November 15, 2007

All eyes on Tucson as Oregon hits road

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FOX'S PAC-10 PICKS
This week's games
Thursday's game
Oregon 38, Arizona 21
Saturday's game
California 42, Washington 20
Washington State 35, Oregon State 24

Overview: Even if the Pac-10 had a full schedule this week, all eyes would be on Tucson, Ariz., where Oregon will face Arizona. QB Dennis Dixon and the Ducks will hope to reverse a Thursday night trend. Thursday-night TV games have been unkind to No. 2 teams and Heisman hopefuls this season. Three ranked teams have lost at Arizona in the past three years: No. 25 Arizona State in 2004 (34-27), No. 7 UCLA in 2005 (52-17) and No. 8 Cal (24-20) last season,

Best matchup: Arizona QB Willie Tuitama vs. Oregon's secondary. The "Air Zona" offense finally is starting to click, with the Wildcats scoring 82 points and putting up 1,004 total yards in the past two games (against Washington and UCLA). Oregon's talented defense has given up yards to opponents, but ask Rudy Carpenter (nine sacks), Mark Sanchez (two interceptions) and Alex Brink (two interceptions, 6.5 sacks) how tough the Ducks can be on opposing quarterbacks.

The pressure is on: Washington State and Arizona. With two games remaining for each team, both the Cougars and Wildcats need to win out for bowl eligibility. With two Pac-10 teams likely to play in the BCS and Stanford and Washington already eliminated from bowl contention, a .500 record might be enough for a bowl bid. The road is toughest, though, for the Wildcats, who must defeat No. 2 Oregon and No. 8 Arizona State for its first bowl trip since 1998. Washington State's road is slightly less challenging, with Oregon State and Washington standing between the Cougars and their first bowl since 2003.

Who's hot: Arizona QB Willie Tuitama has thrown eight touchdown passes and one interception in the past two games. The Wildcats have scored a combined 82 points in those two games. Washington State WR Brandon Gibson has caught 11 passes for 289 yards in his past two games. Cal TB Justin Forsett has rushed for 296 yards and three touchdowns in the past two games. Oregon SS Patrick Chung has 28 tackles in his past two games. Washington State FS Abdullah Husain has 28 tackles in his past two games to go with an interception return for a touchdown last week against Stanford.

Who's not: Cal QB Nate Longshore has thrown eight interceptions in his past four games and is coming off a 13-of-29 performance against USC. Oregon State has allowed 18 sacks in the past three games.

Keep your eye on: Washington State QB Alex Brink and his Washington State teammates must win their final two games to reach bowl eligibility. That's a possibility with a home game against Oregon State followed by the Apple Cup against Washington. The Cougars could be helped Saturday when Brink takes on an Oregon State secondary depleted by injury and two first-half suspensions. Brink went over the 3,000-yard mark for the season last week by going 32-of-47 for 449 yards against Stanford.

Numbers game: Arizona defeated Oregon 37-10 last year in Autzen Stadium, but Ducks have won seven of the past eight in the series. Arizona K Jason Bondzio has converted all seven of his field-goal attempts between 40 and 49 yards. UCLA's Matthew Slater has returned three kickoffs for touchdowns this year, a Bruins career record.

PAC-10 STANDINGS
TeamConf.All
Arizona State6-19-1
Oregon5-18-1
Southern California5-28-2
Oregon State4-36-4
UCLA4-35-5
California3-46-4
Arizona3-44-6
Washington State2-54-6
Stanford2-63-7
Washington1-63-7
Freshman to watch: Does Arizona have a run game or doesn't it? The Wildcats have struggled to run the ball for most of the year, but freshman Nicholas Grigsby has provided a spark with two 100-yard rushing games in the past three.

Injury update: Washington QB Jake Locker, who was taken to the hospital and returned in a neck brace following a vicious hit in the Oregon State loss, could return as soon as this week. Coach Tyrone Willingham says there's "always a shot he will play." Locker said it was "not out of the realm of possibility" he would return. Willingham said tests revealed nothing negative and Locker is ahead of schedule. Oregon State QB Sean Canfield, who didn't play last week against Washington, could miss the rest of the season with a shoulder injury. Washington State TE Jed Collins (ankle sprain) is probable for this week. Both USC and Arizona State will rest their quarterbacks during the off-week before the two teams face each other on Thanksgiving. The Trojans' John David Booty (finger) and the Sun Devils' Rudy Carpenter (thumb) have played despite injuries. UCLA expects TB Chris Markey (toe) when it plays Oregon on Nov. 24. Third-string QB Osaar Rasshan is expected to start again for the Bruins because of injuries to Ben Olson and Patrick Cowan. Cal TB Jahvid Best (hip) will not play against Washington. Oregon State CB Keenan Lewis (knee) will start though he is not at full strength. DE Dorian Smith (knee) is 50/50 after missing last week's game.

They said it:
"My history with the BCS is not very good. It was frustrating because in 2001 we should have been in the (national) championship game, and in 2005 we should have been in a BCS game and we weren't in either. I don't have a lot of trust in that regard."
Oregon coach Mike Bellotti

"It's really unfair to pile on a college quarterback who is competing the way Nate is competing and who has done so much for us. I thought it was very big of Nate to shoulder the responsibility for the loss, but in no way, shape or form was it all on his shoulders."
Cal coach Jeff Tedford, defending Longshore, who struggled in a 24-17 loss to USC last week.

"God forbid if we had lost. I had about 30 people use the same words with me. They said we would have had a riot on our hands. It would have been like a soccer game in some third-world country. That's how dangerous it could have been with the night, the alcohol and the total frustration with the mismanagement of the game."
Oregon State athletic director Bob De Carolis, who was less than pleased with officiating in a 29-23 Beavers win over Washington on Saturday (from The Oregonian newspaper of Portland)

"It wasn't that egregious. Unless you are an Oregon State fan."
Verle Sorgen, the Pac-10's director of instant replay, in response to questions about a late call that did not go to instant replay. There was also no replay called when Oregon State TB Yvenson Bernard fumbled but appeared to have been down with 1:11 left in the game. The Pac-10 has suspended the replay officials for one game

Bowl implications: The biggest bowl implications will be felt Thursday in Tucson. No. 2 Oregon will try to stay on track for a spot in the BCS championship game with a convincing win over Arizona. Arizona (4-6) and Washington State (4-6) need to win out to end bowl droughts. Only five Pac-10 teams currently are bowl-eligible.

Worth noting: De Carolis asked for on-field officials in Oregon State's win over Washington to be disciplined and for the replay officials to face stiffer punishment. The crew ejected three Oregon State players and one Washington player from the game after-near fights broke out. The helmet-to-helmet hit that knocked Locker out of that game was later ruled "inadvertent" and no more penalties would be assessed. In an altercation after the hit on Locker, Washington G Ryan Tolar and Oregon State DBs Brandon Hughes, Bryan Payton and James Dockery were ejected. As per NCAA rules, each will be suspended for the first half of his team's next game. UCLA senior DT Brigham Harwell (knee) and WR Marcus Everett (ankle) will redshirt after sustaining injuries early in the season. Stanford WR Richard Sherman was reinstated after serving a one-game suspension for poor sportsmanship on the sidelines.

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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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