What to watch in the Pac-10

October, 29, 2009
10/29/09
8:00
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

The big one is in Eugene but every game matters. Three teams are chilling at home.

1. Matt Barkley thinks Autzen Stadium is going to be a barrel of monkeys: Matt Barkley told the LA Times that he's looks forward to playing in Autzen Stadium -- "the energy is going to be awesome and it's going to be a cool atmosphere, especially on Halloween night," he said. Hmm. You know, maybe all this talk about how intimidating and loud Autzen Stadium is a bollocks. This whole, really cool "blackout" thing is just a rumor, after all. Hey, wear yellow! That will be scary. Oregon fans aren't really loud. They're very nice, actually. Cuddly even.

2. Were Arizona State's defensive numbers a mirage? Last weekend, Stanford piled up 473 yards -- 237 yards rushing -- against the Sun Devils, who entered the game ranked seventh in the nation in total defense (248 yards per game) and second vs. the run (58 yards per game). It's fair to ask if the Sun Devils' previously impressive defensive numbers were a function of the middling-to-poor offenses they faced during the early going. They can answer that question by shutting down -- or at least slowing down -- California and running back Jahvid Best.

3. Oregon State can't afford a "USC hangover:" The Beavers have a right to be disappointed with their close-but-no-cigar effort at USC last weekend. But if they spend too much time wondering what might have been, the Bruins might steal one in Reser Stadium. UCLA has enough athletes that, despite a 0-4 Pac-10 mark, it remains dangerous.

4. Washington State may shock the world: It's entirely possible that Notre Dame is going to run over the Cougars like a Mack truck rumbling through a garden party. And yet upsets -- even big ones -- happen all the time in college football. All it's going to take for the Cougars is a combination of their best effort and a team, such as the Fighting Irish, taking a victory for granted. At some point this season, that could happen, and it might as well be against a Notre Dame crew that has endured a series of emotional games and may be due for a letdown.

5. Who wins the trenches in Autzen? In terms of pure talent, Oregon doesn't match up on either line vs. USC. The Trojans' offensive line is athletic and experienced. It should be able to handle the Ducks' speedy D-front. The Trojans' defensive line isn't experienced, but neither is the Ducks' O-line. And the Trojans' front seven, despite its youth, has been dominant against the run and has been able to pressure opposing quarterbacks with just four pass-rushers. The Ducks have surrendered only 11 sacks this year. USC leads the nation with 29 sacks. This is one area where USC has a decided advantage. Or appears to.

6. Riley must be sharp in Tempe: Arizona State is going to gang up against Cal's run game, and the Sun Devils have enough talent and speed to make things hard on Best and the Bears' offensive line. That means, however, that there are going to be opportunities in the passing game. Can Cal QB Kevin Riley take advantage? He's been hot and cold much of the season. This would be a good time for some consistent execution. Of course, ASU ranks third in the nation with 13 interceptions.

7. Bruins try a two-quarterback system: It seems there's a split between UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel and his offensive coordinator, Norm Chow. Chow doesn't like to play two quarterbacks and he thinks Kevin Prince is the man. Neuheisel doesn't necessarily have a problem with Prince but the Bruins' offense is struggling and he wants to get a look at Richard Brehaut. So both will play at Oregon State. Who plays better? Or do both play badly? And what does it mean for the future? And are Neuheisel and Chow at loggerheads? We shall see.

8. Jeremiah Masoli must attack the USC secondary: No one has consistently run well against USC. The Trojans, however, have of late been fairly vulnerable against the pass. That may be due to playing against a couple of good quarterbacks in Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen and Oregon State's Sean Canfield. Or maybe there are some things that a balanced offense can take advantage of. Ducks QB Jeremiah Masoli isn't chopped liver, and he's thrown well over his past three starts (he missed the UCLA game with a sprained knee). He will need to make plays downfield in order to keep the Trojans defense honest.

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