Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Pac Ten Alley...Win Five In a Row Edition

This is the first edition of the Pac Ten Alley...."Win Five in a Row Edition".

When I look at our next five opponents I see five teams that we can beat. A 48-41 loss to Arizona isn't going to change my mind on that. It also isn't going to obscure the fact that even if all five are winnable, we could lose all five too.

With that being said lets think positive and think about winning the next five. The last half of the Pac Ten season is all about surviving, and when you have Jake Locker getting better every week it may just be enough t0 push you over the top.

We start off the week with our next opponent Stanford.

The Cardinal have surprised all year as Jim Harbaugh has done an excellent coaching and motivational job with his team. You may have forgotten, but the Cardinal lost a lot of key guys early this year. They weren't deep to begin with, so what Harbaugh has done so far is borederline amazing. Washington should beat Stanford this week simply because we should be able to outscore them with our offense. The question of course is whether the Husky defense can rebound, or if it will just continue sliding? Washington has a big edge on offense with Jake Locker running around back there, while Stanford has the edge in overall attitude. Jon wilner of the Merc takes the attitude this week that Stanford is Rodney Dangerfield, they just get no respect.

The Washington Huskies have lost six games in a row, they trail Stanford in the Pac-10 standings, and they just blew a fourth-quarter lead, at home, against Arizona. Their defense has given up more than 1,700 yards in the past three games. They have a freshman quarterback. They haven’t won a game on grass this season. Their coach is on the hot seat. Their defensive coordinator is on the scalding seat. Fans are howling. Media are pouncing. And yet … The Huskies are a three-point favorite at Stanford on Saturday, according to the line published in the Merc. Wow. The oddsmakers and betting public have zero respect for the Cardinal.Imagine what the line would be if Stanford hadn’t won at USC. Or if it hadn’t beaten UW last year in Seattle. But those results help explain the current line. Stanford has handled itself fairly well on the road in the last 12 months but has won just one home game in the past two years.

Mike Riley is a pretty good coach, and if you remember he was actually Barbara Hedges first choice to succeed Jim Lambright. He has his Oregon State Beavers headed in the right direction, and he even has been reducing Sean Canfield's turnovers. Still he runs into some major adversity this week because Yvenson Bernard may be out a week or two with a shoulder injury. If there is anything that can help the Huskies win on the road in two weeks it is the absence of Bernard in the lineup....stay tuned. I think the Beavers are going to get pounded by the Trojans this week, and it is going to hurt their depth further going into the Washington game. If Bernard plays against USC chances are he will be too banged up enough to go against UW.

According to Paul Buker, who is at the OSU Press Conference, Yvenson Bernard sprained his shoulder in OSU's 23-6 win over Stanford. If he plays or not against the Trojans will be a game-time decision, the same decision Yvenson and the Beavers were faced with last year.
He didn't play, and Clinton Polk did just fine as the Beavers went on to upset the Trojans 33-31.
"It's a sprained shoulder, which is good news,'' Riley said. "There's no separation, no break. ... it's basically a day to day thing.''

Just a few weeks ago Cal was perched at the #2 spot in the polls thinking about a Pac Ten title, and a national championship. Now after three losses in a row they are reeling with a limpy QB, and a suspect defense. The Cougars are coming to visit this week fresh off a crushing win over UCLA. I have to pick the Bears to rebound in this one, but root for the Cougars to soften them up for the Huskies. I picked a Husky upset over the Bears before the season began, and I still think it is a good possibilty. One scary thought though....DeSean Jackson isolated on Vonzell McDowell, or Meshin Forrester.

The Bears' run of 26 consecutive weeks in the top 25 has ended, as Cal fell out of the rankings for the first time since the late stages of the 2005 season. "It's kind of unbelievable," Cal offensive lineman Mike Gibson said after Saturday's loss in Tempe, Ariz. "I'm just speechless." A win Saturday would have kept Cal very much in the Rose Bowl picture, and the Bears held a 20-7 lead in the first half as they dominated the early going. But ASU scored the final 24 points of the game, and Cal's final seven possessions resulted in five punts and two turnovers. For the second straight week, Bears quarterback Nate Longshore, still limping from a sprained ankle, threw two second-half interceptions.

They gave the Cougars up for dead before the season started, but Coach Doba had at least a couple of more wins in him as his squad not only upset, but beat up UCLA at home last week. This week the Cougars get Cal on the road and we find out if this resurgence is for real. I really have to go with the Bears in this one. If WSU pulls off another upset Doba may not be going anywhere. As far as the Apple cup goes it is in Seattle this year, and the Huskies usually win this type of game at home. This game is going to be a fireworks show for these two teams, and who knows, maybe there will be a bowl bid on the line. Brinkhater is predicting victory for the Coug's.

As far as we're concerned, well, to be honest, we only have ONE team left on the schedule that will pose significant problems for us defensively and that, my friends, is the University of Washington. The rest of the teams that we play pretty much have pocket passers. And, if you look at two out of the last three weeks, you will see that we have stiffened up tremendously on the defensive side of the ball. Moreover, CAL, Stanford, and Oregon State look much more like UCLA and ASU than they do like Oregon--at least from the perspective of Quarterback tendencies.

Hawaii....imagine if UW closes out 4-0 in the Pac Ten. Imagine an ESPN game to close out the season with the Warriors playing the Huskies to get a BCS berth. Imagine the Huskies at an improbable 6-6 trying to knock out an undefeated Cinderella for the right to go to whatever bowl will take them.

Brennan, one of the most accurate passers in NCAA history, struggled his first games back from the ankle injury, throwing a flurry of interceptions."Because I struggled early on, everybody's kind of written me off," Brennan said. "I don't think people realize that I'm really hungry and I'm about to have a run that I'm really excited about."

USC has now lost two games this season, and they are playing another team this week that can beat them, in fact OSU beat the Trojans last year. For some reason this Pete Carroll team isn't clicking on all cylinders. You can bring up the QB change, but I think it is more than that, something has gotten stale.

A couple glaring things stand out on that fourth-and-1 play in the first quarter. Oregon’s defense shifted completely towards the side where the play went and no one was in front of the right guard, which meant a gaping hole existed.USC believes Oregon got confused by the formation and accidentally shifted into the perfect spot to tackle Joe McKnight.But offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian said he regretted not calling a timeout before the play. Sarkisian said he saw Oregon’s defense shift from the sideline.``When I look back at it, I should have called a timeout from the sideline,’’ Sarkisian said. Ironically, the shift created a hole because no one lined up against the right guard, but Sarkisian said the play USC ran did not really allow for an audible.

Is there a worse coach in the Pac Ten than Karl Dorrell? If you are a Husky fan you might debate that since Dorrell and crew outcoached the Huskies in the Rose Bowl last month. Let's face it, we blew the UCLA game, and it was very winnable. UCLA plays at Arizona this week and I think as terrible as the Wildcats are they just might have enough firepower and emotion to knock off the Bruins.

That got me thinking about the psychology of the Bruin faithful. You see, we're headed for a break up. And though I know some of you aren't as optimistic as myself, I firmly believe that KD is history. Sure, I'm literally knocking on wood while I write this, but dude is gone. You don't need me to tell you why. But, dude is gone. This past weekend was it. Sure, Wyoming or Arizona or Utah or Notre Dame were each enough to warrant it. But, until this weekend, there was some doubt. And don't give me any crazy talk about winning a share of the Pac-10 title. If you believe that will happen, you need to stop dipping into momma's Quaaludes.

How about the Sun Devils, and Dennis Erickson knocking on the door of a national championship? The guy can coach, but can he keep the team out of trouble in coming years? Well at Arizona State they really don't care right now because it is nice to be back in the limelight. The Ducks are up next for these guys, and I am predicting a loss for the Devils.

Arizona State quarterback Rudy Carpenter wore a brace to protect his sprained right thumb when he held his weekly meeting with the media on Monday. The junior starter injured the thumb on his throwing hand with 11 minutes, 14 seconds left in the third quarter of a 31-20 win over California on Saturday. His availability to throw in practice this week for Saturday's game against Oregon remains in question."You'll have to come to practice to find out," said Carpenter, keeping his hands underneath a table so they couldn't be seen.

The Ducks face off against ASU, and as I said previously I give the edge to the Ducks in this one. I think Oregon is playing the best football in the country right now. Gameday in Eugene twice in one year? Say it isn't so!

It is confirmed. This mornings Eugene Register Guard reports that College Gameday will make a second appearance this year. They will be broadcasting live from Autzen stadium starting at 7:00 am local time this coming Saturday. If you plan to attend, get there early. A group of us arrived at about 6:30 am when they were here for the Cal game and it was tough to get a good vantage point.

Arizona may have come back to beat Washington last week, but they have to win a coule more before Mike Stoops is removed from that hot seat. Hot and cold UCLA visits the Wildcats this week fresh off a loss to WSU.

Arizona quarterback Willie Tuitama has been named the Pac-10 Player of the Week after his five-touchdown and school-record 510 yard performance against Washington. Receiver Mike Thomas garnered the special teams honors with six kickoffs for 173 yards, including a 45-yarder. Thomas also caught 10 passes for 165 yards and three scores. Tuitama completed 38 of 51 passes to set the passing yardage record, previously owned by Jason Johnson with 492.

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