There are 5 Pac-12 Conference games this week, all televised nationally (if you have the right programming package), starting off Thursday night in Autzen Stadium.
Both teams have had 12 days to get ready. We know how ATQ, and one of UofO's senior professors, used the time.
The Golden Bears lost 31-23 at Washington, but were stopped at the goal line with 2 minutes left.
The Ducks have bounced back nicely from an their opening day loss to LSU that was as much self-inflicted due to errors as anything with overwhelming offensive shows against 3 seriously out-manned defenses, culminated by a 56-31 win at Arizona.
Last year, California held Oregon down better than anyone has in 2 years. In the end, they still were beaten, 15-13, but not by anywhere near enough to dismiss what the Bears had done. Despite that, the Bears enter the game as the largest underdogs they have ever been with Jeff Tedford as the coach, 24 points.
The teams of course have both had significant changes since then, but the rest of the conference, and indeed the country, will be watching. Does California have the ability, and the inclination, to use a similar approach this time around? Is Bears' coach Tedford onto something? Or was there just some form of signal interference in Strawberry Canyon that disrupted Chip Kelly's video game controller?
The Wildcats and Nick Foles couldn't keep up with USC, and Mat Barkley's school record day for passing yards, despite the fact that Foles completed 41 of his 53 passes, for 425 yards, and 4 touchdowns. The Trojans still prevailed 48-41, and Foles' first 2 interceptions of the season were as big a part of the problem as their porous secondary.
The Beavers' Sean Mannion completed 40 passes himself, in Oregon St.'s 35-20 loss at Arizona St. But he served up 4 interceptions in his 66 throws. Which negated the 3 pickoffs the Beaver secondary snagged.
Arizona has lost 9 straight against FBS opponents, though 6 of those have been to teams ranked in the top 14 at game time. Oregon St. has lost 8 of their last 9 games. As a result, the game has been dubbed "Desperation Bowl II".
This game could take 4 hours to play if Foles and Mannion continue to sling the ball around like its arena football. The one that makes the fewest mistakes probably throws the winning touchdown pass.
The Sun Devils have won 6 of 7 games since Brock Osweiler took over as the Arizona St. quarterback. However, all of those wins have come in the state of Arizona. Osweiler's only trip over the border resulted in 6 sacks and 2 interceptions in Illinois, and a loss.
Utah has found the going tough since joining the Pac-12. A gutty effort came up short on the final play of the game against USC. Last week, any chance to win their first ever Pac-12 home game went down with quarterback Jordan Wynn, as Washington woofed it up on the Utes 31-14. Wynn suffered a shoulder injury that will shelve him for at least 2-3 weeks, and Jon Hays takes over.
The Sun Devils, having already dispatched USC, are hunting for the first ever Big-12 South Championship, as well as a berth in the conference title game. The Utes had that as a goal in their first year in the conference, but are now re-focused on just winning games, and getting to a bowl game.
Can Osweiler play at elevation? Can the Utes regroup? Can JazzyUte make it to mid-October without suffering a total breakdown? All worthy questions we will get some answers to in this one.
After Rodney Stewart capped a 132 yard rushing day with a touchdown, the Buffs thought they had their first Pac-12 win when they went up 10 points at home against Washington St., a supposed doormat team in the conference with a backup quarterback nicknamed "The Lobster" calling the shots. But a patched together secondary found out Pac-12 quarterbacks, even backups, are gun slingers, never beaten as long as time remains on the clock. Two touchdowns in less than 2 minutes produced a 31-27, come from behind win for the Cougars.
Now, the Buffs get a look at one of the better Pac-12 trigger men. Andrew Luck completed 23 of 27 passes, 3 of them for touchdowns, and also caught a one-handed pass, as Stanford dismantled UCLA 45-19. So far this season, Luck has already completed 80 of 112 passes, over 74%, for over 1,000 yards, and 11 touchdowns. And he's only thrown one interception.
Lest Colorado, or anyone else, thinks the Cardinal are one-dimensional, its also worth noting that Stepfan Taylor is on pace for a 1,300 yard rushing season. Colorado may discover that Ralphie isn't the only unstoppable thing romping down the field in the Pac.
And then Colorado coach Jon Embree determined that violation of team rules will require suspension of 4 members of the secondary, plus a linebacker, in addition to an ankle injury to cornerback Brian Lockridge. Buffalo burgers on the grill for the post game tailgaters!
Jeff Tuel, the Cougars' original starting quarterback, has been cleared to return to practice after suffering a broken collar bone in Washington St.'s season opener. Which is good news in that there is again depth at the position. But coach Paul Wulff has said he will stick with Marshall Lobbestael as the starter this week. And as Colorado found out, the Cougars' offense is in good claws, er, hands, with "the lobster".
Lobbestael used all of 3 minutes and 9 seconds to direct 77 and 90 yard scoring drives to bring the Cougs from being trampled to dining on Buffalo steaks.
UCLA got out run, out passed, and out possessed at Stanford, and had a pair of turnovers. Can the Bruins win in some area against WSU? Richard Brehaut still hasn't thrown an interception, but averages barely over 180 yards per game. Johnathan Franklin averages over 6 yards per carry, but has only 65 rushes, and therefore, under 400 yards running the ball. If either or both can elevate their game a bit, UCLA might be able to pull an upset.
Matt Barkley's 32 completions on 39 attempts that netted 4 touchdowns, and 468 yards, a school record for passing yards for the Trojans that eclipsed Carson Palmer's mark earned Barkley the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week honor. They needed every bit of it to keep ahead of Foles' own air show.
In addition to Chris Polk rushing for 189 yards, the Huskies also got a 22 of 30 for 226 yards and 3 touchdowns passing performance from Keith Price, despite his being on a pair of gimpy knees. And while the Huskies have finally gotten their rush defense squared away, which resulted in their holding an opponent under 465 yards of offense for the first time this season, they still gave up 305 passing yards to a Utah squad that lost their starting quarterback at half time, and ran the ball over 41% of the time.
The Huskies have an extra week, and then one more tune up against Colorado, before they face Luck, Foles, Darron Thomas and his sidekick LaMichael James, and then Barkley all in a row. Washington could give up 160 completions and 1800 yards in that stretch if they aren't careful.
Here's the National Schedule, unadjusted for Eastern Daylight Time, so you can practice your time zone conversions.