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Monday, October 11, 2010
Pac-10 rewind and look ahead

By Ted Miller

A look back on the week that was.

Team of the week: Oregon State announced its return to relevancy with a win at No. 9 Arizona. The biggest revelation: Sophomore QB Ryan Katz is ready for primetime.

Best game: You can't beat a game with two game-winning drives, unless your team is the one that produced the penultimate game-winning drive, which was the case of USC in its 37-35 loss at Stanford. For the second consecutive weekend, the Trojans lost on a last-second field goal. Still, a game billed as a potential blowout showed USC has plenty of fight left, at least on offense. (Wow. Are we now citing "moral" victories for the Trojans?)

Biggest play: There were so many big plays in Oregon State's 29-27 win over Arizona that it's hard to pick just one. But if you had to, it might just be Katz's 43-yard completion to H-back Joe Halahuni on a second and 13 play from the Beavers 33-yard line. With James Rodgers out with a knee injury, Katz's top passing options were limited, and if he'd missed the throw over the middle, it's possible the Beavers wouldn't have been too aggressive on a third-and-long call from their own territory. The Beavers got a first down on the Wildcats 24 and were able to run a lot of clock -- six of the next seven plays were runs -- before scoring a TD that gave them a a 29-20 lead, which made it a two-possession game.

Andrew Luck
Andrew Luck passed for 285 yards with three touchdowns against USC on Saturday.
Offensive standout: As usual, so many to choose from: Katz, Oregon's LaMichael James, California's Shane Vereen, USC's Matt Barkley, USC's Robert Woods, etc. But Andrew Luck was masterful against USC, completing 20 of 24 passes for 285 yards with three TDs and no interceptions. What's more: He led a seven-play, 62-yard drive in 1:08 to set up the game-winning field goal. And did you see his hit on Trojans CB Shareece Wright after a fumble? Smack goes the QB!

Defensive standout: Cal cornerback Darian Hagan had a bad year last season. Not this year. He had two sacks, an interception and five tackles while leading the Bears stellar defensive effort against UCLA. Honorable mentions include Arizona State's Jamaar Jarrett, who had two sacks at Washington, and Oregon's Brandon Bair, who had 3.5 tackles for a loss at Washington State.

Special teams standout: Oregon's Cliff Harris returned a punt 67 yards for a TD at Washington. He has done that three times this year, which is the most in FBS football. Oh, and he returned an interception for a TD at Tennessee.

Smiley face: Cal suffered two tough losses in September: It got embarrassed at Nevada and lost a heartbreaker at Arizona. It could have yielded. Instead, it whipped a hot UCLA team 35-7 and showed it can stop a pistol offense by holding the Bruins to just 144 yards.

Frowny face: Washington had injury issues and QB Jake Locker was trying to play through a flu-like illness, but that doesn't change the fact that it couldn't maintain the momentum it built after a win at USC. Arizona State had plenty of issues, too, but it found a way to win on the road in a rainstorm, weather one would think would benefit the Huskies far more than the Sun Devils.

Thought of the week: Oregon fans: How different did it feel when QB Darron Thomas injured his throwing shoulder knowing you had senior Nate Costa on the bench ready to step in? While Thomas may be back as soon as the UCLA game on Oct. 21, the Ducks would still feel like the Rose Bowl favorites with Costa as the starter. Recall in 2007 that when Dennis Dixon was lost for the year with a knee injury, almost everyone immediately realized the Ducks were in big trouble.

Questions for the week: Does the cannibalism begin now? Or do a couple of teams emerge at the top of the conference? Arizona's loss to Oregon State -- which left only Oregon undefeated -- hinted that stringing together wins is going to be extremely difficult due to the depth of the conference. So does that mean we end up with a muddle of two, three and four-loss teams? Or will Oregon ride home unscathed with an escort in the top-10?