It's crunch time now in the drive for the Rose Bowl. Stanford and Arizona both need wins to stay relevant in the Rose Bowl race (Stanford actually needs Arizona to win as well, but Zona doesn't care about Stanford). Wins by both Oregon and Oregon State will ensure the Pac-10's Rose Bowl rep will be determine by the winner of the Civil War 13 days later (Stanford would be out if all three teams finished 7-2 because Oregon State would have beaten Oregon and the Cardinal). USC could still make Roses, but it would need a lot of unlikely help (let's just say Wazzu has to beat Oregon State this week and leave it at that).
This is fun, thrilling actually. The Rose Bowl race is the most wide open it has been in years and for once it doesn't include SC. Sure, that sucks for SC and their fans, but it's nice for the rest of us.
And surprisingly, even the ASU-UCLA game has meaning this week. A win for UCLA makes them bowl-eligible, the seventh team in the Pac-10 this year that could make such a claim. If ASU wins they still have a chance to be bowl-eligible. In fact, an ASU win over UCLA followed by a Bruins win over the Trojans and a Sun Devils win over the Wildcats would give the Pac-10 EIGHT bowl-eligible teams this season, which I'm pretty sure would be a record for the conference. There may not be enough bowls out there to satisfy eight bowl-eligible Pac-10 teams, but it's technically possible.
Switching it up, let's take a look at the conference's quarterbacks. Is there a conference with the depth and quality youth of the Pac-10 right now at that position? All they hype before the season was about freshman Matt Barkley at USC, and while he's done well he's not even the best freshman out there - that honor goes to Stanford's Andrew Luck who leads the conference in QB rating. Arizona's Nick Foles, a sophomore, is third.
Then you take a look at the vets, led by Oregon State senior Sean Canfield. He wasn't even supposed to be the starter - it would have been Lyle Moevao had he been healthy. Instead Canfield is tied for the league lead in touchdowns (17, with Washington's Jake Locker), leads in attempts, completions, yards, and the team leads in passing yards per game. He has matured by light years since opening week and now will likely be a mid-round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. A year ago that seemed, um, quite unlikely.
Then there is Oregon's Jeremiah Masoli, who can run and throw, making him one of the more dangerous players in the league. That's helped Oregon to the league's top scoring and rushing offense (add that to Oregon State's top passing offense and Civil War could be a shootout), although he's more likely to not be a QB at the next level.
Finally there is Washington's Locker, a junior who will be one of the top picks in the spring draft should he decide to give up his last season of eligibility. Honestly, I'm not necessarily sold he's a star quarterback at the next level any more than Canfield, but he has the build and can move a ton better than Sean.
Just about every team in the conference has a quarterback that can beat you on any given Saturday, just like there are so many good running backs. The critics can have defense from the likes of Alabama or whomever tops the defensive scoring charts from out East, but the truth of the matter is they have never seen offense on a weekly basis like is played in the Pac-10. That's just one of many reasons why the Pac-10 always does so well in interconference play.
On to the weekend!
Time - Game - Channel
1pm - Arizona State @ UCLA - Fox Sports Northwest
2pm - #20 Oregon State @ Washington State - Radio only
4:30pm - #28 California @ #14 Stanford - Versus
5pm - #11 Oregon @ #29 Arizona - ABC
Friday, 6pm - #6 Boise State @ Utah State - ESPN2
(All rankings are AP.)
I'll Be Watching: This is where I rant about the Oregon State game not being on TV, right? Yes, I'm disappointed it's not and I don't think there is a real good excuse for that. At the same time, it's possibly going to be a wintry mess of a blowout, so if there was any game not to put on TV it's that one. Don't I say that about the Cougars every week? That means I'll have the ASU-UCLA game on mute with Oregon State-Wazzu playing on the radio. Later I'll watch the first quarter of Cal-Stanford to be sure, then switch back and forth between that and Ducks-Cats until the former is over, then finish out the Ducks game. Should be a nice day of football.
Predictions: If there is one team that has been the most disappointing this season, for me it's ASU. They have shown none of the attributes of a Dennis Erickson-coached team, other than the penalties. Congrats UCLA, I'm picking you to be bowl-eligible...Do I really need to actually say I'm taking Oregon State? They are 31-point favorites last I heard, but considering the weather is going to be horrid, I'd take Wazzu and the points if I did such things; it'll only be a 20-point win or so...Cal looked pretty decent last week, but Stanford is the hottest team anywhere in the nation right now - Cardinal by two touchdowns...The Wildcats have played strong all season, but watching them the past couple weeks it really looks like they are slipping a bit. This will be a close game, but I think Ducks will win. You know, Zona has beaten Oregon State and Stanford, - if they played the Beavers or Cardinal this weekend, they'd lose...Yes, I'll take Boise State over Utah State. Is there really a question?