By ANDREW GARDA - PAC-10 INSIDER
#25 Fresno State @ UCLA
When #25 Fresno State decided to have UCLA on its schedule, it probably thought that the Bruins might serve as a challenge, not the other way around. But the way both teams have been playing since opening day, it’s exactly that--the Bulldogs have survived a tough loss to then 10th ranked Wisconsin, while Rick Neuheisel’s Bruins have slipped down into the abyss after a stunning win against Tennessee. UCLA will have to pressure Bulldog quarterback Tom Brandstater and try to force mistakes, a tough thing to do to an experienced senior who has thrown only one interception this year. The Fresno State offensive line has allowed seven sacks, but UCLA has not been able to take advantage of any opportunities in their last two games. If Brandstater has problems getting started, Fresno State will turn to its ground game. Ryan Matthews has been the ‘big dog’ thus far in the backfield and he should do well against a UCLA defense, that has had issues against the run--even Tennessee was able to put up almost 200 yards on the ground while losing. The Bruins have more problems on offense. Quarterback Kevin Craft is still trying to find his way at the position and has limited his mistakes the last two games, but was almost completely shut down by the Arizona Wildcats last week. The Bruins’ run game has also been woeful, though when you are down by more than one touchdown early in games, the run game tends to fade away quickly. It remains to be seen if this unit has anything to offer, or if it will even get the chance against Bulldog coach Pat Hill’s defense.
Colorado State @ California
Jeff Tedford’s Bears have had two weeks to lick their wounds after the stunning loss to Maryland on September 13th. Whether they will dwell on this or use it as fuel to right the ship is a huge part of this match-up against a visiting Colorado State Rams team that would like to get a little respect. Cal quarterback Kevin Riley was red hot as he led his offense in a valiant comeback against the Terrapins, but his three fourth quarter touchdowns were not enough. The road back to legitimacy starts with Colorado State. Rams quarterback Billy Farris has been effective so far, but can turn the ball over and California’s defense can be opportunistic. If they can force mistakes and the offense can take advantage of the turnovers, the Bears have an excellent chance to get back on track this weekend in Berkeley.
Oregon @ Washington State
The Oregon Ducks may have dropped a close one to Boise State, but it makes them no less dangerous against Washington State. The key may be if freshman quarterback Darron Thomas gets a chance to continue the excellent play he showcased while appearing in the final quarter against the Broncos last week. If he gets the nod, he will find a Washington State secondary that can play well, though will likely be overmatched by a prolific Ducks offense. The Cougars’ offense suffers from making far too many mistakes. Between their two quarterbacks they have thrown nine interceptions. If their play continues like that, Washington State will not be able to keep up with an Oregon team that desperately needs to make some noise and get back on track.
Stanford @ Washington
This game finds two teams struggling. Both the Cardinal’s losses were on the road and although the Huskies haven’t exactly been stout at home, Stanford will have to prove they aren’t suffering from homesickness before they can be taken seriously. The difference may once again come down to turnovers. Stanford quarterback Tavita Pritchard has thrown at least one interception the last three games and the entire Cardinal offense has struggled in part because of it. Huskies’ quarterback Jake Locker hasn’t been turning the ball over, but he hasn’t been able to make much headway through the air either. Where he does excel is on the ground, totaling 163 yards and three touchdowns. If he can keep the ball moving with his feet and the occasional pass to receivers like D’Andre Goodwin, Stanford will be hard pressed to keep up with Washington this weekend.
Photo Credit: Collegiate Images