It is already week four in the Pac 10 race and it is hard to believe Stanford and Washington are facing off in a game with championship implications. Even with USC's loss last weekend most experts feel it is still going to boil down to USC and Cal. Don't tell the Huskies and Cardinal that. Both of these teams believe in themselves and when that happens anything is possible.
California at Oregon
In the pre-season this was one of the marque games on the Pac 10 schedule. Most experts had the Ducks ranked third in the conference behind USC and Cal. A few things have changed since then. The Ducks played poorly at Boise and lost their star running back for the season. The defense hasn't been able to stop anyone, and their Heisman candidate QB Jeremiah Masoli has under performed. The Ducks avoided free fall with last minute wins over Purdue and Utah at home. Purdue and Utah aren't very good. Utah was lucky to beat San Jose and Purdue was pummeled at home by Northern Illinois.
California is undefeated and looking good so far this season. They beat the road jinx with a 14 point win that was actually closer than the score indicated against Minnesota last week. Jahvid Best is the best running back in the country and if he stays healthy he may just win the thing. The defense isn't quite there yet. Minnesota was able to move the ball through the air fairly well. Kevin Riley isn't exactly a smooth machine at QB either.
All that being said the Bears are a better team than Oregon at this point. They have more weapons, a better coach, and Jahvid Best should be able to have a field day against the Oregon defense. The Ducks aren't Quackless even though they aren't what they were all Quacked up to be in the pre-season. They are at home and will make a game out of it but California has too many tools for them to win.
California by 14
Arizona State at Georgia
We finally get to see what type of team Dennis Erickson has after spending almost two months in pre season camp. Idaho State, a Bye week, and LA Monroe add up to one big vacation if you are asking me. What it has done is give Erickson the time to tinker with his team before throwing them in the fire. The Bulldogs are playing at home and have a high powered offense that can put a lot of points on the board. ASU will be severely tested.
The interesting thing about this game is nobody has any idea if ASU is good or not. If ASU pulls off the upset they will be a top division Pac 10 contender. It isn't like Erickson puts together two crappy seasons in a row either. If they get blown out on the road we will all know that this is still a work in progress. this game will answer two big questions about the Devils.
1. Can QB Danny Sullivan compete against a top 25 team?
2. Is the ASU defense as tough as it looked against a couple of patsies?
Georgia by 13
Arizona at Oregon State
This should be a pretty good game against two fairly well matched squads. The difference in this one is the balance that OSU has on offense matched against the lack of balance Arizona has on theirs. Both teams lost last week to a couple of pretty good teams. Bud Withers and Bob Condotta keep telling us that Arizona is a first division team but I know better. The Wildcats are headed to the cellar because they don't have a QB and their top receiving threat is out for the season. Did I forget to mention that Mike Stoops is a not a good game day coach? OSU has their own problems but they have more left in the tank at home than Arizona.
OSU by 14
Washington State at USC
The timing is absolutely wrong for Paul Wulff and his team to invade LA with a one game winning streak. The Trojans are going to be nasty and cranky. WSU doesn't even come close to matching up with the second three letter team they are playing in a two week span. This one will get ugly quickly. My advice to Coug fans. Don't let your children watch this game!
USC by 42
Washington at Stanford
What a difference a week makes. Washington arrives in Palo Alto on top of the conference along with the Tree. The Huskies are also rated in the AP Top Twenty-Five which is something that hasn't happened to them since September 28, 2003. On paper I like the Huskies in about every possible way in this one. Stanford likes to run the ball and we have proven to be adept at stopping some of the better running backs in the country over the past three weeks. The Cards have been turnover prone. Even though they knocked the snout out of SJSU they still turned the ball over four times. I just think the Tree is way too one dimensional to beat Washington.
Jake Locker has the potential to throw for a lot of yards against the Stanford secondary. It isn't like the Stanford D is made up of a bunch of stiffs, but they can give up a lot of yards through the air even when they put together a pass rush. The Cards can be stiff against the rush but Washington has gained yards against two of the best defensive units in college football. I think Washington's offensive balance will be too much for the Cardinal to handle.
You might have guessed it already by the tone but I expect the Huskies will leave Palo Alto 3-1 and on top of the Pac 10 conference. The oddsmakers opened with Stanford by nine but what do they really know?
Washington by 10
UCLA has a bye this weekend.
Kibble and Bits
The Huskies went at it hard full contact on Wednesday in a USC style practice. The hitting out there was ferocious according to the folks who were there who reported back to me by phone. Practice only lasted a little less than two hours but the focus was definitely there. Our Huskies are hungry and ready to go against Stanford. No music today as the huskies are getting ready for the non factor crowd at the Farm. It was hot out there and that was a factor in cutting the practice short.
Sark has no problem IV'ing his players at halftime to prevent dehydration. A couple of players mainlined this week during practice after feeling dizzy because of the heat.
Talia Chrichton and Desmond Trufant are consistently running with the number one team on defense. Darion Jones is still sloed by a bruised knee. Chrichton is a rare find. He wans't heavily recruited but USC had their eyes on him. So many great kids can get overshadowed in SoCal. UW has an advantage in scouting with all the connections Sark and Holt have in the area.
Trufant looks like he is going to be a four year starter and a high draft pick like his older brother. Not too many kids can miss half of camp return and become a starter for a Pac 10 team as a frosh. I watched him a lot in the film of the USC game and he has what it takes to take it to the next level this season.
Justin Glenn has done very well in his move to safety. What he brings to the position is a lot of speed and a great knack for making the open field tackle. just anoter example of getting your best 11 on the field at the same time.
Walkon LB Josh Hupert tore his ACL in the USC game and is out for the season. I don't remember him limping or getting carted off the field on Saturday. Josh is an unsung hero who earned a scholarship this year. He will be missed in the depth. Matt Houston and Cort Dennison have emerged this year as very solid players and they will pick up the slack. One name we haven't heard this year at LB is Trenton Tuiasosopo. I know he is out there but we haven't heard his name called.
WR's James Johnson and Devin Aguilar are still al ittle banged up but are expected top play on Saturday. Johnson had ice on his right shoulder and Aguilar was icing his left knee. Nate Williams is getting some rest this week. The philosphy the staff is going with is survive the game and recover during the week to stay healthy on Saturday. Expect the Huskies to rest the hard hitting Williams who leaves everything on the field every week during the season. the coaches understand that the season is a marathin and keeping the health intact is key to finishing the season strong.