Sunday, September 28, 2008

ASU/Cal will Make or Break 2008

Before this season started, the question, "When is ASU's most important game of 2008?" was bandied about among fans, on message boards and on talk radio. The two most popular answers, without hesitation, were Georgia and at USC.

And why not? Before the season began, everyone, including this fine blog, expected ASU to be consistently in the top 15. However, I raised a lot of eyebrows with my answer to that question.

Without a beat, I kept telling people that I thought the Cal game on October 4 was this team's most important game. And I still think it is.

In terms of national attention and our best chance to get maximum exposure to voters and casual fans, national TV games against Georgia are huge. In terms of knowing out conference standing, our game against Southern Cal is always big.

But based on when this Cal game is scheduled, I firmly thought that the game in Berkeley would prove to be Arizona State's most important game.

Most of us thought the Sun Devils would be 3-1 going into this Saturday's game and not-so-privately boasted about being 4-0. Well, that's obviously far from the case. The Devils are 2-2 after a flat loss to the Bulldogs and are still experiencing the dull ache from the punch to the mouth that was UNLV.

So, my thoughts going into California have consistently been one of these two rationales:

A) We had just lost to Georgia and needed to reestablish our confidence
B) We had just somehow beaten Georgia and needed to prove that the upset wasn't a fluke

Obviously, it was situation A that has panned out with the added twist being the 25 1/2 point outright upset by the Rebels three weeks ago. Both of those reasons, whichever one was the case after September 20, made me believe that there was no more important game on the 2008 schedule than the game at Memorial Stadium this Saturday.

Win, and ASU gets to 3-2 and gets a much needed shot in the arm before the trip to Los Angeles. It breaks ASU's first losing streak since 2006 and can go a long way to prove the Devils' mettle on the road, especially in the state of California, where ASU has exactly one win since 2001.

The consequences of losing are obvious. The Devils drop to under .500 and will most likely have zero belief that they can go into the Coliseum and knock off an all-of-a-sudden vulnerable (maybe? maybe not?) USC team. Plus, after USC, Oregon comes to town, a program while very much different on paper in 2008 yet the Sun Devils have been unable to beat since 2004. That brings about the possibility of the Sun Devils being 2-5 going into another bye week.

2-5.

Gulp.

See what I mean now? This weekend is single most important one of the season for Arizona State, and it's definitely in their best interests to come out flying against California...or else 2008 might be over before they even take on the Trojans.


Photo Credit: ESPN

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Pac-10 Power Poll: Special Edition

Pac-10 Power Poll: 9/25/08

NO ONE.
NO ONE IN THIS CONFERENCE IS POWERFUL.
AT ALL.

Oregon State 27, #1 USC 21

Well, I'll be gah-danged.

Can't honestly say that anyone really saw this coming.

USC can't stop Jacquizz Rodgers. Period. He's already got 117 yards rushing and 22 more through the air. Lyle Moevao, the subject of many a fat joke on this here blog, is running roughshod over the Trojans secondary, throwing two touchdowns to James Rodgers.

And something else that shouldn't be stunning: USC has already taken two of those new-fangled horse collar tackle penalties and a really stupid roughing the passer penalty with :11 seconds left in the half. They took another on OSU's third touchdown that was declined anyway.

Speaking of the third touchdown, what a ballsy call from Mike Riley to go for six rather than settle for the easy three with less than 10 seconds left in the 2nd quarter. Rodgers second touchdown was a lucky break after the ball squeaked through CB Kevin Thomas' hands and right to James.

On a side note, Erin Andrews looks absolutely AMAZING tonight. Like, more so than usual. Makes this potential enormous upset just that much more...um...visually appealing.

In the interests of equal reporting, USC also trailed Oregon State by 21 back during that 2006 upset in which they almost came back to win.

Stay tuned.

PS: When did Oregon State move back to Parker Stadium? Click on the scoreboard and look closely at it. Pretty sure OSU plays at Reser.

Devils waking up

While a week without a game is, indeed, rather unexciting, my time spent at practice this week has been the most entertaining of the season.

http://www.asuwebdevil.com/node/1272

While technically the practices in full pads are supposed to be without tackling, most members of the team having ignored that memo this week as big hits have been plentiful. Even last week in preparation for Georgia, practices just weren't sharp. This week, though, has been a different situation entirely.

Players comfortable in their roles on the team suddenly realize they will have to work to keep them and the desperation has led to an increased intensity level. The biggest battle for a position has been at right tackle where Adam Tello's struggles have left the coaching staff looking elsewhere for answers.

Redshirt freshman Matt Hustad and junior Tom Njunge are compteting for the position. Hustad has been sidelined by injury this season has the ability to play both inside and outside on the line. Erickson suggested Wednesday that Tello could move to the inside which would create more depth on the line.

Maybe the team has regained some swagger; it can't hurt to have it's mouthpiece back. Senior running back Keegan Herring has participated fully in practice this week and his mouth is making up for lost time. The Sun Devils hope to have Herring back for the Cal contest.

Is anyone as bored as I am?

*Nervously looks around*

Is anyone out there?

Is anyone else as bored right now as I am without an ASU game this week? I know...we're all still pretty baffled by consecutive losses to UNLV and Georgia (OK, maybe not AS baffled about the Georgia loss), but at this time of year, I still find my normal routine on Thursday to get in complete full swing for a game on Saturday.

This week, I find myself literally trying to find ways to spend my time. I GUESS we'll watch that USC/Oregon State game tonight, but we all know it'll be over in a quarter.

It's not even worth it to come out with a new edition of the Pac-10 Power Poll this week because...really, there's no reason to explain it. Everyone knows the Pac-1 (that's not a typo) is currently USC and everyone else until furter notice.

Either way, I'm working on a really interesting piece on how the level of quarterback talent in the conference has fallen significantly since 2004, so stick around and I promise you'll be entertained.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Other Notes from Last Night (AKA My Encounter with Uga VII)

Some other notes and thoughts that I didn't fit into my game recap earlier today...

-ASU finished up their non-conference season with a 1-2 record in 2008. It's the first time since 1999 and only the second time since 1994 that the Sun Devils went under .500 OOC (not including bowl games). In 1999, the Devils lost to New Mexico State and Notre Dame while beating Texas Tech. Since that season through the end of 2007, the Sun Devils had gone 23-4 against non-Pac-10 opponents during the regular season; two of those wins coming over NAU while the losses came at Nebraska and vs. North Carolina (2002), at Iowa (2003) and vs. LSU (2005). That includes a 2002 season where the Devils played five OOC games. Obviously, no one would have ever dreamed that ASU would have lost to UNLV while the loss to Georgia was a bit more "expected," if you will, but OOC losses still matter even if they have no bearing on the race to the Pac-10 title. I'm all about aggressive scheduling and trying to play the best opponents possible, but winning these non-conference games, especially against higher class teams, always serves to boost confidence and national attention. The Devils, for the first time in eight seasons, didn't take care of business before conference play started in full swing.

-One positive from last night is that the ASU offense continues to find ways to work the tight end into the receiving rotation. This is the first season in many years that ASU doesn't have an experienced, proven playmaker at the TE position, but Andrew Pettes, Dan Knapp and Jovon Williams have found ways to move the ball down the field and put the Devils in good positions to succeed. Pettes scored ASU's only touchdown last night on a terrific split-off route and found himself wide open inside the 5 for the easy score.

-The Devils inability to generate turnovers is a major concern, which leads me to actually think that Robert James made everyone on this defense better last season. James was the ad hoc vocal and motivational leader on the field last season and he made players like Troy Nolan, Travis Goethel and Mike Nixon play better around him. I feel like the same players who performed admirably last season are struggling badly and often find themselves in the wrong spot, caught out of position, not picking up zone reads and hot routes and, more than anything, losing track of receivers on quick in routes. The Devils have three interceptions as a defensive unit this season with all three of them coming in the Stanford game. That's not going to cut it.

-ASU cannot convert on third down. This links right back to being opportunistic and making sure the offense makes plays when they have to. Last night, the Devils went 2-11 on third down and the defense bore the brunt of it. Georgia held the ball for six more minutes than ASU did last night and, especially near the end of the 1st half, the Sun Devil defense looked tired and worn out. The Devils inability to sustain drives at least long enough to give the defense a breather made a big difference on the 2nd and 3rd Bulldog touchdown drives, on both of which the line could not get pressure on Matt Stafford and the fresher Dawg receivers were able to blow right by the ASU secondary. It's not a new trend either, the Devils were 2-9 on 3rd against UNLV and 3-12 in the win over NAU. It makes the 7 third down conversions against Stanford look like it was the Cardinal that couldn't stop the Devils rather than ASU being efficient. What might make this worse, in the Georgia game at least, is that we can't tie this trend to running woes; ASU found themselves in a 3rd and +7 yard situation 7 times last night.

-Finally, on a lighter note, I was standing near the north end zone midway through the 2nd quarter last night when I felt something rubbing against my leg. When I looked down, the culprit was none other than Uga VII, sniffing around my feet and then subsequently licking and knawing on the back of my jeans and shoes. Now, when I went to Colorado back in 2006, I didn't get my picture with Ralphie, and the canceled trip to LSU in 2005 killed any chance to spend any quality time with Mike the Tiger, I wasn't missing my chance to hang out with Uga. And from the pictures we saw of him laying in ice down in Athens earlier this year, the Georgia mascot seemed to deal with the desert heat pretty well.

"We have no identity."

How discouraging is that title? Straight from the mouth of Troy Nolan last night.

But did anyone really think Arizona State actually had a chance yesterday after what you see to the left?

Knowshon Moreno flew. He literally grew wings and flew from the five yard line and into the end zone.

And after that, ASU had nothing. Literally nothing. And it led to a 27-10 loss to the Georgia Bulldogs that many thought seemed inevitable but still left us all with a pretty bitter taste in our mouths.

It was bitter because, for the second straight week, the Devils made all the same mistakes.

Omar Bolden once again looked lost and overmatched against Mohammad Massaquoi and A.J. Green. Troy Nolan could not make a tackle to save his life. Rudy Carpenter's timing was off again and, for the first time in a while, ASU's wide receivers dropped tons of catchable balls. The Devils still couldn't run the ball but still tried to time after time.

That's just an overview. Taking a look more in-depth...

-I don't know what's going on with the special teams, but I can't remember the last time ASU had kicks blocked in consecutive games. For the 2nd straight game, a gunner was allowed to run unblocked toward Thomas Weber and get a hand on a kick, this time a blocked punt that luckily for the Devils only resulted in a missed field goal. However, these blockers on special teams need to get their minds right. The nation's best kicker can't do his thing if you're not protecting him and there have been two horrific errors in two weeks.

-It's like beating a dead horse, but it has to be pointed out again: Arizona State has no running game without Keegan Herring. I don't know how much of a legitimate difference having Herring in the backfield, however, it would have been at least somewhat significant. Anything would have been significant. If you haven't looked at the stats, ASU had it's worst rushing day since November 9, 2002. The Sun Devils rushed for 0.2 yards per carry. That's not a typo. TWO TENTHS OF A YARD PER CARRY. SEVEN INCHES PER CARRY (Thanks to the first commenter; blog writer was not a math major). The only word that comes to mind is "pathetic."

Dimitri Nance cannot be this team's every-down back anymore. Georgia's run defense was incredibly stifling and nothing should be taken away from their play, but even the most incompetent running game in the country would be able to rack up more than 4 yards on 19 carries. However, maybe ASU does have the most incompetent running game in the country.

-When a team commits 12 penalties for 104 yards, including three inexcusable penalties on defense that lead to a first down for the other team, you usually lose the game. Unfortunately, ASU only committed six penalties for 50 yards. Georgia HANDED ASU chances to get into this game in the first half with bonehead defensive penalties and the Devils could not capitalize. We all knew coming into this game that the Bulldogs had a penalty problem and that taking advantage of that would lead to success. It didn't happen.

Being opportunistic is a key when trying to beat a team that's clearly better than you. You have to take advantage of every little mistake that your opponents make and then jump on top of them when they do. That's how UNLV beat Arizona State last week. It's what ASU didn't do last night against Georgia. Two more examples:

A) ASU attempted and made a 49-yard field goal, but the Bulldogs get called for leaping and the Devils drive down to the red zone. They have to once again settle for a field goal.
B) After scoring a touchdown to make it 21-10 and putting together the most complete drive of the game, Georgia fumbled on the kickoff return. ASU couldn't jump on the ball and Georgia retained the football.

Those are errors that swung the football game. The Devils were not opportunistic throughout the entire game and by the 4th quarter, they looked like they were sleepwalking.

-Rennie Curran owned the Devils offense. There was no way for anyone on offense to get a hand on Curran all night and if seemed like he was in on every single tackle.

-Omar Bolden failed to learn from the mistakes he made against UNLV and had another game where he was burned by highly athletic wide receivers. Nance might not be the only Sun Devil going through a 2nd year slump.

-I don't even really need to get into how poorly Troy Nolan played. You all saw it.

All in all, this was disappointing. I think this stings more than a blowout loss. Georgia outsmarted ASU all over the field and the Devils were never able to capitalize when the Bulldogs slipped up just a bit. There was no aspect of this team that looked even decent or competent on the field at Sun Devil Stadium last night.

Maybe Troy Nolan is right. Maybe this team really doesn't have an identity.

They don't have a lot of time to find one.

Photo Credit: ESPN.com

Friday, September 19, 2008

Saturday Viewing Guide: September 20

We know you have a choice of where to go when letting people tell you what to watch every college football Saturday.

We appreciate you always choosing Pitchfork Nation. And because of that, we're giving you an extra special gift in the viewing guide.

The Morning Slate
I'm serious. Give yourself a nice little breather. Go out and get banged up a little Friday night and then catch some extra Z's. But seriously. Your choices are East Carolina/N.C. State, Iowa/Pittsburgh, Central Florida/Boston College and Akron/Army. You'll do yourself well for an extra two hours of sleep. You're welcome.

During Your Tailgate
Arizona Wildcats at UCLA Bruins (12:00 PM, FSN): It's the only conference matchup of the weekend, so it might be worth a glimpse. Plus, all those outside observers of the Pac-10 who said that the Wildcats and Bruins were pleasant surprises early on can now see that they're both just middling teams.

#4 Florida Gators at Tennessee Volunteers (12:30 PM, CBS): The first of two mighty SEC collisions on the day. Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin will set out to prove that they should be up in the top two of each poll while a win for Rocky Top might vault them back into the top 25 after their season opening loss to UCLA.

Set The TiVo (while you're at ASU/Georgia)
#18 Wake Forest Demon Deacons at #24 Florida State Seminoles (4:00 PM, ESPN 2): Wake Forest has never beaten Florida State three times in a row and they'll have the chance in Tallahassee this weekend. They can also solidify themselves as the clear favorite to win the sad-sack ACC. For Florida State, a win can at least make pollsters start to think that the 'Noles are a national player again.

#6 LSU Tigers at #10 Auburn Tigers (4:45 PM, ESPN): Last year's matchup of Tigers in Baton Rouge was one for ESPN Classic. In fact, it was on that channel mere hours after it's original completion. We all got burned by that USC/Ohio State dud last week, so hopefully this is the top-10 matchup everyone thinks it is. Stone cold lock: Auburn scores more than 3.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Q&A with Catfish and Cornbread

The picture above is what pops up in Google Images when I searched "catfish and cornbread."

Before, I was hungry. Now I'm starving.

But we're not here to talk about food. The fine Georgia blog Catfish and Cornbread and PFN traded questions yesterday. My answers went up on their site yesterday and now we bring you their tremendous answers to my well thought out questions.

On a side note, I've encoutered several Georgia fans while out and about this week and I've found all of them to be incredibly nice people, so big ups to Dawg Nation for being gracious visitors and great people so far.

Here's our interview with C&C (no...not the Music Factory...the blog...factory).

PFN: What was the reaction in Georgia to the Bulldogs 14-7 win over a suddenly pesky South Carolina team?

C&C: The majority of Georgia fans recognize that any game that pits Georgia and South Carolina (much less when that game happens to be in Columbia) is going to be a battle. While UGA has about 6 or 7 true "rivals" on its schedule every year, the Gamecocks really only have 2 that they think about year-round: Georgia and Clemson. With Georgia being the first big game South Carolina plays every year, their players (a good number of whom are from the state of Georgia) spend a lot of the off-season thinking about nothing but Georgia. Add in the Steve Spurrier effect (the evil nemesis of the UGA program), and you have a formula for a tight game. It is also quite possible that the Dawgs were "peeking ahead" just a bit.

PFN: Plenty of great players have come through Athens, but when all is said and done, where do you think Knowshon Moreno will fit in with the best of all time?

C&C: First of all, every highly-touted tailback that wears the Red and Black gets unfairly compared to the great Herschel Walker, who most Dawg fans happen to believe is the best college football player of all time. That is an impossible legacy to live up to. Knowshon is an outstanding and unique talent in the game college football today. He possesses an amazing blend of strength and quickness. He's probably the most beloved player to play in Athens since at least David Pollack, and maybe the most exciting since Herschel himself. That said, when you look at his body of work, we're still only talking about a little over a year from which to draw your conclusions. If he continues on the same pace for the rest of this season, he could put himself right behind #34 in UGA football lore. (Although, that might also mean that this will be Knowshon's last year participating in amateur athletics.)

PFN: Plenty has been made of Georgia's problems off the field this past off-season. What was the perception of the state of the program away from the Hedges down there?

C&C: Well, most UGA fans will tell you that local law enforcement tends to target football players. Whether that is true or not is close to impossible to know for sure, and the reasons for that would be even more impossible to comprehend. Truth is, the issues in Athens are probably not much different than what takes place at most other high-profile programs in the country, and it certainly isn't any worse than about half of our own SEC brethren.

PFN: Describe Matt Stafford's development as the Bulldogs quarterback and tell us how he turned into the QB he is today.

C&C: Stafford is probably the most polarizing player on the UGA roster today as far as national reputation is concerned, and even among the UGA fanbase. A good number of UGA fans believe that he is among the best signal-callers in college football today. Others think that he hasn't come anywhere close to where he should be given the hype that surrounded him when he signed with the Dawgs. One thing that we all agree on is that Matt has every tool in the shed from a passing standpoint. His arm strength is unmatched at this level, and his accuracy gets better every week. But where he has improved the most (in my opinion) is his leadership position on this team. Never was that more evident than last week in Columbia. His numbers weren't spectacular (they rarely are), but he was in total command of that game. He's always going to make four or five throws per game that make your jaw drop, and a couple that make you want to pull your hair out. But most Dawgs wouldn't want anyone else under center.

PFN: The secondary has taken a bit of a hit this week after Chris Smelley and the Gamecocks were able to get down the field a couple times in the 4th quarter before making a couple big plays to swing the momentum. Is there a weak link to the Georgia defense or was this just an aberration?

C&C: The problem this year hasn't been the secondary, although the cornerback spot opposite Asher Allen has been a little bit of a concern. There have really been two issues contributing to UGA's problems (at times) against the pass. The most glaring is the lack of what UGA fans have come to expect in the way of any semblance of an outside pass rush. It has been a long time since defensive end has been a weakness for UGA, but this year's rotation is simply young and inexperienced. There is major talent in place, but they are still finding their way. A player to watch this weekend might be #42 Justin Houston. He was one of the standouts in off-season camps, and started to show some strides in the 2nd half of the South Carolina game. The 2nd issue that skews the passing numbers against the defense is the fact that the Dawgs have been nearly impossible to run the ball against this season. That doesn't necessarily explain why Smelley went down the field with relative ease in the 4th quarter (see: lack of pass rush), but the point is that the numbers don't tell the entire story.

PFN: We paid special attention to the untimely death of Uga VI earlier this summer and the introduction of Uga VII. How has the new mascot been received by Bulldog Nation?

C&C: Among beloved mammals within the Bulldawg Nation, the UGA lineage has no rivals (other than perhaps long-time play-by-play announcer Larry Munson.) There are very few dogs (if any) in the world that receive the level of attention that UGA gets. VII was introduced before the opener against Georgia Southern, perhaps to the biggest ovation of the day. Thus far this season, the best we can tell is that he isn't a fan of warm weather (he has spent the majority of each game sleeping in penthouse-style quarters.) The UGA lineage isn't measured in years as much as it is measured in victories, and we look forward to VII living and long and prosperous life.

PFN: Most of us will be returning the trip next year around this time. How should the desert dwellers here in Tempe prepare for our trip to Athens?

C&C: A trip to any SEC campus on a fall Saturday for a big game is an experience that every sports fan should take in. Athens is unique in that regard. The stadium literally sits in the lowest point right smack-dab in the middle of, by all accounts, one of the most beautiful campuses in America. While our tailgating practices have been somewhat restricted in recent years thanks to progress (construction), we still have as grand a time as ever. Like just about anywhere else, you'll run into your share of the unruly opposition. But the majority of Dawg fans you meet will be gracious (especially to the Sun Devil faithful that make the long trek over to God's country.) The later in the day the game takes place, the more raucous the stadium tends to be (imagine that.) The bars in Athens are unmatched, and within an easy walk from the stadium and campus. If you're able to make the trip over, you won't be disappointed.

Oh...Why the heck not...

It's been a hard week in Pitchfork Nation. Between hosting the Pac-10 Roundtable, recovering from the UNLV loss and that pesky day job taking up just oh so much time...we've got stuff for you.

Tomorrow, we'll have a Q&A with Catfish and Cornbread, an outstanding Georgia blog. You can check out my answers to all their thoughtful questions later on today.

We'll break down the matchup tomorrow as well as have our usual Saturday viewing guide. PFN will also bring you a special Friday edition of the Opponent's Notebook focusing only on what Georgia papers are saying about Saturday's game. As per usual, I'll have my national viewing guide for you as well. Slim pickings this week though, hope you enjoy the SEC!

AND...just because we know you loyal readers will pass the word along...let's make sure that Sun Devil Stadium is a sea of gold Saturday! Maybe we can all be as happy as pom pom/wig guy.

GOLD OUT
SEPTEMBER 20, 2008
ASU VS. GEORGIA

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Pac-10 Roundtable: Week 3

The men of the Pac-10 Roundtable are back. We've crushed cans on our heads, discussed the non-merits of fruiting beers and came up with about 18 new man laws, including one involving never, EVER moving to a city without a major college football team.

And guess what? For the week after the most disappointing loss of the decade for ASU and the week of the biggest non-conference game for ASU in years, PFN is the host.

That's right. We've thrown the doors open and let the rest of the roundtable sift through our chips and magazines, and if we're lucky, they've brought a six-pack each. The other 7 blogs will post links to their answers in the comments section. Enjoy everyone!

1) The Pacific-10 Conference expanded to its current state in 1978 when Arizona and Arizona State left the WAC to create the dysfunctional family we now are all members of today. In the 30 years in our current state, I think it's pretty obvious that we did not see a weekend as pathetic as we did last week when seven teams lost, four of them to Mountain West Conference foes, one as a 25 1/2 point favorite, one to Baylor (no more explanation needed) and one which was their worst loss since the Great Depression.

Thankfully, last week is over and we move on to this weekend, where there's a primetime televised matchup (Georgia/ASU), a middling conference game and three others. The question is, how does the conference save face this week?

Conquest Chronicles, if you feel like stretching out and passing on this question, feel free. You're more than excused.

When the United States and the Allies won WWII, they introduced the Marshall Plan, a way for the victors to help rebuild the nations destroyed in Western Europe during the war (knowledge courtesy of my Poly Sci minor). Much like the US did in 1945, I propose a sort of Marshall Plan to save the Pac-10 after it was completely destroyed last week.

A) Arizona and UCLA play a highly entertaining game with a final score somewhere in the 20's. That way, both team's offenses and defenses will have their chance to strut their stuff and show America that these middling teams, both of whom are trying to prove that they don't belong in the shadows, that they can perform on both sides of the ball.
B) Oregon should go out and destroy a Boise State team that, despite being a premier non-BCS conference program, only scored 20 points against Bowling Green last week. We'll have to see how the Ducks perform without Justin Roper, but a good performance out of Jeremiah Masoli or Chris Harper will get them a win.
C) ASU needs to at least be competitive against Georgia if not win outright. A hard fought, down to the wire loss to the #3 team in the nation on national TV will show the nation, who didn't see how pathetic the Devils looked against UNLV last Saturday, that there's still fight left in Erickson's boys.
D) Washington State and Stanford needs to roll their much less talented opponents, Portland State and San Jose State, respectively.

2) After everything that happened this past weekend, the two teams that are left nationally ranked are the Trojans and the Ducks. The Trojans did it in stunningly efficient fashion over a clearly overmatched Ohio State team while the Ducks pulled off a rousing comeback with a backup QB in a very hostile Purdue environment.

We've touched on this question before, but we're rehashing it this week. After seeing some pretty true colors last Saturday, can anyone in this conference challenge USC for the crown this year, and can Oregon continue to win with the now oft-injured Justin Roper on the sidelines?

I'll reserve comment on this until after I see the Oregon/Boise State game this weekend, but as of right now, the Ducks and Sun Devils are the only teams that has the moxie and across-the-board talent to legitimately challenge for the Pac-10 Title. However, both now fight extreme adversity as Oregon must prove they can do it for at least the next few weeks with a backup quarterback and the Sun Devils have to prove that the UNLV loss was the biggest fluke of the season.

As for Oregon, they can definitely win without Justin Roper. Jeremiah Masoli or Chris Harper need not be gamebreakers to lead the Ducks to victory. They simply need to manager Jeremiah Johnson and LeGarrette Blount and occasionally toss one down the field. Their defense will pick up the slack.

3) The Washington Huskies nearly pulled off a UNLV-style upset last week when they came within one point and a crap excessive celebration penalty away from sending their game with BYU to overtime. With a chance to prove that they might actually have more spunk and grit than originally thought on Saturday, Oklahoma was up 34-0 before you could spit out "How much will it cost to buy out Tyrone Willingham, again?" At the same time, Washington State was rolled by Baylor. Yeah, that Baylor.

However, Washington and WSU are at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to the state of their programs. WSU is breaking in a new coach and trying to find a quarterback of the future, while the Huskies have a star under center but are chasing their boss out of town.

Which of these programs, then, is closer to edging back toward respectability?

Right now, it has to be Washington State. The Huskies are in shambles, their fan base is split and there's no incoming legitimate talent to surround Jake Locker for the next two seasons. Husky Stadium is falling apart and fans wans to go Lord of the Flies all over Tyrone Willingham. Seattle is not a place at this point where football is flourishing (including the Seahawks) and it'll be a while before it recovers.

However, at least in Pullman, facilities are being renovated and Paul Wulff is reinvigorating a jaded fan base. It just seems to me, as an outsider from those programs, that there's more of a positive vibe around the Cougars than the Huskies in that state. It also doesn't help Washington that the Cougars have won three of the last four Apple Cups, including both of the last two in the Emerald City. That still does sway recruits.

4) Those pesky Wildcats are at it again. Their fan base got super excited after starting 2-0 and putting up a ton of points to open the season, but at the first sign of adversity on the road at New Mexico this week, they once again folded like Charlie Weis' kneecap.

Mike Stoops is already on the hot seat for not taking several paper tigers to the postseason in previous seasons, and now the stove just got turned back up after losing on the road to a Lobos team that they're clearly better than. The perception down here in the Grand Canyon State is that Little Brother has to get the U of A to a bowl...any bowl...to save his job. Give me your perception of the state of the Arizona Wildcats.

Sorry Tucson, but your program and your team is still one that folds under pressure and against adversity. Even head coach Mike Stoops went on the record after last week's loss to New Mexico that he's even at a loss for what to do right now.

John Mackovic ruined this program earlier this decade when he lost control of the locker room and Mike Stoops, while he was at the time a sexy hire, has proven himself to be no man for a head coaching job. Like Dirk Koetter up I-10 at ASU, Stoops is a career coordinator who's in way over his head.

However, I will say that if you look at the kind of talent their program is spitting out, they've still got some players that can make an impact. We've seen Mike Bell, Antoine Cason and others make NFL rosters in recent years and more will continue to do so. However, there's no one there right now that can cohesively put them together and make a winner at Arizona, and they'll be stuck in neutral until they do.

5) Might as well address the giant elephant in the room. A game that was so hyped across America had its stock fall faster than...well...the stock market on Monday afternoon. I'm not good at puns. Anyway, like it or not, Georgia is still visiting Arizona State on Saturday in a game that the Devils need to save face after their embarrassing loss to the Rebels last week.

Georgia looked like a team that could be beaten against South Carolina as the Gamecocks were able to get plenty of pressure on Matt Stafford and Chris Smelley picked apart the Bulldogs secondary.

Can the Sun Devils still beat Georgia this weekend? And what would a win over one of the SEC's finest mean for the conference?

Without a doubt, the Sun Devils can still beat Georgia, but they're going to have to play with a giant chip on their shoulders to do so. It's going to take a nearly perfect effort to get by the Bulldogs with 20,000 Georgia fans packing into Sun Devil Stadium, though.

The key to victory for ASU will be Luis Vasquez and Dexter Davis getting relentless pressure on Matt Stafford. Make him move and he'll be forced into situations where he's made poor decisions in the past.

A win over Georgia would put ASU back on the map and make most pundits at least forget a little about the UNLV debacle, but it would certainly mean a lot to a conference which was beaten up and stripped of its lunch money and pants after last week.

Monday, September 15, 2008

What They're Saying about UNLV/ASU

They say a picture says a thousand words. That one says "Holy crap, they just tied the game." Still looking for the other 993 words, because I'm pretty much out.

On that note, let's see what everyone else has to say about the 25 1/2 point upset.

Jeff Metcalfe has the short and sweet game recap for the Republic. Also, his look back and his game notes.

This morning, the ASU beat writer says Dennis Erickson is still sickened by what happened Saturday night.

I never saw these quotes and don't know where they came from, but Doug Haller says UNLV felt slighted and disrespected by the Devils all week.

Scott Bordow from the Trib is the one to say it: ASU fell into the trap.

Josh Spivack backs up what I said on Sunday morning...UNLV dominated the 2nd half.

All ASU can now do, says Dan Zeiger, is pick up the pieces.

On to the voices from Sin City...starting with Mark Anderson calling the win one of the biggest in school history...#3 in fact.

Ed Graney of the Review-Journal calls it the biggest win of Mike Sanford's life.

The Las Vegas Sun saw what I saw...plenty of tears of joy flowing.

Malo Taumua's block earned him the MWC Conference D-POY honors.

And finally, from collegefootballtalk.com...a scathing review of the loss.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sometimes, Rock and Rollers Know The Right Questions to Ask

"Where do we go...where do we go now?" -Guns 'n Roses

In their hit song Sweet Child O' Mine (which of course, is one of the top three GNR songs of all time and if you dispute that, I will fight you), Guns 'n Roses asks the question "Where do we go now?" 15 times. Yes, I counted.

As I listened to that song on my way home from Glendale and the Cardinals game today, I really couldn't help but think about last night's game.

Where, in fact, do we go now?

24 hours ago almost to the minute we all watched ASU and UNLV kick off. Three painful hours later, the Devils were losers to a team that had won only one of their last 22 road contests. Like it or not, ASU is now inexplicably 2-1 and now out of the AP Top 25.

And it's not as if it's going to get any easier. Under the assumption that the Devils were going to go 3-0 to start the season, this next four game stretch; Georgia, at Cal, at USC and Oregon; would make or break 2008. So many publications had picked this Saturday's game as the non-conference game of the year. Now, it's been reduced to a game where both teams are having to scramble to regain legitimacy in the eyes of the pollsters and pundits.

So, where do we go now, Rudy Carpenter?

Our senior signal caller, who looked so much more comfortable than in past seasons moving around and throwing on the run so far this season, looked timid and not confident. His throws were off, his timing was off and, worst yet, I feel like Rudy wasn't looking down his receivers well enough. We'll never know what he was looking at when he threw that 2nd quarter interception, but it certainly wasn't the correct receiver, that's for sure. I have no idea where he was mentally on the 3rd down in overtime, but all I know is that I saw Chris McGaha streak right by me ready to make the catch for at least a 1st down while RC threw the ball out of the end zone.

I can only hope we can chalk this up to a bad game for Rudy. It just seems as if he's progressed so nicely up to this season, and with South Carolina able to moderately pick apart Georgia's secondary with their pedestrian passing game, Rudy and his receivers could have a fun time with the Dawgs corners and safeties.

Where do we go now, running game?

I'll go ahead and say it finally. Dimitri Nance has taken a major step back this season. What impressed me so much about Nance last season was his fearlessness in hitting the line. He wasn't the bowling ball that Ryan Torain was, but he had the same nose for gaps that he did. I feel like Nance has slowed a bit when hitting the line, and it showed in the overtime. One positive I can take from last night was that Shaun DeWitty has really proven himself as a nifty pass catcher. DeWitty has some moves that we haven't seen taking the ball on screens and I feel like it should be worked into the game plan more.

But are we really at the point where opponents need not fear ASU's ground game without Keegan Herring? Arguably, the Devils most dynamic running play was Keegan's first run of the season, the 19-yard scamper to set up the first touchdown against Stanford.

In short, ASU needs you, Keegs.

Where do we go now, secondary and linebackers?

I witnessed so many mental lapses last night that my frustration ended up turning into mere acceptance. Whenever Omar Clayton was flushed out of the pocket, it seemed like our corners would drop their coverage a bit. Clayton completed 19 passes and I'll have to go look back at the tape for an exact count, but he was able to hit so many of his receivers over the middle and near the sidelines after having some extra time to move around.

On the play where Clayton hit Phillip Payne for the game-tying score, another receiver split wide right was completely uncovered until a split second before the snap when Rodney Cox finally noticed there was a free man wide. The linebackers were so intent on stopping Frank Summers at the line (which they couldn't do anyway) that they were nervously pinching all night in anticipation, letting slot guys sneak into the middle for 6 and 7 yard dink and dunk completions.

No answer for you here, folks. Why? Because it only gets tougher.

Where do we go now, Dennis Erickson?

That play calling certainly left something to be desired. Here's the thing, coach; when Dirk Koetter was here, and ASU lost dramatically, it seemed like his teams forgot to get up off the mat. 2005 USC and LSU come immediately to mind. Remember what happened after the loss to LenDale White and Reggie Bush? The Devils laid a huge egg against Oregon and then fell behind 45-7 to Stanford before RC almost saved the day.

This is where Dennis has to prove to everyone that his teams get up and take their anger out on the next week's opponent instead of the "woe is us" attitude we grew so accustomed to between 2001 and 2006.

Where do we go now, Arizona State Sun Devils?

The only place that we can. On to the Bulldogs.

I woke up this morning, and somehow, we still lost to UNLV

It wasn't supposed to happen this way.

It was supposed to be the last chance to work out all the kinks before next week's game against Georgia, a team who against South Carolina looked very beatable yesterday.

It was supposed to be the game where our problems running the ball were ironed out and Dimitri Nance shook off the rust.

It all turned out to be nothing.

Rebels 23, Devils 20. OT.

There have been plenty of unforgettable losses over the past few years. The Cal Homecoming debacle of 2003. The Matt Miller drop. USC...every year. The shutout at Cal. Early Doucet's non-catch. Jonathan Stewart's coming out party at SDS. The Holiday Bowl.

What was the difference last night though? For pretty much the first time in years, ASU lost a game they legitimately should not have lost. It wasn't a rivalry. They weren't playing a rising program. Not a team that had their own conference title dreams or national prominence.

They were playing UNLV. The UNLV that hasn't been to the postseason since 2000. The one that squeaked by pathetic Utah State on August 30 and got dismantled by Utah last week. A program that, since 2004, won less games combined (8) than ASU did last season (10).

So, after all that, where does blame lie? Frankly, I don't have an answer to that yet. Last night was such a completely pathetic performance in all aspects of football that I don't even know where to start.

The play calling was atrocious. Rudy Carpenter's field awareness was miserable. The defense simply missed players. Mike Nixon said after the game that having to stop Frank Summers 22 times was not just physically demanding but "mentally exhausting." How are you going to stop Knowshon Moreno when stopping the running back from UNLV was physically and mentally impossible?

Even the bounces were going for the Rebels. That shovel pass during UNLV's possession was a half second away from being a fumble. Philip Payne's game-tying touchdown pass was overthrown and took an ESPN Top 10 style one-handed catch to convert. Omar Clayton's miracle 2nd down completion to Ryan Wolfe bounced off the hands and helmets of two ASU defenders. And for the first time in my memory, a special teams unit got a good push on an ASU field goal attempt and blocked a kick from America's best kicker.

What about the play calling? ASU struggled to make things happen between the tackles all night, so why on 1st and 2nd down in overtime did Nance get the ball? Why, on a Rebel drive that lasted 9:16 in the 4th quarter, did the Devils defense not adjust and let their offense convert three consecutive 3rd downs to keep the drive alive? That drive led to the field goal that cut it to 20-13.

Speaking of that, ASU could not hold onto the ball to save their lives. After the Devils scored a touchdown to make it 20-10, here's a look at the ASU drives for the rest of the game:
  • 7:25-5:51 3rd: 3 plays, 9 yards, Punt
  • 3:15-0:44 3rd: 5 plays, 15 yards, Punt
  • 6:28-3:03 4th: 6 plays, 20 yards, Punt
  • 0:18-0:00 4th: 1 play, 9 yards, End of regulation
  • OT: 4 plays, 7 yards, Blocked field goal
So let's get this straight. After the UNLV three and out and Kyle Williams long touchdown, which should have given ASU all the momentum, the Devils only mustered 19 plays for 60 yards. That's simply bad situational play calling. The Devils absolutely could not hold onto the ball.

This isn't all I've got. This is only part one of my thoughts on the UNLV debacle. I have to go to work now and stew about this for the rest of the morning and afternoon. I'll have more for you later on tonight. And it all starts with Chris McGaha being open on 3rd and 3 in overtime and Rudy Carpenter deciding to scramble and throw the ball away instead.

Photo Credit: ESPN.com

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Garbage


Bring on 2009, sponsored by Chick-Fil-A

(photo credit: David Kadlubowski/The Arizona Republic)

Did Oregon just save the day?

I can't think of any worse single day for the Pac-10.

Wow.

First, Cal got outhit, outcoached and outplayed by a middling Maryland team who had just come off a loss to Middle Tennessee. Yeah, the one from the Sun Belt Conference. The one with the Arkansas State Indians (aka Red Wolves).

BYU had their way with UCLA. Actually, I take that back. That's giving too much credit...to the Bruins. The Cougars took UCLA behind the outhouse and took their dignity, swagger, confidence and lunch money.

Stanford went to TCU and left with a loss....something we all expected...but the Cardinal still blew a 14-14 halftime tie with a very tough road team.

Washington just got underway and will try to save some face. Oklahoma? I thought you said the Texas School of Mines and Metallurgy! Crap.

But wait, you say...Oregon State beat Hawai'i! Yeah! Wait, Colt Brennan doesn't play there anymore? June Jones isn't coaching up their moribund talent? Exactly.

What a horrid day for the Pac outside of West Lafayette, where those pesky Ducks sure pulled off a nice comeback on the Boilermakers.

Two more games. Us vs. the Rebels and that little game in Los Angeles. Stay tuned.

Photo Credit: AP

Ethier Gets More Pub

Never really need much of a reason to give Andre Ethier more pub. With the Diamondbacks fading fast and the Dodgers offense looking like a serious juggernaut down the stretch and into October, it's always fun to catch up with our former Sun Devil great.

He got all sorts of play in Los Angeles yesterday and today that, if you're a Dodgers or Sun Devil baseball fan, you need to check out.

He appeared on the Petros and Money show on AM 570 KLAC yesterday.

Also, Dylan Hernandez wrote a tremendous article about him in the Los Angeles Times.

Granted, I grew up a Giants fan (due to geography) and a Yankees fan (due to family heritage). However, I'll never be able to root against Andre or Dustin Pedroia. Still have to love the guys that helped keep ASU baseball on the map.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Saturday Viewing Guide

Sorry it's a little late. The day job sometimes gets in the way of blogging. Too bad "professional blogger" isn't a profession that pays the bills.

Speaking of TV viewing, I turned my TV on a few minutes ago and it was left on ESPN U. Upon the picture coming on, the first thing I see is Derek Hagan's inadvertent hook and ladder interception to Kevin Ellison vs. USC in 2005. The U was showing the game in it's entirety.

At least it was kind of cool to hear Keith Jackson. Miss that guy. "Woahhh nelly...Dame Fate just smacked A-State in the nose" is a pretty classic line, regardless if it was about the Sun Devils.

It's never a bad day when you get to sneak a Moey Mutz picture on PFN though.

I hope this isn't an omen. Yikes.


The Morning Slate
California at Maryland (9:00 AM, ESPN): Is Cal as good as they've looked early on? They wont get much of a challenge out of the Terrapins, but it'll be a good chance to start to work out the kinks.


Florida Atlantic at Michigan State (9:00 AM, ESPN2): The only time you'll ever see the Owls on this list, but Rusty Smith is actually a pretty damn good quarterback. It'll be the only time this season you'll get to see him before FAU gets to a bowl game.

During Your Tailgate
Georgia at South Carolina (12:30 PM, CBS): Not only is CBS back on the college train (they've got the best broadcasts by far) but it's our last chance to check out Georgia before they pack up and head to Tempe next week. Some people think UNLV is a trap game for us. Georgia better watch their backs with Chris Smelley throwing.

Oregon at Purdue (12:30 PM, ABC): Just like Cal, it's a chance to see a Pac-10 foe on the road. It'll be interesting to see how much Jeremiah Johnson has recovered from his shoulder injury and how their defense can contain Curtis Painter, one of the best passers in the nation.

UCLA at Brigham Young (12:30 PM, Versus): That channel that shows that weird sport with sticks and pucks on ice has this one. UCLA is back on the field to prove the comeback win over Tennessee wasn't a fluke. BYU is out to do the same thing about the near upset at Washington.

Set the Tivo!
Ohio State at USC (5:00 PM, ABC). Do I really need to explain? If I do, here's the link to a site you actually belong on. Beanie Wells is out, and at some casinos in Vegas, that now makes the Trojans a stunning 12 point favorite.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Opponent's Notebook: Week 3

Luckily for the San Jose Mercury News and the San Francisco Chronicle, they get to hang around for a little while longer! Plus, this week, extra special coverage of Hippiegate 2008: The Tree Removal Extravaganza!

Highlights of this week's notebook...a guy named Starr is done for the year...Knowshon's flying leap...the Collision at the Coliseum (worst tagline EVER)...Hurricane Ike moves WSU...and the Haka!

UNLV Rebels (September 13)
unlvrebels.com: The official press release
unlvrebels.com: Kind of off topic, but the UNLV Web Site is hosting a live chat with former Sun Devil guard Kevin Kruger on Friday!
Las Vegas Review-Journal: They don't cover the team much, but even the RJ knows that the key to beating ASU is giving Rudy a beating of his own.
Las Vegas Review-Journal: Somewhere, Tim Healey is breathing a sigh of relief. He will not have to call this guys name.

Georgia Bulldogs (September 20)
georgiadogs.com: HOW IN THE HELL DO YOU DEFEND THIS??
georgiadogs.com: Georgia's got the 3rd most alums in the NFL presently. Miami is still #1, somehow.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Matt Stafford doesn't like to watch the game film from last year's South Carolina game.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution: This might actually be the biggest blessing for Arizona State - Georgia is having trouble pressing quarterbacks.
Athens Banner-Herald: The Dogs know their offense will have their first real test this weekend.

California Golden Bears (October 4)
gobears.com: Zack Follett was a little overlooked during that blowout of WSU but definitely earned this honor.
Oakland Tribune: The tree sitters that even perenially mocked sportscaster Brent Musberger even ridiculed finally were brought down and thrown in jail. The were there for 648 days.
Oakland Tribune: Now that the trees are gone, the new athletic facility can FINALLY be started.
Oakland Tribune: Maryland might be coming off of an embarrassing loss at Middle Tennessee State, but it's still quite a trek across America for the Bears.

USC Trojans (October 11)
Conquest Chronicles: A nice writeup about the challenges that USC would have faced if Beanie Wells were at full strength (or playing at all).
usctrojans.com: For these sick kids...best...visit...ever. Probably especially for the 12-year-old males just hitting puberty.
Los Angeles Daily News: Just like ASU, USC is taking it one game at a time.
Los Angeles Daily News: Ohio State still brings a bit of the unknown to L.A.
Los Angeles Times: The antiquated Coliseum gets some upgrades. Over/under on number of days until the HD screen gets stolen?
Los Angeles Times: Look out for the celebs on the sidelines on Saturday night.

Oregon Ducks (October 25)
The Oregonian: The Ducks get their first real test of the season in very hostile territory.
The Oregonian: Everyone exhale...Jeremiah Johnson is going to be OK.
Eugene Register-Guard: Don't forget that Donte Rosario, who beat the Chargers last week, was a Duck!
Eugene Register-Guard: No one apparently knew that Will Tukuafu talked. Oops.

Oregon State Beavers (November 1)
The Oregonian: For many Beavers, this matchup with Hawaii is more than just a football game. EVEEEEEEEERYBODY HAKA!
The Oregonian: The Ducks beat writer told their flagship station that he will not talk about the Beavers until their "season starts", saying that they're irrelevant. Them sounds like fightin' words!
Corvallis Gazette-Times: Thanks to their awful start, this home opener is a must win.

Washington Huskies (November 8)
Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Kavario Middleton's quick growth has been a nice surprise.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Saying goodbye (finally) to E.J. Savannah. Don't be suprised when he surfaces somewhere else.
Seattle Times: As if they needed more to work on, the Huskies pass rush is downright bad.

Washington State Cougars (November 15)
Seattle Times: Hurricane Ike has moved the WSU/Baylor game to tomorrow night.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Being blown away by Cal was one thing. Being blown away by Hurricane Ike is completely different.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Jack Daniels is the cure-all for a 66-3 drubbing, apparently.

UCLA Bruins (November 28)
Los Angeles Daily News: Oh yeah! UCLA is playing a ranked opponent with a high powered offense as well! Sorry if we forgot. The monopoly must still not be over.
Los Angeles Times: Ricky N just keeps telling his kids to breathe. They should probably remember to play some football Saturday, too.
Los Angeles Times: Kevin Craft did a lot of growing up in the 2nd half against Tennessee.

Arizona Wildcats (December 6)
Hasselhoff.com: Just because this will NEVER get old. EVER.
Arizona Daily Star: Say goodbye to Terrell Reese...the 4th disciplined Wildcat this season.
Arizona Daily Star: Brooks Reid gets to play his brother Saturday at New Mexico.
Tucson Citizen: This isn't the same Donovan Porterie that U of A lost to last year in Tucson.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Pac-10 Roundtable: Week 2

California Golden Blogs is our host this week. In their honor, here's a picture in tribute to the 21-month plight of those valiant freedom fighters who braved cold, wind and Stanford fans to keep the oak trees from falling around Memorial Stadium.

Just joking. They were crazy. Bat s*** crazy. And if you're reading this and were sitting in one of those trees, I'm not changing my stance. Oh wait, you were in a tree for 21 months! You probably don't remember how to use the internet anyway!

Woah. Tangent city. On to the roundtable!

1. Washington showed moxie and elbow grease in nearing knocking off Yahoo! (oh wait is that BYU, sorry the hat confused me). Also, spunk. They showed spunk. Locker finally showed some promise as both a running QB AND a throwing QB. Unfortunately, the odd ending to the game probably left a bitter taste in many Husky mouths. But should Husky fans see this game as the beginning of something big or just another emotionally brutal loss en route to Willingham's departure? And why does BYU's hat look like its from Yahoo!?

It's brutally unfair how that game ended because the excessive celebration rule is so dumb, but unfortunately, Jake Locker should have known better. The NCAA sent a tape out to all 120 FBS teams explaining how that rule would be called this year, and Locker was in literal violation of it. So, I'll defend the referees for calling it. I'll spit on the NCAA for having it.

Unfortunately for Washington, it's just another brutal loss. We see it every year; a bad team always has those one or two games where they push a much better opponent to the brink of an upset, sometimes even springing it (I'm looking at you, USC). But in the end, it's a flash in the pan. Max Hall still did pretty much whatever he wanted through the air and the Cougars defense had a rare lapse in performance. Locker has to play the perfect football game for Washington to win, period.

As for their logo, I couldn't tell you why it looks like the Yahoo! logo, but I do know that if you Yahoo! Brigham Young, a Ken Burns documentary pops up before anything about the Cougars does. So they've got that going for them. Which is nice.

2. September is barely a week old, yet we've already seen 4 Pac-10 conference games. Stanford already has both a win and a loss in the conference. UW lost a rivalry game to Oregon before September even started. Early conference games are not exactly new, but I don't recall there ever being so many of them this early.

Cal Coach Jeff Tedford has gone on record as saying he's not a big fan of early conference games. "You like to play your non-conference games first and then get to conference play," Tedford said. "You like to be able to figure out who's exactly going to play for you in special teams, and get some game experience for guys before you have to get into conference play. That's a challenge this week to cut down to 64 for the road. You're still evaluating some situations on special teams and so on and so forth." It's worth noting that of the 4 conference games so far, only Tedford's Bears have managed to win a road game.

Are these early conference matchups good for the teams involved, or do they merely present an unnecessary challenge for teams that need their non-conference games to prepare for the rigors of conference play? Are such games, and any exposure they might garner, good for the conference as a whole? Or does it not matter when you play someone, as long as the matchups between the top teams are saved for later in the season?

I never have been and never will be a fan of these early season Pac-10 games. One of the only things that I'll agree with Jeff Tedford about, in fact, is his stance on this. From our standpoint, ASU had one chance to get their special teams, linebacker rotation, offensive line and a STARTING cornerback spot worked out before playing a conference game, and that was against FCS Northern Arizona. For Stanford, OSU, Oregon and Washington, that chance wasn't even presented to them.

The Pac-10 will always be one of the most competitive conferences in America; us and the Big East are still the only ones that play a complete round-robin. The Big East only has 8 teams though, so they still have the opportunity to schedule five (FIVE!) non-conference games per team. Five! The Pac-10 gets three. That's a major discrepancy.

Five!

3. The "second tier" teams (Oregon, ASU, & Cal) have all looked strong so far. Which team from this group will turn out to be the strongest, and do any of them have a chance of challenging USC for the conference title? Arizona has also looked good (against weak competition) and UCLA (somehow) took out big, bad Tennessee; will either of these teams crack the top 4 in the conference?

I think that of those three, Oregon will end the 2008 season as the strongest. It might not reflect that in the standings; ASU and Cal may still finish ahead of them; but Oregon will be in the best position to have long term success and strength. There's so much to build off of in Eugene. The recruits keep rolling in, the facilities are still the best and they still have one of the 10 best coaches in America. The Ducks have a the most athletic and well-balanced team in the conference outside of Los Angeles and their defense is still sick.

None of those three will challenge USC for the conference title. We'll know more about the Trojans after this week's game against Ohio State, but from all I've seen from their camp, read about and saw in the Virginia game, this is a dominant football team that, barring a major catastrophe, will at least share the Pac-10 title again.

Arizona is going to get exposed at some point. I actually think that Arizona will start the season at least 4-2, but that's because their schedule is frontloaded with a ton of crappy teams. Once UofA meets a team with a competent passing attack, their secondary is going to get ripped to shreds. As for UCLA, they've got a chance to be OK if they stay healthy and if Kevin Craft can keep making the good decisions that he made in the 2nd half against Tennessee.

4. Since the dawn of time itself, Washington State has been regarded as one of the greatest, if not THE greatest college football program. Now headed by universally hailed genius Paul Wulff and rocket armed uber-stud QB Unclear At This Time, Washington State (or Wazzu as it is sometimes called by the plebes) contends year in and year out for the brass ring (i.e.crystal football).

Yet, Cal was recently able to defeat this troupe of pigskin superstars by the rather unbelievable score of A Lot to A Little. Does this recent gridiron mauling mean that Cal is nigh unstoppable and en route to not only this year's National Championship, but also an almost certain thousand years of never before seen dominance?

Finally, feel free to answer with "yes," "Hell Yes," or the always popular "OH HELL YES!"

Sarcasm is awesome. Sorry, CGB, but the answer is "Uhh...not quite." The eight of us who head up the Pac-10 Roundtable could probably grab three stragglers from Mill Avenue here in Tempe and at least squeak out a 3-point victory over the Cougars at this point.

However, I have been saying throughout the offseason that I think Cal is a better team than most expect. 1,000 years of dominance is just a tad unrealistic though.

5. As much as we all hate each other, I think the one thing we can agree on is how much we hate the SEC. I think everyone hates the SEC. So what are your thoughts on the Teflon reputation that the SEC has for its losses and why the losses by Tennessee to UCLA and Cal get written off?

First of all, I hate no one in the Roundtable. I always expected that if we all got together, it'd look a little bit like the Men of the Square Table, except we'd all be wearing goofy headgear and football jerseys. I would expect, oh...let's say, Conquest Chronicles to bust out a "Have you done it? No! Then you don't know what you're talking about!" to Addicted to Quack.

As much as I despise the SEC for it's crappy non-conference scheduling, the disgusting humidity in the region, the idea of selling out a Spring Game and the thousands upon thousands of misplaced hot chicks that belong in, I don't know, the Pac-10, let's be real.

There's a jealousy factor. The last two national champions have come out of the SEC. Three of its teams have taken home four BCS Titles, more than any other conference. Fact is, SEC teams tend to win games when they actually matter, something the Big Ten certainly can't claim.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Men's Basketball Schedule Released

There's not too much doubt about Arizona State's standing going into the 2008-09 season. The Sun Devils will most likely be ranked in the top 25 to start the season and the eyes of the Pac-10 will be fixed on James Harden and Jeff Pendergraph.

Now, we get a look at their slate. It's an interesting non-conference schedule once again...definitely not the type you'd see out of Rob Evans, but it doesn't include any teams that would be considered top tier teams across the nation.

HOME GAMES IN BOLD Pac-10 in Italic
11/14: vs. Mississippi Valley State
11/18: at San Diego State
11/23: vs. Pepperdine
11/27: vs Charlotte (Anaheim Classic)
11/28: Baylor/Providence (Anaheim Classic
11/30: TBD (Anaheim Classic
12/4: vs. Jackson State
12/7: vs. Nebraska
12/14: vs. IUPUI (US Airways Center)
12/20: vs. BYU (University of Phoenix Stadium)
12/23: vs. Idaho State
12/29: vs. Central Connecticut State
1/2: at Stanford
1/4: at California
1/8: vs. Oregon State
1/10: vs. Oregon
1/15: at USC
1/17: at UCLA
1/21: at Arizona
1/29: vs. Washington State
1/31: vs. Washington
2/5: at Oregon
2/7: at Oregon State
2/12: vs. UCLA
2/14: vs. USC
2/22: vs. Arizona
2/26: at Washington
2/28: at Washington State
3/5: vs. Stanford
3/7: vs. California

Monday, September 8, 2008

Pac-10 Power Rankings: September 8

HUGE game for the Pac-10 this week. Definitely a matchup that will have the pollsters buzzing, the analysts working overtime to break down every aspect and fans scrambling to pay top dollar just to get a spot in the nosebleeds.

Of course, I'm referring to that powerhouse matchup between Stanford and TCU.

Psych!

To the power rankings! All 10 teams are out of conference this week.

1) USC Trojans (1-0, 0-0 Pac-10)
They had a week to regroup, get healthy and most importantly, watch Ohio State look pedestrian without Beanie Wells against Ohio. Ohio! They're still riding high after jumping Georgia and OSU for the #1 spot in both rankings. Don't count on Beanie missing this game though; USC will have to get ready to get smacked in the mouth by the pounding OSU running attack.
Last Week: Bye
This Week: vs. Ohio State Buckeyes

2) California Golden Bears (2-0, 0-0 Pac-10)
I caught a lot of flak in the preseason for putting Cal this high, but they've done nothing but prove how much talent they've got. Granted, they haven't played anyone super talented, but they just handed WSU their worst loss in program history, Jahvid Best looks like he cant be stopped and they will not face a challenge until they host Arizona State.
Last Week: California 66, Washington State 3
This Week: at Maryland Terrapins

3) Arizona State Sun Devils (2-0, 1-0 Pac-10)
Rudy Carpenter, the defensive line and the linebackers looked as strong as ever in their romp over Stanford, but the running game is still inconsistent until Keegan Herring comes back and carries a full load. There's no danger in this team overlooking UNLV on their way to their game with Georgia; Dennis Erickson wont let it happen.
Last Week: Stanford 17, Stanford 41
This Week: vs. UNLV Rebels

4) Oregon Ducks (2-0, 1-0 Pac-10)
Justin Roper has been impressive and so has their defense, as expected. But now Jeremiah Johnson is a question mark after banging up his shoulder against a hapless Utah State team, but LeGarrett Blount stepped in admirably, also as expected. Potential trap game against Purdue this week; that team has quite a pass rush.
Last Week: Utah State 24, Oregon 66
This Week: at Purdue Boilermakers

5) Arizona Wildcats (2-0, 0-0 Pac-10)
The stats don't lie (combined 110-16 score in two wins) but the opponents (Idaho and Toledo) do. New Mexico beat them last year and now they have to go to Albuquerque. Even ESPN is starting to call them pretenders. All things considered though, they are doing what they haven't done in recent years: beating the teams they're supposed to beat early on and doing it convincingly.
Last Week: Toledo 16, Arizona 41
This Week: at New Mexico Lobos

6) UCLA Bruins (1-0, 0-0 Pac-10)
The conference is still buzzing about the Bruins shocking come-from-behind upset of Tennessee two weeks ago, but there are still major question marks. Which Kevin Riley will show up against Brigham Young, who's smarting from their great escape from Seattle? Will Khalil Bell be healthy and/or effective? Will the defense continue to show up? Too many q's to bump them up.
Last Week: Bye
This Week: at Brigham Young Cougars

7) Stanford Cardinal (1-1, 1-1 Pac-10)
Still have plenty of time to recover from being humbled by Arizona State, but that defense still can move pretty well. Their front seven got tons of pressure on the Sun Devil backfield throughout the loss and Toby Gerhart was still able to semi-effectively move the ball. They drop because they need to settle on a starting quarterback; the Pritchard/Forcier platoon will not work.
Last Week: Stanford 17, Arizona State 41
This Week: at TCU Horned Frogs

8) Washington Huskies (0-2, 0-1 Pac-10)
They certainly put up quite the fight against BYU, didn't they? When Jake Locker is on his game, everyone around him is better, and that's the only way they'll stay in games this season. Their defense got thrown over and battered all day. If Locker doesn't play well, there's still no chance of the Huskies winning games. Oh, and by the way, the Sooners are waiting.
Last Week: Brigham Young 28, Washington 27
This Week: vs. Oklahoma Sooners

9) Oregon State Beavers (0-2, 0-1 Pac-10)
They had a chance to redeem themselves with at least a strong performance in the most intimidating place to play in America. Being down 42-7 in the 3rd quarter will not win any friends. They'd better not slip up to a weak Hawaii team this week, because after the bye, there's a better than average chance they could slip to 0-5.
Last Week: Oregon State 14, Penn State 45
This Week: vs. Hawaii Warriors

10) Washington State Cougars (0-2, 0-1 Pac-10)
Did anyone get the license plate number on the white car that just whizzed past us and into the end zone?
Last Week: California 66, Washington State 3
This Week: at Baylor Bears