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September 20, 2006
Best matchup: Arizona State at Cal. The game could be critical for both teams jockeying for position at the top of the Pac-10. It's especially critical for the Sun Devils, who face a make-or-break stretch with games at Cal, at home against Oregon and on the road against USC in the next four weeks. The game also matchups up the best offensive head coaches in the conference in Jeff Tedford and Dirk Koetter after a one-year break in 2005.
Worst matchup: Washington State at Stanford, depending on what Washington State team shows up. The Cougars beat Idaho 56-10 in Week 2, but needed a trick play and a last-minute field goal to silence boos in a 17-15 win over Baylor in Week 3. Stanford has been poor all-around this season, so it's up to Washington State to turn this into either a rout or battle for Pac-10 inferiority.
The pressure is on: Cal cornerback Syd'Quan Thompson. The redshirt freshman who struggled to contain Tennessee wide receiver Robert Meachem in the first week of the season gave up another big pass play to Portland State. Arizona State will try to avoid his counterpart Daymeion Hughes, who has three interceptions in his last two games, and exploit Thompson's side of the field.
Upset alert: Washington over UCLA. The Huskies already matched last year's win total by beating Fresno State 21-20 in Seattle on a blocked extra point. Streaky quarterback Isaiah Stanback passed for 153 yards, ran for 82 and had three total touchdowns and no turnovers.
Most to gain: Washington. If Stanback and safety C.J. Wallace, who had 17 tackles against Fresno, post similar numbers, the Huskies could hit three wins for the first time since 2003 with their first win over UCLA in six years.
Most to lose: Oregon State. Though a loss at home to Idaho is a longshot, a poor performance in Corvallis at the hands of former Beavers coach Dennis Erickson could have fans in a frenzy. Oregon State has had 16 days to stew over the 42-14 loss in Boise on national television. Meanwhile, backup quarterback Sean Canfield, who is 18 of 26 for 240 yards in mop-up duty, is putting the pressure on starter Matt Moore
Who's hot: Arizona State's defense. The Sun Devils, who allowed nearly 30 points per game last year, is allowing 12.7 so far this year in games against Northern Arizona, Nevada and Colorado. The 3 points allowed to the Buffaloes last week was the fewest allowed by the Sun Devils since 1993. And after having only 22 sacks a year ago, they have 18 through three games.
Who's hot II: UCLA's defense. New defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker has turned around one of the worst defensive units in the country last season. The Bruins are ranked No. 1 in the Pac-10 and 15th nationally in total defense. Sure, that includes Rice from Week 2, but the Bruins also held Utah to 10 points in the opener.
Who's not: Stanford. There may be great sightlines at the New Stanford Stadium, but there's nothing great to see. The Cardinal opened their renovated stadium with an embarrassing 37-9 loss to Navy to extend an 0-3 start. Stanford's bowl dreams are all but crushed with the next three games coming against Washington State, UCLA and Notre Dame. Making matters worse, the Cardinal took hits to the receiving corps with a season-ending injury to Mark Bradford and an injury to Evan Moore that could keep him out for four weeks. Stanford is already off to its worst start since 0-4 in 1987.
Must see TV: Arizona State at Cal, 3:30 p.m., Fox Sports Net
Newcomer who could have an impact: Chris Jennings, who walked on this fall out of Arizona Western, gave Arizona 201 reasons to put him on scholarship this week. Against Stephen F. Austin this week, he had the best performance by a Wildcats' running back since 2003 when he carried 26 times for 201 yards and two touchdowns. Against USC, he could earn the starting job over Chris Henry, who was suspended last week for a violation of team rules.
Backup who could have an impact: USC true freshman Stanley Havili. Season-ending injuries to fullbacks Brandon Hancock and Ryan Powdrell mean a third senior, Mike Brittingham, is No. 1 fullback, but don't be surprised if Havili takes over.
Key stat: 0-10 Arizona State is winless in 10 trips to the state of California in six seasons under Coach Dirk Koetter. The Sun Devils play at Cal on Saturday and at USC on Oct. 14.
Take the line: Arizona State is a 7.5-point underdog at Cal. Take the points. Arizona State has the offense to keep up with Cal while the Sun Devils' defense has improved since last season. And don't forget what happened to Cal against Tennessee. Season: 1-2
They said it: "Our numbers on 'D' are really outstanding right now, but let's face it, these next three games we're playing not only three of the best offenses in the Pac-10 but probably three of the best in the country. And Cal's might be the best. Cal might have the best skill guys, when you consider their running backs and receivers." -Arizona State coach Dirk Koetter on his team's defensive turnaround.
Injury update: Cal running back Marshawn Lynch has been bothered by a sore ankle. He left last week's game after six carries for 112 yards. Cal offensive tackle Scott Smith is out for three weeks after leaving the Portland State game with a strained MCL. ? Stanford wide receiver Evan Moore could be out for up to four weeks with a stress fracture in his right foot. The Cardinal is already without wide receiver Mark Bradford. Linebacker Michael Okwo returned from a broken thumb against Navy. He had 10 tackles and two tackles for a loss. ? Oregon linebacker Brent Haberly could be out for the season with a broken arm. ? Oregon State guard Jeremy Perry had arthroscopic knee surgery during the off week but is expected to return against Idaho. ? Washington State offensive tackle Bobby Byrd and receiver Chris Jordan will miss the Stanford games with knee injuries. ? USC fullback Ryan Powdrell is out for the season after ankle surgery. ? UCLA wide receiver Joe Cowan, the Bruins' leading returning receiver, is out for at least another week with a knee injury.
Worth noting: Arizona quarterback Willie Tuitama, who suffered a concussion in the loss to LSU in Week 2, entered last week's game against Stephen F. Austin in the fourth quarter. He is expected to start this week against USC. ? Arizona State reinstated wide receiver Jamaal Lewis against Colorado after he was arrested for criminal speeding Aug. 30. He had three catches for 48 yards. ? Oregon State tight end Joe Newton, who missed all of last season with a broken leg, has eight catches for 87 yards and three touchdowns in two games.
Looking back: After the Pac-10 struggled in the first two weeks of the season with non-conference losses to Tennessee, Auburn, Boise State and San Jose State, the league rebounded somewhat last week. USC did as expected and beat Nebraska. Oregon beat Oklahoma in the fourth quarter thanks to a controversial instant replay call while Washington State came back to beat Baylor. Washington became the second Pac-10 team along with Oregon to defeat Fresno State. The lone disappointment for the conference of the week was Navy's rout of Stanford.
Freshman who impressed: USC is starting to sort out its backfield with an impressive performance from true freshman Emmanuel Moody against Nebraska. He ran nine times for 70 yards against the Cornhuskers in his first start. Moody, who is averaging 8 yards per carry, would likely be complimented by junior Chauncey Washington as the power back.