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September 11, 2008
Pac-10: Bruins face big test at BYU
The elevation in Provo, Utah, is 4,549 feet, which could cause problems for visiting teams.
But UCLA should adapt to altitude rather quickly in Saturday's game at BYU. The Bruins already spent a week with their heads in the clouds after upsetting Tennessee in the season-opener Sept. 1.
Coach Rick Neuheisel said the Bruins have come back down to Earth and are aiming to duplicate that feat against the Cougars, who edged Washington 28-27 last week.
"We're back to business," Neuheisel said. "We're fortunate that we had that (open) week because there was some residual walking in the clouds that we had to knock out of ourselves in last week's practice."
The Bruins could be without three offensive starters who were injured against Tennessee, including tailback Kahlil Bell, who is considered questionable with a sprained left ankle. But UCLA still can glean encouragement from the second-half performance of quarterback Kevin Craft. He rebounded from an abysmal first half to go 18 of 25 for 193 yards in the second half in leading a comeback against the Volunteers.
He will need to make a comeback of sorts against BYU, too. Playing at San Diego State two years ago, Craft was 20 of 32 for 216 yards and an interception in a 47-17 loss to BYU.
The Bruins are familiar with BYU, having split two games with the Cougars last season, so they have an idea of what to expect.
"The good news is we're familiar with them," Neuheisel said. "The bad news is they're really good. We have to make sure we play within ourselves and hopefully take a page out of what we did against Tennessee and get the game into the fourth quarter (in position to win)."
Ohio State rush offense vs. USC rush defense. Obviously, No. 1 USC vs. No. 5 Ohio State the week's only game matching top-10 teams is an easy choice here. But let's narrow the scope. If healthy, the Buckeyes' Chris Wells is one of the best if not the best tailbacks in the nation. His foot injury is a point of concern, but reports out of Columbus say he's running well. That sets up an intriguing matchup against the Trojans, who held Virginia to 32 rushing yards in Week 1. Virginia didn't run inside to test linebacker Rey Maualuga and tackle Fili Moala. The Buckeyes will.
Arizona State QB Rudy Carpenter. He has gotten off to a fast start this season. Through two games, he has thrown for 733 yards, which ranks fifth in the nation. Carpenter figures to build substantially on that this week. The Sun Devils face UNLV, which last week allowed 215 passing yards and three touchdown passes in a 42-21 loss to Utah. Carpenter already is second on Arizona State's career list with 69 touchdown passes. He trails record-holder Andrew Walter by 16. He figures to be much closer after Saturday.
California has been playing football since 1915, and never in its history have the Bears had two 80-yard touchdown runs in the same season. Last week, sophomore tailback Jahvid Best did it twice in the same game. Best scored touchdowns on runs of 80 and 86 yards and averaged 14.3 yards per carry while rushing for 200 yards in a 66-3 thrashing of Washington State. Arizona is 15 of 15 in the red zone. Last season, the Wildcats scored on only 43 percent of their red zone opportunities. Arizona State Thomas Weber has kicked a field goal in 13 consecutive games, which is two short of the school record. California CB Syd'Quan Thompson already has three interceptions, which ties him with Missouri's Sean Weatherspoon for the national lead. Oregon set a school record with 688 yards of total offense in last week's win over Utah State. In the same game, Ducks safety Patrick Chung exceeded 300 tackles for his career. He has 303.
Oregon State is trying to avoid its first 0-3 start since 1996 when it faces Hawaii this week. The conference's officials have come under extreme criticism after Washington QB Jake Locker was penalized for "unsportsmanlike conduct" after flipping the football into the air while celebrating a last-second touchdown in last week's 28-27 loss to BYU. This makes the third consecutive year Pac-10 officials have come under fire. Last season a crew of officials were suspended after ruling Oregon State RB Yvenson Bernard fumbled into the end zone even though his knee was on the ground and the ball had crossed the goal line in a close game against Washington. Two years ago, a Pac-10 crew blew two calls on an onside kick that enabled Oregon to defeat Oklahoma in Eugene. The Pac-10 office later admitted the calls were wrong. Oklahoma returns to Pac-10 country this week to face Washington. You think the officials will be under close scrutiny? ... Washington State's defense already has allowed 105 points this season. Oregon State QB Lyle Moevao has thrown four interceptions. Washington's defense is allowing 485.5 yards per game. The Huskies already have allowed seven sacks.
"Our players know the schedule. But they're also focused on what they need to get done." Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson on questions about whether the Sun Devils are looking ahead to Georgia, next week's opponent, rather than focusing on UNLV this week.
"We have to dominant and not just win. We need a great outing against Hawaii so we can have some momentum going into USC." Oregon State cornerback Brandon Hughes on whether the 0-2 Beavers are in a must-win situation against Hawaii on Saturday.
"I don't want to say they're slow. I just think it's the speed of the game between the Big Ten and the Pac-10." USC defensive end Kyle Moore on Ohio State.
Arizona TE Rob Gronkowski may play this week against New Mexico. Gronkowski, who caught 25 passes and scored six touchdowns in '07, missed the first two games because of strep throat. Arizona State TB Keegan Herring re-injured his sore right hamstring last week and is questionable for Saturday's game against UNLV. Stanford WR Richard Sherman is expected to play against TCU after an MRI on his left knee showed no significant damage. Sherman, the Cardinal's most experienced receiver, hurt his knee in last week's loss to Arizona State. Washington true freshman RB David Freeman will get his first career start this week. LB E.J. Savannah, who led Washington in tackles last season but was suspended for academic issues and hasn't played this season, is transferring. Washington granted his release provided he doesn't transfer to another Pac-10 school. Washington State coach Paul Wulff said this week's starting quarterback might not be decided until game time against Baylor. Gary Rogers has struggled as the starter and backup Kevin Lopina hasn't fared much better. Washington State WR Jeshua Anderson returned to action last week after hernia surgery. He caught a pass in the loss to Cal.
Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.