Clardy's Corner: Pac-10 Midterms

Folks, let's face it: there are no great teams in college football this year. That extends to the Pac-10, which this year is full of "Yeah, but…" teams. Every team has done some things that make you say "yeah!" Then they turn around and do things that make you say "yeah, but…" Sounds like a perfect theme for this year's Pac-10 Midterms.

PAC-10 MIDTERMS

Washington State
Yeah!:
The Cougars seem to be responding to freshman QB Jeff Tuel. They also showed some spunk in the second half against a bored U$C team in the Coliseum.
But…: The cupboard is bare. Really bare. And getting barer by the week. Especially on the offensive line.
Outlook: Grim.
Midterm grade: D-

UCLA
Yeah!:
They beat Tennessee in Knoxville, completing an impressive series sweep of the Vols. DT Brian Price is one of the best interior linemen in the country.
But…: It used to be that UCLA had more skilled players and playmakers than they knew what to do with. It doesn't seem that way now. And outside of Price and maybe CB Alterraun Verner, this defense is a bit overrated.
Outlook: At Oregon State this week, at U$C to finish, with Washington, Washington State, and Arizona State in between. Best case scenario here is 6-6.
Midterm grade: C-

Washington
Yeah!:
Jake Locker is Jake Locker. RB Chris Polk is showing some spunk. Overall, this team is playing with a fire that didn't exist under their previous coach. And they're the only team in the country to beat U$C.
But…: The offense has had problems getting six points when they've needed them most. The defense has had no problems allowing six points when their opponents need them most.
Outlook: All the good will the Huskies built up after beating U$C is gone. Soon, a bowl bid will be, too.
Midterm grade: C

Arizona State
Yeah!:
Their defense carried them to a near-win at Georgia. WR Chris McGaha keeps flying under the radar, but he keeps making important catches too. Freshman LB Vontaze Burfict is a beast.
But…: There's no real way to spin this: the Sun Devils just don't look well-coached at times, and they seem to disappear for stretches. Sometimes Burfict is too much of a beast, with five personal fouls in the past two weeks.
Outlook: They face cal, U$C, Oregon and UCLA on the road, then finish against Arizona. A brutal stretch run that must begin with a win this weekend over the Bears.
Midterm grade: C. And quite honestly, that might actually be a little high.

Arizona
Yeah!:
The Wildcats earned a surprising win at Corvallis that helped turn their season around. They got huge plays to beat Stanford. Sophomore QB Nick Foles is putting up eye-popping numbers. And they found a way to move on without their best offensive player, TE Rob Gronkowski.
But…: RBs Nic Grisgby, Keola Antolin, and Greg Nwoko all can't stay healthy. The punt return game has literally been less than non-existent, with -1 yard for the season, and that's not a typo.
Outlook: They got an unlucky loss at Washington, but it balanced out with a lucky win against Stanford the next week. But big tests against Oregon and U$C still loom.
Midterm grade: How in the hell are these guys 20th in the BCS standings? Schedule, schedule, schedule. B-

cal
Yeah!:
RB Jahvid Best is the most explosive individual player in the Pac-10, and aside from Jacquizz Rodgers, it's not even close. RB Shane Vereen is a capable complement. They were as high as sixth in the polls.
But…: When faced with adversity against the Pac-10's upper-tier teams, they folded like a tortilla. The receivers haven't quite blossomed yet. Special teams haven't been impressive, either. And Kevin Riley still isn't on the list of Pac-10 QBs who can beat you.
Outlook: The Bears won't have the kind of season they were hoping for, but with a favorable schedule down the stretch, they could come kinda close.
Midterm grade: B-

Stanford
Yeah!:
The running game has built upon what it accomplished last year, and now Stanford is getting big plays from the passing game and its special teams. QB Andrew Luck being named first-team All Pac-10 isn't out of the question.
But…: Second-half defensive collapses at Wake Forest and Arizona still haunt this team. So does their tendency to save their turnovers and penalties for the red zone.
Outlook: Lately, Stanford has been almost unbeatable at home. With Oregon, cal, and Notre Dame all coming to The Farm, that will be tested in a major way. In any case, it has been established that even if you beat Stanford, there's a better than average chance that you may not walk out of the stadium upright.
Midterm grade: B-. I'll admit that's probably a bit low, but you lose points when you can't close out games.

Oregon State
Yeah!:
The Brothers Rodgers. Enough said there. QB Sean Canfield looks nothing like the turnover-prone signal caller we saw last year. Even with their loss to U$C last week, this team appears to be gaining momentum at the right time once again.
But…: Defensive lapses have cost this team, from a lack of a pass rush against Cincinnati to the inability to stop the run against U$C. They only have two home games left.
Outlook: It all might hinge on their trip to Berkeley on November 7. Given the success the Beavers have had at Strawberry Canyon lately, that could be a good thing.
Midterm grade: B

U$C
Yeah!:
They grabbed an impressive road win at Columbus, and they found a way to hang on in South Bend. QB Matt Barkley is growing into the position. When healthy, S Taylor Mays is one of the most feared hitters in the country. Their program has long since reached the point where depth is an issue, except for one position.
But…: The Trojans have a depth issue at QB. U$C's offense played scared at Washington. The defense has started to show some cracks, allowing 63 points in the last two weeks. And this team misses RB Stafon Johnson.
Outlook: No, they're not the unquestioned cream of the Pac-10 crop (not as I see it, anyway). But the Trojans under Pete Carroll save their best football for November. With Oregon and Stanford still on the schedule, U$C may have the Pac-10 right where they want it.
Midterm grade: A-

Oregon
Yeah!:
We all know what happened at Boise. But this team has rebounded nicely since then. RB LaMichael James is Eugene's answer to Jacquizz Rodgers. Their three highest-profile opponents -- cal, U$C, and Oregon State -- all come to Autzen, and one of them has already been sent home with its tails between their legs.
But…: No one will forget what happened at Boise. Injuries to CB Walter Thurmond III, CB Willie Glasper, and safety T.J. Ward could be critical down the stretch. QB Jeremiah Masoli still has a knack for putting the ball on the ground in a critical spot. And if LeGarrette Blount sees playing time again, what will he look like?
Outlook: They could grab a stranglehold on the Pac-10 with a win this week. But November 7 at Stanford could be just as critical to their conference title hopes.
Midterm grade:
A-

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RANDOM PAC-10 THOUGHTS

Awesome to be back on The Farm for a game. Props as always to Jim and Lars for letting me crash The Bootleg's tailgate. And thanks to Cathy for my rice krispie football treat! Good times. Nice to see everyone again. And awesome to hear a happy Stanford postgame locker room for a change…

Nice job by Johnson Bademosi and Quinn Evans. That would be huge if Stanford can get that kind of plays from its CBs the rest of the way…

Give Arizona State credit: the "giant" formations that Stanford used to kill UCLA didn't necessarily work against the Sun Devils…

I'll admit I would have liked to see Stanford close the door earlier on Arizona State. Is it unreasonable to suggest that the best second half Stanford has played so far actually came against—ironically enough—Oregon State?

Caught a bit of the Washington State-cal game on the radio while heading down 101 for our game. Wow…Joe Starkey still isn't a very descriptive announcer, is he?

Washington State is playing Notre Dame. In San Antonio. And Notre Dame is the home team. Does any of that sound right to you?

Not a Pac-10 thought, but… of the 41 games played in the NFL over the past three weeks, ten have been decided by 28 points or more. So much for parity…

Not a Pac-10 thought, but… I swear Delta Airlines puts narcotics in those biscoff cookies. I just can't. Stop. Eating them…

Not a Pac-10 thought, but… while flying back to Connecticut, I ended up having a very, very, very extended layover in Minneapolis. Fortunately, Stanford alum and Minnesota Twins radio host Kris Atteberry and I were able to hang out and grab a burger. The next time you're in the Twin Cities and in the mood for a good burger at a cramped, ding neighborhood joint, head to The Nook in St. Paul…

Not a Pac-10 thought, but… watch Modern Family tonight on ABC. Funny, funny show. And Sofia Vergara…¡Dios mio!

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CLARDY'S CORNER INBOX

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

U$C @ Oregon. Here it is…the Pac-10 Game of the Year. In case you haven't noticed, Oregon has been playing some major defense over the past few weeks, despite the injuries in the secondary. If Oregon does what it can do best, I think they can play straight up with U$C. I also think that the Autzen Stadium crowd is worth ten points. That's why I like Oregon by 11.

cal @ Arizona State. Both teams really need this win badly. The Bears are starting to get better, while ASU is starting to circle. But even though I think cal is the better team here, for some odd reason, I like Arizona State by 14.

UCLA @ Oregon State. The Beavers earned a little respect last week against U$C. This week, they earn a win against LA's other team. I like Oregon State by 18.


Last week: 4-0 (straight-up), 3-1 (ATS).
This year: 10-6 (straight-up), 9-7 (ATS).
Last year: 30-6 (straight-up), 24-12 (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 XTRA Sports 860 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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