By ANDREW GARDA - PAC-10 INSIDER
Washington (0-7, 0-4 Pac-10) @ #5 USC (6-1, 4-1 Pac-10)
Two teams on opposite sides of the spectrum meet in the Los Angeles Coliseum this Saturday when the fifth ranked Trojans welcome the winless Huskies to another destination on the road to imperfection.
It’s hard to imagine things getting worse for Washington, but USC head coach Pete Carroll’s squad is 23-0 in games in November. The Huskies don’t run the ball well, don’t score often and can only move the ball through the air marginally well.
Oh, and the Huskies are now coached by a lame duck, as the school announced Monday that this would be Coach Ty Willingham's last season with the team. That doesn’t mean he or the team will quit working hard, but it continues to be an uphill battle. A hill that is nearly vertical, by the way, with few handholds and it’s been greased by oil for the last month.
Expect USC to run away with this one and it’s really just a matter of which poison the Trojans decide to administer. Will they have quarterback Mark Sanchez throw the ball against a reeling secondary or will they have the tailback core of McKnight, Johnson and Gable grind it out on the ground?
One word of caution to the Trojans, though. The last two times these teams have met, it was closer than expected (27-24 last season and 26-20 in 2006).
This is a game the Trojans shouldn’t lose. But that doesn’t mean they won’t find it tougher than expected. USC is desperate for big wins if they want back in the National Title hunt. Even if they win, they cannot allow the Huskies to stay close.
#24 Oregon (6-2, 4-1 Pac-10) @ California (5-2, 3-1 Pac-10)
The Oregon Ducks have fought their way back into the Top 25 BCS rankings, but won’t get a chance to rest on their laurels as a tough Golden Bears team awaits them in Memorial Stadium. The Ducks will not only be defending their ranking, but the Pac-10 conference lead they share with No. 5 USC.
Oregon will look to quarterback Jeremiah Masoli to lead them to a third straight win. Masoli, a sophomore transfer from City College of San Francisco, wasn’t even slated to be a factor this year, but finds himself in the driver’s seat after knee injuries took out Nate Costa and Justin Roper. Masoli took over and never looked back.
California has had its share of quarterback issues as well. Sophomore Kevin Riley took the job, then lost it to senior Nate Longshore for a pair of games, only to regain it last week in their 41-20 drubbing of UCLA. Riley will need to remain consistent and protect the ball against a Duck defense that can be opportunistic.
Oregon’s offense also features a pair of dangerous running backs in Jeremiah Johnson and LeGarrette Blount who lead a rush attack that totaled 300 plus yards three times in the last four games. However, the Ducks’ unstoppable force meets the Golden Bears’ immovable objects this week. California’s defense has held opposing runners to less than 100 yards per game, so it will certainly be very interesting to see which side blinks.
Both teams are within sight of the Pac-10 lead (or at least a share of it) and both need to win in order to keep pace with USC. This will be one of the most competitive games in college football this weekend and is far and away the most intriguing game in the Pac-10.
Washington State (1-7, 0-5 Pac-10) @ Stanford (4-4, 3-2 Pac-10)
Stanford still has to be trying to figure out what happened in their loss to UCLA on October 18, as they managed to collapse late in the fourth quarter. The defense couldn’t finish the game, allowing the Bruins to drive down the field, score and burn nearly all the time left on the clock.
Cardinal quarterback Tavita Pritchard needs to start protecting the ball better and cut down on his interceptions, five of which have come in the last three games. In their last game he was abysmal, barely cresting 51 yards. He should against the terrible Cougar defense.
Even if Pritchard struggles, the Cardinal can turn to junior running back Toby Gerhart, who has been having a solid season, topping 100 yards five times in eight games Stanford. Gerhart will be the focus of this offense and it is unlikely Washington State will be able to stop him even if they know where the play is being run.
Arizona State (2-5, 1-3 Pac-10) @ Oregon State (4-3, 3-1 Pac-10)
Oregon State has played very well in conference, not dropping a game in Pac-10 play since losing the opener to Stanford 36-28.
This is a team not to be underestimated. Led by freshman running back Jacquizz Rodgers (812yards, nine touchdowns) and junior quarterback Lyle Moevao (1,779 yards, 13 touchdowns to eight interceptions), Oregon State has multiple weapons to move the ball against an underwhelming Sun Devil team which can’t keep it’s best weapon – quarterback Rudy Carpenter – upright long enough to return from any real deficit.
Arizona State needs to do something to protect Carpenter and fast. The offensive line has to find a way to not only give him time to get the ball off, but cut down on the hits he takes even after he has released the rock. It would also be a big help if the ground game could get going again. Last week they tipped past 100 yards total rushing for the first time since they did it against UNLV way back on September 19.
If the Sun Devils cannot get the run going, defenses can either blanket Carpenter’s receivers or blitz the heck out of the line and that has been exactly what opponents have done. It’s no wonder Carpenter has been hurt the last few seasons. It’s amazing he’s still alive.
Oregon State is trying to make a run at the Pac 10 title and maybe a ranking. Arizona State is just trying to get back to respectable.
Saturday, November 1, 2008
By ANDREW GARDA - PAC-10 INSIDER