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October 18, 2006
Quarterback blues: The last few weeks haven't been kind to Pac-10 quarterback. Washington, Stanford and Arizona enter Week 8 with new starters at quarterback because of injuries. UCLA had to replace Ben Olson last week with Patrick Cowan. Against Oregon last week, Cowan was punched in the throat while being sacked, causing him to lose his voice during the last series of the game. On the plane trip back to Los Angeles, Cowan coughed up blood. He was ordered not to speak on Monday, possibly making play-calling against Notre Dame a problem. Arizona is also down to its third-string quarterback. Washington State benched starter Alex Brink for backup Gary Rogers in the second half against Cal with the Bears leading 21-3.
Best matchup: UCLA's defense vs. Notre Dame's offense. The Bruins' defensive stats took a predictable hit last week against Oregon, the Pac-10's leader in total offense. Defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker, a former New England Patriots assistant with Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis, will have to bounce back to contain Brady Quinn and Darius Walker.
Worst matchup: Cal wide receiver DeSean Jackson vs. Washington's pass defense. The Huskies are last in the conference and 107th in the country in pass defense. Jackson has had a catch of at least 27 yards in each game this season and a catch of 40 yards or more in four of seven games.
The pressure is on: Coaches making decisions to punt. Arizona State coach Dirk Koetter made a puzzling decision to punt on fourth and 22 from the Sun Devils' 22 with less than two minutes remaining in a 28-21 loss to USC. Koetter said he thought the chances of forcing a USC turnover were greater than completing the fourth-down play and moving the ball within field goal range. Arizona State used two timeouts as USC ran two running plays and a QB kneel to end the game. UCLA coach Karl Dorrell elected to punt in the final four minutes while trailing Oregon by three scores, although Patrick Cowan's throat injury likely played a role in that.
Upset alert: Arizona over Oregon State. Arizona is a slight underdog at home against the Beavers, but the Wildcats forced Oregon State quarterback Matt Moore into six interceptions last year. Arizona's defense could cause enough trouble for Moore this year to make up for the Wildcats' injuries at quarterback.
Most to gain: Oregon State quarterback Matt Moore. The senior has quieted boos and calls for backup Sean Canfield by gradually improving this year. His passing totals have gone up in each game, topping out with 308 yards on 19 attempts against Washington on Saturday. The Beavers need a final tune-up against Arizona and could achieve a winning record (4-3) before facing USC, Arizona State and UCLA over the next three games. Moore's favorite target, Sammie Stroughter, has 13 catches for 347 yards in the last two games.
Most to lose: Oregon. Thanks to the loss to Cal, the Ducks are barely hanging on in the Pac-10 race. A loss in Pullman to inconsistent Washington State would likely end the Ducks' hopes of contending for the conference title.
Who's hot: Oregon State's pass rush. The Beavers have had 11 sacks the last two weeks against Washington and Washington State. Linebacker Derrick Doggett has had four of them. Arizona, Oregon State's opponent this week, is 99th in the country with 2.86 sacks allowed per game.
Who's not: Arizona State's receivers. Blame Rudy Carpenter if you want, but the Sun Devils' top receivers were invisible against USC. Rudy Burgess, Terry Richardson and Jamaal Lewis had a combined three catches during Arizona State's losses to Cal, Oregon and USC.
Must see TV: UCLA (4-2) at No. 10 Notre Dame (5-1), 2:30 p.m., NBC
Backup who could have an impact: Washington quarterback Carl Bonnell. The junior will make his third career start this week at Cal. The Huskies appear to be on track for a bowl game after starting the season 4-3. Bonnell will have to lead Washington to two more wins to take his team to the postseason for the first time since 2002. Backup quarterbacks T.C. Ostrander of Stanford and Kris Heavner of Arizona are also slated to start this weekend.
Key stat II: 4. Combined career starts for their replacements, Ostrander and Bonnell.
Take the line: Cal is beating opponents at home by an average of 25 points in five games. This week, the Bears get Washington minus its starting quarterback and veteran leader. Cal should cover even a 23-point spread. Season 3-4.
They said it: "I'd really like everyone to know that Alex Brink is a good kid. Do the Yankees bench Alex Rodriguez when he makes an error? Of course not, because they know he's going to produce."
Injury update: Washington quarterback Isaiah Stanback is out for the season following surgery on his right foot to repair damage to a joint. ? Stanford quarterback Trent Edwards will also miss the remainder of the season with a broken right foot. ? Arizona quarterback Willie Tuitama remains questionable with a concussion. His backup, Adam Austin, is out with an MCL injury. Senior Kris Heavner, who started 14 games for the Wildcats as a freshman and sophomore, will get the start against Oregon State. ? Oregon wide receiver Cameron Colvin (hamstring) and cornerback Terrell Ward (knee) are expected to return this week against Washington State. ? UCLA defensive tackle Chase Moline (back) is expected to return to practice.
Worth noting: Despite the season-ending injury to Stanback, Washington coaches are hesitant to take the redshirt off four-star freshman Jake Locker. The Huskies still have junior Johnny DuRocher to back up Bonnell. ? Arizona exploded for 220 rushing yards last week against Stanford after rushing for minus-16, minus-7 and minus-13 in the three previous games. ? The Cardinal managed 52 yards of total offense against Arizona. ? Cal was only the second opponent to hold Washington State defensive end Mkristo Bruce without a sack this year. The other was Idaho. ? Cal wide receiver DeSean Jackson saw his streak of eight consecutive games with a touchdown catch end against Washington State last week. ? Arizona State is 0-3 in the Pac-10 for the first time since 1993.
Looking back: It was a rough week for the Pac-10, even beyond the quarterback problems that have plagued four teams. USC coughed up a 21-0 halftime lead against Arizona State. Running backs were on the rebound from nagging injuries, however, with Cal's Marshawn Lynch running for 152 yards on 25 carries - his most since Sept. 9. Oregon's Jonathan Stewart ran for 121 yards after being limited to 25 yards the previous week against Cal.
Freshmen who impressed: In his first game at fullback, USC true freshman Allen Bradford caught a 17-yard touchdown pass for the Trojans' first score of the game. Bradford moved to fullback after spending time at safety and tailback. Tailback C.J. Gable also pitched in a TD with a 2-yard run. He finished the day with five carries for 26 yards.