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October 11, 2006
Make or break weekend: Must-win games for several teams are on tap this week in the Pac-10. After a thumping in Berkeley, Oregon will try to stay in the conference race with a win over UCLA. Arizona and Oregon State hoped for bowls during the preseason, but could start making other plans for December and January if they lose this weekend.
Best matchup: UCLA at Oregon. The Pac-10 champion isn't likely to have two conference losses, which is where the loser of this game will stand. Oregon's high-powered offense stalled against Cal with three interceptions from Dennis Dixon and 25 rushing yards for Jonathan Stewart. Now the Ducks have to rebound against a Bruins team that leads the Pac-10 in rushing, scoring and total defense.
Worst matchup: Arizona at Stanford. The game will ensure one team has a conference win this year.
The pressure is on: Arizona State coach Dirk Koetter. The Sun Devils' coach is 0-11 in Pac-10 games in the state of California. Koetter could save some face after blowouts to Cal and Oregon by keeping things close against USC. He could cool any speculation about his job status with a win.
Upset alert: Stanford can't lose them all, can it? The Cardinal gets an Arizona team at home that is missing Willie Tuitama.
Most to gain: UCLA quarterback Patrick Cowan. The Bruins could be in good hands despite the injury to starter Ben Olson. Cowan, who was 20 of 29 for 210 yards and two touchdowns against Arizona, will have the job for the next four to six weeks ? or more if he engineers a win at Autzen. The Bruins are entering the meat of their schedule with games against Oregon, Notre Dame, Washington State and Cal.
Most to lose: Oregon. The Ducks were dismantled in all phases of the game against Cal and will have little turnaround time against a 4-1 UCLA team. A loss would take the Ducks out of the Pac-10 race completely.
Who's hot: Washington State defensive end Mkristo Bruce. The Cougars' star pass rusher leads the nation in sacks with 10, and he has eight in the last three games. Bruce had two sacks against Oregon State last week.
Who's not: Oregon State's offense. The Beavers have one touchdown in Pac-10 play. Oregon State failed to score a TD at home for the first time since 1997 after not finding the end zone against Washington State.
Must see TV: UCLA at Oregon, 3:30 p.m. Eastern, ABC; Arizona State at USC, 8 p.m. Eastern, ABC
Backup who could have an impact: Cal running back Justin Forsett. Forsett stepped in for an injured Marshawn Lynch last week and had 27 carries for 163 yards and a touchdown. Lynch is expected to play this week despite a sore ankle, but look for more from Forsett if Lynch is still hobbled.
Backup who could have an impact II: Arizona quarterback Adam Austin. Austin will start in place of Willie Tuitama (concussion) against Stanford. In filling in for Tuitama earlier this year, Austin completed just more than 50 percent of his passes along with three interceptions.
Key stat: 0-10. Cal's record against Washington State in Pullman, Wash., since 1979.
Take the line: UCLA could keep it closer than the 12? points it is being given, despite Olson's absence. UCLA's defense has been solid this year and should match up well against an Oregon team that was embarrassed by Cal last week. Season 2-4.
They said it: "Now I hopefully won't get asked about Tennessee every week, but that's never going to go away."
They said it II: "The trainers asked me the same question, and I said, "Unless you got anything that can fix my ego, then I'm all right.' "
Injury update: UCLA's 27-7 win over Arizona was costly for both teams. The starting quarterbacks were knocked out of the game. UCLA's Olson is out four to six weeks with a torn medial collateral ligament. Arizona's Tuitama will miss the Stanford game after sustaining his second concussion in a month. ? USC wide receiver Steve Smith missed practice Monday with a high ankle sprain but is expected to play against Arizona State. Trojans receiver Dwayne Jarrett, who played against Washington while nursing a sprained left shoulder, is also expected to play this week. ? Cal's Lynch will play despite a sprained ankle that was aggravated against Oregon last week. ? UCLA linebacker Christian Taylor is questionable for Saturday with a sprained ankle. ? Washington quarterback Isaiah Stanback suffered a hip pointer against USC but is expected to play against Oregon State. ? Washington State offensive tackle Bobby Byrd is out indefinitely with a high ankle sprain.
Worth noting: Arizona hopes a change in the coaching staff will ignite a slumping offense. The Wildcats promoted tight ends coach Dana Dimel to co-offensive coordinator along with Mike Canales. ? After playing running back and safety so far this season, true freshman Allen Bradford took reps at fullback in practice this week. ? Oregon tight end Dante Rosario sent a written apology to Cal saying he did not intend to kick a Bears player during a punt return in Saturday's game.
Looking back: The showdown in Berkeley turned out to be a dud as Cal beat Oregon in a 45-24 rout. The Bears shut down the top team in the Pac-10 in rushing and total offense. At the same time, USC had its second scare against a team from Washington with a 26-20 win over the Huskies.
Freshman who impressed: UCLA cornerback Alterraun Verner had an 89-yard interception return for a touchdown, his second of the season.