Pac 10 Storylines Blog
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Arizona State (5-6) at Arizona (6-5)
--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.
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
(10-1) at UCLA (4-7)
--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.
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
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
And the winner is … USC 26 … UCLA 3
(0-11) at California (7-4)
--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.