Ten things to watch in the Pac-10 on Saturday
September, 12, 2008
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Lots to look for in a big nonconference weekend:1. USC RB Joe McKnight may be ready for his close-up: McKnight was burdened with stratospheric of expectations last year as a true freshman, most notably folks calling him the next Reggie Bush. He flashed some fanciness at times but didn't break through. Watching him during practices this week, however, there were a few "Reggie who?" moments. Dude's got some wheels. Saturday's game would be a nice stage for a breakout performance.
2. Good Craft or Bad Craft? UCLA can show the nation the victory over Tennessee was no fluke by beating No. 18 BYU on the road. The Bruins D will be challenged by a balanced, veteran Cougars offense playing at home, but the game likely will turn on QB Kevin Craft's ability to exploit a mediocre secondary. To do that, two things have to happen: One, he needs time to throw; Two, he needs to avoid the brain cramps that caused him to toss four first-half interceptions against Tennessee.
3. Ducks got Painter's number: Purdue QB Curtis Painter has piled up some big numbers, but he hasn't faced many secondaries as athletic as Oregon's. If the Ducks get good pressure up front, count on the DBs getting their belated first picks of the season.
4. Will the Huskies D finally show up?: Based on what it's done in the first two games -- 486 yards and 36 points per game -- Washington's defense looks poised to give up 50 or more to the third-ranked Sooners. That won't go over well in Husky Stadium, where an 0-3 start needs to arrive as softly as possible -- as in, not a five-TD spread -- or the already simmering talk about coach Tyrone Willingham will reach a boil.
5. Another round of Best highlights: See what we said last week -- California RB Jahvid Best broke out against Washington State with a pair of 80-plus yard TD runs. If he gets fancy again, such as matching his average of 240 yards of total offense per game, he officially will earn a new lead-in in media reports: "Heisman Trophy candidate Jahvid Best."
6. Is a Cougar QB change on deck? Gary Rogers has been mostly terrible in the first two games, so Kevin Lopina will get a shot at Baylor in a rescheduled Friday night game. Will Rogers respond to the challenge, or will new blood inspire the anemic offense? Or is there just no hope in 2008?
7. Speaking of QB issues, er, Stanford: The Cardinal is only saved from having the Pac-10's worst passing offense by the Cougars (105.5 yards vs. 96 yards per game). Starter Tavita Pritchard only has one TD pass in two games. He needs to step up at TCU, or he'll find Jim Harbaugh not just platooning his backups. And perhaps touted freshman Andrew Luck will get a shot.
8. Your nationally ranked Arizona Wildcats: If Arizona dispatches New Mexico with prejudice, as it should, then the Wildcats will start to win over skeptical believers. They already are getting Top 25 votes, which landed them 38th in this week's AP poll. Big number Saturday could have them sniffing the Top 25.
9. Don't get sloppy, Sun Devils: Arizona State needs to come out and stomp on UNLV early and get QB Rudy Carpenter safely on the sidelines by the middle of the third quarter. Don't screw around and risk any more injuries with Georgia coming to town next weekend.
10. Lyle Moevao, your Beavers need you: Oregon State looks out of sorts. Over the previous three seasons, a guy like Yvenson Bernard would have stepped up and made sure that the team stayed focused after a bad loss. Thus those famous Beavers second-half surges. Who steps up now? We nominate Moevao, who's got a lot of charisma. But he needs to step up with his play first. With the defense struggling, Moevao and the Beavers offense may have to win a scoring fest vs. Hawaii.