What to watch in the Pac-10

November, 5, 2009
11/05/09
8:00
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Full slate of games for the first weekend in November. Hey, did you know the games you remember are played in November?

1. Will Oregon be flat at Stanford? Chip Kelly has done an outstanding job of keeping his team focused on their "national championship" games every Saturday. But the thorough whipping of USC last weekend will be hard to contain with the proverbial "24-hour rule." Moreover, the Ducks won't have the Autzen Stadium crowd there to fire them up. The Ducks won't have to be as sharp as they were against the Trojans, but if they are flat and can't get in sync, Stanford will have a more than remote shot to pull the upset.

2. Kevin Riley vs. the Oregon State secondary: Since horrible games against Oregon and then USC, Kevin Riley has been on fire. He's completed 62 percent of his passes during the Bears' three-game winning streak with eight touchdowns and no interceptions. Meanwhile, the Beavers' secondary has struggled. It's given up 15 touchdown passes this season -- only Washington State (16) is worse, and no other team has surrendered more than 11 -- and it ranks ninth in the conference in pass defense. Part of the problem is a lack of pressure on opposing quarterbacks, see a conference-low eight sacks. If the Beavers gang up on the run, Riley should have some opportunities to make plays downfield with his maturing receiving corps.

3. How will USC bounce back? Before last weekend, USC had never been blown out during Pete Carroll's nine years as coach. Before being pummeled at Oregon 47-20, the Trojans' only other double-digit loss under Carroll came by 11 points at Notre Dame in 2001. So this is a new experience for Carroll and his team. Will USC come out angry at Arizona State, wanting to make a defiant statement to its critics? Or will it play with a lack of focus and emotion, feeling it's a lost season by Trojan standards?

4. The Huskies need a healthy Jake Locker: The general feeling is Locker will play at UCLA, despite a deep thigh bruise that prevented him from practicing during the bye. A 75 percent Locker certainly is better than no Locker at all. But if Locker can't use his legs to make plays, it could be a long afternoon for the Huskies. Locker's running opens up a lot of options for the offense, and without it, a talented Bruins defense could pin its ears back knowing Locker's scrambling skills aren't available.

5. Does Washington State have any chance at all? What we've learned over the years is there are no lost causes in college football -- at least when a team refuses to wave a white flag. Appalachian State won at Michigan. Stanford, as a 41-point underdog, beat USC. The Cougars have a chance. It's not a good one. But if they fight, they may find the football gods sometimes work in mysterious ways.

6. Speed vs. power at Stanford: Oregon is faster than Stanford on both sides of the ball. A lot faster. And the Cardinal have been burned this season by faster teams. But Stanford is a physical crew that backs down to no one. It has some Chuck Wepner and Earnie Shavers in it. The Cardinal will push back against the Ducks. They will try to make it a battle in the trenches. They will try to feed the Ducks lots of 235-pound Toby Gerhart and a big, smashmouth offensive line. It might not work. But Oregon will know it played a football game on Sunday morning.

7. Rodgers brothers on the loose: Cal's defense has been shockingly mediocre this season. Mediocre doesn't stop the Rodgers brothers. The Bears' general issues are inconsistent play at linebacker and a disappointing -- and surprising -- lack of consistency in the secondary. That won't stop the Rodgers brothers. Jacquizz will challenge those linebackers to mind their gap responsibilities. And James will challenge that secondary to tackle in space.

8. The Sun Devils' offensive line meets an angry USC front seven: Arizona State's offensive line is better than the previous two seasons, but it is still a work-in-progress. USC's front seven got bullied and embarrassed at Oregon. Maybe the Sun Devils saw something on film that they can exploit. Or the Trojans may just play up to their abilities and may it a long evening for the home team in Tempe.

9. Is Kevin Prince ready to break through for the Bruins? Prince put up big numbers and was particularly impressive in the fourth quarter against California. So, a week after he was supposed to share his quarterback job with Richard Brehaut, he appears on the cusp of entrenching himself as the Bruins' starter. All he needs to do is play well and beat Washington, which will boost the Bruins' bowl hopes considerably, not to mention give them their first Pac-10 victory in six tries.

10. To rest or not to rest vs. the Cougars: Arizona has a number of key players injured, from defensive end Brooks Reed to running back Nic Grigsby. And while coach Mike Stoops would never say it, there's got to be a temptation to rest those guys so they will be as healthy as possible for a brutal and critical four-game stretch to end the season, rather than risk aggravating those injuries against an overmatched Cougars team. That said, Arizona has suffered some embarrassing losses in recent years to inferior teams. That's also got to be in Stoops' head as he considers how to best manage his personnel.

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