Pac-10 Weekend Preview
By: Athlon Sports | 9/24/10, 4:41 PM EDT
USC at Washington State
Saturday, 12:00 p.m. PT
The Trojans are 3–0, but you wouldn’t know it by observing their barely smiling coach Lane Kiffin. On the one hand, you can’t blame Kiffin, who had gotten used to watching USC dominate teams when he was the program’s offensive coordinator. On the other hand, two of the Trojans’ first three games have been on the road, and they are still unblemished. Still, it’s troubling that USC had trouble putting away Minnesota last week, even if it was away from the L.A. Coliseum. The Golden Gophers had lost to South Dakota at home the previous week. There is a running back controversy now in Los Angeles. Backup Allan Bradford rushed for 131 yards against Minnesota, but Marc Tyler is still listed as the starter. Washington State is coming off one of its few competitive games in recent years. The Cougars were tied with SMU at halftime before losing, 35–21. It was the first time WSU didn’t trail an FBS opponent at halftime in almost three years.
Stanford at Notre Dame
Saturday, 3:30 ET
The Cardinal take their scoring machine to South Bend, where the Fighting Irish are trying to recover from last week’s stunning loss when Michigan State scored a touchdown on a fake field goal in overtime. Stanford is laying waste to any opponent to get in its way so far, outscoring teams 155–41 in three games. The Cardinal’s scoring average of 51.67 points per game is good for third in the country. Stanford’s defense ranks fifth nationally, allowing just 227.6 yards per game. Quarterback Andrew Luck hasn’t been spectacular so far, but he’s done a little bit of everything to keep his name relevant in Heisman Trophy conversations. He’s third in the nation in passing efficiency (192.31). During last week’s 68–24 rout of Wake Forest, Luck threw for 276 yards and four touchdowns and also rushed for 69 yards and another score.
UCLA at Texas
Saturday, 2:30 p.m. CT
It’s a good thing the Bruins got it together in time to beat Houston last week. Otherwise, UCLA was looking seriously at an 0–4 start. The Bruins finally put their defensive talent to good use in shutting down the high-powered Cougars, and they will need all hands on deck to have a chance to beat the seventh-ranked Longhorns on the road. Texas’ offense hasn’t been as explosive as usual through the first three weeks, and UCLA has the defensive personnel to compete. But the Bruins will have to be at maximum efficiency on offense to contend with the Longhorns’ stingy defense. Quarterback Kevin Prince, who appears to be finally healthy, played better against Houston and will have to continue that rate of improvement Saturday.
Oregon State at Boise State
Saturday, 5:00 p.m. PT
The Beavers finish off their brutal nonconference schedule with what could be one of the best games of the day in college football. After playing TCU tough in its opener, the Beavers struggled to put away Louisville at home. This will be the toughest test yet. The atmosphere in Boise should be electric. ESPN’s “GameDay” will be on hand. The sidebar to the game is that Oregon State had its practice field painted blue this week in order to simulate Boise’s field — the Beavers won’t be arriving in Boise in time to have a walk-through at Bronco Stadium because of high school action taking place there Friday night. For the Broncos, Oregon State may be the biggest obstacle remaining for an undefeated season and a possible berth in the BCS Championship Game.
California at Arizona
Saturday, 7:00 p.m. PT
The excitement in Tucson is the highest it’s been in recent memory after last week’s win over Iowa. The Wildcats have skyrocketed up to No. 14 in the AP top 25, and fans are talking about the program’s first Rose Bowl berth in school history. That quest begins this week with the Pac-10 opener against Cal, which was brought back to earth by Nevada last week after two wins against inferior opponents. The Wildcats are ranked third nationally in total defense (220.3 yards allowed per game) and are scoring 42.3 points per game, good for 13th in the country. The Bears offensive line will face a stern test from Arizona’s defensive front. The Wildcats have 11 sacks already this season. The good news for Cal is that it held Arizona’s offense in check last season, but the Bears are working under a new defensive coordinator, Clancy Pendergast.
Oregon at Arizona State
Saturday, 7:30 p.m. PT
The Sun Devils got a boost of confidence from their 20–19 loss at Wisconsin last week. Arizona State had a boatload of missed opportunities and could have left Camp Randall Stadium with a win. The last mishap came near the end of the game when a blocked extra point attempt prevented the Sun Devils from tying it up. Still, ASU has played better than the bottom-feeder of the Pac-10 it was expected to be, and it will need to be at its absolute best to have a chance to knock off the steamrolling Ducks. Oregon has outscored its opponents 189–13 and is emerging as a legitimate national title contender. The Sun Devils have not been drawing good crowds the last couple of years. They could use that boost against the Ducks.
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