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Mr Pac-10’s Weekly Review

Mr Pac Ten
Posted Sep 24, 2009

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

Washington: Truly a tremendous win for this program.
Cal: Solid non-conference win for the Bears
Washington St: The way the season was heading, any win is a good win.
Oregon: Utah may well not be very good, but the Ducks desperately needed this one.
Stanford: After losing to Wake, they really needed a good bounce-back performance.

UCLA: Solid follow-up effort to the Tennessee win.
Arizona St: Meh.
Arizona: Not a horrible performance, considering the competition.

Oregon St: This was the sort of loss which makes it clear that the Beavers are unlikely to be a serious contender for the top of the league.
USC: Once again the Trojans’ national title hopes take a huge hit early in Pac-10 play.

@ Washington 16, USC (-18.5) 13
my pick: USC 31, @ Washington 17

What to take from this:
If you’re USC:

The initial reaction has to be “here we go again”. Once again USC wins the big ones and loses the little ones. Yes, the injuries to Barkley and Mays hurt, and yes, USC will be a lot better when they’re healthy again, but Ohio St indicated it and Washington confirmed it: this is the most beatable Trojan team since they started their incredible run back in 2002, even more than 2007’s relatively down group. If they win out, they still have a national title shot, but after squeaking by Ohio St and losing to U-Dub, they’ll be hard-pressed to take both road trips to Cal and Notre Dame, much less everything else to boot. This definitely looks like a rebuilding year; the question is, how much? Nine wins still seem likely, but even ten could very well be a challenge. The Pac-10 looks pretty good this year, and they’ll likely be tagged again.

If you’re Washington:
This was a huge, program-defining win for the Huskies. That said, USC was without their best player in Taylor Mays, without their starting quarterback, self-destructing with turnovers and questionable coaching decisions, and the Husky crowd was a factor as well. This team now has a shot at making a bowl, but it’s still an uphill battle. Arizona, Oregon and Cal won’t be easy home wins, and we still haven’t seen this team on the road. I don’t want to diminish their achievement, because it was a huge one, but there’s still a lot of work and a lot of improvement left to do. Consecutive road games against Stanford and Notre Dame will tell a lot about where this team really is. If they want to make a serious bowl run, a split is vital.

Cincinnati 28, @ Oregon St (+1) 18
my pick: @ Oregon St 35, Cincy 31

What to take from this:
When you have to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns, you’re usually headed for trouble. In their first two drivers, the Beavers had the ball in Bearcat territory, and even one touchdown would have strongly swung momentum their own way. Instead, they were shut down on their first drive and shut themselves down with a personal foul on the second, were forced to settle for kicks, and when Cincy got going (inevitable against a suspect Beaver secondary), they simply couldn’t keep up. This game was clear evidence that this year’s team simply isn’t near the elite of the league. Sure, they’ll probably improve as the year wears on, as they usually do, but once again they can’t clear their non-conference hurdles, and once again, it’s Rose Bowl or bust for national relevance. And with the way Cal is playing, it sure looks like bust again. Holiday Bowl looks like a best case scenario right now, and even that will be tough.

Cal (-14) 35, @ Minnesota 21
my pick: Cal 31, @ Minnesota 21

What to take from this:
The Bears came up with the sort of solid road win that has eluded them in recent years, even more impressive given how one-sided the Big Ten refereeing seemed to be. Yes, it was tied late, but against a decent team and a fired-up crowd, this is very much a win to be happy about.

@ Oregon (-5) 31, Utah 24
my pick: @ Oregon 28, Utah 27

What to take from this:
They won. The way things were going (especially after Purdue got tagged by NIU), before kickoff things looked bleak for the Ducks. However, they were able to put together the win. Utah isn’t a great team, but is still decent, and this is a nice building block. This weekend’s big game against Cal will provide a real test of whether this was the start of a comeback or just a blip.

@ Iowa 27, Arizona (+5.5) 17
my pick: @ Iowa 28, Arizona 17

What to take from this:
The Wildcats really didn’t play as badly as the score might indicate. Right now, Iowa is probably a really good team that suffered a fluky close game in week one (at least that’s what their beatdown in Ames last week indicated), and at Iowa it was simply too much of a challenge. This game was close going into the locker room at halftime, and Iowa didn’t really put it away until they got a touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Obviously it wasn’t something to be happy about, but they simply got beat by a better team. Their upcoming game in Corvallis (and for that matter Iowa’s upcoming trip to Happy Valley) will say a lot more about how good Arizona really is.

@ UCLA (-12.5) 23, Kansas St 9
my pick: @ UCLA 23, Kansas St 17

What to take from this:
The defense was again strong, Kevin Craft was adequate, and the running game did a good job. Solid win for the Bruins, though it’s a small red flag that this game was in play until around the middle of the fourth quarter.

@ Washington St (+6) 30, SMU (OT) 27
my pick: SMU 35, @ Washington St 17

What to take from this:
The Cougars got not one but two second half pick sixes, and still needed a last-minute touchdown drive just to force overtime against a team far worse than any they’ll see the rest of the way, and at home no less. SMU’s QB play was so atrocious that I actually got an email asking me if I thought that he was shaving points (my answer: not likely, given that the line was less than 7, and no one actually shaving points would be that blatant; most likely he simply sucked big time), which is never an indicator of a good win, to say the least. Avoiding the 0-fer is a huge deal, but that’s really the only positive. If they win another game the rest of the year, it would be a noteworthy achievement, especially now that James Montgomery is done for the season.

@ Stanford (-17) 42, San Jose St 17
my pick: @ Stanford 28, San Jose St 17

What to take from this:
They did what they needed to do here, and got some very solid individual performances, with two special teams touchdowns and a defensive TD. This was a nice building block with Washington and UCLA, two more must-win games, coming up next. Chris Owusu is starting to look like a really special player and could be the spark-plug that this team needs to take another step forward. That said, four turnovers is a big problem, and can’t be repeated against the better teams they’ll be facing or they’ll pay.

@ Arizona St (-19.5) 38, UL-Monroe 14
my pick: @ Arizona St 28, UL-Monroe 13

What to take from this:
They won, they had fun, it’s all good. We’ll see where this team really is this weekend when they have to take their show on the road to Georgia.

Pac-10 Games Record:
This Week: 6-3 SU, 2-6-1 ATS
Season: 21-6 SU, 9-12-2 ATS

National Games of the Week:

@ Miami (-5.5) 33, Georgia Tech 17
my pick: @ Miami 28, Georgia Tech 17

Florida St 54, @ BYU (-7.5) 28
my pick: @ BYU 28, Florida St 24

National Games Record:
This Week: 1-1 SU, 2-0 ATS
Season: 4-7 SU, 3-8 ATS

Bad Lines

Pitt -7 vs Navy
Covered by 6 points

Tennessee +29.5 @ Florida
Covered by 19.5 points

UConn +10.5 @ Baylor
Covered by 18.5 points and outright upset

Notre Dame -10 vs Michigan St
Missed by 7 points

Bad Lines Record:
This Week: 3-1
Season: 7-2

Soapbox Moment:
What is up with the Big Ten refereeing these days? In the Fresno-Wisconsin game, the refs didn’t bother calling an obvious roughing the passer penalty on a play which clearly swung the game. In the Notre Dame-Michigan game there were apparently controversial calls favoring the home team. In the Cal-Minnesota game there were multiple questionable calls that seemed to all favor the home team. In the Michigan St – Notre Dame game the Big Ten refs apparently blew an important replay call on the (should have been) touchdown catch by Floyd. I really don’t want to argue that it’s intentional, but at some point it really doesn’t seem like coincidence anymore. This may seem odd coming from a guy who writes about a league in the Pac-10 whose refs have taken a major beating in public opinion, but here’s the thing: yes, the Pac-10 refs are infamous for screwups, but at the least they’re generally even-handed (yes, yes, we know, Oklahoma, you got screwed, but in general the screwings work both ways – just ask Washington).

All that said, in all fairness, it’s not just limited to Big Ten refs, though it sure seems like they’re the most flagrant offenders. In the Boise-Fresno game, the refs definitely seemed to skew towards the Broncos; is it a coincidence that Boise could make the league more money and give more exposure should they run the table and make a BCS game? Maybe not, but it sure looked fishy. Is it a coincidence that Stanford seemed to get jobbed at Wake at a time when the ACC was reeling and desperately needed to avoid yet another non-conference loss? Again, maybe, but at some point you really have to wonder.

If these sorts of (seeming) shenanigans aren’t given serious investigation, I have to wonder whether we’re heading down a very slippery slope. Do we really want to get to the point where we constantly have to insist on “neutral” crews on any remotely important inter-conference matchup? Because I’ll be honest, that’s where we’re heading. 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.

Mr Pac-10's 2009 Blog

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