November 8, 2007

Changing landscape in the Pac-10

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FOX'S PAC-10 PICKS
This week's games

Overview: After Oregon's 35-23 win over Arizona State last week in a meeting between top-10 opponents, several Pac-10 teams could be ripe for a letdown. Following its first loss of the season, Arizona State will go on the road to UCLA, which has upset teams in this position before. The only game between two ranked Pac-10 teams feels like a letdown, too. Instead of USC and Cal playing for a conference title, the Trojans and Bears are clashing for a chance to play in the Holiday Bowl.

Best matchup: Cal WR DeSean Jackson vs. USC's secondary. One of the more interesting subplots in the Pac-10 over the past three seasons has been Jackson's relationship with USC. The Los Angeles-area high school star spurned the Trojans for Cal during the recruiting process. In the preseason this year, he had some disparaging remarks about the way USC defended him in past meetings. On the field, he was on the receiving end of a vicious hit from USC safety Kevin Ellison last season. In two games against the Trojans, Jackson has three catches for 50 yards.

The pressure is on: UCLA coach Karl Dorrell. Dorrell's team has been ravaged by so many injuries that former WR Osaar Rasshan will start at quarterback this week. Dorrell's veteran-laden team has been sidetracked by four losses, including three to teams with losing records. He could be coaching for his job this month, but the schedule does him no favors with games remaining against Arizona State, Oregon and USC.

Who's hot: Oregon SS Patrick Chung has 28 tackles in his past two games. … Cal LB Zack Follett appears to be fully recovered from a neck injury that caused him to miss the last two games of September. He finished with six tackles, a sack and three pass breakups in last week's the win over Washington State. … Stanford LB Pat Maynor has 17 tackles, four tackles for a loss and two sacks in his past two games.

Who's not: Arizona State allowed nine sacks to Oregon last week, making it 37 for the season. Only Stanford and Notre Dame have allowed more sacks. … Cal QB Nate Longshore is 65 of 106 with four touchdown passes to six interceptions in his past three games since returning from the ankle injury that sidelined him in the loss to Oregon State.

Keep your eye on: Arizona State's trip to UCLA. The Sun Devils still are in the running for a BCS bid, which likely will hinge on the Thanksgiving Day game against USC - that is, if Arizona State defeats UCLA this week. UCLA has shown a tendency to get up for these sorts of games under Dorrell. Just take a look at UCLA's win over Cal earlier this year and the Bruins' victory over USC last year.

Numbers game: With 3,145 passing yards, Arizona QB Willie Tuitama needs only 183 more to set a single-season school record. He already has a school-record 24 touchdown passes this year. … Arizona State leads the nation in time of possession, averaging 34:30 a game. … Washington TB Louis Rankin ran for 255 yards against Stanford last week, the highest total in the Pac-10 this season.

PAC-10 STANDINGS
TeamConf.All
Oregon5-18-1
Arizona State5-18-1
Southern California4-27-2
UCLA4-25-4
California3-36-3
Oregon State3-35-4
Arizona3-44-6
Stanford2-53-6
Washington State1-53-6
Washington1-53-6
Freshman to watch: USC DE Everson Griffen was named Rivals.com's National Freshman of the Week after recording 3.5 sacks against Oregon State, the most sacks for a Trojan since 1989. Griffen will have a tougher test this week. After facing a team ranked 99th in sacks allowed, he'll face a team ranked third in Cal.

Injury update: Oregon QB Dennis Dixon returned to practice Tuesday after being unable to finish the Arizona State win with a left knee sprain. … UCLA will be without QBs Pat Cowan (concussion, collapsed lung) and Ben Olson (knee) against Arizona State, meaning QB-turned-WR-turned-QB Osaar Rasshan will start against the Sun Devils. … Oregon State QB Sean Canfield (shoulder) is doubtful for the Washington game, meaning Lyle Moevao could get his first career start. TB Yvenson Bernard (shoulder) could return this week. …Washington State backup TB Chris Ivory (concussion) may be available this week. … Washington QB Jake Locker took a hit to the shoulder last week but should be OK for this week's game. … Stanford QB Tavita Pritchard is expected to start against Washington State after sitting for the final three quarters of last week's game with a shoulder injury. … Oregon LB John Bacon is out for the season with a torn ACL.

They said it:
"Our players, they want to play, they want to win, regardless of what's being said and my status. There's no control over that, anyway. We can't control any of those things that are being said or talked about. The only thing we can do is play better football and get ourselves a victory."
— UCLA coach Karl Dorrell

"Trying to beat them definitely means a lot. I feel that there is a little pressure on us knowing that they can be beat. They are not the powerhouse this year to the point where you say, 'Well, shoot, it's just SC dominating again.' I mean, Stanford beat them, and I know we have much more talent than Stanford. So it's definitely possible if we execute that we could get a victory Saturday, especially since we are at home."
— Cal LB Zack Follett

"Obviously guys are down. We wanted to have a magical season this year, and I think guys have got to understand that we still can. We've only lost one, to one of the best teams in the country, so we've just got to come back next week."
— Arizona State QB Rudy Carpenter

Bowl implications: After Oregon's 35-23 win over Arizona State, the Ducks remain the leader for the league's BCS bid - whether it is the national-championship game or the Rose Bowl. UCLA (5-4) and Oregon State (5-4) are one win away from bowl eligibility. Arizona (4-6), Stanford, Washington and Washington State (all 3-6) need three more wins to become bowl-eligible. Cal likely needs to win this week to stay in the mix for a "good" bowl.

Etc.: University of Arizona president Robert Shelton told reporters Monday that he has reassured athletic director Jim Livengood and football coach Mike Stoops they will be retained next season. … USC LBs Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing said they plan to return next season rather than pursue the NFL draft. … Oregon WR Jaison Williams apologized for writing a expletive on one of his gloves. The profane glove was caught in a photograph and published by the Eugene (Ore.) Register-Guard, which also issued an apology. … Stanford's leading receiver, Richard Sherman, has been suspended for the Washington State game because of poor sportsmanship on the sidelines during the Washington loss. … Stanford RB Toby Gerhart will redshirt after hurting his knee in the second game of the season against San Jose State. … Arizona State freshman Thomas Weber missed his first field goal of the season at the end of the first half against Oregon. He is 18-of-19 on the year.

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David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dfox@rivals.com.




 

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