As the 2010 NCAA football season reaches its midway point, contenders are starting to distance themselves from pretenders and the conference races are starting to take shape. With the majority of teams having only two or three conference games under their belt, there is plenty of room for any team to make a surge toward a conference title. This is no different in the Pac-10.
This week continued to add question marks to the Pac-10 race as Southern California showed some big play potential in a rout of the California Golden Bears and the Washington Huskies snuck past the Oregon State Beavers for a 2OT victory.
The Cougars have gotten off to the kind of start that one has come to expect from them—bad. After seven games they sit at 1-6 with an 0-4 mark in Pac-10 play. With their only victory of the season coming against FCS Montana State, things will only get harder for Washington State as they take to the road next week against a very good Stanford team.
Though the play of sophomore QB Jeff Tuel is a bright spot for the Cougars, putting up 1,735 yards and 10 touchdowns, it could be a long last five games of the season for State fans.
After impressive showings to start the season against U.C. Davis and Colorado, racking up 52 points in each game while holding their opponents to a combined 10 points, the Golden Bears have sputtered over their last four outings. With a combined 3-3 record and a Pac-10 tally of 1-2, the Bears are struggling to slow down high powered offenses, giving up 52 against Nevada and 48 last week to USC.
If they don't fix their defensive holes, Oregon and Stanford will make it a painful two week stretch for Cal in late November.
The Bruins have been a hard team to read so far this season. They started the season with a close loss on the road to a good Kansas State team followed by a thrashing at home by the hands of Stanford, 35-0. From there they seemed to find a grove, rattling off three consecutive wins, including a stunning victory on the road against the Texas longhorns, 34-12. Then, to complete the 360, they got blown out by California 35-7.
One thing that is a constant for Rick Neuheisel's squad is the ability to run the ball. Ranked 13th in the nation with an average of 223 rush yards per game, Johnathan Franklin and Derrick Coleman have combined for over 1,000 yards and nine scores while averaging over six yards per carry. Unfortunately, UCLA is almost dead last in the FBS with under 100 yards of passing per game. With an overall record of 3-3 and 1-2 in conference, UCLA needs to revert back to their play against Texas or wins will be few and far between for the remainder of the season.
As Jake Locker nears the end of his college career and sets his sights on the NFL, the Huskies look to return to their past glory after a rough 2009 campaign. So far they have managed to win three games total, including a Pac-10 record of 2-1. Their two Pac-10 wins were by a combined two points, the result of a last second field goal to beat USC in LA and a failed two point gamble by the Oregon State Beavers down one in double overtime.
With their next three games against Arizona, Stanford and Oregon, along with a defense ranked 97th in the country in points allowed, don't expect to see the Huskies win for the next 30-plus days
The Sun Devils are one of those teams who have proved they can play with anyone in the country, yet have fallen just short of their goals. With a very difficult schedule after two warm up games to start the season against Portland State and Northern Arizona, Arizona State has dropped three of its last four games.
Despite this, they show signs of having a very dangerous team. Of their losses, two are against teams currently ranked No. 1 and No. 11, Oregon and Wisconsin respectively. In a week three road game, they battled Wisconsin just to come up short with a 20-19 defeat. The next week, Oregon came into Tempe and beat the Sun Devils by 11. Followed by a three point road loss to Oregon State, Arizona State dropped to 2-3 on the season.
Last week the Sun Devils fought their way back into the mix, picking up their first conference win at the expense of Washington in Seattle. With matchups remaining with USC, Stanford, and Arizona, the Sun Devils will have to figure out a way to make the close games go their way for once.
Coming into the season, Oregon State looked to challenge themselves by playing two top 10 opponents in the first three weeks of the season; they may have bitten off more than they could chew. Losing to both Boise State and TCU, the Beavers started the season 1-2. From here they found their poise and won two close games against Arizona State and Arizona by a combined five points. Following a heartbreaking double overtime loss at Washington, Oregon State is 3-3 overall and 2-1 in the Pac-10.
With the loss of James Rodgers for the season with a knee injury and a freshman quarterback, Oregon State could have trouble against some of the upper level talent in the Pac-10 such as USC, Oregon and Stanford; the teams they are playing their last three games of the year against. With the 94th ranked defense in the country, look for the Beavers to take care of business in the coming weeks but fall to the offensive onslaught they face from Nov. 20 to Dec. 4.
Despite everyone's beliefs before the season that the Reggie Bush scandal would bring the program down off its thrown, the Trojans have fought back, garnering a 5-2 record while sitting at 2-2 in conference play. Their only two losses of the season were by a combined three points to Washington and on the road at Stanford.
With sophomore standout Matt Barkley on pace for well over 3,000 yards in the air this season and 30 touchdowns, USC is looking to continue making waves in the Pac-10 with an October 30th showdown with No. 1 Oregon. Ranked in the top 25 in FBS in rushing yards, pass yards, and points per game, USC will look to its defense to make a few stops to allow them to keep putting up wins.
The Wildcats, Ranked No. 15 in the AP poll, have put together a great start to the 2010 season by going 5-1 with a conference record of 2-1. Arizona is doing this with a combination of their passing attack as well as their stingy defense. The wildcats are ranked ninth in passing yards per game, with just under 309, and seventh in points allowed per game, with only 13.3. Junior QB Nick Foles is a large key to their success. Thus far, Foles has thrown for 1,600 yards and nine touchdowns.
The Wildcats were put to the test by an early bout with a very good Iowa team, pulling off the victory at home 34-27. They will continue to be put through the gauntlet in their last four games of the year, facing Stanford, USC, Oregon and Arizona State the final month of the season. This stretch will determine if they have what it takes to be in the upper echelon of the Pac-10 or if they will fade back toward the middle of the standings.
Currently ranked 12th by both the AP poll and the BCS rankings, Stanford has shown they can win without Tobey Gerhart. The reason why: Andrew Luck. Regarded as one of the best QB's in all of college football, luck has continued his great career by passing for 1,538 yards and 16 touchdowns in six games this year. They have also managed to reload in the running game through the play of Stepfan Taylor and running ability of Andrew Luck. Taylor is on pace for nearly 1,000 yards while Luck could add another 500 from the quarterback position.
With a much easier schedule remaining for the Cardinal than that of Arizona, look for Stanford to compete for the first or second sport in the Pac-10 for the remainder of the season.
It should come as no surprise that the Oregon Ducks a settled firmly at the top of not only the Pac-10 but the entire NCAA as the No. 1 ranked team by the human polls this week. With a perfect 6-0 record, 3-0 Pac-10, the Ducks are using a stellar combination of offense and defense to dominate their opponents.
Heading into their seventh game of the year, Oregon is ranked third in rush yards per game with 315. To add to the threat, Darron Thomas has thrown for 1,231 yards and 14 touchdowns thus far. LaMichael James is on pace for over 1,600 yards and 18 touchdowns as well.
Despite the image of a team loaded with offensive firepower, which they are, Oregon also has a lot of talent and speed on the other side of the ball. The Ducks are allowing only 16.3 points per game, good for 18th best in the FBS.
With a whole mess of talent and great execution, Oregon looks poised to bring home a second straight Pac-10 title and, with some luck, may be hoisting the coaches trophy and crystal football in early January.