Saturday, November 29, 2008

Pac-10 Preview - Week Fourteen


#24 Oregon at #16 Oregon State

The Civil War is rejoined for the 112th time, as the two rivals clash in Corvallis with a ton on the line. Regardless of circumstance both teams play for pride, but for the Oregon State Beavers there is more at stake than that – the Pac-10 Conference. It would be OSU’s first Rose Bowl appearance in 44 years.

The Beavers had a rough start to the season, dropping their first two contests, including a drubbing to their would be Rose Bowl opponent Penn State. But the team turned it around and has been on a tear. Much of their success has been due to the spectacular play of freshman running back Jacquizz Rodgers, who will not be available for this game. It will be a challenge to overcome his loss. His older brother, wide receiver James, was able to step in as a replacement tailback last week to the tune of 102 yards and a touchdown. Handing him the ball should be quarterback Lyle Moevao, who missed last week with a shoulder injury. James Rodgers was key in last season’s double overtime victory at Oregon.

The Ducks’ offense isn’t too shabby, with their two-headed backfield of Jeremiah Johnson and LeGarrette Blount Oregon. Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli is coming off of the best game of his career, a 298-yard, two-touchdown performance versus the Arizona Wildcats.

Either offense is capable of putting up some points and it will be up to the defenses to step up. The team that is able to make plays on defense side of the ball will likely be on the winning side of this battle.

Notre Dame @ #5 USC

Once upon a time, this was one of THE biggest rivalries in college football. This is the 80th meeting between the two teams and while a long list of critical, hard-fought and exciting games can be compiled with Notre Dame struggling so badly and USC’s recent domination – the game has certainly lost some of its luster. Charlie Weiss’ team has had a rough season coming off a horrid loss to Syracuse at home last week.

Mark Sanchez, who threw for four touchdowns in last year’s meeting, is healthy and playing solid ball. The run game has been firing on all cylinders again, led by Stafon Johnson (115 yards and a pair of touchdowns last week). With USC it’s just as likely that CJ Gable or one of the other backs in the stable might break free for a big game.

USC’s defense is dominant – arguably the best in college football. Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen, who has played well for stretches this season, will need to be mistake-free again against a USC defense that excels at bringing heat and forcing turnovers. Only able to muster 41 yards on the ground against the Orange, the Irish will struggle to have a balanced offense against USC.

Washington State @ Hawaii

With two wins under their belt, the Cougars can at least take solace in the fact that they end their season in the gorgeous state of Hawaii. Coming off a tight win over in-state rival Washington, could Washington State forge a short win streak to finish out their otherwise miserable season.

Junior quarterback Kevin Lopina has yet to throw a touchdown, but has no problem finding members of opposing teams (11 interceptions). He has to take care of the ball better and find a way to get it to talented receivers Brandon Gibson and Jeshua Anderson.

Hawaii quarterback Inoke Funaki has had a rough season himself, taking over for Colt Brennan with a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 6-12. While Wazzu doesn’t have much to play for, a seventh win for Hawaii could have bowl implications.

Photo Credit: Kirby Lee (USC)