By ANDREW GARDA - PAC-10 INSIDER
ARIZONA STATE at #5 USC
A few weeks ago, this looked like an interesting matchup between two very good quarterbacks on teams who shared a Pac-10 title last year and would likely be fighting for the Pac-10 title again.
Maybe not. First USC dropped it’s Pac-10 opener while Arizona State stumbled in an out of conference match-up, which sent them into a tailspin that has yet to come to an end.
Both quarterbacks are in danger of missing a matchup already robbed of some of its luster. Sun Devil quarterback Rudy Carpenter sprained his ankle in last weekend’s loss to California while USC quarterback Mark Sanchez sustained a bone bruise during the Trojan victory against the Oregon Ducks. Both are hoping to play in a very important conference game, but either player could be a huge loss for their team, with Carpenter more likely to miss the contest.
If Sanchez cannot go, Pete Carroll will turn to Arkansas transfer Mitch Mustain who looked good last week when he entered the game (5-of-8 for 111 yards and a touchdown). Mustain also threw an interception. While Sanchez knows the offense better and is an important leader on the sidelines, Mustain has worked hard to get up to speed on the subtleties of Carroll’s offense and he should be able to move the chains if he is called upon to play.
If Carpenter cannot go, things are a little dicier. Coach Dennis Erickson will have to hope that junior Danny Sullivan can stay vertical behind a shaky offensive line. But that’s really the least of ASU’ issues. The run game has been non existent this season and the team is turning over the ball at an alarming rate – five times over the last three games.
If ASU hands the ball to USC’s defense like that, it may not matter who is taking snaps under center.
ARIZONA at STANFORD
The Wildcats sit atop the Pac-10 rankings with California, clearly in the drivers seat. However, a title is long way away and they will have to avoid a letdown to Stanford.
So far, Arizona has played well, limiting turnovers, moving the ball efficiently and into the end zone regularly. However, their victories have come largely at the expense of teams that were not powerhouses and even then, they managed to lose a match-up they should have won versus New Mexico. The coming games will be a real challenge to Arizona. The offensive line will need to make sure they give quarterback William Tuitama enough time to find his receivers and sophomore running back Nic Grigsby lanes to run through.
Stanford has been very streaky, at times they are able to move the ball well and score points but just as often they turn the ball over and struggling on both sides of the ball. Coach Jim Harbaugh will need to get his team to remain focused after their tough loss at Notre Dame, mainly quarterback Tavita Pritchard, who will need to stop throwing interceptions if he wants to keep his team in the game. The rushing game will need to get some momentum going. If they can control the clock via the run and keep from turning the ball over, they might be able to wear the Wildcats down and send Arizona home with a loss.
UCLA at OREGON
It looks to be a very long day waiting for coach Rick Neuheisel’s Bruins as they will feel the wrath of an Oregon team that was abused by the USC Trojans last week. Oregon will look to get the running back duo of Jeremiah Johnson and LaGarrette Blount back on track after being limited to just 45 yards against USC. Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli will also look to rebound from a subpar game.
UCLA quarterback Kevin Craft has been a good caretaker the last few games, but that won’t be enough against a dynamic Duck defense, nor will it be enough to keep up with an explosive Oregon offense. Craft was never meant to be the starter and his lack of ability will keep UCLA from really making a game of it at Autzen Stadium this weekend.
WASHINGTON STATE at OREGON STATE
Despite their upset win over USC, Oregon State has largely been ineffective. The lone bright spot has been freshman phenom Jacquizz Rodgers who came to prominence in that victory over the Trojans. Rodgers has been on point since the second week against Penn State where he totaled 127 yards combined and two touchdowns. Win or lose, Rodgers is a threat every time he gets the ball.
You can’t say enough about how much Washington State has struggled. Nothing much has gone right for the Cougars this season from injuries to bad penalties to a misfiring offensive and defensive schemes. It’s hard to pinpoint what might turn them around, especially when they were just blown out by the woeful Bruins last week. This game looks to be exceedingly lopsided and it will be all the Cougars can do to just keep it close.