Pac-10 Weekend Preview

Pac-10 Weekend Preview

This is separation Saturday in the Pac-10. For Arizona, OSU, UW and WSU, another conference loss and they can forget about a top three or four finish. By Saturday night, this can officially be a six team conference race if none of the underdogs win. Making things difficult for the bottom tier schools is the fact that if they are to pull off an upset, it'll have to come on the road.

 

ARIZONA @ USC

October 13, 2007

12:30 PM PST

Television:  ABC (Regional Coverage)

 

(2-4, 1-2 Pac-10)

4-1, 2-1 Pac-10

Arizona has lost five straight games to USC but they're gaining ground on the Trojans.  In the last three games, Arizona has kept it close midway through the third quarter before USC's overall depth, experience and talent eventually took over.  In Stoops' first season, Arizona lost at USC 49-9 but trailed only 21-9 with less than six minutes to play in the third quarter.  Carroll would later say Arizona was the most physical team the Trojans had played that year.  In the 2005 game again played at the Coliseum Arizona had a chance to tie things at 28-28 but instead threw an INT inside the red zone.  USC treated the INT as a wake up call, rattled off 14 unanswered points and won 42-21.  In 2006, Arizona held USC to a total of 10 points through the first three quarters before eventually losing 20-3.  On all three occasions, at least from my POV in the stands, it felt like Arizona was only one big play or one costly mistake by USC away from really making all three of those games interesting.  This season, USC is actually making the key mistakes and it has cost them dearly.  Against Washington, mistakes kept the Huskies in the game until the end.  Against Stanford, mistakes (4 INT's and 8 penalties) again plagued the Trojans.  If this were any other program in the country sans LSU I'd say USC is primed for one of those <b>We're Still in Shock</b> losing streaks that results in an all too common 3-game slide.  This is USC though so them finishing the season 11-1 and either backdooring their way into the BCS Championship Game or completely dominating another Big 10 team in the Rose Bowl is extremely possible.

 

Just in case I'm wrong and USC is ripe for a fall this might be the best time for the Wildcats to play USC.  Umm, that is if Arizona wasn't twisted in its own web of despair. 

 

In two road conference games this season, the Wildcats have been outscored a whopping 52-6 in the first quarter.  Why the team is not coming out of the locker room ready to strap it on has baffled everyone from the players and coaches to the fans.  The team is talented as evidenced by their strong play after their poor starts.  Some will argue that Cal and Oregon State shut down the engines and coasted to victories after their huge first quarter leads.  While that may be true, Arizona did hold the Beavers to only 40 total yards of offense in the second half last week and actually threatened Cal on several occasions only to have an untimely turnover or penalty thwart a scoring drive that could have narrowed the deficit.

 

On Saturday, the keys to the game are simple.  For Arizona, they must put pressure on QB Sanchez who was just named the Trojans starter on Thursday.  Sanchez hasn't started a game since 2004 when he was in high school.  USC is banged up on the offensive line while the Wildcats' defensive line is as healthy as a unit can be six games into the season.  If Arizona only rushes four and allows Sanchez to get comfortable in the pocket then shame on them.  They deserve to lose.  If they come after Sanchez and force him to make plays under duress, then there is a possibility that Arizona's talented secondary can get hot and make things difficult for USC in the air.  Arizona must also have faith in their rushing attack and get frosh Grigsby at least 20 carries to see what he can do.  If they abandon the run, then QB Tuitama could be in for another long day (sacked 8 times against OSU).  For the Trojans, they have to neutralize Arizona's ground game and force Tuitama to throw 50 or more times.  On offense, the key for them is to get their own ground game going to take some pressure off Sanchez.  Getting back RB Johnson from injury will help this cause.

 

L.A. Memorial Coliseum – 92,000

Natural Grass 

 

 

WASHINGTON STATE @ OREGON

October 13, 2007

12:36 PM PST

No Television 

 

(2-4, 0-3 Pac-10)

(4-1, 1-1 Pac-10)

The good news for WSU is the visiting team in this series is 5-2 in the last eight games.  The bad news is only two of the games have been played in Autzen Stadium, meaning that it's been the Ducks who have been doing all the winning on the road.  Last season, Wazzu did hold serve though in beating Oregon 34-23 in Pullman.  That was a much different Cougars bunch though with a solid defense and a balanced offensive attack.  This season, QB Brink has been forced to go it alone in trying to beat opponents in the air.  He's done a stellar job but while one-pronged offensive attacks might get it done in the Big 12 they aren't going to get it done in the Pac-10.  Oregon, on the other hand, does have both a running and passing attack.  In fact, their attack comes in the form of a multi-headed beast named Dixon.  QB Dixon is getting things done on the ground and in the air and is supported by a cast of athletes as good as any in the country.  RB Stewart is having a fine season as is the entire Ducks WR corps.

 

The X Factor in this game is how well Oregon bounces back from their gut wrenching loss to Cal two weeks ago.  The bye week had to have helped but if they get off to a slow start against the Cougars the hangover effect could set in and who knows.  The Cougars gave a very good Arizona State team all they could handle last week and they are hungry for their first conference win.  While ASU runs a traditional Pro-style offense that relies on talent and efficiency to wear down opposing defenses, Oregon's offense is a tad more unconventional.  So, unless a defense is really anticipating well it's a lot more difficult to stop.  For that reason, expect Oregon to move the ball on Wazzu and avenge last season's upset loss.

Autzen Stadium – 54,000

  Field Turf

 

 

TCU @ STANFORD

October 13, 2007

2:05 PM PST

No Television 

 

(3-3, 1-2 MWC)

(2-3, 1-3 Pac-10)

Stanford QB Pritchard gets the start against TCU after leading the Cardinal to their incredible upset of USC last weekend.  Season starter Ostrander was cleared to play this week, but head coach Harbaugh made the decision and that's that.  Despite last weekend's huge win, it's hard to imagine that Stanford has turned any major corners.  That's not to say they've improved because they have.  But the reality is they've been pounded by Pac-10 teams this season.  In their three conference losses, they've been outscored 141-51.  The good news is they have a non-conference game on Saturday against visiting TCU.  The even better news is the Cardinal has already played one Mountain West Conference team this season in which they beat San Jose State handily, 37-0.  The bad news is TCU is a lot better than SJSU.

 

The Horned Frogs, unlike the Trojans, now have a full 60 minutes of game film to study Stanford's tendencies with Pritchard at the helm.  Will that be enough though to make a difference?  It might.  TCU has a very strong front seven and outside of giving up 34 points to Texas, the team has not surrendered more than 24 points to any other Division I opponent.  Stanford, on the other hand, has given up 45, 55 and 41 points in their three losses.  The fact that Stanford is coming off a big win and the game is played in Palo Alto gives them a slight advantage, but don't be surprised if TCU comes in and knocks off the Cardinal.

 

Stanford Stadium – 50,000

  Natural Grass

 

 

OREGON STATE @ CALIFORNIA

October 13, 2007

4:07 PM PST

Television:  Versus (Direct TV – 603)

 

(3-3, 1-2 Pac-10)

(5-0, 2-0 Pac-10)

This is a huge conference game for many teams.  If Cal wins, and they should, the Beavers will drop to 1-3 in conference play.  If that happens, coupled with the expected losses of Arizona to USC, WSU to Oregon and Washington to ASU, the top six conference teams will really begin to separate themselves from the bottom half of the conference.  Unlike in 2006 where five teams were separated by only one loss at season's end, 2007 is shaping up to be much different.

 

The Beavers dominated Arizona last week by blitzing on nearly every play.  They forced 3 INT's, 8 sacks and a host of QB hurries.  Despite the intense pressure on Arizona's Tuitama, the Wildcats had many opportunities to get back into the game.  They didn't though because of dropped passes and penalties that negated touchdowns.  Cal won't do that against OSU.  For one, Cal WR Jackson is one of if not the best wideouts in the country.  Second, Cal's offensive line is a lot better than UA's and should do a better job of picking up the blitz while also creating huge holes for RB Forsett.

 

Blitzing defenses can wreak havoc as evidenced from last weekend's beat down of Arizona.  However, blitzing against an offense that is capable of handling the pressure can have disastrous results.  Expect a handful of long gainers by Forsett as Cal will catch OSU in blitzes, make the blocks and spring their running back untouched and into the secondary.  These runs should occur often enough to keep OSU off balance and allow Cal to dictate the flow of the game.  

 

California Memorial Stadium – 72,516

Field Turf 

 

 

WASHINGTON @ ARIZONA STATE

October 13, 2007

7:26 PM PST

Television:  Fox Sports Net

 

(2-3, 0-2 Pac-10)

(6-0, 3-0 Pac-10)

This should be a great game to watch whether you're a fan of these schools or not.  Both teams have athletes all over the field and each has an exciting QB and RB capable of making big plays. 

 

ASU has won three straight against UW and should make it four in a row on Saturday.  In last year's meeting, Sun Devils QB Carpenter connected on a 25-yard TD pass in overtime for the win.  As has been the case for ASU all season though, discussing the past is meaningless with this program because the presence of head coach Erickson on the sidelines has given the Sun Devils an entirely different mentality then the one they had under Dirk Koetter.  It's a winning mentality and it comes with a swagger that bleeds confidence.  Similarly, the Huskies are also playing with an improved attitude.  Despite being 2-3, they've been in every game including their contest two weeks ago where they lost to USC 27-24.  UW has had two weeks to prepare for ASU while the Sun Devils return home for the first time since Sep. 22.   The Huskies are searching for their first conference win while the Sun Devils are looking for their fourth before heading into a bye week of their own.

 

ASU's upcoming schedule has them hosting Cal on Oct. 27 before then traveling to Oregon and UCLA.  ASU needs to give UW its undivided attention because the Huskies are more than capable of pulling off the upset.  ASU's aggressive defense should force UW QB Locker out of the pocket but that might not be a good thing as Locker thrives as both a passer and a runner.  ASU may need to commit a LB to spy Locker which could free up the Huskies' TE's to roam freely in the middle of the field.  If they find a way to contain Locker in the pocket, then advantage Sun Devils who have not one but two players with three or more INT's on the season.  I expect this game to be close but knowing what's at stake and knowing that the team has a bye week to prepare for Cal, Erickson won't hold anything back which should help his team pull away in the fourth quarter. 

 

 

Sun Devil Stadium – 71,706

Natural Grass

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