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October 11, 2007
Top Pac-10 teams know upsets can happen
HUGUENIN'S PAC-10 PICKS
Overview: A week after shocking upsets of USC and UCLA, the so-called "better teams" are hoping for a return to normalcy. Arizona State, Cal, Oregon and USC are in the top 20, and each should – emphasis on the "should" – have relatively easy victories Saturday. USC may be without QB John David Booty, which would mean the first start for highly touted backup Mark Sanchez. Look for the Trojans to try to take out their frustrations on Arizona, which has been one-dimensional (all pass) on offense. Cal, which was off last weekend, will be looking to increase its home winning streak to 11 when Oregon State comes calling. Oregon had last week off to try to recover from a loss to California. The Ducks will be hosting a reeling Washington State team that is dangerous because of a passing attack led by QB Alex Brink. Arizona State looks to stay unbeaten against a Washington team that also was off last week. The lone non-conference game has Stanford, coming off the improbable win over USC, playing host to defense-minded TCU.
Best matchup: Oregon State TB Yvenson Bernard vs. California's front seven. Bernard must be productive if the Beavers are to keep it close against California. He has four 100-yard games this season. Cal's rush defense is nothing special; frankly, the Golden Bears' pass defense isn't that good, either. But Cal would much rather make scatter-armed Beavers QB Sean Canfield beat them. Why? Because he can't. Bernard, who had a huge game against Cal in 2005 (194 yards, two TDs), is a different story
The pressure is on: USC. Yep, the whole team is under the spotlight this week. There is no way the Trojans should have lost to Stanford, and everyone will be watching to see how they bounce back this week. Backup QB Mark Sanchez could get his first college start because of an injury to John David Booty – and a solid performance from Sanchez could lead to a dreaded quarterback controversy. Look for USC coach Pete Carroll to have the Trojans playing at a high level.
Who's hot: Arizona State is the only team in the league allowing fewer than 20 points per game (14.2 ppg). The Sun Devils have given up only eight TDs in six games. … California's offensive line has been solid. The Golden Bears have allowed a league-low four sacks and are rushing for 198.6 yards per game. … UCLA's rush defense has been solid, and the Bruins have allowed just three rushing TDs in six games. .. Oregon is fourth in the nation in rush offense - 276.6 yards per game.
Who's not: Double-duty may be taking its toll on Oregon State K Alexis Serna, who is also punting this season. Serna is averaging just 32.9 yards per punt, 5 yards less than the next-worst average in the league. … Washington State is allowing foes to convert 56.6 percent of their third-down conversions, by far the worst figure in the league. Arizona is ninth at 43.0 percent. … Oregon State QB Sean Canfield leads the nation with 13 interceptions.
Keep your eye on: Watch Oregon State sophomore CB Tim Clark, a backup pressed into a starting role because of injuries. He'll be asked to help slow Cal's superb group of receivers. It seems doubtful he's up to the task. And also watch for Mark Sanchez. If he starts, maybe he can provide an offensive spark that's been missing for USC.
Numbers game: Looking for a reason USC is struggling? The Trojans have a minus-7 turnover margin. … Arizona has scored at least a field goal in 13 consecutive quarters. … In league play, the visiting team is 8-6 this season. … Arizona State's Dennis Erickson is one of three first-year coaches who is 6-0, joining Boston College's Jeff Jagodzinski and Cincinnati's Brian Kelly. … Washington State QB Alex Brink has 67 career TD passes, three behind school leader Jason Gesser. … Cal has scored at least 30 points in a school-record six consecutive games. … Arizona State has intercepted at least one pass in eight consecutive games.
Injury update: Arizona State TE Brent Miller (knee) is questionable for Saturday's game with Washington. … California LB Zack Follett (neck) is questionable for the Oregon State game. … Oregon State WR Sammie Stroughter (kidney) will miss the rest of the season, and CB Keenan Lewis (knee) is out for Saturday's game with California. … UCLA is off this week, but QB Ben Olson (knee) isn't expected to play again until November. … USC QB John David Booty (broken finger) is doubtful and TB Stafon Johnson (foot) is questionable for the Arizona game. … Washington State WR Brandon Gibson (heel) is questionable for the game against Oregon.
They said it: "What happens is the competition in my mind doesn't stop. You know, you keep competing to think about what could have happened, what you should have done, what took place and trying to get to the truth of what happened. That takes a while because you're so emotionally involved in it at all. So it's a tumultuous time in a mind like mine."
"It's no different for us if we're 2 or 6 or 3 or 12 or whatever. It really doesn't matter until the end of the season, no matter what you're ranked. The target, the bull's-eye on us is there no matter what."
"I think it's a confidence level and a calmness level during the game. I don't think there's really any panic at any given time."
"That is the nature of college football right now. The number of teams that have been beaten in the top 25 and in the top 10 even over the last two weeks is pretty incredible. It's not always the team that people think is the best team that wins; it's the team that plays the best on that day, so it's going to be up to us to play well."
Etc.: Arizona coach Mike Stoops has beaten every Pac-10 team except USC. … California is ranked No. 2 this week, its highest ranking since it was ranked first in 1951, when Lynn "Pappy" Waldorf was the coach. … Arizona State WR Rudy Burgess went over the 1,000-yard mark in career return yardage last week. He already had reached the 1,000-yard mark in rushing and receiving yards. … Washington was off last week, so redshirt freshman QB Jake Locker attended his best friend's game at Western Washington University last Saturday.
Mike Huguenin is the college football editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.