|ESPN.com: NCF Nation||[Print without images]|
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Revelations from the past weekend's action.
Sometimes conventional wisdom is wrong: California's offensive line was decimated by injuries and Oregon leads the Pac-10 with 3.5 sacks per game. Didn't matter. Oregon lives and plays in the sodden Pacific Northwest, so a deluge game would only make the Ducks more comfortable while limiting the home-field advantage as many Cal fans stayed home. Didn't matter. Oregon, having won three of four on the road -- the lone defeat coming at USC -- would be perfectly comfortable playing at Memorial Stadium. Didn't seem that way. Oregon's offense was coming into its own as quarterback Jeremiah Masoli's confidence grew. Didn't matter. It's clear that California can't win a big game with backup quarterback Nate Longshore because Longshore wilts when the pressure is on. Not this time. Cal's defense was exposed in the second half at Arizona. So what? Cal wins 26-16 and a week's worth of analysis goes poof.
We didn't think it could get any worse in the state of Washington. Then it did: The state of Washington was outscored 114 to zip this weekend by teams from Northern (Stanford) and Southern (USC) California. The state of Washington was outgained 941 yards to 409 this weekend. One word: Yuck. With North Texas' victory over Western Kentucky, the Huskies, who lost 56-0 to USC, became the only winless FBS team. And with Washington State losing 58-0 to Stanford, it appears that the Cougars might be even worse. Neither team showed fight or gave their fans reason for hope. It was particularly disappointing that the Huskies failed to make any positive statement on their feelings for outgoing coach Tyrone Willingham. Or is the talent he recruited just that, er, untalented? It appears that the Apple Cup on Nov. 22 will be the most pathetic rivalry game in the history of rivalry games.
Oregon State proved it's starting its annual late-season surge: Arizona State came to Corvallis looking like the desperate team it is, and the Sun Devils fought hard and didn't make things easy for Oregon State, which seemed primed for a let-up performance. The Beavers didn't play particularly well, and they lost starting quarterback Lyle Moevao to a shoulder injury of presently undisclosed severity in the middle of the second quarter. What's more, Sean Canfield gave the Sun Devils a 13-7 lead when safety Troy Nolan returned a third-quarter interception 41 yards for a touchdown. The lead changed hands five times. Sun Devils quarterback Rudy Carpenter had an opportunity to tie the game on a 2-point play. But the defense held and the Beavers survived a thriller. While other teams have imploded with QB issues, Canfield showed he can handle the offense, if needed. The Beavers now have won three in a row and five of six since an 0-2 start. Again: If they win out, they go to the Rose Bowl.
Up and running again, there's still hope for Arizona State: Sure, the Sun Devils lost their sixth game in a row, which the program hasn't done since 1929. But they fought hard at Oregon State, which supports optimism for a far more manageable schedule ahead. Even the running game showed signs of life in Corvallis, with Shaun DeWitty rushing for 110 yards on 16 carries, the highlight being a 54-yard run, the team's longest running play this season. ASU entered the game ranked 114th in the nation with just 87 yards rushing per game. DeWitty, at 6-foot-2, 227 pounds, gives the Sun Devils a power back who might be able to make his own yardage behind an often overmatched offensive line. And don't completely count the 2-6 Sun Devils out of the bowl picture. It's not inconceivable they could win each of their four remaining games: at Washington, Washington State, UCLA and at Arizona.
USC quarterback Mark Sanchez regained his rhythm: Washington's pass defense is the perfect antidote for quarterback inconsistency, and Sanchez took a full dose in the Trojans' 56-0 win. After struggling at Arizona a week ago, he completed 15 of 19 passes (79 percent) for 167 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. It seems like Sanchez plays better at home -- see big numbers vs. Ohio State, Oregon and Washington -- than on the road -- see poor numbers at Oregon State and Arizona. USC's toughest two remaining games -- California on Saturday and Notre Dame on Nov. 29 -- are at home. That bodes well for Sanchez and the Trojans as the nation's most-feared team tries to battle its way back into the national title hunt.