There are some fantastic, fantastic matchup this week in the Pac-10 and a couple of these games are really going to clear up the muddied Rose Bowl picture (you'll see what I mean when I get to my picks below). UCLA and Arizona State can get back to .500 with wins that would put them one win away from being bowl-eligible.
Of course, perhaps the biggest story of the week is Oregon running back LeGarrette Blount returning from his season-long suspension after punching a Boise State player opening night. While there is little doubt the Oregon athletic department could have handled it better, the truth is this probably is not going to have too much of an impact on the Ducks. I mean, they already lead the Pac-10 with 233.6 rushing yards a game and Blount doesn't play defense, so it's not like getting him back fills a need. It's nice, it's flexibility, but it's not going to determine the outcome of any games for a team that already has Jeremiah Masoli, LaMichael James, and Kenjon Barner.
Speaking of running the ball, congratulations to Oregon State's Jacquizz Rodgers and Stanford's Toby Gerhart - both are semi-finalists for the Doak Walker Trophy as the nation's top running back. Rodgers, according to insiders, is also the frontrunner to retain his crown as the Pac-10's offensive player of the year in 2009, something he won as a freshman in 2008. That right there is amazing.
Check out the league's rushing stats - and then check out the nation's rushing stats and see how well the Pac-10 runners compare. Alabama's Mark Ingram is a Heisman frontrunner? Please. It should also be noted Gerhart is tied for the nation's lead in rushing touchdowns at 16 and Quizz is tied for third at 15. Ingram? He has 8.
Time - Game - Channel
12:30 - #25 Stanford @ #11 USC - Fox College Sports Central
12:30 - Washington @ #26 Oregon State - Fox Sports NW
2 - UCLA @ Washington State - Fox College Sports Pacific
4 - #18 Arizona @ California - Versus
7:20 - Arizona State @ #14 Oregon - ESPN/ESPN360.com
12:30 - Idaho @ #6 Boise State - ESPNU
(All rankings are AP.)
Um, really? For the second week in a row there is no Pac-10 game in the 12:30 spot on ABC? In fact, unless you have cable, you get zero Pac-10 games this week? ABC is showing Iowa @ Ohio State at 12:30 instead and while that will be a hell of a game (Ohio State will probably lock up a Rose Bowl berth) I don't really see where that holds more intrigue to people on the west coast than Stanford @ USC. I suppose I should at least be happy it's on TV at all, considering some of the decisions of the last few weeks.
I'll Be Watching: We'll be watching the Washington/Oregon State tilt at 12:30, with checks of Stanford/USC at the commercials and perhaps brief glances of the Boise State game just to check the score. Have some errands to run after the game, but should be back to catch most of the second half of Cal-Zona, and then finish out the night with the Oregon/Arizona State game.
While it's very odd there are no broadcast Pac-10 games this week, it is at least nice - if one has cable - that you wouldn't have to get off the couch between 12:30 and roughly 11, watching a Pac-10 game the whole way. Might not be the healthiest thing in the world, but still sounds like a nice way to wind down on a Saturday after a busy week.
Predictions: Ah yes, prediction time. Let's start with my upset special of the day. USC has been horrible the last few weeks and Stanford has been playing very, very strong ball. If Stanford scores first, and I think they will, they should win this game even though it's in L.A. I'm taking Stanford (which will end USC's Rose Bowl hopes)...The Beavers have been getting better defensively every week and Washington's season seems to have ended after the strong start. Had they beaten Notre Dame, things might be different. However, their defense isn't good enough to stop the Beavers passing AND rushing. Oregon State has one of the most balanced attacks in the game, and the Beavers should win this handily...Have I mentioned yet this year how bad Washington State is? I might have, not sure. UCLA should get the win, but this is one of the few Wazzu might have a chance to get an upset in...Zona at Cal is one of the most intriguing games of the week. Which Cal team will show up? Can they be a threat without running back Jahvid Best on the field? Personally I think Zona is the real deal and the Wildcats will walk out of Berkeley with the win...The Arizona State Sun Devils haven't lived up to any expectations this year. I don't expect that to start this week when they lose to Oregon in Eugene...The Idaho Vandals are good this year and while no one would like to see them knock Boise State out of a BCS game more than me, I just don't think they have enough to top the Broncos on the Smurf Turf. If the game was at Idaho, I might go that way just to be difficult.