This Week in the Pac-10

Enough of taking on the Big-10 patsies, as all but two teams in the Pac-10 take on fellow conference foes this weekend. The most interesting battle looms in Eugene, where WSU takes on Oregon in the only game featuring two ranked teams takes place.

#21 Washington State (3-1) at #10 Oregon (4-0)

All's well in Ducksville, as last week they sent #3 Michigan home with their tails between their legs after a 31-27 drubbing. Yes, that was the Oregon defense that held the Wolverines to –3 yards rushing, just 310 yards less than they were used to. And yes, even though Rick Neuheisel was cheering them on from the owner's box, they did it the old-fashioned way, with just 11 men on defense. The Ducks once again jumped to an early lead, but with the help of superb special teams play, were able to hold the Wolverines off at the end.

Drew Dunning is coming off of a victory over New Mexico, as his five field goals outscored the Lobos in the 23-13 victory. QB Matt Kegel racked up 346 yards, but the offense continually sputtered when it hit the red zone – they failed to score a TD three times from inside the Lobo 6-yard line. The Cougar defense again showed up strong, as they held New Mexico to just 22 yards on the ground, but had a tendency to celebrate a little too much after sacking the Lobo quarterback. The Cougs had 12 penalties and a few unsportsmanlike conduct calls to boot.

The Cougars haven't visited Autzen since 1999. Last year, the Cougars came out on top, 31-21, snapping a 4-game winning streak by the Ducks. The Clemens/Fife attack, who have yet to throw an interception, take on the conference's third-leading passer … both defenses are stingy against the run, but not so against the pass … it's Samie vs. Sammy … it's the hated vs. the despised …

Dawgman line: Husky fans don't care anyway
#3 USC (3-0) at California (2-3)

Cal held off the Fighting Illini 31-24 last week in Champagne, as LB Wendell Hunter sacked the Illinois quarterback with 4 seconds to play on Cal's 8-yard line. Cal QB Aaron Rodgers started his first game and performed well, passing for 258 yards and a touchdown. Their receiving corps got a boost last week when their leading receiving from a year ago, Jonathan Makonnen, returned to the lineup after recovering from a thigh injury. He joins Geoff McArthur, who already has 625 yards and 5 touchdowns. Cal's last three games have been decided in the final two minutes, with the other two having not-so-happy endings.

USC is coming off of a bye week, and now begin their annual "Race for the Roses." They're riding an 11-game win streak, where they've outscored their opponents by an average of 41-19, and have won their last 6 conference games. The "Wild Bunch II" leads a Trojan defense that allows just 50.7 yards rushing a game and they haven't allowed a rushing TD in 22 quarters. They have also had 6 different players pick off a pass, and that's just for 3 games, and the team is +6 in turnover margin. Pete knows his football!

Last season, the Bears jumped out to a 21-3 lead, only to have their hearts broken when USC came storming back, scoring 27 unanswered points, to win 30-28. But Da Bears have taken three out of the last five games.

Dawgman line: Yogi's team goes down by 14
Arizona State (2-1) at Oregon State (3-1)

The vaunted Iowa Hawkeye defense held ASU to just a safety and 184 yards of total offense last week, as they topped the overrated Devils 21-2. Their four-man rush wreaked havoc on QB Andrew Walter, whose longest pass play was just 16 yards. The star of the game was ASU safety Jason Shivers, who recorded 17 tackles and an interception. Offensively, the Sun Devils aren't exactly putting up the numbers expected by most. They are currently seventh in the conference in total offense, last in the conference in red-zone scoring, and have converted only 28% of their third-down conversions. On the bright side, punter Tim Parker is getting plenty of work and ranks 12th in the nation with 45.5 yards per punt. He tied his career high with 10 punts last week, something a coach is always proud of.

OSU squeaked out a victory of Boise State, 26-24, last week, although many feel the striped shirts had a little something to do with the outcome. The Beavers racked up 562 yards of offense, thanks to Derek Anderson's 408 passing yards and James Newsome's 208 receiving yards. The Beavers will need to take care of the ball a little better, as they are –5 in turnovers so far this season.

This is the conference opener for both teams. ASU has won the last seven meetings, including a 13-9 defensive struggle last year in Tempe, and has held the Beavers to 12.4 points per game during that streak.

Dawgman line: Beavers by 3 in another Maalox moment
#19 TCU (3-0) at Arizona (1-3)

Arizona is coming off of yet another heartbreaker, a 59-7 loss to Purdue. TCU Head Coach Gary Patterson tells the story for this week's game: "The three games Arizona has played are no indication of where they are or how good they are." Huh? OK. Moving on … apparently Wildcats Head Coach John Mackovic doesn't agree with Patterson's assessment of a certain running back who was the Pac-10's leading rusher in 2001 and only has 39 carries in four games this year: "Their running back Clarence Farmer will be going in the first round of the NFL Draft next year." Well, maybe Mackovic just wants to make sure he is nice and rested come next April. The Wildcats have had trouble finding their way out of the locker room to begin the games, as they have been outscored 82-0 in the first half of all their contests this year. Relying on the passing game isn't a good option either, as neither Nic Costa nor Ryan O'Hara has grabbed a hold of the starting QB job, and true freshman Kris Heavner is now in the mix.

The Horned Frogs will be a little inexperienced at quarterback themselves, as Tye Gunn has an injured shoulder and will not start on Saturday. Backup Brandon Hassell made his first start and threw his first past last week, leading his team to a 30-14 victory over Vanderbilt. TCU has also topped Tulane (38-35) and Navy (17-3). Helping the offense is the return of 1,000-yard rusher Lonta Hobbs, who has 181 yards on the year. He injured his foot last week in the first quarter and was replaced by Robert Merrill, who topped the century mark against Vandy. The Frogs also return some key players on defense from a 2002 squad that led the nation in total defense and rushing defense (although this year are currently ranked #31 and #26, respectively). But this team has the best motto I've seen all year: "It's Horned Frog Football, Y'All."

Dawgman line: Frogs rule and Mildcats drool! TCU by 17
San Diego State (3-1) at UCLA (1-2)

The Bruins are home after spending a pleasant weekend in Norman – by the way, they also lost to #1 Oklahoma 59-21 while they were there. It was also a pleasant day for Sooner punt returner Antonio Perkins, who set two NCAA records with 277 return yards for 3 touchdowns. Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said after the game, "UCLA is a good-looking group – their coaches will have them ready by the end of the year." So, watch out USC! But until then, let's talk about what's in store this week for the work-in-progress Bruins.

The offensive wizards of Westwood better be on top of their game because their 116th-ranked offense faces a SDS defense that is ranked #2 in the nation behind Nebraska, allowing 229.5 yards per game. The Aztec defense has not given up an offensive touchdown to a Division I opponent, that includes a trip to the ‘Shoe (the Buckeyes scored 13 points on just 12 yards of offense) and a 34-0 shutout at UTEP. They have given up one offensive touchdown a piece to Eastern Washington and Samford. On offense, all of their "skill positions" are first-year starters, and they are led by true freshman running back Lynell Hamilton, who has already rushed for 509 yards this season and is the only true freshman to rank in the top 25 in rushing. On defense, SDS is led by linebacker Kirk Morrison, with 7 TFLs, and cornerback Jacob Elimimian, with 3 picks so far.

This series dates back to 1922 and the Bruins hold a 17-0-1 advantage, including a 43-7 victory last year, and the Aztecs have a 12-game losing streak against Pac-10 opponents.

Dawgman line: Aztecs ruin the Bruins by 7
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