It's only Week 3, and there are no more favorites for the Pac-10. Right now, you could make a solid case for seven or eight of the ten teams winning the crown. I'll let you figure out which teams I've eliminated.
Washington 16, USC 13
I dunno. I'm kinda bummed about this.
I mean, yeah, I was excited and all about the game itself. It showcased all of USC's vulnerabilities against a gutsy but outclassed (talentwise) Husky team, and it provided all the blueprints for how to beat the Trojans in 2009 (more on that in a week). And, yeah, I know, it's USC, and "FUCK SC" and all that
As for the consequences of this loss...not so excited.
If USC had squeaked this one out, they probably wouldn't have been satisfied, but they would have certainly been the favorites heading into our game, or at least perceived as the top dog. We could have played the underdog role all we want, with the Trojans being ranked higher than us even if they've played crappier than us, etc. It's the sort of strategy that paid off the last time we beat USC, and when we stomped on Oregon in 2006.
It's not that I feel Cal won't get up for this game, but USC won't sit on this loss either. They're going to retool, refocus, and prepare hard to beat down the Bears these next two weeks. With California facing a tough road fight this week while USC plays a scrimmage with the Cougars, you could see the Bears succumbing to expectations and maybe playing down. The season (and our BCS hopes) literally come down to that game...
Eh, I've got to stop thinking about this. Let's deal with Oregon first.
How do you feel about USC falling to another weak opponent before our matchup with them? Comment and vote!
More thoughts and analysis on the game after the jump.
Today, after waiting on the bench for three years, fracturing my fibula, and losing my job to a nineteen-year-old, I finally got a chance to start for one of the best teams in the country. We lost to a team that went 0-12 last year. FML
Let's clear this out of the way: USC doesn't lose this game if they don't fumble the ball a hundred thousand times. They turned over the ball three times inside Washington's 35, and while Joe McKnight didn't lose the ball on that final play, his inability to take care of the ball cost the Trojans what might have been the go-ahead touchdown. Four crucial mistakes took ten to twenty points off the board.
The stat that's most worth mentioning is the 0 for 10 on 3rd down conversions. Aaron Corp looked like he was throwing pineapples out there. Throwing half of his passes into double coverage was also a nice little gem; it was like every game of Madden All-Pro I've ever played.
Let’s assume for a minute that SC is going to lose to Cal and 1 – 2 other Pac 10 teams [note by Avi: I'm not assuming that]. Given the number of solid offensive players who are eligible to go pro, it seems to me that this is the season to get a QB experience to compensate for newer WRs and RBs next year. If Barkley’s the guy, might as well get him the game time now instead of rotating.
As for Washington, anyone still going to defend Ty Willingham? In three weeks, Steve Sarkisian already has this team thinking about a bowl. And he's really developed his talented quarterback.
This game was sweet sweet music for Jake Locker, who dealt with two horrifying years of injury and vulnerability, not to mention a coaching staff that ran him into the ground. And frighteningly for the rest of the Pac-10, he can finally throw the ball. 60% completion rate, 6.8 yards per pass. Most impressively of all, he converted six 3rd down throws into first downs, plus a 3rd down run, including three on the final two scoring drives. These included a 3rd and 11, a 3rd and 15, and a 3rd and 17.
Taylor Mays's absence really hurt them in these situations. Without USC there. The Trojan defense wasn't playing really close to the cuff, and played a deep zone coverage that would've made most Cal fans wince, but without Mays there to monitor the quarterback the secondary was tenuous on the big drives in the game. It allowed Locker to find the seams, and when he was flushed out by the Trojan pass rush, he found his men on the run inside the areas the USC defenders were covering.
He's still far from a precision passer, but Locker looks like he's poised for great things in his final two seasons. It didn't hurt to have half of last season's Trojan coaching staff helping picking them apart, yet the game winning drives were all him.
These coaches get it. It is game three and how many players on the team haven't bought into what these guys are doing yet? If there were any non believers on Friday I can't imagine there are any left today. This staff seemingly is doing everything right. They get 110% effort out of their kids every game. What is really impressive is the improvement in so many area's on the team. Kudo's to Dan Cozzetto for getting a rag tag offensive line ready to play over the last six months. What he has done with these kids is the definition of coaching!
Are the Huskies heading to a bowl this year?
Oregon 31, Utah 24
So much for the program collapsing. The Ducks are starting to gel just in time for our meeting at Autzen.
Jeremiah Masoli had his worst game as a Duck. The offensive line still looks terrifically vulnerable. And Oregon keeps on fumbling the ball--they've lost six already over the first three games, next to last in D-1. But Oregon's defense is regaining their edge, and the running game is back. Those two things are all you need to start ringing the bells for upset, especially for a team that loves nothing more but to run.
Let's focus on the Ducks defense for now (more dissection of the running game later on). After giving up 36 points and 451 yards to a Purdue team that lost to Northern Illinois, they pretty much shut down the Utes. 14 of Utah's 24 points came off of a block punt which provided a short field for the Utes, and a fumble recovery returned for a touchdown. Utah had four drives of seven plays or more. They scored on two of those drives (and that offensive touchdown required Utah's QB to throw across his body) but were held up on downs on the other two. Add in two interceptions in the 4th quarter, and you'd have to say the Duck defense carried the game.
Keep in mind this was a Duck defense that held Jahvid Best in check last season (16 carries, 93 yards is average for the Jet, even in a monsoon). So we shouldn't take anything for granted.
On the flipside, fans from AtQ were not impressed at all with their quarterback.
I'll get straight to the point here. We won this game in spite of Jeremiah Masoli. Everyone knows I'm a Masoli homer and entirely against seeing a backup QB this early - but Christ, get it together man. I think it is indeed time to drop the gloves and expect much more of him. It's not asking for a Civil War performance day in and day out. It's asking for him to get more accurate now. He's had his preparation games - and today there was no improvement as we'd hoped. His reads were sometimes questionable, and his passes were very inaccurate. The fumble was a bummer but I must say it's not the kind of thing that I think will turn out as a huge problem. The huge problem is his passing game, and it must be dealt with in the coming week.
What is the bigger issue: Cal's offense dealing with Oregon's defense, or Jeremiah Masoli dealing with Cal's 3-4?
Cincinnati 28, Oregon State 18
Doesn't look like the strategy has changed much--give the Rodgers brothers the ball, let them produce. They have approximately 70% of the all-purpose yards this season for the Beavers, and against Cincinnati had ALL the rushing yards and about half the receiving yards. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough, as Cincinnati's 3-4 defense pummeled Sean Canfield for five sacks, killing several drives. The Bearcats gave up less than three yards per rushing carry, keeping the Beavers out of the end zone save on all but one possession.
Defense, I felt the D actually played well, especially considering the team they were playing. The defense held Cincinnati to 28 points total and only a TD in the second half, setting up the offense to win it (but alas, see below). I think the main problem was defensive penetration for the QB had a lot of time to throw and this put a ton of pressure on the corners who had to deal with some excellent throws. It is tough though and seeing the spread offense in person you can see how it poses such an issue for our up-front defensive line and linebackers.
Like I said last week though, all of this analysis of the Beavers is meaningless since we'll be down by seven to them at halftime in seven weeks.
Does any analysis of Oregon State's play in September matter anymore?
UCLA 23, Kansas State 9
Our younger brothers to the South look more impressive, week by week. Like him or not, Rick Neuheisel has the Bruins believing they have a date with the top of the conference.
And that defense is starting to look real good (In terms of national rankings, they're 15th in rushing YPC, 13th in completion percentage, T-12th in passing YPA, 7th in passer rating, 3rd in passes defended, T-2nd in interceptions, 14th in 3rd down conversion rate, T-19th for tackles for loss, T-16th for sacks).
I write this section, not to criticize the D, but rather because I am tired of the criticism of Kevin Craft and the praise for the D. Neither are soundly rooted in fact.
I see the ugly remnants of the CTS/Walker D this season. Inconsistent from the get go. Why must we start every game by giving up a long drive? Why do we wait until late in the game to dominate? Why can't we stop a spread? Even a spread by teams that have not been or will not be highly ranked?
At times last night, our tackling was atrocious. Shades of the past.
And the penalties. Don't get me started. Yes, some were SPTR penalties, but when you have people in a hole, giving first downs or improved field position by penalty is not the way to win games.
I'm so sick of the complaints that the O forces the D to be mediocre. For the last few years, this has been a D that cannot get itself off the field. This year, the added wrinkle: Our D is starting with better field position than it has in the past. Thank you Locke.
In the first quarter, fresh off the bench, the D was on the field for 9 and 8 play drives. In the second quarter, one 3 and out and 6 and 7 play drives. The D, on it's first time on the field after the half, gave up a 14 play drive that resulted in a touchdown. The following: 3,6,3,11 and 4.
Will UCLA be undefeated (they play Oregon at home and at the Furd) when we play them in the Rose Bowl?
Iowa 27, Arizona 17
This week was the land of broken cars in Pac-10 quarterback land. I felt like Kevin Riley didn't play that well, and he was still probably one of the top tier performers under center in the conference this weekend. Arizona? They got problems.
How do you see the Arizona-Oregon State game turning out this Saturday night?
The rest of the games
Arizona State 38, Louisiana Monroe 14
For the second game this week the defense shined, dominating an inferior opponent. The D-Unit forced 3 turnovers and held ULM to under 200 total yards (199). The pass rush seemed to come and go (0 sacks), but the coaches were subbing players in and out liberally, not willing to risk injury in a warm-up game. Expect to see a lot more of the starters throughout the game next week.
Washington State 30, Southern Methodist 27 (OT)
At the end of the day I can't decide. I'm thrilled we avoided 0-12. I'm shocked we have to deal with the threat of that futility in the first place. I feel there are times Wulff is in over his head, and that gimmicky no-huddle offense should have been left back with the Eastern Eagles. I also feel there are times that Wulff is resurrecting a program from its lowest depths with exceptional recruiting and decent in-game coaching. He wins close games; something Doba rarely did. But he also gets blown out. A lot. We've had some brilliant moments, but we've also had quite a few embarrassments.
Wulff has only had a little over a year to coach at WSU. Hardly enough time to give a conclusive evaluation. And yet, the Cougs are getting killed out there. USC ran out the clock during the first half last year, in scoring position with a 41-0 lead, out of pity for the crimson and gray team they were slaughtering. If there was a mercy rule, it would've been enacted. And yet we beat a Washington team last year that had much of the talent that beat USC today. We look like a team that could get beat by a FCS team at any moment; yet we blew out the one FCS opponent we've faced under Wulff.
I'm at a loss to decide if Wulff is our savior or our program-killer.
Middle Tennessee State 32, Maryland 31
Da'Rel Scott, an All-ACC RB, had 13 rushes for 117 yards, a 9.0 ypc average, and a touchdown. After a single fumble early in the second quarter, he is forced to sit and watch Davin Meggett take snap...after snap...after snap in his place. While Meggett and Scott do usually rotate, it's generally not for that length of time, and there's usually much more flexibility - when Scott is killing it, as he was, and Meggett is struggling, as he was, the coaches usually turn it over to Scott. It's not tough to come to the conclusion that Scott's quarter long stay on the bench was a punishment of sorts, or at least reluctance to put him back on the field for fear of another fumble.
DRS had to wait until the second half to get a second chance, coming out and leading the Terps on their second long TD drive of the game (the first being the one capped by his 48 yard TD run). But that wouldn't last long, as he would fumble the ball away again in the late 3rd quarter, and wouldn't see the field for the rest of the game.
Remember, Scott had a 9 ypc average and 117 yards. Davin Meggett, in his place, averaged 2.8 ypc, racking up 66 fewer yards despite carrying the ball five more times.
Good decision there, coaching staff.
Furd 42, San Jose State 17
Jon Wilner wrote up what amounts to a recap of the game. Not really going to spend too much time looking at it. We'll know more about the Trees when they enter Pac-10 season.