Pac 10 Week 15 Expanded Preview Blog
Posted Dec 4, 2008

The big storylines and overviews for all the Pac 10 games.

Pac 10 Storylines Blog

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CFN Writers
Big East By J.P. Girouard; Big 10 By Tony Castricone; Big 12 By Sean Martin; Conference USA By Greg Vacek; Independents By Adam Nettina; MAC By Adam Nettina; Mountain West By Jim Riffel; Pac 10 By Dan Greenspan; SEC By Gabe Harris and Barrett Sallee; Sun Belt By John Martello; WAC By Jon Tavares

Arizona State (5-6) at Arizona (6-5) 8 pm
--The Sun Devils defense delivered in the Survival Bowl, downing UCLA 34-9 to stay alive for a possible bowl bid. The defense accounted for four touchdown returns off turnovers, tying Houston for the NCAA single-game record. With four sacks and 10 tackles for loss, Bruins quarterback Kevin Craft was left running for his life. Heading into the Territorial Cup needing a win, the running game must get on track after Keegan Herring managed 32 yards on 13 carries.
--Arizona, a team known for strong finishes under coach Mike Stoops, is in the midst of a major late-season swoon. The Wildcats have now lost three of their last four games after falling to Oregon State 19-17 on a Beavers field goal with no time remaining. Quarterback Willie Tuitama was 16-of-22 for 158 yards and a score while freshman Keola Antolin ran for 114 yards and a touchdown, but was unable to salt the game away late. The defense then surrendered a 47-yard pass to set up the Oregon State game winner.
Arizona State: Defensive tackle Jonathan English tore his ACL against UCLA and is done for the season. English’s injury makes it imperative that David Smith (stinger) be available against Arizona. Carpenter will make his 43rd consecutive start, the longest streak in the nation.
Arizona: Heading into his final game at Arizona Stadium, Tuitama owns school records for career passing yards, touchdowns, attempts, completions and total offense. He also set the single game record for total offense with 517 yards against Washington last season. The Territorial Cup is the oldest rivalry game trophy in college football, dating back to 1899.
Arizona State has to … contain the running backs. When Antolin and Nic Grigsby get rolling, the Wildcat offense is almost impossible to stop. It gives coordinator Sonny Dykes opportunities to utilize his big tight end Rob Gronkowski and senior wide receiver Mike Thomas with play-action passing. Defensive tackle Lawrence Guy must get penetration early to limit Arizona’s options.
Arizona has to …  pressure Carpenter. Lost amidst the wild exploits of the Sun Devils defense, the senior quarterback was a mediocre 13-of-26 for 101 yards with an interception. Carpenter was also sacked three times, something the Wildcats must duplicate to finally slow him down. The gunslinger is 3-0 against Arizona, having thrown for 707 yards, five touchdowns and just one interception.
Keep an eye on … Arizona State safety Troy Nolan. In his final game at Sun Devil Stadium, Nolan tipped a floating Kevin Craft pass to himself, and returned the pick 100 yards for a touchdown. Nolan will be critical to stopping Gronkowski and limiting the rushing attack.
The number to know: 80 – Carpenter has thrown 80 career touchdown passes, third most in Pac-10 history behind USC’s Matt Leinart (99) and fellow Sun Devil Andrew Walter (85).
And the winner is … Arizona State 21 … Arizona 20

USC (10-1) at UCLA (4-7) 4:30 pm
--Behind another dominant defensive effort, the Trojans pasted the Irish 38-3. Notre Dame didn't record a first down until the last play of the third quarter and finished with 91 yards of offense. Joe McKnight notched his first rushing touchdown of the season on a spectacular 55-yard sprint, while quarterback Mark Sanchez threw for 267 yards and two touchdowns. The Trojans have already collected a share of their seventh straight Pac-10 title and can clinch their seventh straight BCS berth – a New Year's Day match up with Penn State in the Rose Bowl – by knocking off UCLA.
--Quarterback Kevin Craft had four turnovers returned for touchdowns and Arizona State rode that NCAA-record defensive effort to a 34-9 win to end UCLA's slim postseason hopes. Craft was 24-of-39 for 204 yards and three interceptions, while the rushing attack managed just 2.5 yards per carry. DeWayne Walker's defense held the Sun Devils to 122 yards and two field goals, but couldn't overcome Craft's mistakes. The Bruins are looking to avoid their first eight loss season since 1963.
USC: The Trojans will wear their Cardinal jerseys this Saturday, restoring a tradition that ended in 1982 when the Bruins moved their home games from the Coliseum. Unless a waiver is granted by the Pac-10 or NCAA, USC will be penalized a timeout in each half. Senior safety Kevin Ellison (knee) did not play against Notre Dame but could return Saturday. Fullback Stanley Havili sprained his right ankle against the Irish but should be available this week.
UCLA: Craft will start against the Trojans in spite of his penchant for turning the ball over. "It frustrates me that there isn't another option that gives us a better chance to win, but we have to do what's in our best interest,” said Neuheisel. “And Kevin right now, unless we come up with another plan, is our best option." Right guard Nick Ekbatani hurt his knee against the Sun Devils, but returned to practice and will start.
USC has to … let Craft be Craft. Since engineering the upset against Tennessee, it has been all downhill for the junior college transfer. Craft has thrown 12 interceptions in his last four games and now faces the fastest, nastiest defense in all of college football. The Trojans will unleash linebackers Rey Maualuga and Brian Cushing on a line allowing 3.1 sacks per game and allow the secondary to collect the errant throws.
UCLA has to … follow the blueprint. To stun their cross-town rivals, the Bruins will need to recreate the same breaks other teams have used to knock off USC. That means winning the turnover margin, shutting down the Trojans’ running game and scoring a non-offensive touchdown. Defensive tackles Brian Price and Brigham Harwell must find a way to beat the interior line, stuffing the run and pressuring Sanchez into bad decisions in the process.
Keep an eye on … USC running back C.J. Gable. The redshirt sophomore quietly leads the Trojans in rushing yards and touchdowns. Gable will be looking to make amends for his 2006 showing against the Bruins, running for just 52 yards in the stunning 13-9 loss.
The number to know: 1 – USC surrendered just one touchdown in six home games this season. The Trojans are allowing 7.8 points per game, best in the nation and more than three points per game better than No. 2 TCU.
And the winner is … USC 26 … UCLA 3


Washington (0-11) at California (7-4) 3 pm
--The Huskies have officially hit rock bottom, losing the Apple Cup 16-13 in double overtime to Washington State. In the process, the Cougs might have transferred their 'worst team ever' mojo to their in-state rivals, who are now staring down a 13-game losing streak. Quarterback Ronnie Fouch threw for 99 yards with an interception, while the run game accounted for 224 yards on 58 carries. The defense remains horrific, allowing a 48-yard completion to set up the tying field goal.
--The Axe is back. Jahvid Best led the way with 201 yards and two touchdowns in the 37-16 Big Game romp over Stanford. Led by senior linebacker Zack Follett's 2.5 sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss, Cal's defense forced four turnovers and held the Cardinal to its second-lowest scoring output of the year. The Bears won't have far to go for their bowl game since they are probably headed to the Emerald Bowl in San Francisco against an ACC team.
Washington: With the disastrous season almost over, attention has focused on Tyrone Willingham's replacement. Fresno State coach Pat Hill interviewed with school officials Sunday, while Texas Tech's Mike Leach was reportedly spotted on a Monday afternoon flight to Seattle. Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly, whose spread offense would have been a natural fit for quarterback Jake Locker's skill set, announced he will remain with the Bearcats.
California: On Senior Day, the Bears will salute one of their most successful senior groups. Led by All-American center Alex Mack, this class is 32-17 with three bowl wins. Mack is a finalist for the Draddy, the academic Heisman, and has already earned an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship. Mack and three other Cal players were named first-team Pac-10 all-academic.
Washington has to … muster some energy. It's been a long and trying season for everyone involved in Washington football, made worse by the Apple Cup debacle. The Bears will be out for revenge after last season's embarrassing 37-23 loss to the Huskies. If Washington can't find some enthusiasm early, they will be blown out.
California has to …ride Jahvid the Jet. The explosive sophomore has been nothing short of transcendent in his first year as a featured back, rushing for 1,083 yards and nine touchdowns. With the breakaway speed to take any play to the end zone, Best will feast on the Huskies defense allowing 223 yards and 2.5 rushing touchdowns per game. After allowing Cougars' feeble run game to total 171 yards, Washington has no shot at slowing Best down.
Keep an eye on … Washington running back Willie Griffin. The redshirt freshman rushed for 112 yards and a touchdown in the Apple Cup.
The number to know: 170 – Best is 170 yards behind Oregon State freshman Jacquizz Rodgers for the Pac-10 rushing title.