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This Week In The Pac: Rethink Everything?

For an even deeper look at all of the Pac-10 action check out Avi's must-read on SBNation's home page

Stanford:  Offensive juggernaut?
Arizona St.:  Sudden contender?
UCLA:  Not completely hopeless?
Washington:  Still coached by Ty?!?

This week was billed by Uncle Ted as ‘Measuring Stick Saturday,’ and in a macro sense it probably was – the Pac-10’s performance this week will likely have a lasting impact on how the league is viewed in total.  But individually?  Lots of Pac-10 teams that we thought we were starting to get a handle on threw us all for a loop with performances ranging from great to awful and everywhere in between.  Let’s begin with the team that boosted their stock the most, and also the team that is the most pressing concern for Cal fans:

Arizona 34, Iowa 27

You can mark me down as someone who was a bit skeptical of Iowa entering this season after one of the luckier runs at an undefeated season last year.  Nevertheless, Iowa is an excellent team and Arizona performed well to pull what appears to be a very mild upset.  Foles performed with his usual bubble-screen fueled efficiency, Iowa was completely unable to run the ball (Red Alert for Cal fans nervous about run blocking: Iowa’s two running backs gained 35 yards on 17 carries) and Ricky Stanzi wasn’t able to carry Iowa’s offense by himself for the victory.

If you’re looking for a silver lining, Arizona looked vulnerable deep through the air as Iowa gained 15.5 yards per completion, though the Arizona defense only allowed a 55% completion percentage.  AZDesertSwarm isn't letting the good times go to their head:

Should Cal's lackluster performance under the Friday night lights give Arizona extra confidence heading into this Saturday's game?  Absolutely not.  Does anyone need to be reminded of last year?  Cal is a familiar opponent for Arizona, and they are likely to give Arizona all they have Saturday night. 

Saturday's win put the rest of the Pac-10 on alert.  The Wildcats are not to be taken lightly this year.  From here on out, here's guessing no one will.  Cal is the first Pac-10 test.  Arizona needs to come out and show last Saturday was not a one-time occurrence and Arizona is here to stay.

What will Cal need to do to bounce back against Arizona, and which Bears need to have big games?

Nebraska 56, Washington 21

I’ve been on record multiple times that I wasn’t buying Washington as a Pac-10 contender, or maybe not even a bowl team.  But even I was shocked watching parts of Nebraska’s utterly complete annihilation of the Huskies.  Nebraska ran the ball, and UW couldn’t stop them.  So they ran some more, and UW still couldn’t stop them.  So they kept on running the ball, until they had 3 100 yard rushers that went for a total of 383 yards on 54 carries for 6 touchdowns and 7 yards per attempt.  UWDawgPound looks at the grisly wreckage:

I really don't have a problem with the way the coaches called the game on offense or defense. This game was lost the old fashioned way. Nebraska was the better team and they came out and manhandled us physically on both sides of the ball. We didn't tackle well on defense and we didn't execute well on offense. This team can play a lot better than this but for some reason they just didn't put it together against the Cornhuskers.

Obviously there was a talent deficiency going on all over the field but the bottom line is the coaches didn't have the team ready to play.

Has Washington regressed from a 5-7 2009, or is Nebraska just that good?

Jake Locker's struggles, appropriately set to what I believe is a Disturbed song entitled 'Striken.'  Oh the pathos!

Wisconsin 20, Arizona St. 19

Special Teams giveth, and special teams taketh away.  Arizona State played evenly on the road against heavily favored Wisconsin in part because their return team gashed the Badgers for 288 total return yards.  But a missed PAT and 25 yard field goal ultimately were the differences.  Still, ASU can take a number of positives away from this game, like the twin performances of Steven Threet (21-33, 211 yards) and Deantre Lewis (9 carries, 122 yards).  Add that to a defense that we already knew was pretty good (#8 in the nation last year, #? in the nation this year) and ASU suddenly doesn’t seem like such an easy out anymore.  HouseofSparky is both disappointed and encouraged:

In 2009, ASU was plagued with slow, safe players and moribund running schemes. The quarterback was unable to make accurate throws, and the team showed no confidence in itself.

Traveling to Madison, the Sun Devils weren't supposed to have a chance. But this team has swagger, speed, and a chip on their shoulders. We are looking at a team that ran wild on special teams, and showed the nation that they can hang with anyone.

How many teams (if any) has ASU leapfrogged in your Pac-10 rankings?

Stanford 68, Wake Forest 24

OK, I’m not going to freak out.  68 points doesn’t necessarily mean anything.  I mean, Wake Forest gave up 48 points to Duke, of all teams.  DUKE!  And, and Duke gained 487 yards compared to Stanford’s 535.  So Stanford was only 48 yards better than Duke.  Ergo, Stanford sucks!  Phew, that was a close one guys.

Do you agree with Norcalnick’s 100% airtight logical proof that Stanford isn’t good?

Caution: Highlights may be hazardous to your health

UCLA 31, Houston 13

Did this game save UCLA’s season?  I suppose it’s possible.  The Bruins did the sensible thing against a non AQ team with an injured star QB – they handed the ball off to their running back and let their more talented line lead the way.  226 rushing yards later the Bruins went home with a desperately needed win.  Kevin Prince didn’t do much to quiet his critics – 9-17 for 99 yards and one interception against a bad defense isn’t going to convince anyone.  But UCLA successfully took advantage of an iffy Case Keenum with two interceptions and cruised behind the running game.  Bruinsnation is cautiously encouraged:

On the whole, a very solid performance from all parts of the Bruin football program. With the heat on, everyone from the coaches on down to the players stepped up, but that's not to say it was a flawless performance. An interception and two fumbles by Malcolm Jones saw the Bruins turn the ball over more than necessary and UCLA racked up the personal foul penalties in several examples of poor discipline. Other kinks need to be worked out too, such as Sean Westgate still being a liability against the run and more drops from the receiving corps, but when a 0-2 team can roll to a win over a top-25 team, they did a lot more good than bad.

Did this win cause you to rethink any of the conclusions you made last week about UCLA?

Oregon St. 35, Louisville 28

Although the Beavers survived, this was another surprise.  You could make an argument that Louisville outplayed OSU and lost because they lost the turnover battle 2-0.  Jacquizz Rodgers had an average day by his standards, but no other Beaver had more than 49 yards from scrimmage and OSU allowed a presumably mediocre Louisville team back into the game after taking a 21 point lead in the 3rd quarter.  Buildingthedam is concerned:

This was a concerning game. Everything the Beavers did needs to improve in order to beat Boise State, I felt better with the loss to TCU than I did with this win versus Louisville. The defense must improve and the offense still has to fix some things as well. I'm hoping that OSU just looked past Louisville and that the real team will show up on the smurf turf. They can win that game if everything goes perfectly with a monster game from Quizz and solid play from the defense.

Who wins on the Smurf Turf next week?

USC 32, Minnesota 21

Another week, another lackluster USC victory against a below average opponent.  So far USC’s fallen opponents have managed to muster a 7 point win over Middle Tennessee St., a 3 point win over Army and a victory over FCS Richmond.  GAH!  Any other year and USC might be 1-2 right now, but an unusually lame out of conference schedule has allowed the Trojans to sleepwalk to an undefeated record.  Well, maybe this is the week that a legit team actually beats. . . OH COME ON, THEY PLAY WSU NEXT?!?  That’s just not fair.  USC might actually be able to waltz into Stanford Stadium at 5-0 in a few weeks. ConquestChronicles is pleased with a better performance than against Hawaii and Virginia:

For once during this 2010 USC football season, I'm smiling. No, not the type of widening grin you'd expect to see following a national championship, Rose Bowl victory, or seasonal win over UCLA.  But the type of smirk that conveys a feeling of contentment. Because, for once this year, I'm satisfied with a win.

The offense wasn't putrid like it was during the home opener against Virginia. Allen Bradford finally appeared healthy, rushing for 131 yards on 12 carries in replacement for the starting Marc Tyler. Matt Barkley, despite two interceptions in which one of them can be attributed to a communication lapse, still managed to throw two touchdowns while completing 65% of his passes.

USC is 'only favored by 21.5 over Washington St. in Pullman.  Do the Trojans cover?

Southern Methodist 35, Washington St. 21

Washington St. didn’t turn the ball over.  They gained 350 yards on offense.  They didn’t get completely torched on defense.  Their punter was Nick Harris levels of awesome.

And they still lost to an average Conference USA team by 14 points.  Cougcenter, as always, soldiers on:

We covered the spread! Jeff and I were trying to figure out the last time this happened. Last year against USC, maybe? Sad that covering the spread is a big deal these days...

It was a moral victory in the end, but at the very least it exceeded most of our expectations. USC comes to town next week in the Pac-10 opener for WSU. It'll be interesting to see if the defense can build off its performance today and if the offense can step-up and make some plays.

Oregon Eleventy Zillion, Portland St. 0

It’s bad enough when inconsistent teams like Cal schedule FCS teams.  But legit national championship contenders like Oregon really don’t need to inflict this kind of pain upon the soft underbelly of college football.  AddictedtoQuack successfully identified the most important takeaway for Duck fans:

nobody tore an ACL

How many points does Oregon’s offense score on the road against the Arizona St. defense?



Oregon St. and Stanford attempt to defend the Pac-10's honor against a desperate-for-a-statement-win Boise St. team and a desperate-for-anything-positive Notre Dame team.  UCLA tries to remember why scheduling Texas seemed like such a good idea at the time.

And in games that actually matter in the conference standings, we have two rather intriguing matchups: 

Oregon @ ASU - Vontaze Burfict + zone read = SUPER AWESOME FUN TIMES

Cal @ Arizona - Maybe Nick Foles will decide that a triple pass would be a fun challenge?