By ANDREW GARDA - PAC-10 INSIDER
Arizona @ UCLA
Both teams are in need of a win in order to right ships that just a week ago appeared strong and sturdy. Before the Wildcats suffered a tough loss to New Mexico, quarterback Willie Tuitama was playing mistake free football. He needs to put his two interception performance against New Mexico behind him, because a shaky Bruins’ secondary lies in the waters ahead. They also need tailback Nic Grigsby to revert to form as well—he totaled 304 yards and five touchdowns. On the other side of the field, Coach Rick Neuheisel is wondering just which team is going to show up this weekend. The fighting, clawing, ‘never say die’ scrappers from the victory against Tennessee, or the not quite ready for prime time players that got blown out by BYU? Sadly, it is probably more the latter than the former. Quarterback Kevin Craft cut down on his mistakes against BYU, but still has a long way to go as a starter. That goes for the team around him as well. After the embarrassing loss last week, it may be all the coaching staff can do to keep the kids focused on this game and not last week’s. While UCLA is not as good as they were week one, they are not as bad as week two, and Arizona is no BYU. That said, the Wildcats will still have an edge in nearly every aspect of this game (other than home field) and should be the victors in this match-up.
#2 Georgia @ Arizona State
A week ago, Arizona St. was thinking about perhaps beating Georgia and making a statement. While they were doing that, their foot came off the gas and UNLV took advantage. Despite Georgia’s not-exactly-strong win against South Carolina, the Bulldogs come in heavily favored to win while ASU is still trying to figure out what happened last week. The key to this game for both sides comes down to one man – Arizona State quarterback Rudy Carpenter. If the offensive line can keep him from being hammered by the Bulldog defensive line, Carpenter should be able to exploit a secondary that is second to last in the SEC, allowing 236.3 yards per game. Arizona State is putting over 300 passing yards on the board each week. The Sun Devils have allowed just five sacks so far this year – and enormous improvement – and the Dawgs have amassed only six on defense, so keeping Carpenter is a possibility. The senior signal caller attempted 23 passes last week, while the team ran 36 times—the first time this season the team ran more than it passed. But it didn’t get the job done, as the rushing attack was only able to garner 3.6 yards per attempt and couldn’t kill the clock before UNLV got back in the game. In order to win, Carpenter needs to have a big game, and to do that he needs to be standing.
Meanwhile, Georgia will need better production from star running back Knowshon Moreno and quarterback Matthew Stafford. Like ASU’s offensive line, the Bulldog line is under the microscope. They must protect Stafford better after allowing South Carolina to get to him four times last week. The Sun Devils defense will try to repeat South Carolina’s success at stumping Stafford and stuffing Moreno, but the run defense will have to stop the bleeding after allowing 100+ yards in both of the last two games. That will be a tall challenge, with the talented sophomore coming in with something to prove. ASU has been good against the pass in this young season, but Stafford will put that to the test in the first top end challenge the Sun Devils will face.
If Coach Dennis Erickson’s boys upfront can protect Carpenter, they might make a game of this and perhaps bounce back into the rankings. But if Georgia can keep the pressure on and Moreno can rebound from his lackluster game last week, Georgia could make it a long evening in Tempe for the hometown team.
Portland State @ Washington State
I hesitate to say that Washington State should be able to beat Portland given last weekend’s events. Still, this is a bounce-back game for the Cougars and they should be able to win at home. The Cougars will be looking to reboot their season against Portland State, but need the defense to play better after having been manhandled in the first three games. Meanwhile, the offense needs to cut down on turnovers. Six interceptions from the quarterback position is too many, as they have continually put the defense behind the 8-ball and on the field more often than they can handle.
San Jose State @ Stanford
San Jose State comes to Stanford with an offense that moves the ball well, but is not as effective getting into the end zone. Stanford does a better job of scoring, but so do their opponents. This combination could spell disaster for the Cardinal, if the Spartans pick up their game in the red zone. While they looked good beating Oregon State, Stanford has been beaten handily over the last two games. San Jose State dropped their one big test at Nebraska, but otherwise has kept their opponents putting up points. The Cardinal should model their game on Nebraska’s and attack with the pass.
Boise State @ #17 Oregon
After an overtime comeback against Purdue last Saturday, the Ducks host Boise State with starting quarterback Justin Roper sidelined. Tailbacks LeGarrette Blount and Jeremiah Johnson will try to keep the dynamic offense moving on the ground, while Boise State will trot out running back Ian Johnson and wide receiver Titus Young to carry their offense. Oregon will likely turn to Jeremiah Masoli to carry the quarterback load, though true freshman Chris Harper may get some work as well. Regardless, the run game will be pivotal for the Ducks, as they try to limit their inexperienced quarterbacks. Boise State boasts a defense ranked 28th in the nation, giving up just 257 yards a game. They will try to put the Oregon offense in passing situations, turn on the pressure, and try to create turnovers, just as they did last week against Bowling Green. Oregon cannot afford to get behind this week, the way they did against Purdue. Boise State is also capable of explosive offensive play and if they get out in front by a bunch, the game will be in the hands of Oregon’s quarterbacks. Something the Ducks do not want to happen.
Photo Credit: Collegiate Images
Friday, September 19, 2008
By ANDREW GARDA - PAC-10 INSIDER