 1-2 (straight-up), 1-2 (ATS).
This year: 11-4 (straight-up), 7-8 (ATS).
Last year: 26-10 (straight-up), 20-15-1 (ATS).

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Troy Clardy hosts the Stanford Daily Update, airing every weekday at 7:30p on Cardinal Sports Network flagship radio station KTRB (860 AM) in San Francisco, and available in podcast form at gostanford.com.

Clardy's Corner appears Wednesdays on TheBootleg.com. You can also check him out online at TroyClardy.com.


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