This Week in the Pac-10: Week 8

With last week being a time of reckoning for at least one major Pac-10 contender (Oregon), this next week plans on being another weed-out session, with at least three games having a possible hand in determining the eventual Pac-10 champion.

California v. Oregon State
Oregon v. Washington State
UCLA v. Stanford
Washington v. Arizona State
USC v. Arizona
Current Pac-10 Standings

California v. Oregon State

The Bears try to pick themselves off from under the Rose Bowl turf and gather their body parts in time to catch the next charter to Corvallis. Eric Holtfreter did the best he could in relief for the ailing Kyle Boller, but there won't be any miracles in Bean Dip Stadium even IF "Baby Jesus in Cleats" is somehow resurrected. The reason? Simple. They are 110th in total defense, including being second to only LSU when it comes to having the worst pass defense in the entire country. I hate to say it, but I think even a Dave Kragthorpe-led Beaver attack could somehow manage 200 yards through the air on these guys. The fact that Dennis Erickson is coaching OSU should scare the crap out of the Bears. It doesn't matter that the Beavs got punked in Tempe by ASU. It doesn't matter that Kenny Heismonton is averaging less than 4 yards per carry. All that will change when Oski and his band of merry mammals come traipsing into the Valley of Bean Dip with that pleasant coach of theirs, Tom Holmoe. Damn, he's pleasant, even downright gracious in defeat. The one silver lining in all this for Cal fans is that maybe they will see more of Reggie Robertson the quicker they fall behind. He didn't look half bad against UCLA.

Oregon State 50-17

Oregon v. Washington State

The co-game of the week in the Pac, Oregon tries to rebound and head east to the frozen tundra (alright, I know that doesn't work very well) of Martin Field when they take on the undefeated and bowl-eligible Washington State Cougars. I say that because I have to still remind myself that this isn't the same school that went from first to worst in 1998 and has gone 3-21 in conference play since their Rose Bowl appearance. Talk about feast or famine! One thing is unquestioned; the Cougs play great offense, and Jason Gesser is the catalyst. With John Tippins efficiently spelling David Minnich while he's out, defenses can't key solely on the dynamic duo of Nakoa McElrath and Mike Bush. Watching them go up against the 5-8 Rashad Bauman will be interesting. Steve Smith presents a better match up for the Ducks, however the overall Oregon D has shown to be very porous, giving up over 420 yards per game on defense. The Cougs are stingy when it comes to giving up yards on the ground, so the match up of Mo Mo and Onterrio Smith against the Cougs front 7 will be intriguing one to watch. But no matter what the Ducks launch at the kitties it will be done in vain, because they haven't shown that they can stop a bunch of computer science majors from scoring, let alone the third most potent offense in the land.

Washington State 31-21

UCLA v. Stanford

The other co-game of the week, the Bruins take their top-5 national ranking to Palo Alto to take on a team that has to be riding high after pulling the stuffing right out of the Ducks in Autzen Stadium (otherwise known as 'The Honey Bucket'). Is it possible for the Trees to handle two top-5 teams in back-to-back weeks? Not likely. With Chris Lewis bringing the Cardinal back from improbable odds in Eugene, his confidence had to get a needed shot in the arm. What Lewis will certainly find out during this week of film study is that Oregon's defense is not UCLA's. In fact, they are not even of the same species. The talented trio of Brian Allen, Kerry Carter and Casey Moore will come across a Bruin defense that doesn't give up a lot of chunks on the ground (less than 100 yards per game). They don't give up much more through the air either, so Bill Diedrick will have his work cut out trying to find inventive ways of getting Teyo Johnson in the game more often. Like Jerramy Stevens, he's a difference-maker on offense, and Lewis needs to rely on his supporting cast to get open. UCLA is just rolling along, looking for a challenge. DeShaun Foster is leading the country in rushing, and Cory Paus is effective, but not flashy in leading his team downfield. The only thing I can see tripping up the Bruins is hubris, and I'm sure Bob Toledo knows this. Getting his guys amped to play in the sarcophagus otherwise known as Stanford Stadium isn't necessarily easy, so he'll need to hammer home the message over and over again. TAKE CARE OF BUSINESS. They will.

UCLA 37-28

Washington v. Arizona State

This match up isn't as attractive as the two above to be sure, but it holds plenty of intrigue on it's own. Games in the desert between these two teams have always been wild ones, including the thrilling 1998 contest when Reggie Davis went 67 yards on a 4th and 17 to seal the victory. I don't know if this year's game will be that hairy, but I wouldn't count anything out of the realm with the way the Huskies have been playing. It seems as if they don't know the meaning of the term 'blowout' in conference, as they have racked up 3 league wins so far by a total of 9 points. They have brought new meaning to the phrase 'playing to the level of your opponent'. Cody Pickett showed the guts of a cowboy against Arizona, throwing for a school-record 455 yards in their latest come-from-behind teaser. He'll most likely be beyond sore this week, but he'd have to get run over by a bull named 'Roscoe' before he gives up his starting spot. If Pickett can't make it happen, Rick Neuheisel just might have to go with true freshman Casey Paus, a move that is sure to earn the moans and groans of Husky fans throughout the Northwest. As for the Devils, they are starting to pick it up, manhandling Oregon State after spotting the Beavs an early 14-3 lead. Jeff Krohn came back after getting hurt early last week against USC, and just like Washington, ASU's starting QB situation is somewhat tenuous. What isn't tenuous is what Delvon Flowers might do against a staggering Washington rush D. In short, where did it go? Larry Trippett, Marcus Roberson and company were supposed to be a strong suit of the Husky defense, but lately they've been looking more like a sieve than a wall, allowing 658 yards on the ground in the last three games. If they can contain Flowers, et al, and force Krohn to go up top, they'll be OK, assuming Pickett plays the whole game. If he can't make it and backup Taylor Barton isn't ready to go, it could be quite the learning experience for young Mr. Paus.

Washington 24-21

USC v. Arizona

The last game of the week (and certainly the least), pits two teams freefalling into the cellar of the Pac-10. If it wasn't for the broad and soft cushion the Cal Bears are already providing beneath them, it would be a rough fall for these proud programs. Any advantages USC has going into this game could be negated by the fact that they are 0-3 away from home. To paraphrase Ron Fairly, 0-3 probably means you're not getting the job done on the road. Despite that obvious fact, the Trojans should prevail. Let me count the reasons. 1) They clearly aren't as bad as their 2-5 record suggest, although losses to Notre Dame and Kansas State aren't appearing to be the 'tough losses' one might have expected going into the season. 2) They have a defense that should be able to handle a mediocre Wildcat offense. With Jason Johnson a little woozy, John Rattay may get the start but in either case, USC shouldn't have great difficulty shutting them down as long as they take Clarence Farmer out of the equation. That may not be easy but the Trojan front line can do it. Offensively, Norm Chow only needs Sunny Byrd (or Sultan McCullough if he's available) to keep Arizona's defense honest. If they can do that, it will allow Carson Palmer the time he needs to pick apart a very suspect Wildcat secondary. Washington exposed their deep third, and Kareem Kelly and Keary Colbert shouldn't have much trouble exploiting it as well. I don't know why I'm picking the Trojans again, as they let me down last week, but I think they are due, and especially Palmer. He should feast off these DB's.

USC 35-28

	        Conference Games       All Games
	        W  L   Pct. Pts. Opp   W  L   Pct. Pts. Opp  Streak
Washington State 4  0  1.000 178  107   7  0  1.000 308  162   Won 7
UCLA             3  0  1.000 129   37   6  0  1.000 203   77   Won 6
Oregon           3  1  0.750 177  106   6  1  0.857 270  165  Lost 1
Washington       3  1  0.750 102  115   5  1  0.833 178  136   Won 1
Stanford         3  1  0.750 160  131   4  1  0.800 198  153   Won 1
Arizona State    1  2  0.333  86  123   4  2  0.667 240  172   Won 1
Oregon State     1  3  0.250  96  116   2  4  0.333 147  182  Lost 1
USC              1  3  0.250 110   89   2  5  0.286 153  136  Lost 1
Arizona          0  4  0.000  80  180   3  4  0.428 177  240  Lost 4
California       0  4  0.000  72  186   0  6  0.000 105  274  Lost 6 Top Stories