Pac-12: what to watch 092012
September, 20, 2012
By Kevin Gemmell | ESPN.com
A few storylines to keep an eye on in Week 4.
- Conference time! After kicking off league play last week with a thrilling (albeit ugly) Stanford-USC game, the conference is in full swing this week with five Pac-12 games (Stanford and Washington have the bye). Four of the five games feature North-vs.-South opponents, with Utah at Arizona State as the only intra-division matchup.
- Who will fall? There are five undefeated teams left in the Pac-12. There will be three when the weekend is over. Stanford (3-0) isn't expected to lose this week. But Oregon (3-0) hosts Arizona (3-0) and Oregon State (1-0) travels to the Rose Bowl to face UCLA (3-0).
- Kicking woes: Not a good time to be a kicker in the Pac-12. Through the first three weeks, Pac-12 teams are a combined 31 of 52 (59 percent) on field-goal attempts. That's last among all BCS conferences. The ACC is first at 82 percent (yes, I did that math just for you). Every Pac-12 school recruits hard in California, the national hub of soccer and outdoor sports that involve foot and leg. The fact that the conference can't convert at least 60 percent of its kicks through three weeks is pretty embarrassing.
- Making a statement: The feedback your Pac-12 bloggers have been getting is this: Why hasn't Matt Scott been added to the Heisman tracker? It's a fair question, considering Scott commands the No. 2 scoring offense in the conference and leads all passers in passing yards. He's fourth in touchdowns and third in completion percentage and pass efficiency. If he puts up big numbers against the Ducks, expect to see his Heisman stock -- at least within the Pac-12 -- trend upward.
- Who is for real? Arizona? UCLA? Oregon State? Utah? We're going to find out a lot about these teams this week. Arizona is on the road for the first time this season against the most athletic defense it has seen so far this season. The Bruins get a stiff test this week against an Oregon State squad that is well-rested but doesn't have a ton of game experience this year. As for Utah, how much of that victory last week was a reflection of how good of a team it is versus an inspired reaction to the loss of a quarterback and no starting running back? The Utes are a mystery right now.
- Trojans bounce back? We've seen teams bounce back from tough losses so far this season. Washington State did it after a dreadful opening weekend against BYU (granted, it was an FCS team, but a win's a win). And Utah pulled off an emotional victory over BYU last week. Now USC, which came into the season with a truckload of hype, has to pick up the pieces. The Cardinal gave teams the road map. Can Cal follow it, or will the Trojans recover?
- Heisman watch: We already talked about Scott, who is going to get a chance to make a big impression in a game televised by ESPN. The same can be said for De'Anthony Thomas, who will be on the other sideline. This game is expected to net big yards and big scores. It's the kind of offensive shootout both players were made for -- and both could boost their standing on the national stage with big numbers. UCLA's Johnathan Franklin faces an Oregon State squad that was fantastic at stopping the run in its Week 2 victory over Wisconsin. And where does this leave Matt Barkley? The preseason favorite stumbled against the Cardinal. One more bad game would likely put him out of the running. Is Cal the team to stop him for a second week in a row?
Matt Kartozian/US PresswireFacing Oregon on national TV, Arizona QB Matt Scott has a chance to really boost his profile.