Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
Surveying the Pac-10 landscape, looking for new trends and teachable moments
If the national title is about finding the nation's best team, then USC is still in the hunt: USC blasted Oregon 44-10, dominating both sides of the ball. It's unlikely any team in the nation could do the same to the Ducks, a talented squad that should end up in the top-25 by season's end. Folks can rant about a down year in the Pac-10. And they can cackle about the performance at Oregon State. But the Trojans remains the nation's most talented team and they'd in all likelihood be favored against any other squad in a national title game.
Jeff Tedford listens to his own counsel, not the unwashed masses: Many California fans developed a dislike of quarterback Nate Longshore during last season's downturn and were rooting hard for Kevin Riley to beat him out. Riley's winning the job with a late surge during the preseason went over well. So when Tedford announced that the quarterback competition had re-opened following a 42-7 win over Colorado State because the Bears coach wanted the offense to start faster, there was a lot of hand-wringing. But after Longshore completed 17 of 28 passes for 198 yards and three touchdowns with one interception in the victory over Arizona State, he appears poised to start again against Arizona on Oct. 18. By the way, Longhshore's three TD passes give him 46 for his career, which ranks fifth on Cal's all-time list.
Arizona State's season is on the brink: It's never good news for a struggling team to go to USC, but it's even worse when that struggling team may be without its best player. California pounded on Sun Devils quarterback Rudy Carpenter, sacking him three times and forcing a pair of interceptions and a fumble. Afterwards, Carpenter walked gingerly out of Memorial Stadium with his left ankle wrapped in ice, and no one could say if he'd be available for next weekend's visit to USC. The Sun Devils offense has shown little spark of late, even with Carpenter, scoring just 44 points in three consecutive defeats that have dropped them below .500 for the first time since 2005.
It may be time to buy Arizona stock: Arizona has shown flashes of a potential turnaround in the past, so it's a little bit dangerous to announce the 4-1 Wildcats have arrived. But their workmanlike, 48-14 destruction of Washington suggested this team will not only earn a bowl berth, it could play its way into the Pac-10 race. Instead of messing around with an overmatched Washington team that's in disarray, Arizona dominated, outgaining the Huskies 449-244 in total yards, playing well on both sides of the ball. This weekend's visit to Stanford will be a critical test of the Wildcats ability to remain focused. And winning might be necessary, because the schedule ahead gets a lot harder, with Washington State the only remaining patsy on the slate.
Stanford's loss at Notre Dame should eat at the Cardinal for many reasons: It started with Stanford offensive guard Chris Marinelli trash talking, which only served to get the attention of a Notre Dame team that might have overlooked the Cardinal. Then there were the terrible calls made by a Pac-10 officiating crew, including an awful spot that gave the Irish a first-quarter fourth-down conversion on Stanford's 22 in the first quarter and a phantom punt-interference penalty that killed a fumble recovery in the second quarter. But the Cardinal also figures to look at film of its beleaguered secondary, which Irish quarterback Jimmy Clausen picked apart, and then worry about its bowl hopes.