A not quite so full slate this week, as UCLA (4-5, 2-4) and Washington (3-6, 2-4) have the week off, in anticipation of a Thursday night ESPN game next week, which will be crucial to both team's hopes for a minor bowl appearance, as well as a contributor to a major traffic jam in Seattle.
After a lot of national exposure, only the game on Versus will be more than a regional game, meaning premium full coverage packages are the only way many out of area fans will see most Pac-10 teams this week. There will be some other games of relevance across the conference, current and future, on national tv worth checking in on, though.
Washington St. Cougars (1-9, 0-7) at Oregon St. Beavers (4-4, 3-2) at 1 PM on Fox Sports Northwest. The Cougars come in having lost their eighth straight, this time 20-13 to Cal, who hadn't previously won a road game this season. Less than 18,000 had tickets for the game, much less showed up. The Beavers lost 17-14 at UCLA, on a field goal by Kai Forbath as time ran out. Despite having already uncharacteristically missed two field goals, by converting his third try of the day, Forbath earned Pac-10 special teams player of the week honors.
It was Oregon St.'s worst offensive showing exclusive of the Sun Bowl win two years ago, which was minus both of the Rodgers brothers, since the Penn St. loss in the second game of the 2008 season. Thankfully, Fox Sports Northwest still salvaged things for the tv audience, and the conference. The kind of move that might be worth remembering when it comes time to negotiate the next tv contract.
Washington St. took two second quarter leads over the Bears, but Jeff Tuel completed only 36% of his throws, and the Cougars generated less than 200 yards of offense.
Oregon St. celebrates Dad's day this week, and are happy to be home, where they play much better than they have on the road, especially in the last month. The Beavers took a third quarter lead against the Bruins, but managed only 267 total yards, with Jacquizz Rodgers held to 82 yards on 19 touches, rushing and receiving. Only four of ‘Quizz's touches came after halftime. Much of that was due to the UCLA offense keeping the Oregon St. offense off the field, holding the ball for more than 11 minutes more.
This game is the classic example of the first team to get their offense in gear probably getting the win. Oregon St. needs two wins just to become bowl eligible, and with USC, a trip to #7 Stanford, and a visit from #1 Oregon still ahead, it's a must win for the Beavers.
#7 Stanford Cardinal (8-1, 5-1) at Arizona St. Sun Devils (4-5, 2-4) at 4:30 PDT (5:30 MST) on Fox Sports Arizona and Comcast Bay Area. The Cardinal dominated Arizona 42-17, and Stanford made sure the ‘Cats had little chance to rally, holding the ball almost an extra quarter, winning the time of possession battle by over 14 minutes. The Sun Devils lost one of the wildest games in Pac-x history, losing in the LA Coliseum 34-33 to USC.
Stanford is the second highest one-loss team in the BCS rankings, at #6, and yet faces the prospect of possibly being frozen out of the BCS altogether. At the very least, the Cardinal must win convincingly in order to remain competitive with SEC and Big-10 one loss teams, as its possible that LSU, Ohio St., Michigan St., and Stanford may all finish 11-1, and Boise St. 12-0, with only three BCS berths to distribute amongst them.
And Andrew Luck's Heisman Trophy prospects remain up in the air as well, with every game critical. Another game like he had against Arizona, where Luck completed 23 of 32 passes, and as importantly, didn't throw any interceptions, and earned Pac-10 offensive player of the week honors, would help, except maybe with voters from Arizona. Or maybe it would cement their votes.
Arizona St. got a 100 yard+ kickoff return for a touchdown from LeQuan Lewis, and a defensive score on Omar Bolden's 66 yard interception return, but had also already threw away a score when the Trojans' Malcolm Smith took an interception back 74 yards for a touchdown. After all that, a critical as anything was the sequence after the Sun Devils scored to take a 33-29 lead midway in the fourth quarter, but didn't go for two points, and got the extra point kick blocked. And Torin Harris scooped up the loose ball, took it the other way, and scored two points for USC. Two points that allowed Joe Houston's field goal to produce a one point Trojan lead, and the win when Thomas Weber missed a 41 yard field goal try with 1:34 left for ASU.
So while Stanford is striving for a BCS berth, Arizona St. is struggling to even become bowl eligible, which is part of a larger issue for the conference, where there may well not be enough eligible teams to fill all the conference's contractual bowl tie-ins, costing everyone a share of bowl game proceeds. Which would be a double whammy if the Pac also doesn't get a second BCS payout to share. If you notice athletic directors and university presidents checking scores a lot on Saturdays, its because there is a lot of money at stake in all this.
#1 Oregon Ducks (9-0, 6-0) at California Golden Bears (5-4, 3-3) at 4:30 on Versus. Washington shut the high-powered Ducks out in the first quarter, and were within 18-13 a couple of minutes into the third quarter, after scoring 10 consecutive points. Oregon then did what they have done several times before when faced with a serious challenge, they proceeded to dominate the rest of the game. A 35-3 run, including 28 unanswered points to finish the game, turned the result into a 53-16 rout.
The only real concern Oregon has coming out of the Washington win is the loss of backup quarterback Nate Costa to a season & career ending knee injury, leaving NO active backup for Darron Thomas. Freshman Bryan Bennett, trying to hang on to his red shirt, is the second string QB, so don't look for Thomas to come out even after the game is out of hand until he has to, and coach Chip Kelly is forced to go with Bennett.
The Bears upset the Ducks the last time Oregon went to Berkeley undefeated back in 2008, and their four wins by 49, 45, 28, and 33 points in their home games this season are much more indicative of the team Oregon will face than what has been seen the last two weeks in Cal's trips to the northwest.
USC Trojans (6-3, 3-3) at #18 Arizona Wildcats (7-2, 4-2) at 5 PM PST (6 PM MST) on ABC regionally, and ESPN3 Game Plan elsewhere. If all the events discussed above weren't wild enough, consider that Trojan safety T.J. McDonald had a blocked punt, a hand in another block, and 13 tackles. That's a stat line that earned McDonald Pac-10 defensive player of the week honors, and not one that would happen if there was any cruising thru the schedule going on.
USC not only hasn't quit on a season where there will be no post-season rewards, they are actually playing some of the most entertaining, if not necessarily great, football in their history. And a 10 win season is still a realistic goal. The win over Arizona St. was the Trojan's 11th. in a row in the series.
Arizona isn't fighting any such stretch, having broken their 7 game losing streak to USC in last year's 21-17 win. But they do need to get back on track, after being beaten soundly at Stanford.
Nick Foles' return at quarterback wasn't as effective as a glance at the stats might suggest for the ‘Cats. Foles found Juron Criner 9 times for 98 yards and a touchdown, but was off target 20 of his 48 passes. Keola Antolin averaged 5.4 yards per carry, and ran for a score as well. The problem was that the Wildcats drove inside the Stanford 30 four times, and came away with no points. A large loss, two interceptions, and an un-converted fourth down doomed ‘Zona.
The future members of the conference both have national exposure though.
#15 Utah (8-1, 5-1) at Notre Dame (4-5) at 11:30 AM on NBC. The Utes were never in their showdown in Salt Lake City with TCU, and lost 47-7 to the Horned Frogs. The game ended Utah's hopes for a BCS bowl, and might have cemented TCU into one, as Andy Dalton completed 21 of 26 passes for 355 yards, and 3 touchdowns, and with no interceptions. TCU rolled up 558 yards on the Utah defense, and was seconds shy of holding the ball twice as long as the Utes.
Notre Dame lost 28-27 to Tulsa, when backup quarterback Tommy Rees threw an interception in the endzone with 36 seconds left, and the Irish already in field goal position. Notre Dame also lost starting quarterback Dayne Crist for the season, due to a ruptured patella tendon in his left knee.
Utah is now playing for a "good" bowl game, but has some work to do to even reach the Las Vegas Bowl. Notre Dame is in a near must win situation in order to even become bowl eligible.
Iowa St. Cyclones (5-5, 3-3) at Colorado Buffaloes (3-6, 0-5) at 10:30 AM (11:30 MST) on Fox College Sports. It's the coaching error bowl in the Big XII. The Cyclones overcame a 14 point deficit with a pair of touchdowns to force overtime against Nebraska, only to let the Cornhuskers preserve a 31-30 win in overtime when Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads decided to take the biggest gamble of his career, and had holder Daniel Kuehl attempt a pass out of a fake kick. The Cornhuskers were waiting for it, and Eric Hagg intercepted a short, floating pass. That gaff pales in comparison to what happened down the road in Kansas, though.
Once the Buffs come to the Pac-12, they won't be bringing coach Dan Hawkins with them, after Saturday's meltdown in Lawrence. Up 45-17 after scoring early in the fourth quarter, Colorado suffered one of the worst melt-downs in history, as the Jayhawks scored 35 unanswered points in just over 10 minutes to overhaul the Buffaloes for a 52-45 win. The debate in Boulder was whether to fire Hawkins immediately, and risk losing his son Cody, the only experienced quarterback on the squad, for the rest of the year, or to fire Hawkins at the end of the season. By Tuesday, the decision was to cut the elder Hawkins, once a hot coaching prospect while building winners at Boise St., and make linebackers coach Brian Cabral the interim head coach. The only good thing about this one, from the Colorado (and Pac) point of view is that no one saw the comeback in Kansas, as there was no tv for one of the wildest finishes of the year.
Larry Scott is probably more than happy the last week's events for the two new conference members happened safely before the Pac-12 logo appears anywhere near them.
Also, on the Rose Bowl front, there are a couple of games that could contribute to keeping a second Pac-10 team out of not only Pasadena, but possibly the BCS, should Auburn keep winning.
The Horned Frogs didn't hurt their rating as the best defense in college football by thrashing the Utes, but will get another challenge from a surprisingly good San Diego St. squad. The Aztecs defeated Colorado St. 24-19 for their fourth straight win.
#4 Boise St. Broncos (8-0, 4-0) at Idaho Vandals (4-5, 1-3) Friday night at 6 PM on ESPN2. Boise St. also gave up only a single late score in their 42-7 win over Hawaii, and remained #2 in the nation in total defense, as well as #4 in total offense. Kellen Moore completed 30 of 37 passes, for 507 yards and 3 touchdowns, as the Broncos galloped to 737 yards of offense against the Rainbows.
Their arch rival Vandals, who lost to Hawaii 45-10, are reeling, having just been blasted 63-17 by #21 Nevada, who happens to be another of those one loss teams. Idaho gave up 320 yards passing, and five touchdown tosses to Colin Kapernick. How much might Moore manage to get?
It is worth noting that if Oregon does qualify for the National Championship game, the Rose Bowl only has to take either TCU or Boise St. if that team does not also reach the NCS. Should that happen, Stanford could be back in the Rose Bowl race, even if Boise St. should also garner an at large BCS bid.