Friday, October 3, 2008

Pac-10 Preview - Week 6


Stanford at Notre Dame

"I grew up with a bunch of Irish and Italian Catholic people back home. And all the Irish Catholic people, all they talk about is Notre Dame this, Notre Dame that," said Stanford offensive tackle Chris Marinelli. "And they've never even been there, ya know. So I hate those guys, I hate that school."

That doesn’t even need to be posted on the Notre Dame bulletin board—it posted itself.

On the field, Notre Dame has been able to move the ball through the air this season with sophomore Jimmy Clausen slinging the ball for 901 yards and nine touchdowns. Unfortunately, Clausen has been giving the football away like early Halloween candy—throwing a pair of picks in each of the first three matches. He cleaned up his act up last week in a victory over Purdue. Stanford was successful early in the season in turning over the ball, but has not been as successful the last few weeks. Stanford Coach Jim Harbaugh has to get his team back to that opportunistic state of mind if he’s going to slow down the Notre Dame attack.

Stanford’s quarterback Tavita Pritchard has been able to move the ball but he can’t get it in the end zone. The Notre Dame defense will do everything they can to pressure Pritchard into making mistakes and if he complies, it could be tough to stop the Irish.

Arizona State at California

At one point this looked to be a matchup of top 25 – perhaps top 15 teams. Instead it’s a battle between two teams trying find a way back into the rankings. The Sun Devils have to get their offense going again and the biggest key to that will be getting quarterback Rudy Carpenter back on track. After throwing for more than 700 yards and completing more than 75 percent of his passes in the first two games, Carpenter has thrown for just 450 yards with completion percentages of 56.5 % and 63.9% in the next two. Expect Golden Bears Coach Jeff Tedford and Defensive Coordinator Bob Gregory to bring more of the same pressure that has plagued the Sun Devils the last season and a half. Of course if they could get a running game going, it would prevent the defense from simply teeing off. Junior running back Dimitri Nance has been the most productive of a distinctly unproductive run game for the Sun Devils.

For Cal, they will be facing Arizona State minus their best ground weapon, Jahvid Best. Best is out for this week with a dislocated left elbow. While an MRI Monday told the team he may be back for an October 18th battle with Arizona, they will have to turn to freshman Shane Vereen to fill his shoes. Vereen has shown flashes of big play ability in the few opportunities he has had and he has the potential to do some damage against the Sun Devils, who have been giving up more than 100 yards a game on the ground. Don’t be surprised to see redshirt sophomore Tracey Slocum in the mix as well. This will be especially important if quarterback Kevin Riley struggles again this week.

Washington at Arizona

Things continue to look grim for the Huskies as they head to Arizona Stadium this Saturday. Coach Tyrone Willingham will have to find a way to get the offense going without injured quarterback Jake Locker (broken thumb). He hopes sophomore Ronnie Fouch will take steps in his development against a tough Arizona Wildcats team.

Aside from a stumble against New Mexico, Mike Stoops’ Wildcats have trounced the opposition with a combination of dynamic offense and solid – sometimes smothering – defense. Quarterback Willie Tuitama has played very well, maximizing his opportunities and playing nearly mistake free football. Running back Nic Grigsby has slowed down the last two games. After starting off on a tear and totaling 304 yards and five touchdowns in the first two games, the sophomore has had just 131 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Expect Grigsby to get his groove back against a reeling Huskies team.

#23 Oregon at #9 Southern Cal

Here is where we find out what USC is made of. Can they recover from a stunning upset against Oregon State in time to take their frustrations out on the Oregon Ducks? Or will they continue to stumble as they try to figure out what went wrong?

When USC loses, they often lose to Pac 10 teams and #23 Oregon isn’t necessarily a push-over. The Ducks boast one of the best offenses in the nation. Chief among the things USC needs to focus on is stopping the run. Last week, Jacquizz Rodgers ran all over the much-vaunted Trojans. The Ducks are no slouches themselves as both LeGarrette Blount and Jeremiah Johnson are capable of moving the ball effectively on the ground. The Trojans must contain these two backs if they want to capitalize on Oregon’s quarterback problems. Justin Roper has missed two games with a knee injury, with sophomore Jeremiah Masoli and true freshman Darron Thomas filling in.

Quarterback Mark Sanchez needs to move the ball through the air and continue to take care of the ball. Although he only turned the ball over once last game, it was a crucial mistake, which killed a critical Trojan drive and led to another Oregon State score. Also, the running backs will need to be effective again on the ground, where Oregon State was able to shut them down. The Oregon defensive line is rock solid and USC will have it’s hands full both protecting Sanchez and opening holes for the run game. USC needs to come ready to play on Saturday. They have already had one letdown and they can be sure the Ducks will come ready to improve the state of Oregon’s record against USC to 2 – 0 on the season.

Washington State at UCLA

In a matchup between two struggling and lackluster teams, the winner may end up being whomever makes the least mistakes. Bruin quarterback Kevin Craft has settled down and taken far better care of the ball since an interception filled first half against Tennessee. He may not be the most physically gifted or skilled passer in the NCAA, but he is a decent game manager and should be able to keep the ball moving against a weak Cougar defensive squad. Across the field, both Cougar quarterbacks have had a problem keeping the ball away from the opposition. Senior Gary Rodgers has thrown four interceptions in three games and only topped the 100-yard mark once, while freshman Marshall Lobbestael has thrown three in three games. If Coach Rick Neuheisel’s defense can pressure the Washington State offense, it is likely the Cougars will blink first and the Bruins will have an excellent shot at walking away with their second win of the season.