Week Five in the Pac
Heading into Week Five of the conference schedule, the UCLA Bruins and USC Trojans are tied atop the heap. I've seen a lot of Pac-10 games in my time, and I couldn't have predicted that the Bruins would be there. The Trojans, yes; that was expected.
But the Bruins have exceeded my expectations in the first half of the conference season.UCLA has shown a great deal of resiliency, beating Washington State in an overtime game two weeks ago and hammering Oregon State this weekend. Watching the Bruins beat Wazzu, I had a feeling they'd come back. They've got enough leadership that they can fall behind and know that they've still got a shot. And with Maurice Drew and Drew Olson on offense, it'd be hard to bet against them even if they're down.USC is still my pick to run the table in the Pac-10, but they've got some weaknesses.
Against Washington, a 100-yard return on the opening kickoff was averted by a tackle by DB Josh Pinkard at the eight yard line. The Trojans haven't had an easy time on special teams this year, with K Mario Danelo missing extra points in each of the last two games and the unit allowing long returns on a regular basis this season. As well, Pinkard will be playing cornerback this weekend; the team's defensive secondary is decimated. The thing with the Trojans is, you've got to outscore and outscheme them. I'm not quite sure how to do either of those things.Oregon is in third in the Pac, and has a week off this Saturday.
They need it. Unitas Award finalist Kellen Clemens was knocked out for the season with a broken ankle, and exciting backup Dennis Dixon left the game with a concussion last week. While they beat Arizona, they need this Saturday off to lick their wounds.
Stanford has been the biggest surprise in the conference this year. After losing to perennial powerhouse UC Davis, I had the Cardinal penciled in for the bottom of the pile. They've now won their last three games, the first time they've done that since 1999.
In their last win, they put up 45 points against Arizona State. The Cardinal are playing like you'd expect a team with high SAT scores to play: not too many penalties (five per game) and no turnovers in the last three games.Cal, on the other hand, has been a disappointment. The Bears barely outpointed Washington State last week; the passing game and defense have been problems for them.
While they've got two of the best running backs around in Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett ? both average over 100 yards on the ground per game ? when your defense stinks, it's hard to outscore teams on the ground.The bottom half of the conference is headed by Oregon State. They've got two big-play threats in RB Yvenson Bernard and WR Mike Hass. Hass leads the country in yards per game with 149.6, and Bernard has over 180 yards in each of his last two games. The question for the Beavers is the same as for Cal: can they stop anyone? This year, the answer has been a resounding "NO".
Arizona State, like Cal, has been a disappointment. Since leading USC by 18 at the end of the first half of the eventual loss, they've fallen apart. What they need is a horrible team to come to town? and they're getting one, with the Washington Huskies heading into Tempe this weekend.
The conference cellar is inhabited by the Washingtons and Arizona. It's hard to say that there is a class of the winless, but if there is such a thing, Washington State is it. The Cougars have shown heart and offense in equal proportions. RB Jerome Harrison is averaging 166.
1 ypc and, barring injury, will set a school record for rushing yards in a season, and the Cougars have lost their last three games by four or less. On the flip side, they've allowed more than 40 points in three of their last four games. That's not a good stat to have in your back pocket when USC is right around the bend.The buzz in college football these days is that all Pac-10 teams are trying to do is outscore their opponents. While I understand that this conference has turned into a pinball machine, isn't that the object of the game regardless?..
Lenny Del Genio is a documented member of The Professional Handicappers League at http://www.procappers.com. Read more of his articles at http://www.
procappers.com/Lenny Del Genio.htm.
By: Lenny Del Genio
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