This week in the Pac-10
Arizona (1-6, 0-3) at California (3-5, 1-2)
The Wildcats are coming off of a bye week, spent working on how to get out of the conference cellar in both scoring offense and scoring defense. But in their last game, they almost upended UCLA as they compiled 276 rushing yards and 519 total yards. After getting blown out in their first four contests, the Cats have been competitive in their last two games. That newly-found spiritedness mysteriously coincides with the departure of John Mackovic. The Wildcat offensive line did not give up any sacks in those last two games, against normally sack-happy WSU and UCLA.
Cal's comeback attempt against UCLA fell just short last week, as they lost 23-20 in overtime in the Rose Bowl despite winning all the statistical battles. After trailing most of the game, QB Aaron Rodgers hit Burl Toler for a 35-yard TD pass on fourth down and 10, and they scored the ensuing two-point conversion with just 11 seconds remaining to tie the contest. In overtime, Tyler Fredrickson's 50-yard FG attempt clanked off the left upright. Da Bears have now lost two straight since upsetting USC in triple overtime.
Recently, Arizona has been able to count on beating the Bears, as they have taken the last four meetings, including the last three in Strawberry Canyon. Cal's last victory came back in 1996, a 56-55 four-overtime shootout. If you're headed to the game, you'll want to make sure you are one of the first 10,000 in order to receive free Enterprise Rental Car discount books and True Blue key chains.
Dawgman line: Bears aren't on the Hiber-Nation tour just yet, and win by 10.
Stanford (2-3, 0-3) at Oregon (4-3, 1-2)
The Cardinal has fallen on hard times since the second half of the Washington game. They stood in for most of the game against WSU but giving up a 64-yard punt return by Sammy Moore help the momentum shift to the visitors from the Palouse. The defense should do better against the Ducks, whether it's Kellen Clemens or Jason Fife. Freshman WR Mark Bradford continues to be a real bright spot for the Cardinal, as he hauled in a 12-yard TD pass in the fourth to close the gap to just seven points. The Cardinal took some hits in that loss. Starting quarterback Trent Edwards got knocked out of the game, so they sent in backup Chris Lewis to continue taking the beating. Lewis will start against the Ducks.
Oregon, like Stanford, is in the throes of a three-game losing skid. The Ducks were humiliated 59-14 by Arizona State two weeks ago in Mike Bellotti's worst loss of his career. Walter only missed on four of his 14 passes in the second half as he beat the Duck secondary like a rented donkey. Oregon has been outscored 114-30 in losses to ASU and WSU, so they can only really go one direction. Right? With talent in the backfield in Chris Vincent and Terrence Whitehead, the problem has come at Quarterback. Bellotti reportedly scrapped the two-headed system, but benched Clemens after two first-quarter picks. Fife went on to complete just 7 of 19, but did run for 66 yards and a score. Neither signal caller has reminded the Duck faithful of Joey Harrington.
Stanford has held three opponents to less than 100 yards this year and ranks #17 nationally against the run. That doesn't bode well for a Duck team that is throwing up, well, ducks. Oregon was #10 in the country at one time, sporting a 4-0 record. That must now seem like it was back in the Clinton era for Duck fans. Strangely enough, this game marks the fourth consecutive contest between the two schools to be held at Autzen Stadium. Oregon won 1998 and 2002, while Stanford upset then #5-ranked Oregon in 2001.
Dawgman line: AFLAC's backup QB outplays Tree's backup QB and wins by a touchdown.
Oregon State (5-2, 2-1) at #6 Washington State (6-1, 3-0)
The Beavers are coming off of a loss to the hometown Dawgs last weekend, 38-17, which halted their four-game winning streak and their two-week stay in the top 25. Steven Jackson, who dropped a spot to third in the nation in rushing, was held to 49 yards, and was tackled for loss several times (for -25 yards). This game should be dubbed "The Battle of the Pass Efficiency Defenses" as the Beavers are number one in the conference, followed closely by the Cougs in that category. And speaking of efficiency, or lack thereof, QB Derek Anderson is last in passing efficiency, having thrown 14 interceptions this season.
Down on The Farm last week, the Cougars escaped with a 24-14 victory over Stanford. Matt Kegel passed for 331 yards and three touchdowns, but again, it was the Cougar defense that controlled the game. The Cougars didn't exactly blow out the Cardinal coming off their bye week, and now return home to face a couple of tough opponents in OSU and USC. At just over halfway through the season, the Cougars lead the conference in passing offense, rushing defense, total defense, scoring defense, passes intercepted, and still lead the nation in turnover margin – a pretty good report card at the semester mark.
Wazzu holds an 18-4-1 record over the Beavers since 1975. The two teams didn't play last year, but WSU won 34-27 in 2001. This is Mike Riley's first game against the Cougars, as the teams also didn't play in 1997 and 1998, Riley's first two years as the OSU head coach.
Dawgman line: WSU buzz the Beavs by two touchdowns.
Arizona State (4-3, 1-2) at UCLA (5-2, 3-0)
ASU returns from Tobacco Road with a narrow 33-31 win over North Carolina, as Andrew Walter threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Skyler Fulton with no time on the clock. The Devils drove 61 yards in the final 36 seconds to score the winning TD. Offensive stars of the game were Walter, who went 34-of-58 for 408 yards, WR Derek Hagan, who caught 11 passes for 185 yards (including a 42-yarder to set up the final TD), and Loren Wade, who ran for 130 yards on 16 carries. One of UNC's touchdowns was set up by an odd play – ASU fullback Mike Karney left a fumbled lateral he thought was an incomplete pass sitting on the ground and the Tar Heels scooped it up and return it to the Devils' 11-yard line. That turnover was the only one committed by ASU in their last two games.
UCLA narrowly escaped their first conference loss, as Justin Medlock booted a 41-yard field goal in overtime to send the other California school home hanging their heads yet again. The Bruins, who kept their four-game winning streak alive, found a way to score points even though the Cal defense limited them to just 55 yards rushing and 228 yards of total offense. Their defense continues to shine, as they've intercepted 14 passes in their last six games and they continue to shut down opponents in the second half. DE Dave Ball leads the conference with 11.5 sacks, and now leads the nation with 1.64 sacks per game.
These two teams did not play last year, and the Bruins have taken the last two games, both played at the Rose Bowl. ASU leads the Bruins in virtually every offensive category and the defensive stats are closer, with the Bruins having the edge. ASU leads the conference in sacks given up, and that is how the Bruin defense makes their living.
Dawgman line: ASU finally exposes the paper Bruins and wins by seven.
Last week's Pac-10 matchups
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