NCF Nation: Rob Gronkowksi
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Pac-10 had a good week; I did not, going 6-3 with the picks, which makes me 13-4 for the season.
Huge weekend for the conference in terms of national perception, as a number of writers have noted.
The Pac-10 is 13-4 in nonconference games so far and 6-2 vs. BCS teams, but the lineup this week features visits from two ranked teams and pair of road games at Big Ten destinations.
California 35, Minnesota 21: This game should make Cal fans nervous, if only because the Bears have not of late been the same team on the road. Minnesota is experienced, with 17 starters back from a crew that went 7-6 in 2008 and the Gophers are playing in their new stadium in front of what figures to be a raucous crowd. Still, you look at Cal's roster and the Bears have such a speed advantage it's hard to pick against them.
Arizona 24, Iowa 21: I'm on-record believing that many are underestimating Arizona. That take, of course, included the presence of tight end Rob Gronkowski, one of the Pac-10's biggest difference-makers, but he will be out again with a back injury. Too bad. Arizona's defensive speed, however, should hold the Hawkeyes in check, and if sophomore quarterback Matt Scott doesn't make any big blunders, the Wildcats should figure out a way to score enough to win.
USC 30, Washington 17: The Huskies are much improved but, unlike many, I don't expect the Trojans to have a letdown after the win at Ohio State. For one, the players recall what happened last year at Oregon State. Second, they know that their former coaches, Steve Sarkisian and Nick Holt, are standing on the opposite sideline. Finally, the Trojans' veteran offensive line and speed at the skill positions are a terrible matchup for the young and beaten-up Husky defense.
Oregon 27, Utah 24: These aren't the same Ducks as last year. Yet. And these aren't the same Utes as last year. Yet. But here's a guess that Oregon takes another step forward after the Boise State debacle.
Cincinnati 34, Oregon State 30: The Bearcats have a veteran quarterback in Tony Pike and they like to spread the field with four and five receivers. The Beavers haven't generated much of a pass rush yet and are rebuilding their secondary. Oregon State should be able to score, but Cincinnati is built for a track meet, even away from home.
UCLA 21, Kansas State 17: This one will be a grind. The Bruins will be missing starting quarterback Kevin Prince because of a broken jaw and are down two cornerbacks due to injury and suspension, as well as three other offensive players due to suspension. They will survive but barely.
SMU 38, Washington State 30: Is this the Cougars' last chance for a win in 2009? Will they draw a line in the sand, dig deep and get the W? Maybe, but scrap and claw as they might, the guess here is they again fall short against a run-and-shoot offense.
Stanford 30, San Jose State 13: Stanford gets the ball back in running back Toby Gerhart's hands, which sets up a couple of big plays in the passing game, and the defense regroups after a poor second-half showing at Wake Forest.
Arizona State 24, Louisiana-Monroe 17: The Warhawks, who won at Alabama in 2007, have athletes. This is not a gimme, but the Sun Devils likely learned last year against UNLV that there are no gimmes.
September, 9, 2008
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Hope this weekend's game features more speed than my Internet connection in LA. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.
- Arizona TE Rob Gronkowski might return from illness and play this week against New Mexico. WR Terrell Reese, arrested for DUI over the weekend, is the fourth Wildcat since May to earn a suspension from coach Mike Stoops. Yeah, but things are going well in the red zone.
- "Bring on Georgia" signs at Arizona State-Stanford game were made by a Georgia-based company, according to Jeff Metcalfe, one with significant ties to the SEC, by the way. Coach Dennis Erickson admitted he was fairly happy with how things went against Stanford, though he'd probably prefer that Keegan Herring's hamstring feel better.
- The final four Tree Sitters may be forced out in the next couple of days. Maryland, California's opponent Saturday, is struggling and may make some changes.
- The Oregon offense is rolling, but the competition hasn't been stellar so far. RB Jeremiah Johnson has been cleared to practice after hurting his shoulder against Utah State.
- Oregon State hopes to get better with Hawaii coming to town. The Warriors looked a lot better with QB Tyler Graunke running the offense.
- UCLA is a rallying around QB Kevin Craft. Quick injury update. There's a bit of déjà vu playing BYU again. Expectations are higher now.
- USC's offensive line will get a far bigger test against Ohio State. Some of the elite Trojans and Buckeyes know each other. USC expects to see Beanie.
- Heading up to Seattle to play Washington, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops doesn't want to talk about Pac-10 officials. Huskies coach Tyrone Willingham did, though, making more critical comments than he had after the game. RB Chris Polk may be out for the season. No time to pout with the Sooners coming to town.
- Washington State is headed to Baylor to try to find itself. Meet the Bears. Reflecting on the blowout defeat to Cal.