Sun Devils out to make a statement against Missouri
Arizona State is calling for a blackout Friday night. The Sun Devils will wear their new all-black uniforms for the first time, and the school is encouraging fans to wear black, too.
But what the Devils really want is the opposite of a blackout. They want to use Friday night's game against Top 25 Missouri to shout to the college football world that they're back after three bowl-less seasons.
Is ASU really back? This game will help tell the tale.
The players, of course, are fired up about the uniforms.
"They're excited about it," said coach Dennis Erickson. "There's a lot of hype, a lot of things involved with this game on campus. But as I've said many times, it's not the unis, it's who's in the unis."
He has that right, and ASU's players looked good in their unis last Thursday night with a 48-14 victory over UC-Davis.
Most importantly, quarterback Brock Osweiler, as Erickson has been saying for months, looked like he can handle the full-time starting position, completing 19 of 26 passes for 262 yards. That was against an FCS defense, however. Missouri, which has a superb defensive line, had three sacks and forced two turnovers in its opening win over Miami (Ohio). Defensive end Brad Madison, a preseason All-Big 12 selection, had two of those sacks.
"They have some big, athletic guys up front and they play with a lot of intensity," Osweiler said.
"They have a few linebackers who have played for a couple of years and are very talented. Their secondary doesn't make a lot of mistakes and (they) really understand what they are doing in coverage. Their defense plays sound, disciplined football."
Osweiler, who had started two games in his first two seasons, actually will have an experience edge on Missouri quarterback James Franklin, who will be making his first road start. He was 17 of 26 for 129 yards, with one touchdown and one interception, last week. He also rushed for 72 yards on 14 attempts.
--In terms of his physical ability, aggressiveness and ferocious hitting, ASU linebacker Vontaze Burfict often is compared to Baltimore Ravens star Ray Lewis. The two talked a few months ago. "I just spoke with him about discipline and how you need to make up your mind in life and on the field," Lewis told the Arizona Republic. "Make sure that you are doing the right things to be a productive player and more importantly, a productive person."
--ASU opened on a Thursday night and is playing on Friday night this week. That's no problem for coach Dennis Erickson. "We're playing the game on Friday night because it is good exposure for us on ESPN," he said. "Plus, financially it wasn't all that bad a deal. We all know what's driving all of these things."
--QB Brock Osweiler suffered from leg cramps during the team's opener against UC-Davis, which was played in sweltering Tempe heat. The solution, according to Erickson: "Instead of drinking two gallons of water a day, he's drinking three."
SERIES HISTORY: Missouri leads Arizona State 3-2 (last meeting, 1990, 30-9 Missouri)
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Arizona State, after a few years of inexperience and youth on the offensive line, have a veteran unit, and it will be tested against Missouri. Missouri has standout ends Brad Madison and Jacquis Smith, as well as senior tackles Dominique Hamilton and Terrell Resonno, both returning starters. That means QB Brock Osweiler could be under pressure, and he has shown uncommon mobility for someone who is 6-8. If he can get time, he'll find wideouts such as Gerell Robinson and Aaron Pflugrad downfield against a secondary that features three new starters.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: ASU's best weapon is LB Vontaze Burfict, who is emblematic of the unit's overall speed and athleticism. Burfict and the Devils could take aim at the all-new left side of the Missouri line; Burfict had three sacks in the opener against UC-Davis and blitzed more than was customary last season. And chances ASU takes on defense will have to be weighed against the possibility of Missouri QB James Franklin keeping the ball and/or running the spread option. The Tigers went through growing pains last week, though, gaining a mere 291 yards in a 17-6 win over Miami (Ohio).
QUOTE TO NOTE: "You have to account for him. That's the bottom line. When he's in the game plan to run, you have to account for him all the time. It slows your pursuit down a little bit." -- Coach Dennis Erickson, on Missouri QB James Franklin.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Missouri at Arizona State, Sept. 9 -- Arizona State flirted with a breakthrough victory last season, losing by one point at Wisconsin, one at USC, four to Stanford and generally hanging with Oregon. The Sun Devils have been pointing to this game through the offseason as their statement game. They have the athletes to finish the job, and a Friday night atmosphere could push them over the top.
KEYS TO THE GAME: New Missouri QB James Franklin has to prove he can handle the pressure of a big game -- and the pressure of a speedy ASU defense. The Sun Devils, led by LB Vontaze Burfict and slippery-quick DE Junior Onyeali, need to fluster Franklin into hurried decisions and turnovers, thereby denying Franklin the chance to take aim at a thin secondary that is still untested.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
RT Dan Knapp and LT Evan Finkenberg -- They will be charged with slowing down Missouri pass-rushing ends Brad Madison and Jacquis Smith. Knapp is stepping in for starter Aderious Simmons, who is questionable because of an ankle injury, but the Devils have decent depth at the position.
PK Alex Garoutte -- The game against Missouri is expected to be close. What kind of nerves does Garoutte have? The redshirt freshman had a nice season debut, hitting field goals from 49 and 25 yards and making all six of his PATs. He was shaky in camp, but opening night seemed to quiet fears in the kicking game.
RB Cameron Marshall -- He's the key cog in ASU's one-back offense as he'll get more opportunities this season with RB Deantre Lewis out indefinitely. He was quiet rushing the ball in the opener, if only because the game was lopsided, allowing other backs to play, but he made an impact in the passing game with four receptions for a career-high 86 yards.
--S Ezekiel Bishop, a second-stringer, suffered an ACL tear against UC-Davis on Sept. 1 and is out for the season.
--OL Aderious Simmons, the starting right tackle, suffered a left ankle sprain against UC-Davis. He is questionable for Missouri on Friday.
--CB Devan Spann, who suffered from shoulder problems through camp, is out for the season.
--RB Deantre Lewis' status is up in the air. He is recovering from a hamstring/buttocks injury suffered in a random shooting in February. He has yet to return to practice.
--OG Adam Tello (back) could be ready to return for the game against Missouri on Friday.
--OG Brice Schwab did not play in the opener, and he could be a candidate for a redshirt.
Bears hoping to end road woes
Although Cal beat Colorado 52-7 last season, the Bears' Sept. 10 nonconference game against Colorado this season is different in one fundamental way: It's on the road.
Every team plays better at home than on the road, but few teams had the disparity that Cal had last season. The Golden Bears were 1-4 on the road last season, and got blown out in three of them. The only road game the Golden Bears won was against last-place Washington State, and the Bears trailed in that game well into the second half before pulling out a 20-13 victory.
The Golden Bears made a lot mistakes in their opener, but also showed considerable potential in their 36-21 victory over Fresno State, which wasn't a road game, but wasn't a home game either. Playing at Candlestick Park, where more than half the crowd was Fresno State supporters, may have felt like a road game to the Bears, who played pretty well, especially on defense.
If the Bears play close to as well on defense as they did in that game, they should
fare well in Boulder, Colo., as well.
Colorado will feature the same quarterback (Tyler Hansen) that Cal smothered last season, sacking him six times and intercepting three of his passes.
But Hansen is a better quarterback now than he was then, which he demonstrated in the second half of the 34-17 loss at Hawaii in the Buffaloes' opener. However, Hansen was sacked seven times in that game, a trend the Bears' strong pass rush should be able exploit.
Still, the Golden Bears' success rests with QB Zach Maynard, and the Colorado game will provide another gauge of whether he's capable of leading Cal to a successful season. After a slow start in the opener, he showed an ability to move the offense, providing a sense that he can get the job done, something Cal's quarterbacks seldom demonstrated last season.
His ability to run provides a dimension Jeff Tedford has never had in his quarterbacks at Cal, and it will be interesting to see how he utilizes that skill as the season goes on. Maynard ran several read option plays out of the shotgun with considerable success against Fresno State, and Tedford may incorporate more of that in the future. He wants to ensure Maynard stays healthy, however, because Cal's backups are shaky at best.
Sophomore WR Keenan Allen had a big game in the opener, but he had a big game in last season's opener and was never able to duplicate it. He had 59 receiving yards against Colorado last season.
--WR Marvin Jones needs one more catch to give him 100 for his career. He has 12 career touchdown receptions, and one more would move him into a tie for eighth on Cal's all-time list.
--TB Isi Sofele had 24 carries in the opener, nearly twice his previous career high of 13, and he said he was very sore the next day.
--Two current Cal assistant coaches were Colorado assistants last season under Dan Hawkins. Cal's wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator Eric Kiesau was the Buffaloes' offensive coordinator last season, and the Bears defensive backs coach Ashley Ambrose held the same title at Colorado a year ago.
--Cal coach Jeff Tedford needs one win to tie the record for Cal coaching victories. He has 73, one shy of the record held by Andy Smith.
--Even though both teams are in the Pac-12, this is a nonconference game because of an odd scheduling situation. The teams were already scheduled to play this season before the Pac-10 was expanded to the Pac-12. Because they are in different divisions, they do not automatically play each other, and they were not matched when the conference schedule was released. So they decided to play each other anyway, outside the conference schedule.
SERIES HISTORY: Cal leads Colorado 3-2 (last meeting, 2010, 52-7 Cal).
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: WRs Marvin Jones and Keenan Allen were the stars in the opener, partly because QB Zach Maynard was able to get them the ball. They are Cal's best offensive players, and getting them the ball is a major priority because both can make big plays out of short passes. Maynard showed poise and progress in the opener, but his passing statistics (16 for 34, one interception, two touchdowns) were not great. He seems to do his best work when he's on the move, whether he ends up passing or running. The interception he threw on Cal's first official play from scrimmage in the opener is a reminder than he may still be susceptible to turning the ball over. TB Isi Sofele showed flashes of promise, and he's capable of producing a big gainer. But he's also capable of losing yardage on any given play.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The loss of three of the team's best defenders to the NFL – S Chris Conte, DE Cam Jordan and LB Mike Mohamed – did not seem to hurt Cal a bit in the opener, when the defense was outstanding. Mychal Kendricks' move from outside linebacker to the inside, where he played two years ago, seems to have been a success. He had nine tackles, including 2.5 for losses in the opener. Cal's pass rush is one of its strengths, and the Bears got solid play out of its front three, which was a question. Cal CBs Steve Williams and Marc Anthony played well in the opener, and their play may be the key to the team's defensive success.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "This is probably the first time he's had a quarterback who's good with his feet -- or at least to that level." -- Colorado coach John Embree, on the fact that Jeff Tedford finally has a quarterback who can run.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Cal at Colorado, Sept. 10 -- Cal beat Colorado 52-7 last season, but the Golden Bears went 1-4 on the road last season. Cal won its opener against Fresno State 36-21, while Colorado lost on the road to Hawaii 34-17. Even though both are Pac-12 schools, this is a nonconference game.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Cal had success pressuring Colorado QB Tyler Hansen last season, sacking him six times, and he was sacked seven times in the opener against Hawaii. If Cal can get to him early in the game and perhaps force a turnover or two, the Golden Bears should be in good position to go 2-0. If Cal can get the ball to Marvin Jones or Keenan Allen, it can expect some big plays to result. Zach Maynard's ability to make some plays running the ball needs to be utilized.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
WR Marvin Jones -- He showed elusiveness in the opener that he did not display last season. Although fellow wide receiver Keenan Allen gets much of the attention, Jones has been the more consistent receiver. You can almost count on him getting close to 80 to 100 yards receiving.
ILB Mychal Kendricks -- He had 1.5 sacks against Colorado last year, and you can bet defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast will try to find ways to get him to the quarterback this time as well.
FS Sean Cattouse -- He was a virtual non-factor in the opener, because Fresno State seldom got into the Cal secondary. He may get a few chances this week, and he is capable of making big plays.
QB Zach Maynard -- His ability to make plays running the ball may be the key because it makes the defense hesitate and it provides Jeff Tedford with a lot more options on offense.
WR Keenan Allen -- Jeff Tedford has said he will do whatever he can to get sophomore Allen the ball this season, primarily as a pass receiver, but also as a runner, kick returner and perhaps even as a passer. His athletic skills and potential for making big plays make him a major weapon.
--Freshman DB Avery Walls is scheduled to change his last name to Sebastian when he turns 18 on Spt. 11. His jersey already has the name Sebastian on the back.
--Senior WR Marvin Jones wears No. 1, but when he returns punts, he slips on a jersey that has No. 49, which caused some identification problems in the opener. He switches numbers because CB Steve Williams also wears No. 1, and two players can't have the same number simultaneously. As a punt returner, Jones is technically a defensive player.
--ILB Mychal Kendricks is the team's active career leader in tackles (161), tackles for loss (24.5), sacks (11) and fumble recoveries (5).
Buffs host Cal in home opener
Jon Embree isn't dwelling on his first loss, but instead planning for his first win.
The former Colorado player made his coaching debut at his alma mater in a 34-17 loss at Hawaii on Sept. 3. The Buffaloes were shut out in the first half and could not catch up in the second half. Embree had few good things to say after the loss but by Tuesday he was ready to move on to play California in the home opener on Sept. 10.
"I can shake it, I'm over it," Embree said. "It is hard after you lose for me to talk about positives, but I have put it behind me. I'm ready to go for Cal."
The Buffs will need to be ready after losing 52-7 at California last year, but Embree was not around for that game.
"I don't buy into a revenge factor because it is a different team, a different staff," Embree said. "It is a big game for us because it is the home opener and it is big because it is the next game. That is what I am talking to this team about. They have to learn to focus and play the game at hand."
Embree is looking for a better effort against the Bears than he saw last week.
"I hope you see a significant amount of improvement," he said. "One thing I was disappointed with were the penalties, lots of self-inflicted fouls. I expect to see an improvement in how we start and how we play overall. I think we will tackle better. With the nature of our schedule, we have to get better every week."
Embree said he also expected to see more out of quarterback Tyler Hansen, who was 16 of 30 for 223 yards with two touchdowns and an interception against Hawaii.
"I didn't feel like Tyler was Tyler on Saturday, he did not play like he did all through camp," Embree said. "I'm excited to see what he does this Saturday if he plays like we think he is capable of playing."
--In the five games played between Cal and Colorado, the lead has never changed hands. The team that won scored first and never trailed in the game.
--Redshirt freshman Daniel Munyer and sophomore Gus Handler split duties at center at Hawaii and Embree said he expects both to get playing time again this week against California.
--True freshman Stephane Nembot was being considered to play immediately on the defensive line this year, but those plans changed this week. Nembot has been moved to offensive tackle and he will redshirt as he learns the new position.
SERIES HISTORY: California leads Colorado 3-2 (last meeting, 2010, 52-7 California).
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Colorado must get more out of its running game than it did last week against Hawaii. Rodney Stewart had 52 yards rushing, but needed 18 carries to reach that mark for an average of less than three yards per carry. Quarterback Tyler Hansen was the only other player to run the ball and he ended up with minus-35 yards thanks to seven sacks. That all adds up to 17 yards on 28 carries and less than one yard per carry. Stewart is a big-play back, but did not run for more than 12 yards on any play so he needs to get more running room and the Buffaloes need to find another back or two to give him a rest.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: While the Buffaloes were averaging less than one yard per carry, they were giving up more than five yards a rush against the Rainbow Warriors. That stat is a killer because it gave Hawaii a lot of short-yardage situations on third down. As a result, Hawaii was 50 percent on third down conversions and was also successful on its one fourth-down play. The Buffaloes need to be better against the run when they play Cal to force them into longer conversions on third- and fourth-down or else it could be a repeat of last season when Cal scored 52 points against Colorado.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We have to get ready for Cal. We don't have any choice. That's whose coming in. They whipped our butts last year. We just got to go. We need to get better." -- Colorado coach Jon Embree.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: California at Colorado, Sept. 10 -- Being at home should be a plus as Colorado does not have to hear about its 18-game road losing streak this week and instead brings the confidence of going 4-2 at home last year. However, the Buffs likely do still carry some scars from a 52-7 loss at Cal last season.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Colorado needs to get off to a better start in its home opener than it did last week against Hawaii. The Buffaloes were shut out in the first half while falling behind 17-0 at halftime. The game got off to a shaky start with a fumbled snap on the first play and it did not get much better until the second half. Colorado had only 61 yards in the first half, including seven on the ground. Another slow start will almost certainly lead to another deep deficit against Cal. That was the case last year when the Bears took a 31-0 halftime lead against Colorado in Berkeley.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
QB Tyler Hansen -- For the first time in his career, the senior is the unquestioned starter at quarterback for the Buffaloes. He went 16 for 30 for 223 yards and two scores in his season debut at Hawaii. Hansen did all that under pressure from the Hawaii defense that sacked him seven times. He moved up to 10th on the school's all-time passing list with 3,045 yards.
RB Rodney Stewart -- The junior was the only running back to carry the ball against Hawaii and gained 52 yards on 18 carries. He had a big day receiving with four catches for 98 yards. The receiving yardage was a career-high and his 52-yard reception was his longest with the Buffaloes.
K Will Oliver -- The true freshman, ranked as the No. 31 prep kicker in the nation last year by ESPN, showed no nerves in his debut. The 18-year old connected on a 34-yard field goal and made both of his extra points against Hawaii.
--Left tackle David Bakhtiari suffered a sprained left MCL in the first quarter against Hawaii and is listed as day-to-day.
--Connor Wood, a quarterback who transferred from Texas, is expected to enroll at Colorado and join the team for practice this week. He must sit out this year under NCAA rules.
Ducks look to get ground game back on track
Oregon's running game got beaten up and shut down by LSU.
The third-ranked Ducks averaged 286.2 rushing yards per game last season while making a run to the BCS National Championship game, but were limited to 95 yards on the ground in a season-opening 40-27 loss to the fourth-ranked Tigers in the Cowboys Classic in Arlington, Texas on Sept. 3.
The rushing statistics were down for every player compared to last year.
LaMichael James was a Heisman Trophy finalist last year when he ran for 144 yards per game, but he was held to 54 yards on 18 carries. Kenjon Barner, who averaged 50 yards rushing per game last season, had seven yards on four carries. Quarterback Darron Thomas ran for nearly 37 yards per game last season, but was held to 12 yards against LSU.
"They played good solid football, that's it," Oregon coach Chip Kelly said of LSU's run defense. "That's a good defensive front. They did a really nice job. They were sound in the schemes and really gap-control oriented. And they just did a nice job."
Oregon ran the ball 28 times for an average of 3.4 yards per carry, but that number was affected by 12 penalties for 95 yards that nullified some runs.
"(LaMichael) told me he had good holes there," Thomas said. "I think the offensive line did a great job blocking. We had some holding penalties, a lot of penalties, that held us back when we did have a good run. The offensive line did what they had to do."
Both James and Barner had to leave the game in the second half with injuries. James had his foot stepped on by a defender and limped off the field but later returned. Barner was in a boot following the game and his status for Saturday's game against Nevada is uncertain.
--Jake Fisher became the first true freshman to play on the offensive line for the Ducks since 2007. He played mostly at left guard but also at left tackle.
--Cornerback Cliff Harris and linebacker Kiko Alonso are both suspended indefinitely due to legal troubles they encountered in the offseason. They both missed the LSU game and coach Chip Kelly has yet to announce if they will be reinstated to play against Nevada on Saturday.
--Oregon has won five straight games against Nevada, all of them coming since 1996. Nevada's lone win in the series was 13-6 in 1947.
SERIES HISTORY: Oregon leads Nevada 5-1 (last meeting, 2003, 31-23 Oregon).
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Oregon's offense was down across the board in the season-opener against LSU, but credit much of that to the Tigers' defense that was tougher than almost any the Ducks faced last season. Oregon averaged 530 yards of offense last year, but totaled 335 against LSU. Oregon's 95 rushing yards was nearly 200 below its average from last year and its 27 points was 20 below last year's average. Oregon figures to bounce back this week in its home opener against Nevada. LaMichael James did not have a run longer than 13 yards against LSU, but that is likely to change this week and quarterback Darron Thomas will almost certainly look to run more this week after carrying the ball only twice against LSU.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The 40 points Oregon gave up against LSU doesn't look good, but a deeper look at the numbers shows the performance wasn't that bad. LSU returned one fumble for a touchdown and scored two other touchdowns on drives that started in Oregon territory following Oregon fumbles. Oregon held LSU to 273 yards, 62 less than the Ducks totaled, and the Tigers had only 98 passing yards. The Ducks did all that with two starters suspended and it is still unclear if cornerback Cliff Harris or linebacker Kiko Alonso will return this week. Harris' absence meant that redshirt freshman Terrance Mitchell started at cornerback and he gave up a touchdown. The loss of Alonso meant that linebackers Dewitt Stuckey and Michael Clay rarely were able to leave the field.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Not worried at all." -- Oregon coach Chip Kelly, when asked if he was worried how his team would bounce back from a season-opening loss.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Nevada at Oregon, Sept. 10 -- The Ducks should be fired up for their home opener after a disappointing performance in the season-opener against LSU. Oregon has had little trouble against unranked nonleague opponents at home in recent seasons. It is the season-opener for the Wolf Pack coming off a 13-1 season and they won't be intimidated by Oregon after defeating another Pac-12 foe, California, last season, 52-31. Add in a win over Boise State and Nevada defeated both of its ranked opponents last year.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Oregon needs to pressure Nevada quarterback Tyler Lantrip, who gets a tough assignment for his first start. Lantrip is a senior, but has not seen much action during his career because the Wolf Pack have had Colin Kaepernick at quarterback for the past four years. Kaepernick has moved on to the San Francisco 49ers and Lantrip takes over as the starter after playing in 16 games and going 12 for 23 for 192 yards and one touchdown during that time. Autzen Stadium is known as one of the loudest stadiums in the country and a sellout crowd will make it tough on Lantrip, so the Ducks will look to rattle him from the start.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
C Hroniss Grasu -- Center was one of the biggest question marks entering the season for Oregon after three-year starter Jordan Holmes graduated. There was a three-way battle for the starting spot in the fall and Grasu emerged as the clear pick. Grasu got positive reviews from both his coach and teammates against LSU as he takes over a position that is very important in Oregon's fast-paced offense.
DB John Boyett -- The junior is in his third year as a starter and was all over the field against LSU. He led the Ducks with 14 tackles, including six unassisted, and also had a tackle for loss. After getting five interceptions last year, he will be looking for his first interception this year against Nevada's unproven quarterback Tyler Lantrip.
WR/RB De'Anthony Thomas -- There was a lot of buzz about the true freshman in fall camp and he made an instant impact in his first college game. He had six catches for 47 yards, four rushes for 22 yards and a score, and returned two kicks for 53 yards against LSU. On the down side, he lost two fumbles.
--RB Kenjon Barner was in a walking boot after suffering an injury in the second half against LSU. Coach Chip Kelly is always mum about injuries and he has not given an indication if Barner will be able to play against Nevada. He remained in a walking boot with crutches at practice on Monday. If he is out, De'Anthony Thomas gets more reps at both running back and on special teams.
Riley to play two QBs again at Wisconsin
As if Oregon State doesn't have enough problems to solve, the Beavers can't decide on a starting quarterback.
Both junior Ryan Katz and redshirt freshman Sean Mannion will play at Wisconsin, OSU coach Mike Riley said, with the veteran Katz "right now" the expected starter.
Katz played the first half of the opener against Sacramento State before being replaced by Mannion, who had the better statistics as the OSU offense produced better results with the rookie at quarterback.
"We want to keep playing both guys," Riley told his weekly meeting with the media on Tuesday. "They both can help our team."
The Beavers will need everything they can muster against the Badgers. And that means a better pass defense, and probably some big plays on special teams to counter Wisconsin being at home and a heavy favorite.
The one upside of playing Wisconsin right after such a disappointing loss is that it forced the Beavers to move on, and not sulk over that opening defeat for two long.
But what impact will it be that the team has to wonder itself which quarterback will be running the offense?
OSU went into this season with the thought that its most solid element was the return of its starting quarterback, with Katz starting all 12 games last season.
"I know what I can do, I know I can still play," Katz said. "It's coach's decision what to do. I'll be ready."
--With the 11 a.m. kickoff at Wisconsin (for an ESPN2 telecast) translating to 9 a.m. in the Pacific time zone, OSU switched its practice times to the morning this week. The OSU coaching staff well remembers the last time the team had a similar kickoff, and the result was a very slow start by the Beavers on the way to a 63-27 loss at Louisville in the 2005 season.
--This will only be OSU's second game against an opponent from the Big Ten in the past 25 years. Since playing at Michigan in 1986, OSU's only other game against the Big Ten was a trip to Penn State in the 2008 season. Even more rare is a Big Ten team coming to Corvallis -- it hasn't happened since 1971 -- but Wisconsin is schedule to play at Reser Stadium in the 2012 season.
SERIES HISTORY: Wisconsin leads Oregon State 1-0 (last meeting, 1961, 23-20 Wisconsin).
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Suddenly what was expected to be the strength of the Beavers is in some question. Which quarterback starts? Will running back Malcolm Agnew be recovered from a hamstring injury suffered in practice Tuesday? WR James Rodgers and tight end Joe Halahuni will remain out recovering from off-season surgeries. OSU's only hope of an upset at Wisconsin is to put up a lot of points, and that seems far from a sure thing.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The priority against Wisconsin has to be focusing on the running game, the staple of the offense for the Badgers. But since OSU showed how vulnerable it was to the pass in the opening game, giving up four touchdown passes and being flagged three times for pass interference, the Beavers can't commit too much to defending the run. Adding in mobile quarterback Russell Wilson might make this the most difficult challenge OSU will face until November.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We've obviously got a big challenge and a big week ahead of us. A lot of this is going to be a mental factor because we all know in sports confidence is a big deal." -- Oregon State coach Mike Riley, on playing Wisconsin after losing to Sacramento State.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Oregon State at Wisconsin, Sept. 10 -- The Beavers make what seems to be an annual road trip to play a top 10 nonconference foe, this time the Badgers in Madison. It hasn't been a good experience for OSU in recent seasons, including losses to TCU and Boise State last season.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Can the Beavers find a way to slow down the Wisconsin offense? Then maybe there will be the opportunity for an upset. The OSU offense has shown that it has some playmakers, both at receiver and running back, though the question mark at quarterback could be a limiting factor in that regard.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
DT Kevin Frahm -- Expected to be a leader of the defense, Frahm missed the opener as he recovered from knee surgery last month. He's not only OSU's best defensive lineman, but he's one of the vocal leaders of the unit.
MLB Feti Unga -- Wisconsin's overpowering running game often goes directly up the middle, and the Beavers will attempt to funnel those runners toward the middle linebacker. In his first collegiate start, Unga had a team-high eight tackles, and that number figures to double if OSU is going to have any success against the Wisconsin running game.
WR Markus Wheaton -- The Beavers will need a big play or two to get them going against Wisconsin, and who better to supply that than Wheaton. He had the long play of the opener on a 69-yard reception, among his six catches, and it seems likely he'll have the football in his hands on a reverse or fly sweep, if not used on a kickoff or punt return in an attempt to spring him free to use his speed.
--After losing out in the battle to be the starter at right tackle, junior Michael Philipp has requested that he be allowed to redshirt this season. A two-year starter at left tackle, Philipp played as a true freshman. While OSU didn't play him in the opener, the redshirt decision could come under review because OSU is left with only starters Mike Remmers and Colin Kelly and reserve Grant Enger as true tackles, backed up by reserve center Geoff Garner and a couple of true freshmen.
--The one-game suspensions for defensive tackle Castro Masaniai and reserve tight end Connor Hamlett will be pushed back at least for one more game, with both needed against Wisconsin.
--The Beavers are still awaiting a resolution of the academic status of reserve defensive lineman Dominic Glover. He continues to practice but didn't play in the opener and his status for the Wisconsin game is in question. How long does it take for grades from the summer session that ended three weeks ago to be finalized so there is a determination on the senior?
Trojans kick off Pac-12 play against Utah
USC's offense disappeared in the second half of Saturday's game against Minnesota, prompting coach Lane Kiffin to make a postgame comment he would later have to clarify.
Kiffin said after the 19-17 win over Minnesota that the Trojans had "only two good players on our offense."
He was referring to sophomore receiver Robert Woods, who had a school-record 17 receptions for 177 yards and three touchdowns, and junior quarterback Matt Barkley, who completed a school-record 34 passes.
And, still, USC went scoreless in the second half.
About that "two good players" comment ...
"What I (meant) was that there were two guys that had great games, so I didn't phrase it (well)," Kiffin was quoted as saying in the L.A. Times. "I didn't mean it that way. Obviously, we had some guys that didn't play well ... but I didn't phrase it the right way."
Kiffin even apologized to his offense for the comment. Now, he has to build it up and get his players ready for what he says is a fearsome Utah defensive front.
The offense is going to have to be sharper for longer than it was last week, and the Trojans will certainly be in the spotlight this week as they play host to Utah in the first conference game of the new Pac-12.
"This is a defense that has a very dominant front seven, so when they want to, they can line up and knock people around," Kiffin said.
"And then they cause you a lot of issues with so many multiple pressures from so many looks. So, you really have to spend a lot of time on them with all their personnel matchups."
Utah beat Montana State 27-10 in its opener, allowing 258 yards.
Now, comes this big matchup in the L.A Coliseum, as this game begins to answer the question if Utah can compete in its new conference.
A little extra buzz for this game?
"Not within the players," Kiffin said, "but we do feel it from the media and from people around here."
--RB Marc Tyler was reinstated Tuesday after sitting out most of camp and not playing in the opener against Minnesota. Tyler had been indefinitely suspended for comments he made to TMZ, implying that USC players were getting paid. Tyler, who rejoined practice recently, rushed for 913 yards last season, scoring nine touchdowns and averaging 5.3 yards per carry.
--Coach Lane Kiffin said he won't replace secondary coach Willie Mack Garza during the season. Garza resigned two days before the season-opener because of "some personal issues unrelated to USC that I need to address," he said in a statement. Several reports indicated that Garza's name had been associated with former scout Willie Lyles, the central character in NCAA investigations into Oregon and LSU. Graduate assistant Sammy Knight will handle the secondary for the rest of the season.
SERIES HISTORY: USC leads Utah 6-3 (last meeting, 2001, 10-6 Utah)
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: USC has one of the top passing connections in the country with Matt Barkley throwing to Robert Woods, but what about the running game? The Trojans, with a few unknowns on the offensive line, are going to have to get something going in the running game against a defensive line that second-year coach Lane Kiffin calls as good as he has seen since returning to USC. It will be interesting to see if RB Marc Tyler gets into the game. USC already has a bit of a logjam at the position, with redshirt freshman D.J. Morgan (18 carries for 70 yards vs. Minnesota), Curtis McNeal and Dillon Baxter, among others.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Look for coach Lane Kiffin to expand his defensive rotation this week against Utah. He had planned to go deeper in the opener against Minnesota, but the close nature of the game in the second half gave him pause. He said he would like to get a trio of true freshman involved this week -- LB Lamar Dawson, DE J.R. Tavai and DT Christian Heyward. Defensive ends Nick Perry, Wes Horton and Devon Kennard lead the charge up front for a defense that recorded four sacks last week.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Coming into the first game I was going through the motions instead of going hard every play." -- RB Dillon Baxter, in the Los Angeles Daily News, answering his own question as to why barely played in the opener.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Utah at USC, Sept. 10 -- The Trojans will give Utah a taste of Pac-12 football, but the L.A. Coliseum isn't the fearsome place it was for most of Pete Carroll's tenure. USC, dating to a home loss to Stanford in November 2009, is only 5-5 at home, with three of those victories coming by three points or less. The Trojans have been slightly outscored in their past 10 home games, 266-263.
KEYS TO THE GAME: USC needs to test Utah QB Jordan Wynn, who spent the offseason trying to get well from a shoulder injury. If he is hesitant to let it loose -- or isn't as effective throwing deep -- then the Trojans can start jumping on the short routes. Wynn was 15 of 23 for only 101 yards last week against Montana State.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
FS T.J. McDonald -- The junior is one of the top safeties in the conference, and is one of the team captains for this season. McDonald made eight tackles in the opener, and he'll be looking for anything that Utah QB Jordan Wynn floats deep.
WR Robert Woods -- He's coming off a game in which he set a school record with 17 receptions for 177 yards and three touchdowns. The 177 receiving yards were the most in the nation in the first week. Woods and QB Matt Barkley will take aim at an inexperienced Utah secondary.
RB D.J. Morgan -- The redshirt freshman was the surprise starter in the first game, leading the team with 70 yards on 18 carries. It was his first game action since suffering a knee injury late in his senior year of high school. Will he be the lead back again, or will someone else from USC's deep stable take control?
--RB Marc Tyler, USC's leading rusher last season with 913 yards and nine touchdowns, was reinstated to the team Tuesday. He has been practicing with the team for a couple of weeks.
--DT Armond Armstead, who has been out because of an undisclosed medical condition, had not been cleared as of Tuesday.
--OG Abe Markowitz did not play in the opener because of a foot injury. He is questionable for this week.
Cardinal looking to raise the bar offensively at Duke
Officially Stanford is playing Duke on. Sept. 10, but really the Cardinal is playing against itself.
Even though this is Stanford's first road game, the Cardinal will be disappointed if it does not come out of Durham, N.C., with a convincing win over a Duke team that was picked to finish last in its division of the Atlantic Coast Conference and lost its opener at home to Richmond, a Football Championship Subdivision team.
So the Cardinal will be competing against its own standard, one that Stanford established last season while going 12-1 and one that the Cardinal did not completely meet in its opener, despite its 57-3 victory over San Jose State.
The defense need only duplicate its impressive showing in the opener, and Duke quarterback Sean Renfree is good enough to provide a bigger challenge for the Cardinal's pass defense than San Jose State's passing game did.
It is on offense that the Cardinal needs to show progress. QB Andrew Luck had a rather pedestrian performance by his standards, and he would like to improve on his efficiency against a Duke defense that did a fairly good job of limiting Richmond and its quarterback, Aaron Corp, who started a game for USC two years ago.
More important is improvement in the running game. The Cardinal's strength last season was its ability to dominate the line of scrimmage and overpower opponents with its running game. The Cardinal wasn't able to do that last week against a San Jose State defense it should have controlled.
Duke represents the second of five mediocre opponents Stanford will face in its first six games, and even the sixth of those opponents, Arizona, is far from a national powerhouse. However, the Pac-12 opener against the Wildcats on the road will be a legitimate test for Stanford, and it needs to establish its offensive identity before that game.
So far, the identity has focused on Luck, and for good reason, but even last season, when Luck finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting, the Cardinal's offensive identity was as a physical offensive team that can blow opponents off the ball and run the ball whenever it wanted. With three new offensive linemen this season, the Cardinal has not yet shown it can do that.
"You have to be able to be able to run the ball; you have to be physical," Stanford coach Davis Shaw said.
--QB Andrew Luck needs five touchdown passes to tie Jim Plunkett for third on Stanford's career list. Luck had two touchdown throws in the opener, giving him 47 for his career.
--Stanford has won nine games in a row dating back to last season, and that's the school's longest winning streak since it started the 1951 season 9-0. If it beats Duke to make it 10 straight, it will the Cardinal's longest winning streak since it won 13 in a row after starting 2-0 in 1941.
--WR Chris Owusu had a 59-yard kickoff return in the opener, giving him seven kick returns of more than 50 yards.
SERIES HISTORY: Series is tied 1-1 (last meeting, 1972, 10-6 Stanford).
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Despite putting up 57 points, the Cardinal offense was less than impressive against San Jose State. QB Andrew Luck was good, but certainly not great, and he admitted after the game that the offense never really established a rhythm in the game. More significant was the inability to establish a physical running game, which was the team's identity a year ago. Starting TB Stepfan Taylor averaged just 3.4 yard per carry, and Stanford was expecting much more out of Anthony Wilkerson, who carried eight times for just 14 yards. The loss of both starting wide receivers from last season does not seem to be an issue as Chris Owusu and Griff Whalen provide excellence outside to complement the wealth of talent the Cardinal has at tight end.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Cardinal defense was impressive in the opener, limiting San Jose State to 237 total yards. The Spartans had minus-2 yards rushing through three quarters and Stanford forced three turnovers. ILB Shayne Skov and OLB Chase Thomas showed they may be as good as their preseason publicity suggested, but they will face a more formidable passer in Duke QB Sean Renfree. He's not in Andrew Luck's class, but he's pretty good and has a strong arm that will challenge the Cardinal's deep secondary. The Cardinal's three-man defensive line was better than expected in the opener. Duke's offense may present a few more obstacles for new defensive coordinator Derek Mason, so it will be interesting to see how he handles it.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's a different climate than we're used to. We practice in 75-degree temperatures with no humidity, so this will be a challenge." -- Stanford coach David Shaw, on playing in North Carolina, with its heat and humidity.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Stanford at Duke, Sept. 10 -- Duke is 0-1 after losing to FCS Richmond 23-20 at home, and Stanford is 1-0 after beating San Jose State 57-3 at home. The teams have not met since 1972. Duke is picked to finish last in its division of the ACC, and Stanford is picked second in its division of the Pac-12. The Cardinal went 12-1 last season, and the Blue Devils went 3-9. Duke has not had a winning season since 1994.
KEYS TO THE GAME: If Stanford's secondary can hold up against the passing attack of Duke QB Sean Renfree, the Cardinal should control the game. Stanford can't afford to let Renfree and his strong arm beat the Cardinal deep for big plays. Offensively, QB Andrew Luck need only have an average game for Stanford to control the game, but his effectiveness will be enhanced if the Cardinal can produce a running game. The Cardinal offensive linemen needs to play better than it did in the opener. Only a bunch of Stanford turnovers should prevent the Cardinal from winning comfortably, so ball security may be the No. 1 priority.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
FS Michael Thomas -- An athletic player capable of making big plays, Thomas didn't have to do much against San Jose State, but he may be tested against Duke and QB Sean Renfree. He had just three tackles in the opener, but he should get more opportunities against Duke.
SS Delano Howell -- Like Thomas, Howell will be challenged more in this game than he was in the opener. Noted for his ability to deliver the big hit, Howell may get a chance to show that talent against the Blue Devils, who have the ability to get the ball downfield.
TE Zach Ertz -- Even though he's not a starter, Ertz is one of the Cardinal's most dangerous receivers, especially when Stanford gets close to the goal line. The 6-foot-6, 249-pound Ertz has proven to be a reliable receiver who seems to be getting better all the time.
QB Andrew Luck -- Quite simply the best quarterback in the country, Luck wants to improve on his so-so-showing in the opener when he went 17 for 26 but had no pass plays of more than 17 yards.
WR Chris Owusu -- His showing in the opener, when had seven catches as well as a 59-yard kickoff return, suggests he may be the big-play performer he was two years ago, before missing much of last season with injuries.
--Redshirt freshman Brett Nottingham, Stanford's backup quarterback, has a pass efficiency rating of 458.2, which dwarfs that of Andrew Luck, whose rating stands at a mere 146.0.
--Redshirt freshman K Jordan Williamson has yet to miss a place kick. He made all seven of his extra points, and made both his field goal attempts, although they were of modest length -- 23 yards and 37 yards.
--Junior FB Ryan Hewitt has succeeded Owen Marecic as the Cardinal's starting fullback, and he is being used in much the same way. He had three carries for 9 yards and two receptions for 15 yards in the opener. However, he may not be as good a lead blocker as Marecic, which may account for some of Stanford's ground-game deficiencies in the opener.
Neuheisel sees room for rapid improvement from Bruins
Coach Rick Neuheisel has been called many things; a pessimist isn't one of them.
While acknowledging the difficulty of digesting a 38-34 loss at Houston on Saturday, Neuheisel saw the sunny side, saying Monday he was encouraged by looking at the game tape. Why?
"We can be a lot better and be a lot better quickly," Neuheisel said.
UCLA definitely can be a lot better, especially on defense, and especially this week because the level of competition drops from Houston to San Jose State, which visits the Rose Bowl on Saturday. The Spartans dropped their opener to Stanford, 57-3.
The UCLA offense was actually pretty good against Houston, although the Bruins are still juggling big questions at quarterback. Starter Kevin Prince suffered head and shoulder injuries in the first half of last week's game, although his concussion symptoms soon cleared, and Neuheisel said Monday that Prince had a chance to play.
The big improvement will have to come on defense. The Bruins allowed 469 yards, including 310 through the air from Houston quarterback Case Keenum. San Jose State doesn't have that kind of passing attack, as the Spartans produced just 237 yards last week behind new quarterback Matt Faulkner.
"There will be zero thinking that we don't have a formidable opponent," Neuheisel said.
But it's less about San Jose State this week and more about UCLA performing at the a bowl-worthy level after falling short in Week 1.
"The guys are dying to get back on the football field," Neuheisel said Monday. "We'll have great, spirited practices through the week."
Ever the optimist.
--UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel said that if QB Kevin Prince can get enough practice work this week, that he would likely have some role Saturday against San Jose State. Prince suffered a concussion and a shoulder injury when he landed hard at the end of a run on Saturday. "I know he is desperate to play," Neuheisel said. "He has waited a long time to play." Neuheisel on Monday called Prince's chances of playing this week "better than 50-50."
Neuheisel said he sees no problem with using a two-quarterback system of Richard Brehaut and Prince this week. That was the plan in the opener, even before Prince got hurt. He missed the last half of last season because of a knee injury.
--RB Johnathan Franklin rushed 16 times for 128 yards against Houston, the eighth 100-yard game of the junior's career. He increased his career total to 1,821 rushing yards, 18th on the school's all-time rushing list.
--In the opener at Houston, UCLA had its best day on offense since playing Washington State in 2009. The Bruins gained 554 yards against Houston (it had 556 vs. the other Cougars back in the 2009).
SERIES HISTORY: UCLA and San Jose State, first meeting
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: UCLA discovered a semblance of its passing game in its opener, its first game under new coordinator Mike Johnson. QB Richard Brehaut was very good in relief of injured Kevin Prince last week, but Prince is a little quicker in the run part of the Pistol offense and coach Rick Neuheisel won't hesitate to use both if Prince has recovered from his injuries. The quarterbacks combined to pass for 322 yards, exceeding every game from last season, the team's first employing the run-based Pistol.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Houston shredded the UCLA defense last week, with the Bruins allowed too much underneath to the Cougars' spread offense. On the bright side, Houston didn't complete a pass of more than 26 yards and averaged only 10 yards per completion. "Defensively, we've got to play faster," coach Rick Neuheisel said. This might be a better game to get DE Datone Jones untracked; Jones, who missed all of last season with a foot injury, had just two tackles in the opener.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It could be divisive if they weren't friends." -- Coach Rick Neuheisel, in the L.A. Times, on the quarterback competition between Kevin Prince and Richard Brehaut.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: San Jose State at UCLA, Sept. 10 -- This is the game in the middle of UCLA's Texas sandwich -- after the loss to Houston and before the rematch with the University of Texas. The Spartans shouldn't be a meaty challenge. They are coming off a 1-12 season and have lost six in a row to Pac-12 competition.
KEYS TO THE GAME: UCLA had 10 penalties in the opener, and coach Rick Neuheisel would like a cleaner effort this time around as he prepares his team for tougher times ahead. The Bruins need to further gain confidence in the passing game, which has two huge targets in 6-8 tight end Joseph Fauria and 6-5 wideout Nelson Rosario. If the Bruins can show a successful passing game early in the season, it could change how Pac-12 opponents think about defending the Pistol.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
TE Joseph Fauria -- It's time for an encore, as the junior is coming off his best game ever -- six receptions for 110 yards. "We're going to surprise a lot of people," he told the L.A. Daily News after the game. "We're going to do a lot of great things next week."
PK Kip Smith -- The freshman struggled in camp, then he missed a 32-yard field goal attempt against Houston and had a PAT blocked (hitting one of his own blockers in the back). Smith should get more chances this week, but the leash could be short, as UCLA also has worked punter Jeff Locke into the practice rotation.
LB Patrick Larimore -- He missed the final five games of last season because of a shoulder injury, but had a nice season debut with nine tackles, including one for loss, against Houston. He was selected as one of three team captains before the season.
--LB Glenn Love, who suffered a dislocated shoulder against Houston, has a chance of being available this week, coach Rick Neuheisel said Monday.
--OL Jeff Baca, who suffered a broken ankle in the spring, should be able to return to game action this week, playing left tackle. That would move Sean Sheller from left tackle to guard. Baca missed all of last season because of academic ineligibility.
--CB Anthony Jefferson (bulging disc) could miss about half the season. A broken foot cost him nine games of his true freshman season, and he was able to attain a redshirt. He was being counted on for depth this season behind starters Aaron Hester and Sheldon Price.
--CB Jamie Graham, who joined the team this fall as a graduate student transfer from Vanderbilt, is expected to be out until mid-September because of a knee injury. UCLA is still counting on Graham to provide needed depth in the secondary.
Utes have heavy hearts entering Pac-12 opener
Utah's coaching staff has a difficult task this week. Not only must it prepare for a trip to Los Angeles to face the always-dangerous USC Trojans (1-0), but it also must remain sensitive to junior defensive lineman Ron Tongaonevai, whose wife was killed in a car accident Thursday after the Utes' 27-10 season-opening victory over Montana State.
"It is tough, and everybody is impacted by it," coach Kyle Whittingham told the Salt Lake Tribune. We're trying to work through it, but the main thing right now is to support Ron in any way we can."
Meanwhile, the Utes (1-0) have to figure out how to get their offense going after an uninspiring performance against the Bobcats, a Football Championship Subdivision school, to start the year.
Utah had trouble maintaining the tempo at which offensive coordinator Norm Chow wants the unit to operate. Quarterback Jordan Wynn threw for a meager 101 yards and said he wasn't comfortable with the footwork required at game speed.
"In practice we were playing much faster than that and doing a better job with the play clock," Whittingham told the Tribune. "In every situation we were breaking the huddle with 22, 21 and 20 seconds on the clock but (against Montana State) it was not that way. Most snaps were well in the single digits, and that is not the tempo we wanted to play with. We have to be faster and have a more up-tempo game."
Fortunately, running back John White supplied a lot of the offense, rushing for 150 yards and a touchdown. The Utes, however, realize the difference in athletic ability between Montana State's defenders and USC's defenders.
Utah was solid but not spectacular against the Bobcats, giving up 268 yards of offense. Linebacker Brian Blechen secured a pair of interceptions, but the unit produced only two sacks and gave up scoring drives of 79 and 50 yards that allowed MSU to hang around.
The Utes say they understand the need for significant improvement to have a chance to beat the Trojans. In fact, USC players had similar comments about their own play after escaping with a 19-17 victory over Minnesota in their season-opener.
--That the Utes landed in the Pac-12 South was huge for their ability to recruit in California, the Salt Lake Tribune reported. The ability to play USC and UCLA on an annual basis is a major selling point to recruits living on the West Coast. The chance to play in front of family while still going away to college appeals to many athletes. Utah feels it can win more battles with what is now its Pac-12 brethren, as long as the Utes can secure some victories on the field.
--Utah offensive coordinator Norm Chow and offensive line coach Tim Davis both helped the Trojans become a college football juggernaut in the early 2000s. Chow was with USC from 2001-04 and mentored Heisman Trophy QBs Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart. Davis coached from 2002-04 and both were on the staff that led the Trojans to the 2004 national championship (that has since been stripped from the program for NCAA violations).
--Delshawn McClellon, a WR from Cerritos, Calif., has committed to play for the Utes. He told the Deseret News that he runs a 4.37-second 40-yard dash and plays alongside University of Washington commitment DeWayne Washington. McClellon said he chose Utah because of its winning tradition, wins in BCS postseason games and the chance to play for offensive coordinator/guru Norm Chow.
SERIES HISTORY: USC leads 6-3 (last meeting, 2001, Utah 10-6).
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The Utes say they know what they did wrong against Montana State and will be able to fix their mistakes against the Trojans. Utah must improve the passing game because RB John White doesn't figure to rush for 150 yards against a USC defense that gave up 110 total to Minnesota and allowed only 3.2 yards per carry. Utah's TEs accounted for 10 of the 15 receptions last week. If Utah has any chance of running the football, it must get its WRs involved downfield to keep the Trojans from sitting on the run. Utah's offensive line must key on USC middle MLB Chris Galippo, who had 2 1/2 tackles for loss and two sacks last week.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Utah's secondary will get perhaps its toughest test in defending a single player this season. USC WR Robert Woods had 17 receptions for 177 yards and all three Trojans TDs last week. Don't expect Utah to give help to CBs Ryan Lacy and Conroy Black until they prove that they can't stay with Woods. QB Matt Barkley could shred the Utah defense if he has time. Utah must shut down the USC rushing attack so it can key on stopping Barkley and Woods. Trojan RB D.J. Morgan had 70 rushing against Minnesota but didn't have any breakaway runs.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "The mood has been somber in our building due to the death of (junior DL) Ron Tongaonevai's wife Janelle, but our obligations as coaches and players continue, even as we deal with this tragic event. We're looking forward to our inaugural Pac-12 game against an outstanding USC team. The Trojans have one of the most storied programs in all of college football and year- in and year-out are as talented as anyone in the country, with this year being no exception." – Utah coach Kyle Whittingham.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Utah at USC, Sept. 10 -- The teams haven't met in a decade and both are entering the game with less-than-impressive season-opening victories. The Utes have been in plenty of huge games and raucous stadiums in recent seasons, so the aura of the L.A. Coliseum shouldn't affect them. A pregame ceremony to commemorate Utah's first game as a member of the Pac-12 could be a distraction to the Utes' routine.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Both offenses have a lot to prove after starting strong in the first halves of their respective openers, only to all but disappear after intermission. The team that can get into an offensive rhythm first will have the upper-hand in what should be a low-scoring contest.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
QB Jordan Wynn -- The Utes have a lot invested in the junior, who has yet to have that defining victory that will forever endear him to the school's fans. The good news is that offensive coordinator Norm Chow has had a couple extra days to go over what Wynn needs to improve on from his Week 1 performance that resulted in a 101-yard passing game.
RB John White – He had a lot of running room in the opener against Montana State, but the 5-foot-8, 186-pound junior college transfer will encounter much bigger and faster defenders this week. If he can run the ball with similar success, the Utes may be able to pull off the upset.
CBs Ryan Lacy and Conroy Black -- Both will try to step up to the challenge of defending USC standout WR Robert Woods, who had 17 receptions for 177 yards and three TDs In the opener against Minnesota. Both are used to playing man-to-man, but if they need help in coverage, Utah will be hard-pressed to play the way it needs to against USC QB Matt Barkley.
LT John Cullen is expected to return to the lineup after missing the season-opener with a concussion.
OG Latu Heimuli, a sophomore who moved from DT, played four snaps against Montana State.
LB/DE Nai Fotu is expected to play against USC. He is coming off a suspension for a DUI arrest during the offseason.
K Coleman Peterson has secured the starting job outright after connecting on two FGs and a PAT in the opener against Montana State.
Disappointed Sarkisian issues challenge to team
With his team facing what already appears a pivotal game, Washington coach Steve Sarkisian levied a challenge to his players this week.
In his regular meeting with the media Monday, Sarkisian said he was disappointed in his team's performance in a 30-27 win over Football Championship Subdivision foe Eastern Washington in its season-opener. UW was outgained 504-250 and needed an interception in the final minute in the end zone to preserve the win.
"I thought we lacked energy," Sarkisian said. "I thought we lacked enthusiasm; really feel like we played not to lose. And that's disappointing to me. We played much too cautious, much too cautious a brand of football. ... I didn't think we were physical at all, especially on the offensive side of the ball. So ultimately that stuff has to start with me. I need to coach better. I need to motivate better. We need to be better prepared than we were Saturday, from an emotional standpoint.''
Sarkisian said attempting to change that mentality means that this week's game against Hawaii is more about the Huskies than preparing for the Warriors.
"But this game is about us getting right, getting back to the brand and the style of football that we are accustomed to, and that's a physical brand and one that we believe in, in all three phases, with the energy and the enthusiasm and effort it takes to play that brand,'' he said.
Still, there are more than enough tangible challenges this week.
Hawaii runs a version of the run-and-shoot with some elements of the Pistol thrown in, meaning UW's pass defense will again be severely tested.
Sarkisian said his players need to have more confidence in their ability to play aggressive and man-to-man and quickly close on the receivers they are defending. He also said the linemen need to be more aggressive in their rushes.
Defensively, Hawaii has a solid front seven that held Colorado to 17 yards on 28 carries. UW averaged just 3.9 yards per rush against Eastern Washington, a team it felt it could push around.
Sarkisian admitted he didn't think UW's lines played well on either side and will need some drastic improvement.
The win over Eastern gave UW its first 1-0 start since 2007. With a trip to Nebraska looming on Sept. 17, the Hawaii game looms large to give the Huskies some breathing room.
--The Huskies had 16 first-time starters against Eastern, including six true freshmen --- receiver Kasen Williams, tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, linebacker John Timu, defensive tackle Danny Shelton, running back Bishop Sankey and safety James Sample. Cornerback Marcus Peters may be the next closest to playing.
--UW has won five in a row, the sixth-longest streak in the nation behind only Auburn (16), Stanford (9), Nevada and Ohio State (7) and Oklahoma (6).
--UW's four forced turnovers Saturday, its most since getting five in a loss at UCLA in 2009.
SERIES HISTORY: Hawaii leads Washington 2-1 (last meeting, 2007, 35-28 Hawaii).
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: UW scored 30 points against Eastern Washington but it was a little deceiving as the Huskies had just 250 yards, scoring two touchdowns on short drives set up by fumbled punts. UW will have to be more aggressive in this game after failing to complete a pass for longer than 10 yards against the Eagles. Running back Chris Polk returned from injury and was his usual solid self with 125 yards on 23 carries -- the only consistent offense the Huskies had. UW will no doubt try to ride him this week to control the clock and keep the Hawaii offense off the field. Also expect UW to try to get true frosh WR Kasen Williams and TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins more involved. And UW will also need to get better protection from an offensive line that struggled at times to protect quarterback Keith Price, who mostly relied on the short passing game against Eastern.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The obvious issue is a pass defense that allowed 473 yards to Eastern Washington and now will be taxed by a Hawaii offense that is among the best in the nation at throwing the ball. The good news is Hawaii is young up front and at the receiver position and the Huskies may be able to try to be more aggressive and rattle the Warriors, notoriously not as explosive on the road. UW will also hope for the return of cornerback Quinton Richardson to take over as the starter at one side. His replacement, Greg Ducre, struggled against Eastern Washington. UW also has to get more of a pass rush after managing just one sack against Eastern. But that will be a challenge against mobile Hawaii quarterback Bryant Moniz.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's not about talent. I think we're plenty good enough. The other side of it is, as I said earlier, I think the mentality of the team was off. For us to play a cautious game like that is disappointing to me. That is something that is the last thing I want our teams to play with, a cautious mentality,'' --- UW coach Steve Sarkisian.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Hawaii at Washington, Sept. 10 -- Huskies hope to move to 2-0 for the first time since 2007 as the Warriors make their first visit since 1973.
KEYS TO THE GAME: -- Contain Bryant Moniz. Easier said than done, but the Huskies have to at least limit the big plays of Hawaii quarterback Bryant Moniz, who is adding a dangerous running game to add to his throwing ability.
Rush the passer -- UW had just one sack on 69 Eastern Washington pass attempts in the opener. Hawaii will also try to get rid of the ball quickly, as did Eastern. But UW coaches felt there were opportunities for their rushers to get to the passer and hope to do a better job of that this week.
Keep the Polk-a-motive moving -- Running back Chris Polk rushed for 125 yards on 23 carries last week in his first real action since having arthroscopic surgery on Aug. 18. He should be in even better form against Hawaii and will be called on to help UW control the ball.
Win the special teams battle again -- UW beat Eastern largely on the strength of better special teams, including recovering two fumbles on punts and may need every edge it can get this week.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
QB Keith Price -- UW's sophomore was efficient against Eastern completing 17 of 25 passes. But he threw for just 102 yards as he rarely tried to challenge the secondary downfield. He'll need to be more confident throwing the deep ball. He also has to get healthy, struggling with a sprained knee for most of the EWU game, an injury that limited his mobility.
RB Chris Polk -- The junior shook off a pre-season knee injury to rush for 125 yards against Eastern. He again got a lot of his yards after contact and he may have to work solo a lot again this week as Hawaii has a strong and athletic front seven that kept Colorado's Rodney Stewart in check last week.
DT Alameda Ta'amu -- UW has high expectations for the senior, regarded by many as a potential first-round draft pick. But he struggled to get a consistent push up front against Eastern, playing with a cast on his hand due to a broken bone suffered in the pre-season. UW needs him to play more consistently.
CB Desmond Trufant -- The junior is the reigning Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week after making a game-saving interception as well as recovering a fumble on a punt. But he also had a tough time for much of the game with Eastern Washington receiver Brandon Kaufman and will be tested again this week by Hawaii's noted passing attack.
--WR Jermaine Kearse sat out the last three quarters of the Eastern game with a sprained ankle. But he returned to practice Monday and will play this week.
--QB Keith Price suffered a sprained knee against Eastern but is expected to play Saturday.
--LB Garret Gilliland suffered a concussion but has been cleared to play.
--LB Tim Tucker has also been moved to fullback to add depth there.
Patience pays off for new Cougar QB Lobbestael
The Washington State Cougars step up in class in Game 2 of the 2011 season --- and they'll do so with a new captain of the ship.
With starting quarterback Jeff Tuel out up to 6-8 weeks with a broken collarbone, the Cougars will turn to fifth-year senior Marshall Lobbestael when they host UNLV on Sept. 10.
Lobbestael started WSU's 64-21 win over Football Championship Subdivision member Idaho State last Saturday when Tuel came down with a stomach virus. Tuel then played late in the first quarter and was injured, and now Lobbestael takes over for a month or so.
WSU coach Paul Wulff says the change in quarterbacks won't alter the team's offensive game plan much.
"There will not be a major change to what we do or how we do it,'' he said. "There will be a few things we do to tailor to Marshall, but what we do is what we do and there will be some things that Marshall will do well and some things that he can't do as well as Jeff. But the bottom line we have to operate our system and play the way you have been coached.''
What Lobbestael may not do as well as run and escape pressure.
But Wulff says what he can do as well is lead the team. Lobbestael has started seven games in his career, winning two. After starting three games in 2009 he suffered a knee injury and lost his job to Tuel, then a true freshman. Wulff said this week it was a time when Lobbestael could have left the program but decided to stay, and Wulff says that has helped Lobbestael earn the respect of fellow coaches and players.
"That's challenging for any competitor,'' he said. "But he has remained committed. ... He's a great leader on this football team and highly respected so I think our players feel good and that they feel that all the positions on our team are vastly improved."
The Cougars rushed for 289 yards and passed 301 more in their opening rout of Idaho State. Now WSU tests that apparent new-found improvement for the first time this year against a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent, though it's also a rebuilding squad as UNLV was handily beaten at Wisconsin last Thursday, 51-17.
WSU hasn't played UNLV since 1990 but Wulff regularly matched up with Rebels coach Bobby Hauck when Wulff was at Eastern Washington and Hauck was at Montana.
"Their running game is definitely a concern,'' he said. "Their quarterback (Caleb Herring) can run, so that adds a whole different dimension to what you have to do to defend. They do a nice job with their formations, so that's going to be the biggest challenge initially. We have to go out and execute with our offense -- they don't beat themselves so we are going to have to go out there and earn it.''
WSU is looking for its first 2-0 start since 2005 in what is a key season for Wulff, now 6-32 since taking over prior to the 2008 season.
--WSU is 15-3 against current members of the Mountain West Conference, and has won its last eight dating to a 1990 loss against Wyoming.
--The Cougars rushed for 289 yards against Idaho State, their best since rushing for 344 yards against Idaho, Sept. 9, 2006. WSU averaged 8.0 yards per game and did not have a play go for a loss all afternoon.
SERIES HISTORY: WSU leads UNLV 4-0 (last meeting, 1990, 40-13 Washington State).
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: WSU's offense could change its look a little bit under Marshall Lobbestael, who isn't as mobile as Jeff Tuel. WSU may also want to try not to put Lobbestael at much risk with only redshirt freshman Connor Halliday behind him. So the QB-run stuff that was so effective near the end of last season might go out the window for a while. That may not be an issue this week as UNLV showed little ability to stop much of anything in its 51-17 loss to Wisconsin. Expect UNLV to try to put a lot of pressure on Lobbestael, who hasn't played much against FBS competition since 2009. This game will mark a truer test of WSU's reported improvement up front, as well.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The lone red flag in any of the stats from the drubbing of Idaho State was the fact that WSU allowed 430 yards passing. Most of it came after the game was a rout, so hard to know what to make of it. But it would make sense if teams looked at that and will wonder if there are some chances to exploit the Cougar secondary. UNLV QB Caleb Herring completed 18 of 27 passes at Wisconsin last week and showed poise in the face of a tough situation.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "He just has to be one of the 11 on offense. He doesn't have to be the whole offense. We have enough weapons around him now where we can provide a balanced attack.'' -- Washington State coach Paul Wulff on quarterback Marshall Lobbestael, who takes over for injured starter Jeff Tuel.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: UNLV at Washington State, Sept. 10 -- The rebuilding Rebels present WSU a great chance for its first 2-0 start since 2005, when the Cougars began 3-0 under Bill Doba.
KEYS TO THE GAME:
--Give new QB Marshall Lobbestael time to throw. He's not quite as adept escaping pressure as Jeff Tuel so there will be a little more onus on the line to give him time. The good news is that UNLV's front seven is not regarded as very strong, and did little to ease that notion in the blowout loss at Wisconsin.
--Rush the passer. WSU had six sacks against Idaho State. This game will give a little more indication if that is a sign of real improvement or just that Idaho State is not very good. UNLV's one consistent offense last week was the play of QB Caleb Herring so the Cougs will need to get him off his game quickly.
--Start quickly. WSU did that last week, jumping out to a 14-0 lead before many fans had settled into their seats. WSU gained some confidence with the rout of Idaho State but the team still has won just six games since 2007. Getting an early lead against what seems like an overmatched opponent will be critical to not allow the Rebels to hang around.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
QB Marshall Lobbestael -- The fifth-year senior is now the starter for the next month or so. The good news is that he has started seven games in his career and won two of them, so he shouldn't be awed by the circumstances.
RB Rickey Galvin -- The redshirt freshman gave indications of living up to the hype with 64 yards and two touchdowns in seven carries before leaving the game early with the contest turning into a rout. Expect WSU to lean on him a little more this week.
LB C.J. Mizell -- The sophomore is regarded as among WSU's most talented defensive players and he put some of that on display with two sacks against Idaho State. As with the rest of the team, Mizell will be called on to do a little more this week against a better opponent.
--WSU announced that freshman linebacker Darryl Monroe suffered a torn Achilles' tendon and Travion Smith suffered a torn ACL injury in the Idaho State game and will be lost for the season. Each are promising players projected to help on special teams and add depth this year.
--The Cougars were hit by a flu bug early in the week that had a handful of players missing practice.
--Washington State coach Paul Wulff said redshirt freshman quarterback Connor Halliday will also see some playing time in spot situations. The 6-foot-4, 181-pounder was one of the more highly-regarded members of WSU's recruiting class of 2010.
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