This Week in the Pac-10

It's a little ironic that Washington misses, arguably, the best out-of-conference weekend for the Pac-10 this Saturday. There are some killer matchups, some cupcakes and some in-betweeners for good measure. In short, if the Pac goes undefeated this weekend the conference can put an end to the talk about the weaknesses of the West. But that's an awfully big 'if'...

Utah v. Arizona
Idaho v. Oregon
UNLV v. Oregon State
San Jose State v. Stanford
Arizona State v. San Diego State
California v. Michigan State
UCLA v. Oklahoma State
USC v. Colorado
Washington State v. Ohio State



Utah v. Arizona

This game could be an upset special, but the 'Cats caught a break when Marty Johnson, the leading rusher for the Utes and also the leading rusher in the country last week, injured his knee and will be out four to six weeks. Don't expect Utah Head Coach Ron McBride to stop going to the ground attack, as he turns to J.R. Peroulis and JC transfer Brandon Warfield to pick up the slack in Johnson's absence. Arizona has a potent rusher of their own in Clarence Farmer, but he has yet to get on track. For John Mackovic, getting Farmer off early and often will be key. Tackle Makoa Freitas and center Keoki Fraser return for Arizona, so that should help. One thing was clear when the Wildcats routed Northern Arizona in their home-opener; there is no quarterback controversy. Jason Johnson is their guy and how he handles himself will be key. Utah, much like the Lumberjacks tried, will stuff Farmer and force the Puyallup, Washington native to win it through the air. Bobby Wade, Ricky Williams and Andrae Thurman are going to have to have big games and Johnson will more than likely have to go for 350+ for the 'W'.
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Arizona 35-28



Idaho v. Oregon

The Ducks are getting downright comfy in their new digs, taking on the Idaho Vandals for their third straight home game to start off the season. They love it so much, they may never leave. Even though they are playing the Vandals, Oregon might as well consider this a tuneup for the Huskies, as most of Idaho's weapons are all from the Evergreen State. Their starting QB, Brian Lindgren, is a native of Walla Walla. Joining him from the Big-9 League are Richland's Josh Jelmberg and Jeff Stowe at WR, as well as receiver Orlando Winston from Seattle's Garfield High School. One local boy, Canby's Zach Gerstner, is coming home, although I doubt his homecoming will be too warm. Oregon needs to face facts; they were very close to getting their pants pulled down on a very public stage, as Fresno State, despite not having their leading QB, WR or CB, nearly pulled off an upset for the ages. Nothing could be finer for Mike Bellotti than to face a cupcake to help build confidence for young QB Jason Fife, and he got his wish in the Vandals. Onterrio Smith will get his 150+, Keenan Howry and Samie Parker will combine for 150+ receiving, and Fife will breeze through this 'test' at Autzen, still with three weeks to go until they face any adversity at all.
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Oregon 56-17



UNLV v. Oregon State

This is kind of a funny game to analyze. UNLV has won all three meetings with Oregon State, and coach John Robinson is 11-0 all-time against the Beavers, yet there's no way in hell the Runnin' Rebs are favored in this game. It's not 1991, the first year of the dreaded Jerry Pettibone era for OSU and the last time these two teams met. Jason Thomas is the heart and soul of the UNLV attack and he gained some confidence in their last game, a 31-20 victory over Kansas in Las Vegas. He ran the ball well and threw the ball well. The Rebs have a nice run corps, with Thomas, Arizona transfer Larry Croom, Joe Haro, Dominique Dorsey and Washington State transfer Deon Burnett leading the way. Any one of those players can go for big yardage on any given day. The key for Robocoach is how Thomas fares tossing the pigskin around. He's below 50 percent completion percentage on the season and the ball-hawking Beavs (7 picks in two games) are ready to take advantage of any miscue. The matchup to watch will be how well the Rebels run against the OSU front 7. So far the Beavs are giving up a little over 100 yards per game rushing, and UNLV's big boys up front will have to do a lot better than that if they play on having success in Corvallis.
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Oregon State 41-17



San Jose State v. Stanford

Sure. Just what Buddy Teevens needed. Let's play out his worst-case scenario as first-year head coach of the Cardinal; go clear across the country and lose on the road without your starting QB, and then come home and have your first game be against a supposed 'cupcake' that just happened to beat your new team three years in a row recently. Well, that's the script handed to Teevens and it will be most interesting to see what kind of lemonade he can make out of these lemons. The 41-14 victory over the Spartans last year took some of the sting out, but the history is there, and it's a tough one to swallow. San Jose State got a taste of success last week against Washington in Seattle, as they took a 10-0 lead into halftime before the Dawgs were unleashed and 34 unanswered points were scored by Washington. JC transfer Scott Rislov showed he could handle the pressure, and if Dr. Fitz Hill saw anything on the Washington tape it was that Rislov is heads and tails about backup Marcus Arroyo. And Mr. Teevens; be aware of Lamar Ferguson and Charles Pauley. You will hear their names a lot on Saturday. The Cardinal get Chris Lewis back for this game, which is music to Teevens' ears. The Spartans don't have an answer for man-child Teyo Johnson, so all Lewis needs to do is step back and throw it in Teyo's direction. He'll come up with it 9 out of 10 times.
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Stanford 34-30



Arizona State v. San Diego State

It wasn't unexpected that SDSU would be 0-2 going into this game. The way in which they found themselves 0-2 would be considered a shocker. After nearly pulling off the upset against Fresno State at Fresno, Tom Craft took the Aztecs into Boulder and played well despite losing 34-14. The game actually was in doubt well into the third quarter until the Buffaloes pulled away. This game is a potential landmine for the Sun Devils, as Dirk Koetter has decided to go with a new quarterback on the road, Andrew Walter. Aztec QB Adam Hall will also prove to be a test for a young but very talented ASU secondary, led by Jason Shivers, Riccardo Stewart and Alfred Williams. Hall has two bona-fide targets in J.R. Tolver and Kassim Osgood, both with over 230 yards receiving in just two games. Cal transfer Ronnie Davenport is another choice for Hall. The key to SDSU's attack will be the running of James Truvillion and Michael Franklin. If I was Brent Guy, ASU's defensive coordinator, I would stick with the 4-2-5 attack and blitz the crap outta Hall. DE Terrell Suggs already has 7 sacks, so he's going to get his. Unfortunately for Craft, the lack of depth will kill the Aztecs here like it did in Boulder. They will stay with ASU for a half, but then the lines for the Devils will start taking the game to SDSU and the rest will be history.
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Arizona State 31-10



California v. Michigan State

You have to hand it to new California Head Coach Jeff Tedford; he has the folks from Strawberry Canyon just buzzing about their ball club, probably for the first time since 1991. They are 2-0, with extremely convincing wins over Baylor and New Mexico State. Those teams wouldn't cause many problems for the top tier in the Pac-10, but recently the Bears and Aggies would have been as much as Cal could have handled. Not anymore. QB Kyle Boller is firing on all cylinders, throwing for 5 scores in his first two games, and more importantly, no picks. RB Joe Igber is back in form, after a shoulder injury curtailed much of his 2001 campaign. Tedford has always been known as an offensive genius, and he'll need to throw all his tricks at a Michigan State defense that has been pretty stingy on defense, allowing only 242 total yards per game. With Cal going for 380 yards per game, something will have to give. I don't know if Cal has the defense yet to handle the tandem of Jeff Smoker and Charles Rogers through the air, but they have shown that they can be opportunistic. So far, the Bears are averaging a touchdown defensively a game, and they'll need at least one more in East Lansing if they plan on keeping pace with Bobby Williams' boys. Tedford and the Bears put on a tough and gritty showing, but they are allowing over 365 yards a game defensively and that's something the Spartans will take advantage of.
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Michigan State 40-31



UCLA v. Oklahoma State

It's always a wake-up call when you head into Big-12 territory, but the Bruins shouldn't have too many problems roping in these Cowboys. There's no question OSU has some incredible skill players; Vernand Morency, Seymore Shaw and Tatum Bell head up a potent ground attack, while the Woods' boys, D'Juan and Rashaun, handle things out wide. The problem the Cowboys have is behind center, where Josh Fields takes over for last year's starter, Aso Pogi. Fields is capable, but hardly has the experience to handle a Bruin defense that held Colorado State to 277 yards last Saturday in the Rose Bowl. For UCLA, the situation at signal-caller is even less settled. Senior incumbent Cory Paus should have the spot nailed down, but Bruin Head Coach Bob Toledo said true frosh Drew Olson would get a couple of series and he was true to his word. Olson led his team for a touchdown on one of his drives, and while Toledo continues to assert there isn't a quarterback controversy...there could be. Paus and Olson will need a ton of help from running backs Manuel White and Akil Harris, and they'll get it. OSU is only allowing 71 yards per game on the ground, but that could be the most misleading statistic in America. The two teams the Cowboys have played? Pass-happy Louisiana Tech and 1-AA Northern Iowa. The Bruins should have the horses to take this game on the road, but ask in-state rival Oklahoma if Stillwater is friendly to visitors; on their way to the national championship in 2000, the Sooners were nearly upended by OSU, finally scraping by with a hard-fought 12-7 win.
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UCLA 24-17



USC v. Colorado

This one had all the makings of a sweet out-of-conference national matchup, but when Buffalo QB Craig Ochs was knocked clear to Cheyenne last Saturday, this game has taken a turn for the worse for the home team. JC transfer Robert Hodge was solid, but also very Pesevento-esque in his long relief of Ochs during Colorado's 34-14 victory at Folsom Field over San Diego State. That doesn't bode well for Gary Barnett, who also recently lost Marcus Houston for a few games to a partially-torn ACL. Chris Brown and Bobby Purify will have to shoulder the load for Hodge, who was 2-7 for 8 yards against SDSU. And the Trojans know the Buffaloes will try and cram it down their throats, and they need to get off to a better start defensing the run. In the first half of their opener at home against Auburn, they gave up 142 yards on the ground, and 97 to Carnell "Cadillac" Williams alone. Once they figured out the Tigers' tendencies on the ground, they didn't give up a single yard that way the second half. Here's a no-brainer prediction; if the Buffaloes rush for zero yards in the second half against USC, the Trojans romp. As it stands, they will 'mini-romp'. If SDSU's Adam Hall can throw for 359 yards, Carson Palmer can at least go for 250, which is all he'll need as Norm Chow will try to unleash Saladin McCullough and Malaefou MacKenzie as well. MacKenzie showed himself to be invaluable catching the ball out of the backfield against Auburn, and Chow will try and give the big Samoan the rock as much as possible.
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USC 31-23



Washington State v. Ohio State

Here's the game of the week in the Pac-10, and a Cougar win here would do wonders. Unfortunately for the King of Poop Island, it's just not going to happen. This is the first big major OOC road test for WSU since 1995, where they went to Lincoln, Nebraska and gamely took on the Cornhuskers, eventually losing 35-21. And the year before they took on Tennessee in Knoxville, losing a 10-9 heartbreaker. Whether they play gamely or lose a heartbreaker, one thing is clear after seeing this Buckeye team after their first two games; Washington State will lose. Going into the Horseshoe is hard enough, but it's clear that OSU isn't going to respect whoever Price puts out there to run with the football. Jonathan Smith, John Tippins or Jermaine Green...it won't matter. They haven't dominated over a couple of really bad defenses in Nevada and Idaho, and they aren't going anywhere against a Buckeye defense that is only allowing 100 yards a game on the ground. The real key matchup here will be how Maurice Clarett, Maurice Hall and Lydell Ross take on a stingy Cougar run defense. They held Chance Kretschmer, the leading D1 rusher last year, to 67 yards on 26 carries. But Kretschmer is definitely not Clarett. What I expect WSU DC Bill Doba to do is stack 10 in the box and force Craig Krenzel to win the game for OSU. Krenzel is completing passes at an 82 percent clip, so he's had early success. Who will Marcus Trufant cover? Chris Gamble or Michael Jenkins? Whoever he covers, he better wrap them up like a fish in newspaper at Pike Place Market. The thing that will kill WSU will be the big play, and they can't afford the swings in momentum.
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Ohio State 35-21

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