Desperation and separation in Pac-10 games this weekend
October, 12, 2009
By ESPN.com staff | ESPN.com
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Socrates, a huge Pac-10 fan as we all know, once said after a poor week picking conference games, "All I know is that I know nothing."
(I replied: "All we are is dust in the wind, dude.")
We know something, however, about the Pac-10 after six games.
|Joe Nicholson/US Presswire|
|Washington quarterback Jake Locker's performance this Saturday could once again shake things up in the Pac-10.|
Oregon and USC are up here.
Seven teams are somewhere mixed-and-matched here.
And Washington State is here.
Oregon State is surging. Washington is surprising. California and UCLA are disappointing. Arizona and Stanford are confounding.
Not really sure about Arizona State either.
Varying degrees of desperation hang over two games Saturday: Stanford is at Arizona and California visits UCLA.
Stanford and Arizona are two teams desperate to prove they belong in the top half of the Pac-10 standings.
At times, both have appeared Top-25 caliber. At others, not so much. Both seem to have good odds to win six games and earn a bowl eligibility, though the schedule ahead for both is rugged. It's more a question of six wins or eight wins.
The loser figures to be in line for the former.
Cal and UCLA are both 0-2 in conference play after 3-0 starts. On paper, the Bears, once ranked No. 6, look like a far superior team. But it's hard to call any team that has lost its past two games by a combined count of 72-6 "superior."
Still, you may want to pause a moment over the Bears. Having played the top two teams in the conference -- albeit badly -- they could go on a run against the far weaker slate.
The other game of note -- other than USC revisiting its rivalry with Notre Dame -- is Washington's visit to Arizona State.
The Huskies have impressive, gutty wins over USC and Arizona. But they have yet to win on the road, though Huskies fans seem to believe they did just that at Notre Dame if the officials hadn't intervened.
If Washington improves to 4-3 overall, momentum could be gathering for one of the great turnarounds in college football history -- 0-12 to a bowl game? Are you kidding me? And first-year coach Steve Sarkisian's name would start to be mentioned as a national coach of the year candidate.
But Arizona State's defense won't make things easy for Jake Locker and company. Moreover, this game likely determines the trajectory of the Sun Devils' season. If they improve to 4-2, they've got a good shot of earning bowl eligibility in a year when expectations weren't terribly high. If they lose, it's hard to find three more wins on the schedule.
There figures to be plenty of plot twists ahead. Nine teams have at least three wins with six or seven games left. Only Washington State, at 1-5, owns a losing record and is a dead-certainty to finish exactly where it sits today in the conference standings.
The guess here is that when the calendar flips to December, we'll shake our collective heads and say, "Didn't see that coming" over at least one team. Or maybe more.