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October 14, 2008
Pac-10 Review: Week 7
It was a rough weekend for the state of Arizona. Certain teams may not be fit for the Pac-10 race, while others want back in the campaign.
No fan enjoys being left with just a radio broadcast to follow his or her team, and I think I can speak for all those who listened that Arizona's 24-23 loss over Stanford achieved a special distinction of pain. All aspects of Arizona's game were exposed. On defense Arizona could not stop the Cardinal, allowing 286 rushing yards and 438 total yards. On offense Willie Tuitama was unable to reach the end zone against a Stanford secondary that has bettered every opposing quarterback's stats it has faced this season. The special teams allowed Stanford to start four of its drives from its own 40-yard line or better.
Look on the bright side Arizona fans, ASU is 2-4 and has lost four straight. The Sun Devils looked terrible the past few weeks, demonstrating the execution and body language of a team that has given up on itself. Arizona State's performance in its 28-0 loss at USC was rock bottom. Total yards: 229. Third down conversions: 3-18. Turnovers: 4. Points: 0. I need not analyze the game because those numbers speak for themselves.
Coming off a deflating loss to USC in week six, the Ducks' 31-24 victory at home against UCLA isn't exactly the redemption Oregon has hoping for, but a win is a win. As great as Oregon's ground game is (323 rushing yards against UCLA), it will have to revive its passing game if it wants to win against better teams. Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli's 5-19, 41 yard performance over the weekend won't cut it in the future, even if he did run for 170 yards and a touchdown.
Beating the living heck out of Washington State doesn't weigh the same significance it used to, but Oregon State clearly made a statement in its 66-13 demolition of the Cougars: Don't count us out. Oregon State's 132 total yards allowed are impressive regardless of the opponent. Jacquizz Rodgers 168 yards (yes, that's more than WSU's team total) helps the case that his performance against USC was no fluke. As for my Pac-10 crush, Sammie Stroughter, I find his six catches for 116 yards and a touchdown simply irresistible.
Credit the Stanford defense for a complete turnaround between its loss at Notre Dame and its weekend victory over Arizona. The Cardinal secondary had been ripped apart through its first six games, but was able to slow down Arizona's explosive passing game. Go ahead and credit running backs Toby Gerhart and Anthony Kimble while you're at it, for they racked up 116 and 110 yards respectively, and each scored a touchdown despite the fact that every Arizona player, coach and fan knew they were going to run every down. Lastly, credit coach Jim Harbaugh for being the better coach on Saturday.
I admire UCLA's effort in its 31-24 loss at Oregon, but I hope the Bruins realize that they missed out on one of their few remaining chances to win another game this season. A winless rest of the season is very much a reality for the Bruins, as Washington is the only sub .500 opponent left on UCLA's slate. Quarterback Kevin Craft played his best game in quite some time, though that is not saying much. The Bruins are going to need a big turnover advantage to win another game this year because I don't think this team can straight up beat any opponent in the Pac-10 not named Washington State.
USC didn't always look pretty, but there's little to complain about beating ASU 28-0.
The Trojans have allowed only 10 points in their last two games, each of which came against what were believed to be stronger offenses in the Pac-10. What bothers me is that USC is having consistency issues on offense and at times are unable to move the ball (See first half against Oregon State). This is still the conference's best team, but USC's inability to play to its potential for a full 60 minutes is a big concern. I don't know whom it is going to be against, but the Trojans have shown enough vulnerability to likely lose another conference game. Are you listening Arizona?
Again, I don't have a whole lot to say, but if I were head coach Paul Wulff I would start preparing for the season finale against Hawaii immediately. For one thing, it would give Washington State some positive momentum and hope going into the off-season, but more importantly it is really the only shot the Cougars have at another W.
Wildcats vs. Bay Area: Part Two:
It's time to get over Arizona's loss to Stanford because it has a very significant game ahead of it. Having allowed 286 rushing yards against the Cardinal, Arizona's defense must now face Cal's speedy duo of Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen. The good news is while both of Cal's backs are flashy playmakers, the speed of Arizona's defense should be more favorable against Cal's running game than it was with Stanford's physical running style.
The bad news? Cal will be the toughest opponent yet for Arizona, and by a large margin. The emergence of Cal's passing game will make its offense especially difficult for Arizona to stop. On the other side of the ball, Cal's defense is the best Arizona will have seen all season, led by star cornerback Syd'Quan Thompson and a group of linebackers that are in the same ballpark of talent as USC's. With that being said, Arizona is fully capable of winning Saturday, which in turn would result in as many as six one-loss teams in the conference standings.