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Pac 12 Sightlines: Week 4

I have two songs stuck in my head right now.  One is absolutely horrible and I would be absolutely embarrassed out of my mind if you knew what it was.  The second is "The Gambler" by Kenny Rogers.  Yes, I'm having a bad day.

You know who else is having a bad day?  Nick Holt.  The highest paid Defensive Coordinator in the Pac 12 is putting up Baer-ian statistics and, well, he's gotten called out for it.  Deservedly so ... although how his D can go from where they were in the Holiday Bowl to where they are now reeks of player execution issues.  Regardless, it;s a pretty good bet that we might be seeing his name again in this week's Pac 12 Sightlines.

Colorado at Ohio State

Colorado continues a stretch of some pretty wicked games to open up their season.  This is their fourth OOC game with two on the road (Hawaii, Ohio St) and two at home (Cal, Colorado St).  They get a little reprieve next week against WSU but then start a wicked stretch of @Stan, @UW, Oregon, @ASU, USC.  Welcome to the Pac 12, Coach Embree.  The reality of the situation is that Colorado is not equipped to fare well on this gauntlet.  The emergence of some good skill players on offense does not fully compensate for their beat up offensive line and their lack of depth behind their playmakers.  Rodney Stewart is case in point.  He leads the team with 223 yds rushing.  His backup, Freshman Tony Jones, is second with 23 yds.  Ohio State enters the contest not ranked in the top 25 for the first time since Madonna lost her virginity.  The are an angry, chippy, talented bunch who are looking for a momentum win before they open up their Big 10 schedule next week.  My sightline will be focused on the linebacking corps of Colorado.  Ohio State is playing a QB rotation system that did not fare well against Miami.  The running game is going to be the focus for the Buckeyes as they ride out the ongoing suspension of most of their team and as they try to take pressure off of their passers.  If the Buffs have a shot at ending their 18 game road losing streak, the 'backers are going to have the make the plays they are given.

UCLA at Oregon St

Lawrdie, Lawrdie, Lawrdie.  I haven't seen a matchup this compelling since Howard Jones toured with Rick Astley and did a gig at the Clark County fairgrounds in 1989.  Storylines abound in this game.  How will Richard Brehaut fare in his first start of the season?  Is the Kevin Prince era over?  How will Shawn Mannion fare in his first start?  Is the Ryan Katz era over?  Will James Rodgers play?  Will the Weasel get relief from the hot seat?  Will Mike Riley find himself on it?  Will Nestor finally find his wits and free the Gekko from banishment at Bruins Nation?  My sightline is focused on the battle of backup quarterbacks.  Specifically, I'll be watching to see of the ADs of the two schools can pull off the first ever trade of demoted and disenfranchised backup quarterbacks in the history of the Pac 12.

USC at Arizona State

Another compelling South Division matchup for USC sees them on the road against an ASU team that melted down in Illinois in a manner that is befitting of a Dennis Erickson led bunch.  The Sun Devils struggled in their marquee matchup last week putting up just 362 yards of total offense and exposing Brock Osweiler to six sacks (after allowing just one in the two games before).  The Trojans will be the best defense that ASU will have seen to date.  The porous D you saw last year is gone, replaced by the third best statistical D in the Pac so far this year.  On the flip side, USC goes on its first road trip of the year with substantial momentum on the offensive side of the ball.  Matt Barkley to Robert Woods is a lethal combination and the power running attack has been found with RB Marc Tyler now back in his familiar starting role.  The story of this game will be how ASU, minus standout DE Junior Onyeali, handles the young USC O-Line.  ASU has built their d-line on speed.  Can they get to Barkley and can they break down running lanes before Tyler busts them?  I'm guessing not.

Oregon at Arizona

When I was 8 or 9 years old, my dad took me to one of those matinee deals where you got to watch the prequel of a movie that was just released right before you got to watch the movie itself.  He was excited.  The only problem for me was that the prequel was something called Oh, God! and the sequel was Oh, God! Book 2.  The only thing more hellish than a George Burns sex scene is the bajillion game losing streak that Arizona currently finds itself in.  We all know the matchups here.  Oregon is starting to click as Darron Thomas continues to develop as a reliable opportune passer.  The rhythm offense has found its beat and the young O-Line is gaining confidence after two blowouts of cupcake competition.  They march into Tuscon looking to register their first honorable win of the season.  UA comes into the game with outstanding playmakers on offense in Nick Foles, Juron Criner and Dan Buckner.  However, their O-Line is in shambles and their running game is almost non-existent.  Layer in an injury riddled secondary and a d-line with more holes in it than a Vince Flynn novel and you have a recipe for something ugly.  Still, I'm intrigued by this matchup.  Oregon's secondary cannot matchup against Arizona's passing attack - the D-Line hasn't shown an ability to generate a pass rush and the UA receiving corps is too deep.  My sightline is UA offensive line.  If they can hold up against Oregon's blitzing LBs, this game might be more interesting than people think.

California at Washington

I already gave you a detailed preview in this week's Gekko File.  I expect this game to involve a lot of points scored by both teams.  My sightline is going to be focused on the interior linemen of UW's defensive front and what buttons Nick Holt pushes to elevate their play.  In particular, I'm interested to see how they rotate in the reserves and how much run Semisi Tokolahi has earned.  Against Nebraska, I couldn't help but notice how high the energy level was despite their ineffectiveness.  I know that the Nebraska players were saying UW looked tired, but I didn't see that.  I saw, in fact, a lot of big hits get delivered by our boys in between gashing plays of 6-10 yards each.  It just didn't look right.  Will the results match the energy from that interior portion of the line this week?  Will our LBs be free to roam and fill gaps?  Will our ends get the chance to win some one on one matchups and register a few hits on Zach Maynard?  I'll be watching.

What will you be watching in this week's Pac 12 slate?