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October 25, 2006
Pressure cooker: It's make-or-break time in the Pac-10. Four teams are going into the home stretch of season needing two wins for bowl eligibility. Even for a winning team like Oregon, times are tough. A loss to Washington State could create changes on offense.
Best matchup: Arizona State at Washington. The Huskies are limping into this game on a three-game losing streak, but Cal needed overtime to beat Washington last week despite five interceptions from Huskies backup quarterback Carl Bonnell. Arizona State has struggled through much of the season with an ineffective passing game. This matchup is critical for both teams if they hope to make the postseason.
Worst matchup: Portland State at Oregon. The Ducks are falling apart. The quarterback situation is unsettled and the run defense is a disaster. Oregon could struggle more than many might expect. This is the same Portland State team that beat New Mexico 17-6 in the opener but lost to Cal 42-16.
The pressure is on: Oregon quarterback Dennis Dixon. Dixon was pulled in the Washington State loss in favor of Brady Leaf, with whom he shared the starting job last year after the injury to Kellen Clemens. Dixon was 12 of 20 for 105 yards with two interceptions. Leaf passed for a career-high 262 yards in 1? quarters of relief. Division I-AA Portland State could give the Ducks a chance to play both.
Upset alert: Oregon State over USC. The Trojans have gone down to the wire with Washington State, Washington and Arizona State in their last three games. Could a trip to Corvallis, Ore., be the end of the Trojans' run in the Pac-10?
Most to gain: Washington State. The Cougars are coming off a big upset of Oregon last week and have the potential to win out with games remaining against UCLA, Arizona, Arizona State and Washington. Washington State has a realistic shot of going 9-3 after finishing 4-7 a year ago.
Most to lose: UCLA. The Bruins have no time to dwell on the loss to Notre Dame. Tough times lie ahead for UCLA and Karl Dorrell with games remaining against Washington State, Cal, Oregon State, Arizona State and USC.
Who's hot: Cal linebacker Desmond Bishop. The senior has been involved in a turnover in five of the last six games. During that time, he's had two interceptions, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. Against Washington last week, he had 16 tackles, 3.5 tackles for a loss and the game-winning interception.
Who's not: Washington State defensive end Mkrsito Bruce. Bruce, who had 10 sacks through the first six games, hasn't had a sack in the last two against Cal and Oregon.
Must see TV: No. 3 USC at Oregon State, 3:30 p.m., Fox Sports Net; Washington State at UCLA, 7 p.m., ABC
Backups who could have an impact: Oregon quarterback Brady Leaf is likely to see playing time against Portland State, and could battle for more time under center once the Ducks return to the Pac-10 schedule. Oregon State running back Clinton Polk should get some more carries against USC because Yvenson Bernard is struggling with a sore ankle.
Key stat: 169.6. Rushing yards per game allowed by Oregon this year. The Ducks are 99th in the country in that category.
Take the line: Washington is a one-point favorite at home against Arizona State. The Sun Devils have escaped the toughest part of their schedule and are starting to find some answers in their offense - thanks to running back Ryan Torain. Look for Arizona State to upset the wounded Huskies. Season: 3-5.
They said it: More of a they did it this week. Cal running back Marshawn Lynch commandeered the cart used for injured players after the Bears' 31-24 win in overtime over Washington. Check out the video. Lynch was also in the driver's seat on the field with 21 carries for 150 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner in overtime.
Injury update: Arizona State wide receiver Terry Richardson is doubtful for the Washington game with a knee injury. ? Washington running back Kenny James (ankle) is doubtful against Arizona State. ? Oregon State running back Yvenson Bernard is questionable for the USC game with a sprained ankle. ? UCLA quarterback Ben Olson (knee) could return to practice this week, but will not play against Washington State. ? Washington quarterback Carl Bonnell hurt his non-throwing shoulder against Cal but should be back for Arizona State.
Worth noting: UCLA coach Karl Dorell and Washington coach Tyrone Willingham have both been criticized for decisions in close losses. Dorell called for three runs in a three-and-out series that gave Notre Dame the ball back for the game-winning drive in the last minute. Willingham elected to kick an extra point for a tie rather than go for a two-point conversion for a win at the end of regulation against Cal. The Bears won 31-24 in OT. ? Arizona athletic director Jim Livengood defended Coach Mike Stoops after the Wildcats' fifth loss of the season. He told reporters Stoops will stay, but hinted other changes could follow. ? Arizona State's Rudy Burgess moved from wide receiver to start at cornerback last week against Stanford. ? Sun Devils quarterback Rudy Carpenter got re-acquainted with a word has hasn't heart much this year: efficiency. He was 14 of 15 for 160 yards and a touchdown in the 38-3 win over Stanford. ? Washington State quarterback Alex Brink was also efficient, going 20 of 23 for 179 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
Looking back: Two of the Pac-10's newest starting quarterbacks came close to upsets last week. Washington's Carl Bonnell, despite an injury to starting running back Kenny James and five interceptions, helped the Huskies take Cal to overtime. Notre Dame needed a final-minute drive to beat UCLA quarterback Patrick Cowan, who was making his second start of the year. Arizona's Kris Heavner and Stanford's T.C. Ostrander were not as fortunate.
Freshman who impressed: Washington State running back Dwight Tardy. The redshirt freshman had 20 carries for 145 yards and a touchdown in the upset of Oregon on Saturday. Tardy, who took the team lead with 430 rushing yards, has been splitting time with Derrell Hutsona at tailback.