Thursday, October 25, 2012
What to watch in the Pac-12: Week 9
By Kevin Gemmell
A look at a few story lines to keep an eye on this week.
1. Offense, offense, offense: Expect some more when USC travels to Arizona in a very intriguing South Division game. USC's passing attack looked stellar last week, albeit against Colorado, but Matt Barkley and Robert Woods looked more in sync than they have all season. Arizona's offense is pretty good, too. But it was their defense that stood up in the second half against Washington and blanked the Huskies. First team to five defensive stops wins?
2. More on Arizona: If the Wildcats manage an upset and can run the table, then it's possible for them to still win the South Division. If USC loses to Oregon, the Trojans will have three losses. And if Arizona beats UCLA and Arizona State, the Cats will have three losses and Arizona would hold tie breakers over all of them. Big, big game for the Wildcats.
Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said he's not yet ready to name a starting quarterback for 2013.
3. Also in the South: While Arizona tries to stake its claim as a top team in the South Division, Arizona State and UCLA will look to separate themselves from the pack in an intriguing divisional matchup. It's in Tempe, and the Sun Devils are, of course, coming off their Oregon pasting. This is a critical juncture for Arizona State, and I suspect we'll learn a lot more about them this week than we did last week.
4. Sidebar: Any advantage to UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone returning to face his former team at Arizona State? Probably not, but it's a fun talking point. More interesting is Brett Hundley going back home. He'll probably have a nice cheering section amid the hostile folk who knocked him for abandoning the state.
5. Duel-threat: What to make of Kevin Hogan -- the Stanford quarterback who has seen a few more snaps in recent weeks in an option-read package. The Cardinal are looking for a way to expand their offensive arsenal. This might be a nice little wrinkle.
6. Second-half run? Seems about time that Utah figures out how to win football games. Last year they went on a big late-season run to gain bowl eligibility. They face a Cal team that took a giant step backward in the loss to Stanford last week and it might have been the tipping point for Jeff Tedford's job status. Utah doesn't have any currently ranked teams the rest of the way, so a less-taxing back end could mean they go on a similar run to last year. Or, the bowl streak ends.
7. Speaking of Cal: Three rushing yards? Really? This doesn't strike me as a team trying to play for its coach. The Bears aren't out of bowl contention yet. But if they mirror last week's performance, it will be tough for Tedford to stay in Berkeley.
8. North intrigue: For as interesting as the ASU-UCLA and Arizona-USC matchups are in the South, there are plenty of questions about Oregon State at Washington. Is Sean Mannion going to be rusty? The coaching staff has to be extremely confident in his ability to sit Cody Vaz, who performed very well in his two outings. Washington has been a better team at home this year and CenturyLink is a hostile environment. On paper, Oregon State should win this game -- especially given the way Washington has played on offense. But on paper, Stanford should have won also.
9. Tough luck: Colorado gets to rebound from its USC whipping by traveling to Autzen. Ouch. Should again be plenty of teachable moments for the Colorado coaching staff and its young team. It's obviously been a trying season for Jon Embree & Co. But for solace, they can look to all the young players Oregon State played with last year and look what one year did for them. Not saying it will happen the same way for the Buffs, but all of this experience will pay off in the years to come.
10. Quarterback shuffle:Jeff Tuel, come on down. You're the next quarterback for the Washington State Cougars. Again. Until you're not. Again. Is anyone going to hold that job for the rest of the year? Perhaps the better question: Does Washington State get a conference win this year?
11. Looking ahead? We all know what's on the horizon for the Ducks and Trojans next week. Obviously, USC can't overlook Arizona's high-powered offense. That would be silly. For Oregon, more than likely they'll run the first team to a ridiculous first-half lead and then yank the starters as they've been doing in almost every game this year. Little to no chance of an upset this week, so if either team can afford to sneak a peek, it's the Ducks.