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September 6, 2006

Pac-10: Week 2 Breakdown

Fox's Pac-10 Week 1 picks
Rivals.com national writer David Fox's predictions for Week 1 in the Pac-10.
Thursday's game:
Boise State 38, Oregon State 35
Saturday's games:
LSU 21, Arizona 10
Arizona State 28, Nevada 20
Cal 24, Minnesota 17
Oregon 35, Fresno State 31
Stanford 28, San Jose State 17
UCLA 42, Rice 21
Oklahoma 28, Washington 14
Idaho 28, Washington State 24
Last week: 7-2. Season: 7-2.

Best matchup: LSU's Dwayne Bowe and Craig Davis vs. Arizona's Antoine Cason and Wilrey Fontenot. Arizona's duo is the Pac-10's most experienced cornerback tandem. They have benefited from the coaching of Mark Stoops, who tutored Miami's defensive backs in recent years. BYU passed for 279 yards against the Wildcats last week but did not allow a play of longer than 25 yards. Look for Arizona safety Michael Johnson to get into the mix as well.

Worst matchup: UCLA at Rice. The Bruins didn't miss a beat in a 31-10 win over Utah with quarterback Ben Olson and running back Chris Markey replacing Drew Olson and Maurice Drew. Rice lost to Conference USA contender Houston 31-30 last week, but this game might be closer to UCLA's 63-21 rout of Rice last year.

The pressure is on: Cal's front seven. The Bears as a whole need to rebound from last week's 35-18 loss at Tennessee, but the defense was sloppier than expected against the Volunteers. Cal hosts Minnesota and its potent running game this week led by Alex Daniels and Amir Pinnix, who each ran for more than 100 yards in the opener against Kent State.

Upset alert: Idaho over Washington State. Under first-year coach Dennis Erickson, the Vandals were within a touchdown of Michigan State on the road until the final 30 seconds. Washington State could be more vulnerable following a 40-14 loss to Auburn.

BCS implications: Oregon at Fresno State. With a convincing win over Stanford, Oregon could be the team to challenge USC for the conference title - or at least challenge for an at-large berth in a BCS bowl. The Ducks will have to beat Fresno State to prove they are up for the challenge.

Most to gain: Oregon State. The Beavers could teeter on bowl eligibility, especially with the prospect of having to win seven games in their 13-game schedule. A road trip to Boise State, in its second game under Chris Peterson, is a winnable game. Oregon State has beaten the Broncos twice in the last three seasons, but both of those wins were in Corvallis, Ore.

Most to lose: Arizona State. The Sun Devils fell flat in the first three quarters against Northern Arizona before scoring 21 fourth-quarter points for the win. The Sun Devils have this week's game against Nevada and next week's at Colorado to refine any mistakes before they face Cal, Oregon and USC over a span of four weeks.

Who's hot: UCLA's defense, which was among the nation's worst last year, had a good showing against Utah. The Bruins allowed 287 yards - just 79 in the second half. Utah's 10 points were its fewest since 2003.

Who's not: Arizona on the road. Arizona is 3-16 away from home the last four seasons. Its last non-conference win on the road over a major conference opponent was a 35-11 win over Iowa in 1998.

Must see TV: Oregon at Fresno State, 10 p.m., ESPN2. Last year's game turned into a 37-34 shootout. There's a new cast of characters for both teams on offense this year, but running backs Jonathan Stewart of Oregon and Dwayne Wright of Fresno State had impressive games in their season openers. If you're up late Saturday (10 p.m., Fox Sports Net) you can also check out Arizona State and Nevada. The Sun Devils' potent offense will go up against the Wolf Pack's "pistol" attack.

Newcomer who could have an impact: Louis Holmes, Arizona. The long wait for the junior college transfer paid dividends. The defensive end was not admitted to the university until the third day of fall camp but contributed two sacks, a forced fumble and a pass breakup against BYU in the opener.

Backup who could have an impact: Jeremiah Johnson, Oregon. The backup could see more time if Stewart's ankle injury flares up or if he needs a rest. Johnson is a quality No. 2 option after rushing for 79 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries against Stanford.

Key stat: 17. Receiving yards by all-conference wideout Jason Hill of Washington State last week against Auburn.

Take the line: LSU is a 14.5-point favorite at home over Arizona, which seems a little high. Both teams have a recent history of close games. The Wildcats beat BYU by three in the opener and lost five games last year by less than a touchdown. Four of LSU's last seven home games have been decided by four or fewer points. The ones that weren't were blowout wins over North Texas, Appalachian State and Louisiana-Lafayette.

They said it: "It's shotgun offense with the quarterback at four yards and the tailback behind him and they put a name on it. The name pistol means nothing. They're not getting any yardage by calling it the pistol. They have an excellent offensive coach in Coach (Chris) Ault, and they have really good players and those skill players are good. We tried to recruit that quarterback (Jeff Rowe)."
-Arizona State coach Dirk Koetter, apparently not a fan of cute nicknames, on Nevada's offense.

Injury update: Arizona State defensive end Tranell Morant (toe) could return, but Loren Howard (quadriceps) is out for at least another week. . Oregon running back Jonathan Stewart didn't play in the fourth quarter against Stanford last week with a sprained ankle, but he is expected to be ready for Fresno State. . USC safety Josh Pinkard (ACL) is out for the season. . Washington State has issued no word on the status of running back DeMaundray Woolridge, who left the Auburn game before halftime with a thigh bruise.

Worth noting: Cal is quick to point out it lost its season openers each of the last two times the Bears won the conference title in 1958 and 1975. . Arizona State wide receiver Jamaal Lewis is still suspended following his arrest Aug. 30 for criminal speeding. . Arizona kicker Nick Folk not only kicked a game-winning 48-yard field goal against BYU, he also averaged 56 yards per punt on four kicks. . Stanford has played San Jose State 60 times, but only three times at San Jose State.

Looking back: The Pac-10 went 7-3 last week, but it seemed worse with high-profile routs against Tennessee and Auburn. Wins by Arizona State and Washington against Northern Arizona and San Jose State were closer than they should have been. . Oregon State and Stanford got boosts last week from players who returned to action after severe injuries. Beavers tight end Joe Newton (broken leg) caught five passes for 57 yards and two touchdowns and Cardinal wide receiver Evan Moore (hip) caught four passes for 62 yards.

Freshman who impressed: Stanford might have a glimmer of hope in a running game that was dismal last year. Toby Gerhart led the Cardinal with 55 yards on 16 carries against Oregon.

More Week 2 Conference Previews: ACC | Big East | Big Ten | Big 12 | SEC

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