When I wrote my preview for the week, I noted that there were a couple of revenge games on hand in the Pac 10. The thing is, I underestimated the storylines of some of the lesser games in the conference for the weekend.
All times Pacific
12:30 PM Cal at Oregon State
I overlooked the significance of this matchup in regards to what happened last season.
Due to the way they finished, I think a lot of people forgot that Cal was up to No. 2, and in position to move up to No. 1. One game in particular started the Bears on a downward slide during which they won one of their last seven before edging out a win in their bowl.
The game that started it was a loss at home to Oregon State.
Down by three, Cal had to drive nearly the entire length of the field. And they were doing it.
With the ball on the Oregon State 27, Cal freshman QB Kevin Riley threw an incomplete pass on second down. On the next play, the Beavers were called for pass interference; that moved the ball up to the Oregon State 12. With 14 seconds left, Riley scrambled and ran up the middle, only to be stopped short.
With no timeouts left, the Bears could not stop the clock before time expired. Cal had lost.
A few more numbers: Oregon State has won seven of the last nine meetings. Cal has won the last two times they have played in Corvallis.
2:30 PM Arizona State at Washington State
In 1987 and 1988, Dennis Erickson was the coach at Washington State. He has had a history of short tenures at his jobs, but he tends to get results fairly quickly.
Washington State went 3-7-1 in his first year but 9-3 in year two, including a win in the Aloha Bowl. The postseason victory was the first for WSU since 1931.
Current Washington State coach Paul Wulff is a former player at WSU. He played offensive line from 1986-89. If you didn’t notice, those years overlap the years Erickson was coach.
So, really, this one has a good storyline going for it—the veteran coach returns to his old school to do battle against his former player.
3:30 PM Arizona at Oregon
Last season, Oregon was up to No. 2, primed and ready for a spot in the National Championship game.
All that stood in the Ducks' path was three seemingly winnable games.
Oregon had been dealing with injuries to key players all season, including its backup running back and both starting and backup wide receivers. Still, even with all the injuries, Oregon’s offense was running like a well-oiled machine.
Plus, Oregon was coming off back-to-back home wins over top 10 teams.
But, then, in a win over Arizona State, the Ducks' team leader, Heisman candidate quarterback Dennis Dixon, injured his knee while running for 11 yards in the fourth quarter.
He appeared fine, and was running and jumping on the sideline. Having the week off before going to Arizona was thought to have been a blessing that would give him time to rest.
To start the game, Dixon did, in fact, look fine. He was moving easily back and forth and running up and down the field effortlessly. Oregon’s first touchdown was a 39-yard run by Dixon.
Later in the first quarter, Dixon was scrambling and crumbled to the ground without being touched. With Dixon out, the Ducks lost the game and, with it, any chance of a national championship.
Oregon ended up losing each of the next two games as well.
4 PM USC at Stanford
It has been called the biggest upset in college football history.
I don’t know if that is the case, but it certainly was one of the biggest. USC was a 41-point favorite at home against a Stanford team perceived as the weakest team in the conference.
And Stanford was being led by its backup quarterback.
With about six minutes left in the game, USC was leading 23-17. On a 3rd-and-19 play, USC quarterback John David Booty’s pass was intercepted by Wopamo Osaisai.
Stanford put together a 10-play drive, and with 49 seconds left in the game Stanford quarterback Tavita Pritchard threw a 10-yard pass for the go-ahead touchdown. Stanford 24, USC 23.
The pass was caught by Mark Bradford in the corner of the end zone, leaving the wide-eyed USC crowd with their jaws hanging. You’ve seen the pictures.
USC took the ensuing kickoff and started their drive with 45 seconds remaining. Four plays later, Booty was picked off again, this time by Bo McNally. There were now only 32 seconds left, and all Stanford had to do was take a knee.
7:15 PM UCLA at Washington
We have to go back further than just last year for this one.
We have to go back to a time when the University of Washington was actually good—when they won the conference and the Rose Bowl.
During the years of 1999-2002, the University of Washington was still considered a national power, and they brought in an energetic young coach by the name of Rick Neuheisel.
Under Neuheisel, the Huskies went 33-16. But I am sure everyone already knows about the scandals that included betting on the NCAA basketball tournament and how they led to Neuheisel's firing.
Flash Forward to 2008.
This season we have good ol' Rick Neuheisel as the new head coach of UCLA. This will be his first trip back to UW as a coach since the 2002 season. Neither team is doing particularly well right now, so despite this storyline, the game itself is somewhat lackluster.
Ten teams, five games, and probably the best storylines in one conference for one day.