Monday, September 13, 2010
Pac-10 rewind and look ahead
By Ted Miller
An undefeated weekend. Unless you're UCLA.
Team of the week: Oregon actually in some ways looks better because it came back from a 13-3 deficit at Tennessee with a 45-zip run. If the Ducks had rolled from the get-go, it would have been a case of "that's what we expected." But by bouncing back from adversity -- nothing went right in the first quarter on either side of the ball -- Oregon showed notable resilience and grace under pressure. And, let's face it, it was kind of fun that the early going spawned some SEC trash talk -- "We play defense in the SEC!" -- that was notably muted by game's end.
Best game: So Washington State nearly went down to Montana State? Think Virginia Tech, Kansas and Minnesota would prefer a "nearly" for themselves? The Cougars showed some heart by rallying from 15 points down in the fourth quarter to win 23-22.
Stopping LaMichael James in space is one of Stanford's biggest challenges.
Biggest play: LaMichael James' all-on-his-own 72-yard TD run was a thing of beauty. Just spectacular. And when he made the Tennessee defense look silly -- there was a palpable wince in Neyland Stadium -- you could sort of sense that the Ducks were about to deliver a beatdown. And they did.
Offensive standout: Washington receiver Jermaine Kearse bounced back from an inconsistent performance at BYU to dominate Syracuse's secondary. He hauled in nine receptions for 179 yards with three TDs. Kearse ranks third in the nation with 143.5 receiving yards per game.
Defensive standout (s): Two strong performances from Bay Area teams. California linebacker Mohamed led the Bears defensive effort against Colorado with 14 tackles and an interception for a TD, while Stanford safety Michael Thomas had five tackles -- one for a loss -- and forced two fumbles in the shutout win against UCLA. The second forced fumble he returned 21 yards for a TD.
Special teams standout: Kenjon Barner returned a punt 80 yards for a TD, giving the Ducks three punt returns for scores in two games after Cliff Harris had two against New Mexico in the opener.
Smiley face: The Stanford defense, which recorded its first road shutout since 1974, a 35-zip blanking of UCLA. Also, the Pac-10, a week after going 6-4 in nonconference games, went 7-0 against nonconference foes, including wins against the Big 12 (Colorado), the SEC (Tennessee), the Big East (Syracuse) and the ACC (Virginia).
Frowny face: UCLA. The Bruins rank 115th in the nation in scoring, 115th in passing and 111th in total offense. The defense? It ranks 116th vs. the run and 102nd in scoring. And Arizona State's rushing offense, which only produced 56 yards on 29 carries against Northern Arizona. That's 1.9 yards per rush vs. an FCS team.
Sloppy: Look at the bottom of this list. Arizona State and USC rank 118th and 119th in penalty yards per game (112 and 120, respectively). Both have committed 24 penalties in their first two games. Yeech.
Quote of the week: "That's the most miserable 2-0 locker room I've ever been in," USC coach Lane Kiffin said after his Trojans beat Virginia.
Quote of the week II: "Tonight was an offensive disaster," UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel said after his Bruins were blanked.
Thought of the week: Here's are the top games (Oregon vs. Portland State is not included).
Iowa at Arizona
Arizona State at Wisconsin
Nebraska at Washington
Cal at Nevada (Friday)
Wake Forest at Stanford
Houston at UCLA
USC at Minnesota
Washington State at SMU
Louisville at Oregon State
The win-loss record on Saturday night will play a huge role in how the Pac-10 is perceived this season. And, Oregon fans, if you are starting to entertain national-title dreams, you should root hard for the conference to do well. And, yes, that includes the Huskies and Beavers. Saturday's results will resonate in both the national and computer polls -- and later the BCS standings.