September 13, 2007

Seasons on line early for some

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Saturday's games
Washington 21, No. 10 Ohio State 17
No. 11 UCLA 31, Utah 10
No. 8 Cal 42, Louisiana Tech 23
Oregon State 21, Idaho State 7
No. 19 Oregon 28, Fresno State 24
No. 1 USC 28, No. 14 Nebraska 14
Arizona State 27, San Diego State 10
Arizona 35, New Mexico 13
San Jose State 21, Stanford 14
Washington State 42, Idaho 21

Overview: The rest of the Pac-10 has held up its end of the bargain in proving that the league isn't USC and nine nobodies. Cal, Oregon and Washington all scored wins over BCS conference teams in the first two weeks of the season. Washington and UCLA knocked off top-notch non-BCS teams. Now that the rest of the conference can compete with the best, it is USC's turn to show its prowess. The Trojans face Nebraska in Lincoln in what is one of the nation's top nonconference games this week.

Best matchup: Quarterback Sam Keller hasn't quite put up the same numbers at Nebraska as he did at Arizona State. Instead, the Cornhuskers have relied on running back Marlon Lucky. Part of a four-man running back rotation last year, Lucky has accounted for 390 yards and five touchdowns from scrimmage in his first year as a feature back. Lucky is better this season, but so are Keith Rivers, Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing, who held Nebraska to 68 rushing yards (27 for Lucky) in last year's win.

The pressure is on: Both Cal and Louisiana Tech came close to an upset last week, just on different sides. Louisiana Tech came within a missed two-point conversion of defeating Hawaii in a 45-44 overtime loss. Meanwhile, Cal had fits at Colorado State, with the Rams scoring two touchdowns in the final four minutes in a 34-28 Bears win. Homefield advantage is reversed with Louisiana Tech visiting Berkeley, but Cal is well aware it is a marked team.

Who's hot: UCLA cornerback Trey Brown has nine passes defended this year while accounting for three turnovers (an interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery) in two games. Oregon quarterback Dennis Dixon, the National Player of the Week, leads the Pac-10 in passing efficiency with a 193.2 rating. He ranked sixth (120.7) last year. He is also second in the league in rushing. Arizona quarterback Willie Tuitama threw a career-high five touchdown passes against Northern Arizona last week.

Who's not: Oregon State quarterbacks Sean Canfield and Lyle Moevao are a combined 43 of 82 with eight interceptions to one touchdown pass. Oregon wide receiver Jaison Williams dropped three passes against Michigan. Arizona State tight end Brent Miller, who is day-to-day with an MCL sprain, has lost two fumbles in two games. Oregon State running back Yvenson Bernard ran for only 30 yards against Cincinnati for his lowest total since becoming a starter in the 2005 season.

Keep your eye on: Arizona State quarterback Rudy Carpenter will face a San Diego State defense that surrendered 469 passing yards and five touchdowns to Washington State quarterback Alex Brink the previous week.

Arizona State0-02-0
Southern California0-01-0
Washington State0-01-1
Oregon State0-01-1
Numbers game: Penalties reared their ugly heads for Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson once again. The Sun Devils were flagged 12 times, including an amazing eight personal fouls, for 136 yards in a 33-14 win over Colorado. The average margin of victory in seven meetings between Oregon and Fresno State is 4.7 points, with none of their seven games being decided by more than seven points. For some reason, Vegas favors this year's home team, Oregon, by 16 points. Are teams seeing a weakness in the UCLA pass defense? Stanford and BYU averaged 56 pass attempts against UCLA this year. The Bruins allowed an average of 32.4 pass attempts per game last season. UCLA backup running back Khalil Bell, who was suspended for the final six games of the season last year, leads the Pac-10 in rushing with 274 yards.

Freshman to watch: USC coach Pete Carroll said true freshman running back Joe McKnight,'s No. 2 player in the 2007 recruiting class, "will contribute" against Nebraska. McKnight had six carries for 26 yards against Idaho but has been limited by a knee sprain.

Injury update: USC running back Chauncey Washington (shoulder), wide receiver Patrick Turner (shoulder) and linebacker Brian Cushing (ankle) are expected to be healthy against Nebraska. USC defensive back Josh Pinkard will miss another season with torn ligaments in his knee. He will miss 2007 with a torn ACL in his left knee after missing '06 with torn ligaments in his right knee. Arizona State running back Ryan Torain is doubtful for this week's game against San Diego State with knee and ankle injuries. UCLA defensive tackle Brigham Harwell will miss at least four weeks after sustaining a torn MCL. UCLA wide receiver Brandon Breazell says he will play against Utah despite multiple dental surgeries following a collision against BYU. UCLA quarterback Patrick Cowan returned to practice this week for the first time since sustaining a torn hamstring last month.

They said it:
"What happened with Appalachian State and Michigan, even South Florida and Auburn, anything like that can happen at any moment. This past weekend showed us that it could happen to us. We just had a bad day. I'm glad it happened early instead of late."
Cal wide receiver Lavelle Hawkins on a 34-28 scare last week at Colorado State.

"It's hard to be so prestigious. We have a lot of players getting a lot of recognition. It's good to remember that any weekend, we can be upset. We know we're a better team than what we showcased out there."
Cal safety Marcus Ezeff on the same 34-28 scare last week at Colorado State.

"I don't look at it as a week of redemption at all. I owe it to my team, my coaching staff and everybody to prepare for this game like I've never prepared for a game before. I can't look at anything like, 'Hey, I played them. I remember this guy, and I know you very well, or, 'I played against you a couple times.' I've got to be a good quarterback this week."
Nebraska quarterback Sam Keller on facing USC for the first time since 2005 when his Arizona State team lost 38-28. Keller took a 21-3 lead into halftime of that game before throwing four interceptions in the second half.

Worth noting: Arizona has found a new way to use its superstar cornerback. The Wildcats have used senior Antoine Cason on punt returns this year. He returned his first career punt return for a touchdown (for 70 yards) against Northern Arizona last week. He has three returns for 97 yards this year. USC is the first No. 1 team to visit Nebraska since Oklahoma in 1978. Nebraska won that game 17-14. Idaho coach Robb Akey will face his former team when the Vandals go to Washington State. Akey served on the Washington State staff from 1999-2006, including four seasons as defensive coordinator. Former USC wide receiver Jamere Holland requested a hearing to grant a transfer to Oregon, according to The Los Angeles Daily News. Oregon State wide receiver Sammie Stroughter returned a punt 38 yards in his return to the team last week, but he did not catch a pass against Cincinnati.

David Fox is a national writer for He can be reached at

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