Another Thursday night ESPN special kicks off a very light weekend before Thanksgiving, with #1 Oregon (10-0, 7-0), #23 Arizona (7-3, 4-3), Arizona St. (4-6, 2-5), and Washington St. (2-9, 1-7) all off. The Cougs are in the first of back to back weeks off, with no action except eating Thanksgiving Turkey until the Apple Cup on Dec. 4.
The games that are on the schedule are all huge though, and all are nationally available. And the first of the "Natural Rivalries" is on the schedule.
UCLA Bruins (4-5, 2-4) at Washington Huskies (3-6, 2-4) at 5 PM Thursday on ESPN. UCLA snapped a three game losing streak, getting a game winning Kai Forbath field goal as time ran out for a 17-14 win over Oregon St. in their last outing. In what could be a bowl elimination game, the Bruins will have Richard Brehaut making his fourth consecutive start, and coming off a bye, he should be well settled into the job.
Washington went into their bye having lost three straight, and all were blowouts. A 44-14 loss at Arizona, and then a 41-0 drubbing by Stanford also produced a rib-breaking beating for Husky quarterback Jake Locker. Freshman Keith Price made his first start against Oregon, and actually didn't play too badly, considering Oregon ran the Huskies out of town to the tune of 53-16. Despite all that, and the fact that Locker still wasn't cleared to play at the start of the week, Washington was still favored by 2.5 points. (Locker has practiced, and is expected to start.)
It's going to be a "black-out" for the Huskies last home game of the year, with the black jerseys being brought out. And as anyone who has ever battled traffic on the floating bridge and Montlake drive of any game day can anticipate, its going to be full-combat traffic Thursday night. Combine that with a very dark and stormy night, and its a great night for a game on tv.
#7 Stanford Cardinal (9-1, 6-1) at California Golden Bears (5-5, 3-4) at 12:30 on Fox Sports Net. The Cardinal struggled with Arizona St., in part because Andrew Luck was struggling, with an interception and a fumble. But in the fourth quarter, Luck engineered the comeback drive that every which way player Owen Marecic capped for the touchdown that gave Stanford a 17-13 win. Despite his earlier problems, Luck finished with 33 completions, on 41 attempts, for 292 yards.
The Bears gave Oregon their first real scare of the season, but a failed two point conversion pass after a defensive score, and a missed field goal at the beginning of the fourth quarter, still left Cal short, losers of a 15-13 decision. The Bears defense was truly Golden, not only scoring, but limiting the nation's best offense to one short field score, off a turnover, and only 317 total yards. It was as good a performance as it was in significant part due to Mike Mohamed's career high 16 tackle performance, which included a sack, and earned him the Pac-10 defensive player of the week honor.
Unfortunately, Brock Mansion, making only his second start, could only lead Cal to 193 yards, and just 69 passing, against the Ducks. And Oregon's defense continued to be dominant late, recording their third consecutive, and ninth in ten games, fourth quarter shutout.
And Cliff Harris returned a punt for a touchdown for Oregon for the fourth time this season, earning him his second Pac-10 special teams player of the week honor of the year.
The (fairly) "Big Game" is the first, and earliest, of the Pac-10 rivalry games, and both teams still have a game left afterwards. And it's vital to Stanford's hopes for a BCS berth, as well as being mightily important to Cal's bowl hopes. The Bears must either beat the Cardinal, or defeat Washington in a week, to qualify. Fortunately for the Bears, their season is ending with a three game home stand, and Cal is night and day different in Strawberry Canyon.
#20 USC Trojans (7-3, 4-3) at Oregon St. Beavers (4-5, 3-3) at 5 PM on ABC regionally, and ESPN3 Game Plan in areas not carrying the game on a local channel. The Trojans held off a fourth quarter Arizona rally in Tucson, pulling out a 24-21 win. Arizona had the ball for an extra quarter, but despite Nick Foles returning from injury to throw for 353 yards, and completing 32 of 48 passes, for 3 touchdowns, and no interceptions, USC recovered an on-side kickoff, and held on to upset the now 23rd. ranked Wildcats.
The Beavers never showed up against Washington St. falling behind the Cougars 14-0 by halftime, and 21-0 after the first drive after halftime. Oregon St. eventually lost 31-14, and still needs two wins to become bowl eligible. Jacquizz Rodgers was held to just 93 yards rushing, and 125 total, as Washington St. held onto the ball for more than 2/3 of the game. Meanwhile, Jeff Tuel was earning the Pac-10 offensive player of the week honor for leading the Cougars to their first road win since 2007.
USC can't qualify for the post season, but only two losses on the last play of the game has kept them out of the top 10. Oregon St., losers of two in a row, and three of four, will be hard pressed to keep the Oregon hex on the Trojans going. USC has lost their last four games in the state of Oregon, including two in a row, and three of their last four, at Reser.
The future members of the Pac-12 had mixed success, and both face tough opposition this week.
#25 Utah Utes (8-2, 5-1) at San Diego St. Aztecs (7-3, 4-2) at 7 PM on The Mountain. The Utes lost by a lopsided margin for the second week in a row, this time by a disappointing and surprising 28-3 margin at Notre Dame. Utah rushed for only 79 yards, and also lost the penalty battle, and two turnovers, against the Irish, who may still become bowl eligible if they can beat Army before their visit to USC.
The Aztecs gave TCU, who entered last week third in the BCS ratings, all they could handle before falling 40-35 in Ft. Worth. Andy Dalton threw for 240 yards, and four touchdowns, three to Jeremy Kerley, for the Horned Frogs, and TCU needed every bit of it when the Aztec's Ryan Lindley threw 33 and 35 yard touchdown strikes to Vincent Brown in less than two minutes late in the game. San Diego St. would like nothing more than to knock off perennial Mountain West power Utah before the Utes leave the conference.
What was looking like a potential darkhorse BCS crashing season in Salt Lake City has instead crashed to earth in the last two weeks. Utah needs to right the ship in order to carry any momentum into the Pac.
Kansas St. Wildcats (6-4, 3-4) at Colorado Buffaloes (4-6, 1-5) at 12 noon MST (11 AM PST) with no tv. Where is a regional Fox Sports channel when you need one? Makes one appreciate that even the Pac's current tv deal is better than some people have.
The Buffs belted Iowa St. 34-14 in interim coach Brian Cabral's first game in relief of fired Dan Hawkins. Hawkins' son Cody showed no ill effects of dad losing his job, completing 16 of 24 passes for 266 yards and three touchdowns, with no interceptions.
Kansas St. dropped a 38-28 decision at now 15th. ranked Missouri, and as a result, dropped out of the top 25, but the Wildcats are already bowl eligible, and are looking to elevate their standing by eliminating Colorado from post-season consideration. It's the Buff's last home Big XII game, but a win would mean they could claim a bowl berth with an unset at Nebraska. For a team that made a coaching change three quarters thru the season, to be even technically alive going into the last week of their season would be quite a feat.
Stanford, and the conference's, hopes for a second BCS berth, could be impacted significantly by Friday night's ESPN scheduled WAC game.
Fresno St. Bulldogs (6-3, 4-2) at #3 Boise St. Broncos (9-0, 5-0) Friday at 7:30 MST (6:30 PST) on ESPN2. The Bulldogs played one of the best games of the week, but fell 35-34 to the now #19 Nevada Wolfpack. They now get to try to soften up third ranked Boise St., before the Broncos visit Reno.
The Broncos bolted to a 28-0 first quarter lead in Moscow, and extended their lead past a 38-0 halftime lead to a 45-0 margin a minute into the third quarter, on their way to a 52-14 rout of rival Idaho. Kellen Moore completed 19 of 26 passes, for "only" 216 yards (Moore threw for 507 yards the week before against Hawaii), and three touchdowns.
Fresno St. and Nevada represent Boise St.'s significant opportunities for RPI points down the stretch, as the Broncos, who moved back past TCU in the BCS rankings, drive for a BCS berth, if not a shot at the national title.