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Mr Pac-10’s Weekly Review

Mr Pac Ten
Posted Sep 19, 2010


Collegefootballnews’ Matthew Smith Reviews all the Pac-10 Games, Week Three

Rising:
UCLA: This was an enormous bounce-back win for the Bruins.
Arizona: A big step forward for this program, even if it nearly went bad at the end.
Stanford: Yet another dominant performance from this team.
Washington St: Yes, they lost, but they competed, which is a huge upgrade over what most people thought they were going to do.

Hovering:
Arizona St: Compared to where people expected ASU to be, this was a great showing. But this was a game that they could have taken, and they failed to get it done.
Oregon: Solid showing, against a AA team.
Arizona: Not a horrible performance, considering the competition.
USC: Not a great performance, but still a double-digit road win over an AQ opponent (was an 18-point margin before the last-second touchdown).

Falling:
Washington: Just a really bad performance. Only excusable if Nebraska really is a nationally-elite team this year.
Cal: The “Jeff Tedford special” returns. They really should have been better than this.

@ Arizona (-1) 34, Iowa 27
my pick: @ Arizona 28, Iowa 24

What to take from this:
Talk about mixed emotions. On the one hand, this was a huge win for the Wildcats, validating their program in a big way. It’s the sort of springboard they really need if they want to be a serious contender for a Rose Bowl berth (or an at-large BCS berth; the way the Pac-10 has played so far, a second BCS bid is definitely on the table at this point). On the other hand, they completely fell apart in the second half, to the point where they were fortunate to walk away with the win. This time, they got away with playing basically half a football game. Next time, they might not be so lucky. They’re good enough to really light things up when they’re hot, but this game needs to teach them that they’re bad enough to get hurt badly when they play poorly.

That said, many previous years’ Wildcat teams (maybe all of the Stoops era ones) would have found a way to blow this game. This group didn’t. When push came to shove, they got it done. Even if it was ugly and uncomfortable, this was still a good win over what should be a very good Iowa team. It may have been imperfect, but against this type of quality opponent, you take the win and you’re happy about it.

@ Nevada 52, Cal (-2.5) 31
my pick: Cal 38, @ Nevada 27

What to take from this:
I’m not sure how much I should read into this game, given how utterly often this team has face-planted on the road as a favorite in the past (Oregon, Washington in 2009; Maryland, Arizona in 2008; Washington, Stanford, in 2007; Tennessee, Arizona in 2006), and still (except 2007) rebounded to have a decent season. Plus, they still beat the tar out of Colorado, which could well turn into a better win than people think right now.

That said, my goodness this team looked awful. The defense played like they literally spent 20 minutes in practice prepping for the option, blowing assignments left and right, frequently chasing the wrong guy, and allowing Nevada to get red-hot early and often. Kevin Riley was lousy, missing a bunch of receivers and throwing a few picks, including an especially egregious one that turned into six the other way. Shane Vereen was great, but almost everyone else sucked (Jones had a good day catching the ball, over 150 yards). And honestly, this was one of the worst defenses Cal will see all year (the AA team and Wazzu are worse; you can make a case for Washington as well), and Cal completely and utterly failed to take advantage. Quite frankly, next week’s trip to Arizona is monumental for this team. It’s not a must-win, but if they lose by a couple touchdowns they’re in deep trouble, enough that I can almost write off the USC and Oregon St trips. And unless they go on an insane home run (which I doubt), that means they’re looking at another Poinsettia or similar bowl trip (at 2-1 with 5 league home games, 5-7 or worse doesn’t seem feasible). Yes, it’s too early to go that negative… but that’s absolutely how they looked in this game.

Nebraska 56, @ Washington (+3) 21
my pick: Nebraska 27, @ Washington 17

What to take from this:
Obviously Washington looked completely awful in this game. However, I’m not ready to read too much into this one. Nebraska is rated as a top ten team, and for now I haven’t seen good reason to think they won’t stay at that level. And Washington isn’t at the point where they’re ready to compete with a legitimate top ten team (whatever the linesmakers think; that was a seriously wacky line).

That said, Locker’s Heisman shot is gone after a horrible set of numbers in this one. And Washington’s defense got torched by an offense that’s iffy until proven otherwise. The bowl dream may not be dead, but it’s on life support. They’ve got a brutal six-game stretch coming up (especially now that ASU looks good again). 2-4 would put them in a bad place, needing a 3-0 season-ending run (including a win at Cal). And to be honest, I’m not sure they have even 2-4 in them. It’s do or die time for the Huskies. Either they come out of the bye week playing at a much higher level, or it’s time to start looking forward to next year.

@ UCLA (+3) 31, Houston 13
my pick: @ UCLA 24, Houston 21

What to take from this:
To be honest, I only picked UCLA because I figured Keenum would be out. But he played (for a while), and UCLA still took Houston behind the woodshed. This was a huge, huge win for the Bruins. No, I still don’t see a bowl game in their future, but based on the way they played here, it’s not a totally impossible dream either. They’ll need a couple big upsets to pull it off, but at least now this is a team that has some level of hope.

USC (-11.5) 32, @ Minnesota 21
my pick: USC 31, @ Minnesota 13

What to take from this:
I basically nailed this score before Minnesota’s meaningless late TD. Oh well. USC obviously didn’t play great in this one, only being up by 6 at the half against what might be the Big Ten’s worst team, and never really dominating the game. Still, it’s a double-digit road win. You don’t want to complain too much about one of those. USC may have not looked fantastic, but they’re still 3-0, with two road games and two games against AQ teams. That’s still a decent achievement. They haven’t done anything to make me think they’ll be better than an 8-10 win team, but they also haven’t done anything to make me think they’ll be worse than that. They’re still a good football team.

@ Wisconsin 20, Arizona St (+13) 19
my pick: @ Wisconsin 24, Arizona St 13

What to take from this:
I’m not sure how to interpret this game. Obviously the fact that ASU came into Wisconsin and seriously competed was a solid positive. However, they also gave up a bunch of yards to John Clay on the ground, as well as to Tonzien through the air (even though the Badgers were missing their best receiver). And their own biggest plays were mainly in special teams. And they left a LOT of points on the board in a game they could have (and perhaps should have) won.

Still, this was a good performance on the road against a good team (though I suspected before the game that Wisconsin was a top 15 pretender, and am nearly convinced of it now). It’s a positive building block for the rest of the season. There’s a lot of work left to do, of course, but there’s reason to think that this could be the surprise team of the league this year. Seven wins and a bowl game, while still difficult to achieve, isn’t totally out of reach.

@ Stanford 68, Wake Forest 24
my pick: @ Stanford 42, Wake Forest 17

What to take from this:
So that’s what revenge is like. Stanford brutalized Wake pretty much from the opening snap and simply refused to let up until the game was well in hand. They now have two annihilations of AQ teams who might actually be decent (Wake still beat Duke and is 2-1, while UCLA looked great beating up Houston). Oregon remains the league favorite, but Stanford and Arizona are both serious challengers to the Ducks’ supremacy.

@ Oregon St (-19.5) 35, Louisville 28
my pick: @ Oregon St 35, Louisville 17

What to take from this:
Hopefully this was just a case of looking forward to the big game next week at Boise and just overlooking the heavy underdogs that came into town. Because Oregon St simply did not look good in this game. Against one of the Big East’s worst teams, the Beavers couldn’t put them away until the very end, needing a late interception to seal the win. They absolutely must play much, much better to even tread water at Boise, much less steal a win.

If preseason expectation were 7-8 wins, right now this team is in real danger of missing the mark. It’s not time to panic about a post-season berth yet, but the second half of their schedule is no easier than the first half. The Beavers need to find a way to claw their way to 3-3 or they’ll be in real trouble. Barring a road upset of Boise or Arizona, that means a sweep of ASU and Washington. Doable, yes, but far from a gimme. They need to raise their level of play a lot from how they’ve been in their first two games.

@ SMU 35 @ Washington St (+23.5) 21
my pick: @ SMU 38 @ Washington St 10

What to take from this:
What do you know, this game was legitimately competitive. Yes, they would have really liked a win, but they still showed some signs of life, especially throwing the ball. Unless you believe SMU just isn’t good (somewhat up in the air, but they gave Texas Tech a solid game and convincingly beat UAB), that’s a strong step forward from what looked like a hopeless team through the first two weeks.

Pac-10 Games Record:
This Week: 9-1 SU, 6-3 ATS
Season: 25-3 SU, 11-10 ATS

National Games of the Week:

Texas (-3) 24, @ Texas Tech 14
my pick: @ Texas Tech 28, Texas 24

Arkansas 31, @ Georgia (-2.5) 24
my pick: Arkansas 31, @ Georgia 28

National Games Record:
This Week: 1-1 SU, 1-1 ATS
Season: 7-3 SU, 5-4-1 ATS

Bad Lines

Tennessee +14 vs Florida
Pushed

Notre Dame +3.5 @ Michigan St
Covered by 0.5 points

East Carolina +19.5 @ Virginia Tech
Missed by 2.5 points

Bad Lines Record:
This Week: 1-1-1
Season: 2-3-2

Thoughts of the Week
What is up with the Big Ten refereeing these days? They literally blew the LAST call of the Notre Dame game, which (unless you think Michigan St was hitting a 54-yard field goal) actually swung the game. Why does everyone rag so hard on Pac-10 refs? Yeah, they blow plenty of calls… but at least they’re generally pretty even-handed. The Big Ten refs LITERALLY CHANGED THE GAME RESULT! Is there an investigation? No (so far). Does anyone even seem to care? No. ( the ESPN review doesn’t even mention it) Why, I have to ask, does it seem like all of the bad calls they make in non-conference matchups favor the home teams? There’s something desperately, horribly wrong here. And it’s embarrassing for everyone who loves the game of college football.

And as I said last year (link here) after they butchered the Fresno-Wisconsin game, “If I’m a coach going on the road to a Big Ten school, I’m scared of what the refs are going to do to my school. And whether that perception is accurate or not, the fact remains that there’s reason for it. And that’s a really, REALLY big problem.” And clearly it still is. I just hope I don’t have to come back and write yet another piece saying the exact same thing about these guys next year too (or, even worse, sometime later this year).

Mr Pac-10's 2010 Blog

Questions, comments or suggestions? Email me at cfn_ms@hotmail.com

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