The Buckeyes from Ohio State travel west to Los Angeles to take on a hot UCLA squad. This will be the first big test for new Head Coach Jim Tressel and he'll find out first-hand just how good Bob Toledo's Bruins are playing. Buckeye signal-caller Steve Bellisari has a sprained foot, but will probably go on Saturday. If he can't put it together, Tressel will have to rely on Sophomore Scott McMullen, who has 16 career attempts under his belt. The one thing the Buckeyes do well is run, led by Jonathan Wells and Sam Maldonado. If they can control the clock and keep Corey Paus' and DeShaun Foster's butts riding the pine, they may make a game out of it. Not. The Bruins are just too good right now and too cocky, and they'll treat their Big-10 guests with some Pac-10 hospitality, meaning they'll knock their socks off and make sure a mints are on their pillows when they are through.
UCLA 35, Ohio State 14.
A quick question - Is Idaho as bad as they looked when Washington State lit them up for 544 total yards, or are they as good as when they came up with 29 4th quarter points against a traditionally stingy Wildcat defense? Probably neither, but as long as QB John Welsh is heading the Vandal attack, they have a potent threat that Washington's secondary will have to address. Welsh had a great game last year against the Huskies, and with Chris Lacy, Rossi Martin and Josh Jelmberg returning in the receiving corps, the Vandals look to new WR Coach (and former UW GA Tarn Sublett) to take them to the next level. Sublett's role in Tom Cable's offensive plans becomes even more significant when you consider the Vandals have racked up only 187 yards on the ground in their first two games, 160 by RB Blair Lewis. The plan looks simple for the Dawg D; neutralize Welsh and make Lewis beat them. Will they get it done? No question, as the Husky offense looks to feast on a Vandal defense that has been utterly decimated by Washington State and Arizona, giving up 1035 total yards and 72 total points. Obviously from these stats, it appears the Vandals bend a lot, but comparatively speaking, don't break too often. Do you think the red zone offense that was so anemic two weeks ago against Michigan won't be a factor? A tip for Gilby (an admittedly audacious one at that); throw the fade to Reggie.
Washington 49, Idaho 21.
This game is a good news/bad news one for the Bears. The good news? They get to play in the Palouse in September, the best time to possibly brave, what normally would be, the worst place to hit in the Pac-10 later in the year. The bad news? They still have to play the game. They still have to play against a team that has averaged 517 yards per game on offense and has given up only 258 yards per contest on D. The Bears are dead last in the Pac when it comes to defense, surrendering a brutal 430 total yards, 97th out of all 115 Division-1 programs. I'm no rocket scientist, but those numbers don't bode well for the boys from Berkeley. RB Joe Igber is still the man when it comes to the Bear rushing attack, but look out for freshman Terrell Williams, who is averaging 6.7 yards per carry so far in his young career. QB Kyle Boller still isn't the 'Baby Jesus in Cleats' that everyone thought he was going to be coming out of high school, but he's not stinking up the joint either. RB Marcus Fields and Igber are Boller's two top targets so far this year, showing just how pathetic the Bear receiving corps is. The Cougs have a freshman RB of their own in Lavell Anderson, who is proving to be an effective foil for bruiser David Minnich. Think Willie Hurst to Washington's Rich Alexis. QB Jason Gesser has found a terrific receiving duo in Nakoa McElrath and Mike Bush, and those two will run circles around a Cal secondary that is giving up nearly 300 yards through the air per game.
Washington State 50, California 28.
Maybe it's just the caliber of teams they've played against, but UNLV has to be considered a bit of a disappointment so far this year, and especially the play of heralded QB Jason Thomas. Completing only 40 percent of his passes so far, with a 1-to-4 TD-to-Interception ratio, Thomas has to step up his game in order to take this one from another group of 'Cats, this time the Arizona Wildcats. RB Joe Haro has been the lone shining star for the Runnin' Rebels, going for back-to-back 100-yard rushing performances against Arkansas and Northwestern. He'll need another special effort to give Thomas some room to breathe, because it's been painfully obvious that Jason won't be able to win games for UNLV on his own. It looks like he'll have help out wide, as Sophomore Michael Johnson looks to be the real deal, going for almost 22 yards per catch and 2 TD's against Northwestern. This game looks to shape up in the favor of Arizona, as Junior QB Jason Johnson (Puyallup) has gained a phenomenal amount of confidence since being named the starting quarterback for new Head Coach John Mackovic, throwing at a 66 percent completion clip and a 3-1 TD-to-Interception ratio. If those numbers continue, Johnson will be the surprise of the Pac-10, so expect them to dip slightly. There shouldn't be concern, however, because both Clarence Farmer and Leo Mills return to tote the pigskin, with Farmer getting the majority of the early carries. The key matchup to watch here will be how the 'Cats O takes on a Rebel D that has only given up an average of 262 total yards per game against two quality opponents. I anticipate the home cooking will benefit Arizona and they will prevail in a tightly-contested affair.
Arizona 30, UNLV 26.
We will all find out how good ASU QB Jeff Krohn is when Dirk Koetter's Sun Devils head to Palo Alto to tussle with the Trees. Krohn looked to be a man-child a couple of weeks ago, dismantling a decent San Diego State team to the tune of 271 yards and 4 touchdowns. WR Donnie O'Neal is off to a sensational start, going for over a hundred yards and 2 scores from his receiver position, but it's the tailback trio of Delvon Flowers, Mike Williams and Tom Pace that Stanford needs to focus on. Koetter's rep at Boise State was to spread 'em out and chuck it, but I think he'll surprise Ty Willingham by running the ball more than expected, and any one of those three backs have hit the century mark in the past. Willingham has to be brimming with confidence, as the Cardinal dispatched one of the better Big East teams in Boston College with relative ease. The Devil O against the Tree D will be the main matchup to watch, as Stanford gave up a 100-yard rushing day to Eagle William Green, so their rush D may be just a little susceptible. Conversely, the duo of Ruben Carter and Ryan Fernandez kept BC QB Brian St. Pierre bottled up, allowing just barely over 200 yards passing, a lot of that coming at the end with the game already decided. Koetter is one of the bright, new minds on the D-1 scene, and I expect him to win this battle of the brains with Willingham, as Krohn continues to gain confidence.
Arizona State 24, Stanford 19.
This is probably the most intriguing game of the week in the Pac, as Pete Carroll takes his act to the road for the first time as Head Coach of the Trojans. What a way to start out Pac-10 play! He brings the Men of Troy into a venue that strikes fear in the hearts of the opposition, as Oregon lays their 22-game home winning streak on the line. OK, enough of the hyperbole, on to the analysis. Carson Palmer has looked slightly less than stellar in his first two games of 2001, leading USC to a decent win over San Jose State and a tough loss to Kansas State. The marquee matchup will be the Oregon O against a Trojan D that has shown an Achilles' heel against the run, giving up an average of almost 230 rushing yards per game. That's doubly ironic, considering Carroll's strength as a coach lies squarely on the defense. That has to make Duck running backs Maurice Morris and Onterrio Smith very happy, and since Oregon's running game hasn't really been on track (~120 yards per game average on the ground so far), Oregon OC Jeff Tedford should be able to grind out an effective, yet fairly routine attack, by his standards. Joey Harrington needs the ground game to compliment his strengths, namely improvising on the run and hitting the short seam routes to tight end Justin Peelle and receivers Keenan Howry and Jason Willis. Trojan running back Sultan McCullough will have to be the focus of USC OC Norm Chow's offensive game plan, plodding along for 3 yards and a cloud of NexTurf. That allows the game to be close in the fourth quarter, which is all Carroll could ask for. Unfortunately, Morris and Smith will also churn out an effective running game and dominate the clock, as Palmer continues to struggle.
Oregon 31, USC 10.