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This Week In The Pac: Halfway Home

We're about halfway through the 2010 regular season, but little has been settled out west.  In the same week that first place Oregon played last place Washington St., the biggest blowout of the week was at Strawberry Canyon rather than Pullman.  Just another weird, exciting week in the most competitive conference in the nation.  Despite Cal’s 35-7 win, this week was characterized by incredibly evenly matched games that went right down to the wire.  Let’s start in the desert:

Oregon St. 29, Arizona 27

There aren’t many things you can count on in the Pac-10, but two multi-year trends played a prominent role in this game:  The annual Pac-10 surge by Oregon St. and upstart Pac-10 dreams taking a hit in Tucson.  But the twist this year is that it was Arizona’s own title hopes that were diminished, rather than the visitor like UCLA, Cal and Oregon in years past.

This game might be a bit of a hidden classic.  Adding to mounting evidence that Cal’s defense is shockingly legit, Nick Foles bounced back from a 25-39, 212 yard performance against the Bears to go 35-46 for 440 yards.  But he was matched by Ryan Katz’s breakout performance and the difference in an amazingly even game was probably a missed 37 yard field goal from Wildcat Ryan Zendejas.  Consider the similarities in this game:

-Both teams only had 1 turnover – a costly red zone interception to end a scoring chance.
-Both teams missed at least 1 extra point.
-Both teams ran for approx. 100 yards.
-Both QBs had at least 30 completions and ~400 yards.
-Both teams recorded 3 sacks.
-OSU had 25 first downs to Arizona’s 26

So maybe it’s not a shock that one field goal could make the difference.  Building the Dam tempers their happiness because James Rodgers suffered a serious knee injury:

The biggest one is any win against Arizona is a big one. The ‘Cats are one rough, tough bunch. It's the third year in a row Oregon St. has gone down to the wire against them, and only the costly trips to Tucson resulted in wins.

Costly because both times the Rodgers brothers have ventured down there, one has come away with a serious injury. Jacquizz saw his season end two years ago in Tucson, and James may well have encountered the same fate, after a second quarter knee injury that left him on crutches.

Meanwhile, AZ Desert Swarm makes a complaint many Cal fans have made over the years:

I am at a loss as to what happened last night.  The offense seemingly put enough points on the board, yet the defense was unable to stop the pass, allowing 393 yards and 2 TDs.  The run defense was stout, but that alone will not win a game.

The constant cushion around the Oregon St. receivers had me, and everyone in the stands around me, infuriated all night long.  The Arizona secondary is very good.  Why were we handicapping them all night by forcing them to play back off of the receivers?

With road trips to Stanford and Oregon still left on the schedule, do you think Arizona is still a Pac-10 title threat?

How much does James Rodger’s season ending injury impact the Beavers?

Stanford 37, USC 34

After a series of middling performances not in line with his talent or hype, Andrew Luck busted out against USC’s secondary to help earn a Cardinal win.  Meanwhile, both defenses showed that they are not quite ready for prime time.  Rule of Tree is pretty pleased with Luck:

How good was Andrew Luck last night? The Stanford quarterback completed 83 percent of his passes, led a game-winning drive in the final minute, threw for three touchdowns, no interceptions, and 285 yards, and made the hit of the night on USC's Shareece Wright following one of two Stepfan Taylor fumbles. Yeah, I'd say that's helmet sticker worthy.

Conquest Chronicles loves the offense, not the defense:

That we were even in this game at the end was surprising. I didn't expect it and I doubt that very many others expected it either. We exposed the Stanford defense tonight...just like Oregon did.

This was not a moral victory...but we saw the offense do EXACTLY what we expect out of them! There were very few miscues on offense. Barkley, RoJo and Woods were like a well oiled machine. The running game sputtered but when we needed it Allen Bradford got us the TD.

Once again the defense let us down.

Can Kevin Riley exploit an obviously iffy USC secondary, or will Cal again have to rely on Shane Vereen?

When the Big Game rolls around do you think it will match up the conference's best offensive line (Stanford) vs. the best defensive front 7 (Cal)?  Or is that horribly premature?

Arizona St. 24, Washington 14

It’s still early in the season, but based on how these two teams have faired their matchup on Saturday was probably a virtual elimination game for eventual bowl eligibility.  ASU came in 2-3, and because they played two FCS teams they need 7 wins to go bowling.  A loss meant they would have to go 5-1 over the 2nd half of the season.  Meanwhile Washington knew that with a loss they could be staring 2-7 in the face with four straight games against ranked teams to follow the Sun Devils.

But in the end it was Steven Threet (21-34, 288 yards) who won the QB battle with Jake Locker (23-38, 209 yards), which pretty much everybody was predicting would happen at the beginning of the season.  UW Dawg Pound would like to see Locker throwing less!

It would have been interesting to see what Polk and Callier could have done combining for 40 or more carries. They could have controlled the ball, ran the clock, and limited ASU's time of possession. Running the ball more would have taken a lot of pressure off Jake. Sark didn't recognize it and it seems that running the ball is secondary to passing in his offense.

Arizona State isn't a bad team, but they certainly aren't a great team, or even necessarily a better team. They had a better game plan and adapted to the weather better than the Huskies did. They got ahead early, eliminated mistakes, and made the Huskies chase them.  On a rainy night in Seattle running the ball right at ASU was the right call. Sark needs to start relying more on his running game.

House of Sparky finally get to celebrate a win over an FBS team!

Steven Threet only threw one interception, Mike Willie caught five passes for 96 yards and a score, and Kyle Middlebrooks averaged 8.3 yards on seven carries.  Heck, Vontaze Burfict stepped up and played under control.

Washington is 2-4 with the following games left: vs. OSU, @ AZ, vs. Stan, @ Ore, vs. UCLA, @ Cal, @ WSU.  Will the Huskies be bowling?

Arizona has a bye week before they play Cal.  How terrified are you of Steven Threet and Vontaze Burfict? (Points scored by UW in 1st quarter without Burfict – 7.  Points scored by UW in next three quarters against Burfict – 7.)

Oregon 43, Washington St. 23

Perhaps the least interesting yet most shocking score of the week.  Everybody knew Oregon was going to win and they did, by 20 points even.  Yawn.  And yet, Washington St. was competitive and even got within 12 yards of cutting Oregon’s lead to 6 near the end of the 3rd quarter.  Everybody suspected that Jeff Tuel was talented, but he and his receivers have developed faster than most expected.  Cougcenter is pretty happy:

After being blown out in Stillwater and narrowly escaping Montana State at home, I was done. I was done with the team, done with the staff and had little hope for this year. Everything looked bleak and it was depressing to watch as a fan.

Then things started to change.

And then two players were caught growing marijuana.  Poor WSU fans can't catch a break.

Meanwhile, Addicted to Quack is just happy to get a win:

On a scale of one to ten on how sloppy this game was, if Stanford was a 10, this game was a -6538.  Offense with a lot of turnovers, penalties and missed assignments.  Defense let WSU bring the game to them, and when they did attack they looked slow and sluggish.  Well, a win is a win, let's take the "W" and get the hell out of Pullman.

As Avi pointed out, it's happening. Who's getting Coug'd?

Oregon @ Oregon St., December 4th.  Will the Civil War decide the Rose Bowl again?

Next week

Cal @ USC, 12:30, CSN
Arizona @ Washington St., 4:30, VERSUS
Oregon St. @ Washington, 7:15 ESPN

A pretty weak slate, as four schools enjoy off weeks (and Oregon and UCLA prepare for a nationally televised, Thursday night clash).  Cal @ USC has to be the headliner.  Get your picks in now!