If you spent your Saturday watching Pac 10 football, you probably came away with the impression that Washington is going to have trouble beating anyone other that Washington State during the conference season. Even the conference teams who lost on Saturday put together more impressive performances than Washington has been able to muster this season.
To make matters worse, Nebraska, who pasted the Huskies 56-21 last week, struggled at home against lowly South Dakota State while posting a 17-3 win over the Jackrabbits. BYU, who the Huskies lost to in the opener, fell to 1-3 after a loss to Nevada. The conference's toughest no-conference schedule suddenly doesn't look like it was so tough after all.
All that being said, it is easy to fall into the trap of comparing separate games and opponents this early in the season. Who thought UCLA would even its record on the road after crushing #7 Texas? Two weeks ago we thought the Bruins would share the cellar with WSU and now they are back on track. It just demonstrates what can happen when a team puts together 60 minutes of solid football against higher-ranked opponent.
So Washington enters week five as this week's UCLA; that is, nobody respects them, not even their fan base. The next game is on the road in the Coliseum against undefeated USC. The odds makers are going to make the Trojans prohibitive favorites in this one (12.5). No one expects Washington to beat USC. The Trojans put 50 points and over 600 yards on the board while toying with WSU. What will they do to a weak Washington defense that doesn't believe in themselves?
Bye weeks can be wonderful things after a tough loss. It gives a team time to regroup, get healthy, and work out the kinks that are holding them back. Most importantly it gives the coaches an extra week to prepare for the next opponent and repair the mental state of the squad.
USC is a winnable game for Washington. The Huskies beat the Trojans last year at home. This Trojan squad isn't as good or deep as last year's edition. With the exception of last week's game against WSU, the Trojans have been simply surviving against a weak early-season schedule.
These two teams are not going to fool each other on Saturday. In fact they are mirror images of each other on both offense and defense. Sark even remarked that they really didn't need scout team work this week because the teams are so similar on each side of the ball. This game will go to the team that wants it the most an makes the least mistakes.
This is a defining week for the 2010 Huskies. If Washington can head into LA and shock the Trojans, they are back in the race to qualify for a bowl game, and yes -- continue competing for a Pac 10 championship. If Washington shows poorly, it is back to the drawing board and the wait 'til next season mantra we have heard for most of this decade.
Pac 10 Power Ratings
The Huskies took the week off to prepare for USC but the rest of the Pac 10 served notice that they are currently playing at a much higher level.
1. Oregon (4-0)...The Ducks looked mortal against ASU giving up way too many points in a game that turned into a track meet. They are still the class of the Pac 10 but they are not invincible. Up Next : Stanford
2. Stanford (4-0)...This is a very solid and physical football team that will contend for the Pac 10 title. I don't see a lot of razzle-dazzle. What I do see is some good smash-mouth football being played in Palo Alto. Up Next: At Oregon
3. Arizona (4-0)...The Wildcats offense struggled against Cal but their defense kept them out of the end zone. Arizona is still undefeated but they may not have all the horses they need to contend. Up Next: Bye
4. USC (4-0)...The Trojans looked better this week, but they were playing the worst team in the conference. What was impressive was over 600 yards in total offense. Up Next: Washington
5. Oregon State (1-2)...OSU played well against BSU but they didn't have enough firepower in the passing department to beat the #3 Broncos. The Beavers are victims of playing two top 10 teams on the road and not having enough firepower at QB to keep up with them. Up Next: Arizona State
6. UCLA (2-2)...The Bruins took advantage of five UT turnovers to shock the nation with the upset of the day. Another against the odds signature win for Rick Neuheisel. Two wins in a row over "Top 25" opponents for the Bruins. UCLA can't afford a let down against WSU. Up Next : WSU
7. Arizona State (2-2)...The Sun Devils could have beat Oregon if they eliminated multiple offensive mistakes. Steven Threat is a good looking QB. The Devils had 597 yards in total offense against the Ducks while holding them to 405. Up Next: At Arizona State
8. California (2-2)...Cal played a solid game on the road.The Bear defense showed well but the offense couldn't get it into the end zone. Tedford needs to use the bye week to make his offense more productive. Up Next: Bye
9. Washington (1-2)...The Huskies take a serious plunge in the rankings during the bye week after Nebraska struggled to beat South Dakota State. the Huskies need to show signs of life this week or this could be another throw away season. Up Next: At USC
10. Washington State (1-3)...WSU is showing some improvement despite the lopsided loss to USC. What is encouraging is an offense that is beginning to come together. Yes...UCLA is a winnable game for the Cougs. Up Next: At UCLA