Week 2 was a good week to be a Pac 10 team. The conference swept every game, with the lone exception being Stanford’s beat down of UCLA, where a Pac 10 team had to lose. This looks to be a much stronger conference than is being nationally perceived.
Granted, the wins were piled up against less than formidable opponents, but only to teams won by single digits. One of those teams is the consensus basement dweller or the conference, Washington State. Yes, it was against FCS team Montana State, and yes, it took a fourth quarter rally to eek out the victory, but any win the Cougars can get is fine by them.
Then there is USC. The Trojans struggled offensively, a week after the defense was an issue against Hawaii. I’m starting to doubt whether or not Lane Kiffin will be able to give this team an identity. There is talent on the team, we know that. But I find their play inconsistent and rough. They surely haven’t played like a top 25 team thus far, despite the fact they are 2-0.
Some other notes from Week 2. Oregon continues to look like a team not only competing for a Pac-10 title, but possibly looking for a BCS title. The conference schedule will be tough in terms of going undefeated, but the Ducks administered another thrashing, this time at Tennessee. We’re all waiting for that matchup against Stanford.
Speaking of Stanford, their win against UCLA marks the first in-conference game of the season, in which the Cardinal cruised 35-0. I admit, this is a team that is looking better than I expected them to, even if I am low on UCLA.
Oregon State was on a bye in Week 2.
Alright, let’s move on to Week 3.
California vs Nevada
This Friday night game is an interesting one. Both teams are looking to move into the top 25 with a win here, but the Bears are the favorite despite being on the road in a short week.
When playing Nevada, you must guard against the run. It’s not that I don’t think Cal can defend, but can the offense, and most importantly QB Kevin Riley, get out in front early to force Nevada to play from behind. I think Cal is the better team, but Nevada may have the matchup they want.
USC vs Minnesota
The Trojans shouldn’t have a problem winning this game. I’m looking to see how they win. They have shown two different personalities in as many games, so perhaps game three can provide a glimpse on what this team will be like going into Pac-10 play. If they struggle, you can officially put a red flag on USC and Lane Kiffin.
Nebraska vs Washington
This is my Pac-10 game of the week. I want to see Jake Locker against this Cornhusker defense, and I’m sure many NFL scouts will be in attendance to see the same. Locker must be brilliant if the Huskies have any chance to win. I don’t expect Chris Polk to do much in the running game.
Defensively speaking, it’s not like Nebraska is an offensive juggernaut. Washington has to kill the run, kill the run, and oh, did I mention, kill the run? What happens here will be very eye-opening on just how good Washington can be this year.
Arizona State vs Wisconsin
Ex-Michigan quarterback and current Sun Devil Steven Threet has beaten a ranked Wisconsin team before, one of only two of Threet’s Ann Arbor victories. Arizona State has looked good enough to repeat Threet’s past, but the Badgers are going to be a much harder team to beat than the cupcakes presented to them so far.
I’ve been trying to talk myself into a Sun Devil win here, since Big Ten matchups seem favorable to their style of play, but with no experience this year playing tough competition, and going on the road against a hard-nosed team, they should just be happy keeping it close, which I do expect. Gamblers might want to look at the point spread in this one.
Washington State vs Southern Methodist
I’m not going to say this very often this year, but the Cougars are coming off a win. I don’t foresee me typing the same thing next week. This team is building, folks, and the losses will come in bunches, even to teams with problems such as SMU. The best case scenario here is keeping it close early and seeing any signs of progress.
Louisville vs Oregon State
I would not want to be Louisville this week. The Cardinals problem so far has been stopping the ground attack, and Oregon State is a team looking to run it down opponents’ throats. Add into the mix that the Beavers have had two weeks to stomach their loss against top-5 TCU, and yeah, I don’t see this being too close a game.
But you have to mention that the Beavers face Boise State next week, and the fear of overlooking a lesser opponent is out there. Louisville needs to hope for just that, and perhaps get an early lead and force Oregon State quarterback Ryan Katz to make some plays. Otherwise, it will be a long day for the Cardinals.
Portland State vs Oregon
The Ducks’ last tune-up before conference play. Portland State is an FCS school, and they will likely get pounded. Not much to see here.
Iowa vs Arizona
The only game this week featuring two top-25 schools. I hate this matchup for Arizona, who come equipped with a high octane offense but face a tough Big Ten defense. I favor the defense in battles like these, and the Hawkeyes are the better team. Plus, I worry about the defensive line against Iowa’s offense, and if the Wildcats can supply any pressure.
Being at home obviously helps, and Arizona has what it takes to rally if they find themselves behind, but Iowa to me is bigger and stronger and should win the all too important line of scrimmage battle. The Wildcats must force a shootout to be successful. I don’t see it playing out that way, but either way, it will be a great test, and should be a great game.
Houston vs UCLA
The good news: Houston quarterback Case Keenum may not play. The bad news: pretty much everything else. We can start with the fact that the Bruins can’t stop the run. Then we move on to their lack of ground control on offense. I’m a fan of what they’re doing, or more precisely, what they’re trying to do, but Houston, with or without Keenum is simply better at what they are doing.
UCLA needs to pray for a Keenum-less game. It’s really their only chance in this one.
Wake Forest vs Stanford
Okay, Stanford is better than I thought. Andrew Luck, who I already loved, is better than I thought. As for Wake, when Duke puts up 48 points on you, what do you expect one of the nation’s top quarterbacks to do?
Stanford wins easily here. The only concern is whether or not the defense can play as well as it has thus far, especially the run defense, but I don’t see it becoming a huge issue.
Written by Jay Fisher @jfishsports on Twitter