NCF Nation: what to watch week 2 2009
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
We dive right into some conference games this weekend, which is refreshing given all the carnage we witnessed to open the season.
The SEC must have set some kind of record for 40-point blowouts last week. It was like everybody in the league was having a contest to see who could open up with the most overmatched foe.
That is, everybody but Alabama, Auburn, Georgia and South Carolina. And LSU gets a pass, too, for going all the way across the country to play a Pac-10 team, even though Washington was 0-12 the year before.
Thankfully, the exhibition season is over, although somebody forgot to tell Florida. The No. 1-ranked Gators "step it up" from Charleston Southern to Troy this Saturday.
Think about how crowded the Purple Porpoise would be by halftime if that fine establishment were still open.
Here’s a look at what to watch in the SEC in Week 2:
1. Joe Cox’s second shot: It sounds like Georgia quarterback Joe Cox has thick skin, which is good. He said this week he was unfazed by what his critics were saying. His focus remains on this team and the offense getting better. Who knows how much Cox was affected by flu-like symptoms last week. Georgia coach Mark Richt said Cox would be the last one to bring it up regardless of how he felt. Either way, he wasn’t very sharp throwing the football in the season-opening 24-10 loss to Oklahoma State, but gets a chance for redemption against a South Carolina defense that will come after him. Don’t count Cox out just yet. He’s better than he played last week and is one tough customer.
2. The Head Ball Coach’s dilemma: Steve Spurrier has a good defense. Actually, he has a really good defense capable of keeping South Carolina in just about every game it plays this season. Here’s the rub: Spurrier isn’t real fond of playing it close to the vest and playing to his defense. Sure, the Gamecocks have to play better on offense than they did in the 7-3 season-opening win over North Carolina State. But if they start pitching it around the ballpark too much, they risk the kind of turnovers that kept the defense backed up against its own goal line all of last season. We’ll see if Spurrier can find a happy medium this Saturday in Athens.
3. Getting defensive: OK, it wasn’t a rousing start for John Chavis and his LSU defense. Washington piled up 478 yards of total offense and 25 first downs last weekend, although the Tigers played better in the second half and prevailed 31-23 in Seattle. The LSU defenders have all vowed that it will be a different defense that takes the field this Saturday night against Vanderbilt. We’ll see if they can deliver on that promise. Ironically, the last time LSU gave up 478 yards or more of total offense in a regulation game was the 2005 opener against Arizona State. Like Chavis, Bo Pelini was also making his debut as defensive coordinator. The Tigers won 35-31, but were torched for 560 yards of total offense. How did they finish up that season? Try third nationally in scoring defense and total defense.
4. The good Shepard: After all the talk about Russell Shepard and all the different ways he could hurt a defense, the talented true freshman didn’t play a snap against Washington in the opener. The Tigers’ version of “Slash” watched from the sideline, as LSU coach Les Miles said afterward that he regretted not getting Shepard into the game. Miles said the closeness of the game and the Tigers’ limited number of offensive plays were the reasons why Shepard didn’t play. Here’s betting that Shepard is more than just a spectator this weekend. Having enrolled in school early, he’s gone through the spring and the preseason, and his teammates have raved about his ability to make things happen when he gets the ball. Maybe his chance will come in front of the home folks.
5. Life in the fast Lane: They’re loving them some Lane Kiffin on Rocky Top right now. As he said himself, manufacturing the largest yards difference in the history of the school is a pretty good way to start. The Vols, in blasting Western Kentucky 63-7 last week, rolled up 657 yards on offense and only gave up 83 yards on defense. That’s a 574-yard differential, which is eye-opening regardless of who you’re playing. It gets a little tougher this week against UCLA, but Kiffin likes this team’s focus and the way players are pushing each other for playing time. Are the Vols as good as they looked in Kiffin’s debut, or were they merely feasting on a team that was way out of its league? We should know more after the Bruins make the trek from the West Coast.
6. Freshmen follow-up: There were all sorts of impressive debuts by true freshmen in the opening week. Now it’s time for the encores. Auburn running back Onterio McCalebb rushed for 148 yards, which was more than Bo Jackson rushed for in his first game on the Plains. Mississippi State receiver Chad Bumphis started and caught two touchdown passes. Tennessee running back Bryce Brown rushed for 104 yards and averaged 9.5 yards per carry. Vanderbilt running backs Zac Stacy and Warren Norman each rushed for more than 100 yards, and South Carolina cornerback Stephon Gilmore started and came up with a key pass breakup in the end zone to seal the game in the final minutes.
7. Anthony Dixon’s debut: After serving a suspension in the opener against Jackson State for his DUI arrest back in July, Dixon is back and raring to go. Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said Dixon looked great throughout the preseason, and now that he’s down around 235 pounds, is moving as well as he ever has. Dixon’s 2,603 career rushing yards are more than any active player in the SEC. If he stays healthy, the Bulldogs plan on riding him this season. Look for him to get a workout Saturday against an Auburn defense that held Louisiana Tech to 96 yards rushing last week.
8. Protecting the Plains: Auburn gets the second of four straight games at home to open the season. This is the most important of the four with Mississippi State coming to Jordan-Hare Stadium. Getting off to a 1-0 start in the SEC would speak for itself. But if Gene Chizik and his bunch can hold serve at home (West Virginia and Ball State are up next), this is a team that all of a sudden becomes a player in the Western Division going to Tennessee on Oct. 3. The Tigers know a little something about themselves, too, after dominating Louisiana Tech in the second half last week. The Bulldogs were no pushover, which makes winning the second half so convincingly all the more impressive.
9. Low Tide or high Tide? Who said something about a letdown? Don’t let Alabama coach Nick Saban catch wind of it. He seethes at the mere suggestion that his club might not be at the same emotional pitch for Florida International this week as it was to open the season against nationally ranked Virginia Tech. I want to make this clear, coach Saban. I’m not disrespecting Florida International. I’m not suggesting that your guys will be looking past this game. But I will be interested to see how your team responds from such a physical, emotionally draining game. And you’re right. Championship teams don’t play up and down to their level of their competition. So maybe we get a glimpse of whether this is a championship team. The Crimson Tide sure looked like it in the fourth quarter against the Hokies.
10. Taking a stand: Vanderbilt proved it could win big games at home last season, taking down nationally ranked South Carolina and Auburn at Vanderbilt Stadium. But to get one of the SEC heavyweights on the road, and doing at night in Tiger Stadium, would really validate the improvement this program has made under Bobby Johnson. The Commodores won’t play scared, and they won’t hold anything back. Defensively, they will throw an array of different looks and blitzes at LSU sophomore quarterback Jordan Jefferson, who will be starting just his second game against an SEC defense. But if Vanderbilt is going to win this game, it’s going to need its own sophomore quarterback, Larry Smith, to soften up the LSU defense by hitting some passes down the field.
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
Three things to watch for in Notre Dame's game at Michigan:
1. The offensive line vs. Michigan's pass rush: The Irish offensive line kept Jimmy Clausen clean against Nevada. But that was Nevada and this is Michigan. The Wolverines are going to try and bring heat with their athletic defensive front, and defensive coordinator Greg Robinson had Notre Dame's number last year as Syracuse's head coach. Has the Irish O-line actually improved? Or did it just look good against a WAC team? Saturday is a proving ground.
2. Clausen and his receivers vs. the Michigan secondary: Clausen has been nearly perfect his last two games -- again, against WAC defenses. Still, the Wolverines will have a tough challenge trying to slow down Michael Floyd, Golden Tate and tight end Kyle Rudolph, who comprise maybe the best set of pass-catchers Michigan will see all year. Michigan will have to try to stop the big pass play, which Notre Dame excelled at against Nevada.
3. Notre Dame's defense vs. Michigan's spread: Playing against Colin Kaepernick and Nevada's pistol offense was kind of like practicing against a scout team for Michigan. While the two offenses are different, they have similar principles, including a running quarterback. The Irish can take comfort in the fact that they shut out Nevada, even though the Wolf Pack averaged more than 5 yards per rush. Freshmen Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson will try to make the Wolverines' spread option go. Linebacker Brian Smith and Toryan Smith will have to play as well as they did against Nevada to stop it.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here are some items I'm interested in following in the Big 12 games this weekend.
1. Colorado handling adversity after its opening-game debacle: The Buffaloes suffered an embarrassing loss to cross-state rival Colorado State in their opener Sunday night. Coach Dan Hawkins and his team have only five days as they travel halfway across the country to try to blot those painful memories against Toledo. It will be interesting to see how much heralded Colorado tailback Darrell Scott will play against the Rockets -- particularly after his pointed criticism of his lack of playing time earlier this week.
2. Landry Jones’ first career start: Oklahoma’s replacement for Sam Bradford shouldn’t be tested by Idaho State, which was drubbed by Arizona State last week. But it will still be telling to see how much leeway Bob Stoops will give Jones, a redshirt freshman. Coaches say they like his poise and demeanor, but I expect a conservative game plan that will feature heavy use of Oklahoma’s running game that unexpectedly struggled to produce 118 yards last week against BYU.
3. What the Oklahoma State defense does for an encore: The Cowboys punched out an impressive 24-10 victory over Georgia last week. The revelation for the Cowboys was a strong defensive effort that allowed a touchdown on its opening possession and three points during the rest of the game. They showed a physical nature that had been missing in recent seasons -- particularly noticeable because starters Orie Lemon and Markelle Martin were out of the lineup. It will be even tougher this week against Houston quarterback Case Keenum, who led the nation in total yards last season and got off to a fast start with four touchdown passes against Northwestern State last week. As good as Georgia was supposed to be offensively, the Cowboys will face a bigger test this week against the Cougars.
4. Can Blaine Gabbert match his opening-game success? One game into his career, some Missouri media members are already anointing Gabbert after his scintillating 319-yard passing effort against Illinois. His big outing earned him the Big 12’s offensive player of the week. He’ll be challenged to duplicate that success against an underrated Bowling Green team that allowed 263 passing yards in a victory over Troy last week, but still notched two interceptions. Gabbert’s continued development is the critical element that can help the Tigers continue as the Big 12’s surprise early power.
5. Nebraska’s front four: The Cornhuskers’ defensive front of Ndamukong Suh, Jared Crick, Pierre Allen and Barry Turner was expected to be the team’s strength. The group struggled last week against FAU quarterback Rusty Smith, failing to notch a sack. Those struggles were part of the reason Bo Pelini rebuked his defense earlier this week, calling the Blackshirts “soft.” And it won’t be easy for them as they try to harass Arkansas State quarterback Corey Leonard, who wasn’t sacked last week.
6. Wyoming freshman cornerback Shamiel Gray continue his success against Colt McCoy: Gray had an auspicious start to his college career with three interceptions in the Cowboys’ season-opening victory over Weber State. But he’ll face a huge challenge against McCoy, who has been intercepted only six times in his last 335 attempts dating back to last season. Gray hasn’t faced the athletic collection of receivers he’ll meet from Texas, which will make continuing his turnover spree that much more difficult.
7. How Iowa’s defense will handle Iowa State’s new no-huddle offense: The Hawkeyes and veteran defensive coordinator Norm Parker have seen a variety of offenses come and go over the years at Iowa State. But they haven’t faced anything quite like Tom Herman’s no-huddle attack that seemed to work well in the Cyclones’ first game against North Dakota State. The Cyclones likely didn’t show everything and will be ready to try to continue their recent success that has enabled them to win four of their last five games against the Hawkeyes at Jack Trice Stadium.
8. Ground-bound Jayhawks: After gashing Northern Colorado for 328 yards, Kansas may have similar opportunities against the Miners, who allowed 150 yards in a loss last week to Buffalo and 199 yards per game last season. Mark Mangino has growing confidence in his ball carriers with Jake Sharp, Toben Opurum and quarterback Todd Reesing all rushing for at least 79 yards rushing last week. Dezmon Briscoe will be back with a chance to stretch the UTEP defense, but the Jayhawks have been so successful in the trenches that I look for them to at least start the game with a similar strategy against the Miners.
9. Improvement on Kansas State’s special teams: Blunders in the kicking game led to two easy touchdowns for Massachusetts, making the Wildcats’ 21-17 season-opening victory way too close for comfort. Back in the day, Bill Snyder’s teams were always renowned for their special-teams success and Ron Prince continued that strategy during his tenure. They can’t afford similar mistakes Saturday night, or it could mean a long, nightmarish visit to hot, sticky Cajun Field.
10. Texas Tech’s running game looks for a comeback: After struggling to produce only 40 yards rushing and only two rushes of at least 10 yards against FCS opponent North Dakota, the Red Raiders’ running backs, and particularly Baron Batch, were called out by coach Mike Leach. It will be noteworthy if that lights a fire under them -- especially considering that Rice was gashed for 295 rushing yards last week by UAB.
Posted by ESPN.com’s Graham Watson
Last week was a great opener for the non-AQ schools, especially those in the Mountain West Conference. Let’s see if some of the other conferences can make some noise this weekend.
Here are some things to watch this weekend:
1. One game at a time: My favorite sports cliche actually rings true for a BYU team that is back on top of the world with its win over Oklahoma last week. The Cougars will have to put that win aside and focus on a struggling Tulane team that nearly upset ECU last season after its big early-season wins.
2. Planting a flag: The Mountain West Conference picked up right where it left off last season with two big wins over Oklahoma and Colorado. Now it’s Air Force's and TCU’s turn to continue the streak. Both have winnable games against AQ opponents. Wyoming, which plays Texas, does not.
3. Make it a double: Both Idaho and North Texas got off to their best starts under their current coaches with a win on the opening weekend, but it might be tough to make it two, especially against teams that played close to their opponents (but lost) in Week 1. Idaho has an improved Washington team and UNT faces a pretty good Ohio offense.
4. Gator bait: Troy was the only non-AQ conference champion not to start the season with a victory and it doesn’t get any easier as it travels to the Swamp to face the No. 1 team in the country. Not putting the Gators on upset alert, but maybe Troy can make it a game.
5. Keep on keepin’ on: Boise State’s BCS hopes became dim this week after BYU’s win over Oklahoma, but the Broncos still have the easiest path to the BCS and still need to go undefeated to give voters a choice should a Mountain West team also be at the top of the standings at the end of the year.
6. Anybody, anytime, anywhere: After a subpar season a year ago, the Bulldogs have been able to work in relative obscurity this offseason. But they’ll be at the forefront this weekend against a Wisconsin team that barely snuck by Northern Illinois. The Bulldogs looked good against UC Davis last week and could be back on the map with a win in Madison.
7. Scoreboard watching: BYU won’t have to worry about Oklahoma’s game with Idaho State, but Boise State fans might want to keep a watchful eye on Oregon’s game against Purdue. The Broncos need Oregon to rebound and have a pretty good season. They also need the Ducks to have some confidence going up against Utah next week.
8. C-USA’s turn: After a lackluster opening weekend, Conference USA steps it up with six pretty big games this weekend -- five against AQ opponents and one against BYU. This is C-USA's chance to show that some of its teams at least need Top-25 consideration.
9. New coaches need to rebound: Only three of the non-AQ’s new 11 coaches won this past weekend -- Bowling Green’s Dave Clawson, Army’s Rich Ellerson and Wyoming’s Dave Christensen -- and with the exception of Army, which plays Duke, all will have a tough time repeating. The only other coaches who could/should get off the schneid this week are Brady Hoke (SDSU), Tim Beckman (Toledo), Stan Parrish (Ball State), and DeWayne Walker (NMSU).
10. Leveling the playing field: The non-AQ’s have 25 games against AQ opponents this week and need to improve on their 3-18 record from last week. Only BYU, Boise State and Colorado State defeated AQ teams in Week 1, the others teams were defeated by an average of 26.8 points per game.
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
What to watch for in Week 2 of the Big East:
1. West Virginia's toughness: Ever since the East Carolina loss last year, Bill Stewart has been harping on the need for his Mountaineers to get tougher. They received a mixed grade in the opener, allowing Liberty to score 20 points and leaving too many points on the table in the red zone. But that was Liberty. The real litmus test comes against the team that smashed West Virginia in the mouth last year. It's gut-check time in Morgantown.
2. The Mountaineers' kickoff coverage: West Virginia fans thought the kickoff coverage couldn't get any worse than what it was last year ... until they saw the season opener. The Mountaineers simply can't give Patrick Pinkney and Co. terrific field position all day and expect to be successful.
3. Connecticut's punt protection: North Carolina's Bruce Carter was more like Bruce Wayne last year in Chapel Hill, turning in a superhero effort to block three straight Connecticut punts. It's hard to understand how a team could let the same guy keep coming in unblocked. Well, the Huskies have made changes to their punt protection scheme, and you'd better believe all 22 eyeballs from their punt team will be watching Carter's every move.
4. Zach Frazer's accuracy: The UConn quarterback has been a turnover machine, throwing nine interceptions in his last four games, including three more Saturday at Ohio. Frazer tossed three against the Tar Heels last year in Chapel Hill. There's no way the Huskies beat North Carolina if Frazer keeps giving the ball away.
5. Naaman Roosevelt vs. Jonathan Baldwin: Buffalo's Roosevelt is one of the best receivers in the country that nobody knows about. Pitt's Baldwin has the skills to be one of the best wideouts in the nation. Both could play important roles as the Panthers go into Buffalo, and it should be fun to see a little can-you-top-this situation develop.
6. Pitt's quarterback situation: Bill Stull got booed last week while Tino Sunseri got cheered. It was easy for Dave Wannstedt to give both time against Youngstown State. What does he do against Buffalo, especially if Stull struggles early on? Will he stick with the fifth-year senior, or have a quick hook and go with the promising redshirt freshman Sunseri?
7. South Florida's youngsters: Junior-college transfer Jason Pierre-Paul could get a lot of time at defensive end. Running back Lindsey Lamar and wideout Sterling Griffin have received a lot of attention and could become bigger parts of the offense. For some of the true frosh, the trip to Western Kentucky will be their first time playing outside of Florida. Will this be a breakout game for them, or will they be intimidated by the road atmosphere?
8. The Greg Paulus road show: Paulus was surprisingly decent in his college debut last week for Syracuse, nearly leading the Orange to a win over Minnesota. Of course, he wasn't asked to do a whole lot, and his critical mistake in overtime made the difference. How much has he learned from that, and can he come through in one of the toughest places anywhere to play, at Penn State? Paulus is certainly used to hostile environments from playing at Duke, but he's never had 100,000 people rooting against him. The fans won't be as big a problem as the Nittany Lions' defense, though.
9. Tom Savage's starting debut: Rutgers fans don't have much to look forward to after Monday's 47-15 shellacking by Cincinnati, except for the starting debut of true freshman quarterback Savage. This could be the start of a long, productive era for the former highly touted recruit. He's playing against Howard of the FCS, so the opportunity to learn on the job and build confidence is definitely there.
10. The Bearcats were virtually unstoppable offensively against Rutgers. They scored 47 points and they had called off the dogs after the third quarter. How in the world can Southeast Missouri State, an FCS opponent, possibly hope to handle that offense? Then again, Cincinnati may want to keep things simple and rest starters as much as possible with a cross-country trip to Oregon State looming.
Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich
It was only the first week, and like Frank Beamer keeps saying, there’s still a lot of football left to play. Here’s a look at what to watch in Week 2 of ACC football:
1. Drops, fumbles and turnovers. Clemson receivers dropped four passes. NC State’s dropped five. Virginia had seven turnovers, Wake Forest four. Let’s see if the ACC can’t cut down on the sloppiness in Week 2.
2. The nonconference scorecard. It’s not exactly a blockbuster lineup in the ACC this week, but there are still opportunities for the conference to pick up some statement wins. UNC travels to Connecticut, Virginia hosts No. 16 TCU and Wake Forest hosts Stanford, a team Jim Grobe says is better than Baylor. Can the ACC pick up some big wins and avoid more embarrassing losses?
3. Electric returns. Can the ACC keep this up? There were four punt returns and two kickoff returns for touchdowns in Week 1. The four punt returns for touchdowns matched the ACC’s entire total for 2008.
4. ACC defenses vs. triple option. Clemson isn’t the only team that will face the confusion of a triple option offense this weekend. Duke travels to Army, where the Blue Devils will face the same.
5. Struggling starting quarterbacks. Riley Skinner. Russell Wilson. Tyrod Taylor. The entire Virginia three-deep. None of them played up to their potential last weekend (even with some of the blame shared by those around them).
6. Pass protection. Speaking of struggling quarterbacks, several coaches throughout the ACC are looking for drastic improvement up front. Maryland’s Chris Turner was sacked six times, Wilson was sacked six times, Taylor was sacked five times.
7. Jonathan Dwyer vs. C.J. Spiller. Coaches and players throughout the conference couldn’t agree this summer on who was the better back, but tonight their performances will speak for themselves.
8. UNC linebacker Bruce Carter. Carter blocked three punts last year in the Heels’ 38-12 win against Connecticut. UNC will travel to Storrs, Conn., this weekend, but the Huskies have changed their punt coverage scheme and will no doubt key in on Carter.
9. Georgia Tech A-back Roddy Jones. He missed the season opener against Jacksonville State with a dislocated wrist, but will return to the starting lineup tonight against Clemson.
10. BC’s quarterback situation. It’s still a toss-up as to whether Dave Shinskie or Justin Tuggle will emerge as the Eagles’ leader on offense, and coach Frank Spaziani has said Saturday’s game against Kent State will be another audition.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
I apologize I forgot to tell you last week to watch the post-game at Boise State. I talked to more than a few folks who clicked their TVs off either late in the fourth or at the final bell and missed all the, er, fun.
As for this week, we've got three marquee nonconference road games, Oregon trying to bounce back and Washington trying to end a 15-game losing streak, among others.
- Barkley on a big stage: USC's freshman quarterback passed his first test against San Jose State, but things will be much tougher for Matt Barkley at Ohio State. It's hard to imagine he won't struggle, but if he shines and leads the Trojans into the national title chase, buckle up for the hype that will commence.
- Prince of Rocky Top: Speaking of young quarterbacks, UCLA's redshirt freshman Kevin Prince is not as young as Barkley but his supporting casts is much younger, and Neyland Stadium at Tennessee is just as tough as the Horseshoe, even if the Volunteers are a step or two behind the Buckeyes. How will Prince and the Bruins O-line perform on the road, where UCLA traditionally struggles?
- Take three on young QBs: Not to establish a theme or anything, but redshirt freshman Andrew Luck leads Stanford across the country for an early PDT kickoff at Wake Forest with a chance for the Cardinal to announce to the college football world that they are again a contender not to be trifled with.
- Ducks Blounted: Oregon needs to beat Purdue to salvage its season. That sounds extreme, but the Ducks are back at home and they are a vastly superior team. If they don't prevail, it won't be because the better team won. It will be because the Ducks suffered a Boise State hangover that could well last the entire season. If Oregon wins, they likely will be able to look at the schedule ahead and know they have a lot to play for. Shoot, a victory over Utah on Sept. 19 should get them back into the top-25.
- Secondary test for Beavers: The first order of business is can Oregon State's rebuilt secondary thwart a strong UNLV receiving corps -- Ryan Wolfe and Phillip Payne are a Pac-10-worthy combination. The second is can the Beavers win an early-season nonconference game on the road? Their recent track record -- LSU, Boise State, Louisville, Cincinnati, Penn State, Utah -- isn't good. If Oregon State does prevail, it will be 2-0 and a long way toward not repeating a 2-3 start for the fourth consecutive year.
- Huskies winning streak: It might not last long -- USC comes to town on Sept. 19 -- but Washington should be on a one-game winning streak by Saturday afternoon with Idaho coming to town. That winning streak, obviously, will end a 15-game losing streak. It will be interesting to see if the Huskies pounce with a relentless hunger to win or if they are flat after the emotional effort vs. LSU.
- Cougars offense steps up: Hawaii needed a fourth-quarter comeback to beat Central-Arkansas, an FCS program. The Warriors only have two starters back on defense. They are projected to finish in the bottom half of the WAC. This is a prime time for the Cougars to get a win. It would be a particularly good time for the offense, which showed some life against Stanford, to put up some numbers -- and points, which might mean either Kevin Lopina or Marshall Lobbestael would establish himself as the starter.
- Best 200 before the half?: Cal didn't need Jahvid Best in the second half of its blowout win over Maryland. But if his Heisman Trophy candidacy is going to pick up steam, he might want to post some fancy numbers against FCS team Eastern Washington. Or maybe coach Jeff Tedford wants to rest him before the Bears head to Minnesota.
- Passing Wildcats: Arizona is going to beat Northern Arizona, but the Wildcats night won't be a success unless they walk into the post-game locker room feeling good about their quarterback situation before heading to Iowa. That means a quality, confidence-building outing for Matt Scott and some good reps for backup Nick Foles.
- Nonconference tests: When the smoke clears Saturday, how will the Pac-10 stand up to against a tough nonconference schedule? There are six games here that are "losable." If USC goes down, the conference won't have much say in the national championship race, unless Cal surges. If UCLA gets whipped at Tennessee, the SEC folks will howl with delight. If Stanford goes down at Wake Forest, it will be played as "the Pac-10 lacks depth." If Oregon loses to Purdue, the Chip Kelly doubters will be out in force. If the Huskies lose to Idaho, all the goodwill from the LSU game will go splat. If Oregon Sate loses at UNLV, the Mountain West will start crowing again. If the Cougars lose to Hawaii, the specter of a winless season will appear. There's lots at stake this weekend.