This Week In the Pac-10

Washington State, UCLA, and yes, Oregon State, are the only schools in the Pac-10 that are still unbeaten in conference play, while USC looked downright scary in how badly they spanked Stanford last week. Those teams are the ones to watch right now.

#5 USC (5-1, 2-1) vs. Notre Dame (2-3)

Well, the University of Spoiled Children bounced back nicely after the gut-wrenching loss to Cal, and that speaks volumes about the heart of this team. They thrashed a mediocre Stanford team last weekend, a game that could've been a bad pitfall if the Trojans were wallowing in self pity. QB Matt Leinart has played admirably with a swollen knee, but he's going to really need to show his maturity playing in the shadows of Touchdown Jesus and the Golden Dome. Tailback LenDale White, a freshman from Denver, is proving to be an outstanding tailback for the Trojans. He's big, fast, and a definite threat on the ground, when Leinart isn't connecting with Mike Williams and Keary Colbert, the best duo in the Pac-10 at receiver this year. Williams caught three TD passes last week and White ran for two scores and went over 100 yards for the second consecutive week.

Notre Dame is coming off a big win on the road against Pitt. They went away from Bill Diedrick's west coast attack long enough to let Julius Jones run to glory against the Panthers last Saturday night. Jones ran for 262 yards and two touchdowns out of power running formations that caught Pitt by surprise. Notre Dame had thrown 62 times in the loss to Purdue, but last week kept handing the ball to Jones and he kept responding by putting Pitt back on their heels. Irish freshman QB Brady Quinn only completed five passes all day, and that's all Notre Dame needed, as their defense took the ball away twice leading to scores, and hounded Panther QB Rod Rutherford all game. Now they'll get a freshman quarterback in their sights and take dead aim on their home turf of Notre Dame Stadium.

This is one of the most storied traditions in all of college football, as this will be the 75th time these two schools have met. USC will enter the contest ranked #4 in the country, while Notre Dame is not on the radar. Last year the Trojans annihilated the Fighting Irish 44-13, as Carson Palmer torched the Irish for four touchdown passes en route to piling up 610 yards of total offense. Notre Dame has beaten USC more than any other school, owning a 42-27-5 edge in the series. Interestingly enough, USC's 27 wins in the series are the most by any school against Notre Dame.

Dawgman line: USC struggles on the road, but nips the Irish at the tape by two.
Arizona State (3-3, 1-2) at North Carolina (1-5)

The Sun Devils had run just one offensive play from scrimmage, yet they were beating Oregon 14-0 with but three minutes elapsed off of the game clock. That is the definition of starting fast. Arizona State went on to humiliate the Ducks 59-14 in the desert to snap a three-game losing streak. Andrew Walter finally looked somewhat comfortable for the first time all season, throwing for 316 yards against Oregon's helpless secondary. Walters completed 10 of 14 in the second half and the Devils scored on every possession. Oregon had closed to within 24-14 before ASU ran off five consecutive scores to bury the Ducks. TB Hakim Hill and Loren Wade both looked good on the ground, with Hill finding the end zone twice and Wade breaking free on a 56-yard touchdown run.

The Tar Heels are coming off of a 28-17 win over East Carolina. Darian Durant threw two touchdown passes and Chad Scott ran for a score to lead North Carolina to their first win of the season last Saturday. The Heels had trailed 10-7 to the winless Pirates at the half before answering the bell with three touchdowns after the break. True freshman TE Jon Hamlett made a major contribution, hauling in a short pass and rumbling 33 yards for his first career touchdown to push the Heels to an 11-point lead. There hasn't been a great deal to cheer about in Chapel Hill this year, but the win has bolstered their mood as they prepare to entertain the Sun Devils.

These two teams have met twice before, splitting the two contests. The Heels beat ASU last year in Tempe in a 38-35 shootout. ASU's win came in the 1970 Peach Bowl, played in a snowstorm. That win preserved an undefeated season for the Sun Devils that year, and a #6 national ranking.

Dawgman line: Sun Devils win an ugly one in Chapel Hill, with a late field goal in a low scoring contest
California (3-4, 1-1) at UCLA (4-2, 1-0)

Cal is coming off of a rest week, where they've tried to put behind them the home loss at the hands of the Beavers two weeks ago. That game featured the conference's top two running backs – Steven Jackson rushed for 224 yards, and Cal's Adimchinobe Echemandu ran for 146 yards. But that is where the offense ended for the Bears. QB Aaron Rodgers completed only 9 of 34 passes for 52 yards, and the entire offense only had 98 yards at the half. What is key for the Bears is how they perform just before halftime – in their three victories this year, they have outscored their opponents 48-0 in the second quarter.

For UCLA, even though in some games their offense resembles the Kansas City Chiefs, they are led by their defense. The Bruins lead the Pac-10 in fewest yards allowed at 294 per game. Individually, LB Brandon Chillar leads the conference in tackles per game and DE Dave Ball leads in sacks (helped tremendously by a game on 10/4). Last week, they survived a scare in Tucson and held on for a 24-21 victory over Arizona. UCLA was down 21-10 at the half, and came roaring back with the help of a 55-yard interception return for a touchdown by DT Rodney Leisle. The Wildcats missed a couple of field goals in the final quarter that would have at least tied the game.

UCLA has a big advantage in the overall series, but Cal has owned them of late. The Bears have won 8 of the last 13 meetings, including winning last year 17-12. But forget what happens on the field, we only care about who can play that fight song the best!

Dawgman line: Bears bring down the Bruins by 4
#6 Washington State (5-1, 2-0) at Stanford (2-2, 0-1)

The Cougars watched a lot of top ten teams go down last week, as they climbed six places in both polls while lounging on the couch. The team from Eastern Washington realizes the value of turnovers, or of not making them, they are currently +13 in turnover margin. That is an average of +2.17 per game, and that is tops in the country. Put the ball on the ground and WSU will find it, and Jason David is the Pac-10's number one thief, picking off nearly one per game. Linebacker Will Derting made the news in a not-so-good way, but it is only a minor distraction. QB Matt Kegel has not been spectacular, but he hasn't made many mistakes. He finds Devard Darling and Sammy Moore to soften defenses up, and then Jonathan Smith hurts them on the ground, piling up just over 70 yards per game. Moore also makes things happen on special teams as well and averages over 125 yards in all-purpose yards per game.

Stanford has now lost two straight, most recently to USC, 44-21. Last week, the Cardinal defense kicked it in to gear in the second half. They held the Trojans to four first downs, 80 yards of offense, and only three points, problem was they were already down 41-14 by the break. Stanford welcomes RB Kenneth Tolon to the 1000-yard club – no, not for the season, but for his career. The junior needed his 52 yards last week to reach that milestone, and he currently ranks fourth in the conference in rushing this year. For you special teams gurus, you may like to know that Stanford is #1 in kickoff returns and in kickoff coverage.

Things don't get any easier for Homecoming week, as this is the second game in a row Stanford faces a top-10 team. But they can always hope the Cougars get distracted somewhere out in the 8,200 acres of farmland.

Dawgman line: WSU wins going away, probably by 14
Byes: Oregon, Arizona
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