Sunday, October 4, 2009
What we learned in the Pac-10
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
What did we learn from Week 5 of Pac-10 action?
1. Barring any upsets, USC's visit to Oregon is now the Pac-10 game of the year: Halloween night in Autzen Stadium should be fun. USC and Oregon are clearly the class of the Pac-10 at this juncture, with both posting victories over two ranked teams as well as losing in disappointing fashion. Does it need to be said, however, that if either looks ahead in the conference schedule, it will surely do a face-plant? Oregon must get through road games at UCLA and Washington -- a bye in between -- and the trip to Seattle figures to legitimately renew a bitter rivalry that's been dormant while the Huskies have stunk. After a bye, USC visits Notre Dame and then plays host to Oregon State. Woe to the Trojans if they take the Beavers lightly. But they know that, right?
2. California was overrated: I'm not sure if I've ever obtained this level of wrongness and I've been massively wrong many times, as you fine folks often point out. I starting banging the drum for Cal immediately after the 2008 season and didn't let up. I picked the Bears to win at Oregon -- they lost 42-3. I picked the Bears to bounce back and beat USC. They lost 30-3. That's 72-6 worth of wrong. Maybe assistant coaching changes hurt. Maybe this is just a bizarre lull that the Bears will recover from. Or maybe all those players who looked like NFL prospects just aren't that good.
3. Stanford and Toby Gerhart are legit: Stanford is 4-1 and 3-0 in the Pac-10. Gerhart ranks fourth in the nation with 130 yards rushing per game and has scored eight touchdowns. If that doesn't make him a Heisman Trophy candidate then what the heck will? And unlike Cal and Jahvid Best, Gerhart has a solid passing game to support him. Also, the Cardinal seemed to have figured out ways to cover up their lack of team speed on defense. You've got to love the Cardinal's physical style. This team won't make it easy on anyone, so take note Oregon and USC.
4. Oregon State is lurking (again): For the fourth consecutive season, Oregon State has started ... wait. The Beavers are 3-2 -- not 2-3 -- after winning at Arizona State for the first time since 1969. What the heck does that mean? Does that screw up the odd karma that saw the Beavers transform into a Top-25 team each of the previous three years? Or does it mean they take another step forward? Or maybe it just means that the Pac-10 blog needs to again pick against the Beavers on a weekly basis, thereby ensuring a victory.
5. UCLA is not there yet: UCLA has shown improvement under second-year coach Rick Neuheisel, but the offense is clearly still a work in progress after losing 24-16 at Stanford. The Bruins had only 300 total yards and Kevin Craft averaged just 6 yards per completion. The line is better but not yet ready for prime time. The defense is very good, but not good enough to win on its own against quality Pac-10 competition. Still, starting quarterback Kevin Prince (broken jaw) may return for the Oregon game on Saturday in the Rose Bowl. Perhaps that will give the Bruins a spark.