Arizona State v. Oregon
UCLA v. California
Arizona v. Stanford
The league game nobody cares about. OK, that's a little harsh, but at least the other games hold some intrigue. Both teams are 0-2 in conference, with only Oregon State surpassing them for league futility. Stanford is the conference doormat overall, something Buddy Teevens was surely trying to avoid in his first lap around as the Cardinal Head Coach. One thing by crunching the numbers is clear; the Cardinal don't start well and they don't finish well. They have been outscored 92-52 in those quarters, so if they can keep UA in a stalemate right off the bat they have a chance. Unfortunately for Stanford, Jason Johnson is the 'Cats QB, and he's brimming with confidence. With Bobby Wade and Andre Thurman catching 19 passes for 297 yards against Washington last week, Teevens should know at least where the ball is going. Problem is, with the Cardinal pass D giving up yardage through the air at 265 yards per contest, Wade and Thurman look to chew up another secondary. Arizona's rush offense is flat-out pathetic, but they have an excuse. They've been breaking in a true freshman - Mike Bell. Well, Bell gets to take his training wheels off and will go for 100 against the Cardinal Saturday. With that kind of balance, the 'Cats roll.
Arizona State v. Oregon
ASU knows how to win ugly, and Dennis Erickson put the U in the Devil's latest triumph - a 13-9 squeaker in Tempe. Andrew Walter didn't have statistically a great game, but did what was necessary, spreading the ball out to seven different receivers and winning the time of possession battle. But against Oregon Dirk Koetter HAS to find a running presence. Between Cornell Canidate, Mike Williams and Hakim Hill they totalled 49 yards on 28 carries. That isn't going to cut it, especially against the best rush D in the league. In a nutshell, this game sorts out perfectly for the Ducks on paper. Mike Bellotti will force Walter to win the game through the air, and with Haloti Ngata, Junior Siavii and Igor Olshansky breathing down his neck he'll barely have time to inhale before he eats copious quantities of Devil turf. On the other hand, ASU DC Brent Guy can't focus on one part of the Duck attack. Onterrio Smith will get tough yards against the third-best rushing D in the conference, allowing the play-action to keep one-man wrecking crew Terrell Suggs off Jason Fife's back. Keenan Howry, Samie Parker and George Wrighster will give Fife plenty of open targets short and in the intermediate zones. Whether they get picked apart by Fife or rolled by Smith and Terrance Whitehead, all the Sun Devils need to worry about is picking their poison.
UCLA v. California
Every game is Cal's bowl game, and they've done pretty well against the Bruins of late. Since 1989, the Bears lead this series 7-5, and 4-2 in Berkeley. Both teams come off very tough losses, but how many of these can Bob Toledo take? He's gotta be pleased that a running back has finally emerged to give Cory Paus the kind of support he needs, and Tyler Ebell is doing something that Prep All-Americans Akil Harris and Manuel White couldn't do - go for big yardage. In just slightly over two games, the redshirt frosh from Ventura has been able to surpass both Harris and White and become Toledo's 'go-to' guy. And with Paus putting together back-to-back prolific performances, the Bruins look tough to beat offensively. But there lies the rub. With key turnovers at inopportune times and poor red-zone offense, UCLA is prone to shooting themselves in the foot. And there isn't one team in the league (outside of Oregon) that takes advantage of opportunities better than the Bears. Jeff Tedford has Cal playing inspired football, and has the best turnover margin in the league at plus-13. If Joe Igber can go off against the 9th-best rush defense in the league, that will play right into Tedford's hands. He can use his bag of tricks against a defense that looks susceptible to gadgetry.
This Week in the Pac-10
For the rest, UCLA battles Cal to keep their hopes of playing in the Rose Bowl after conference play is completed, while Oregon marches on down to Arizona State. And Arizona versus Stanford? Is it even worth mentioning? On to the games!
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