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September 13, 2006
Best matchup: Oregon's Jonathan Stewart v. Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson. You already know Peterson, but get to know the sophomore Stewart, who had 22 carries for 168 yards and two touchdowns in his first start against Stanford in the opener. This game will pit the game's best running back with an up-and-comer. Both were the top running backs in the respective classes out of high school. Stewart, who backed up Terrence Whitehead as a true freshman, is poised for a breakout season this year. Also watch USC offensive tackle Sam Baker take on Nebraska defensive end Adam Carriker. Both project as high NFL draft picks when they leave.
Worst matchup: Navy at Stanford. Stanford has allowed 640 rushing yards in two games this season to Oregon and San Jose State. Now, the Cardinal will face Navy, who has been in the top three in rushing the last four seasons.
The pressure is on: USC's youth. The benefits of USC's recruiting the last couple of years started to show up in the 50-14 win over Arkansas in Week 1, but the Trojans' talented freshmen and sophomores. Veteran running back Chauncey Washington and linebacker Oscar Lua have been hobbled by injuries meaning true freshmen C.J. Gable, Emmanuel Moody, Allen Bradford and Taylor Mays will have to grow up in a hurry against Nebraska.
Upset alert: Oklahoma over Oregon. The Ducks are the favorite at Autzen Stadium, but don't be amazed if the Pac-10 drops another big game out of conference. The Sooners have won all six meetings between the two teams, although none have been in Eugene.
Most to gain: Oregon. Oregon's first win over Oklahoma in six tries will cement the Ducks' status a Pac-10 giant along with USC. After a poor showing by the Pac-10's other eight teams in their early non-conference games, the league needs a victory from Oregon to save face.
Most to lose: Stanford. The Cardinal hoped to be in line for a bowl berth this year, but losing to San Jose State is not a good omen for playing in the postseason. Losing in the first game at the New Stanford Stadium to Navy could be disastrous.
Who's hot: Cal wide receivers. After a rough opener at Tennessee, Lavelle Hawkins and DeSean Jackson rebounded against Minnesota last week, combining for 16 catches for 239 yards and three touchdowns.
Who's not: Washington State wide receiver Jason Hill. Hill, who had 2,214 yards and 26 touchdowns in 2004-05, is off to a slow start this season with six catches for 110 yards. The bulk of that came off a 71-yard touchdown catch against Idaho last week.
Must see TV: Oklahoma at Oregon, 3:30 p.m. Eastern, ABC; Nebraska at USC, 8 p.m. Eastern, ABC.
Backup who could have an impact I: USC defensive tackles Fili Moala Chris Barrett. The sophomore Moala will start at nose tackle with Barrett also pitching in following the knee injury that will sideline starting defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis. The two will have to go up against the Cornhuskers veteran interior offensive line of Greg Austin, Kurt Mann and Mike Huff.
Backup who could have an impact II: USC free safety Taylor Mays. Mays, a true freshman, is listed at the staring spot vacated by Josh Pinkard, who is out for the season with a knee injury. Nebraska will counter the Trojans' inexperience in the secondary with the receiving tandem of Nate Swift and Terrence Nunn
Backup who could have an impact III: Oregon cornerback Jarius Byrd. The redshirt freshman will be first in line to replace Bates against Oklahoma. The Ducks will need him to grow up in a hurry. Sooners quarterback Paul Thompson has been better than expected at quarterback with 499 passing yards in two games.
Backup who could have an impact IV: Arizona quarterback Adam Austin. The backup QB would likely see plenty of time against Division I-AA Stephen F. Austin anyhow, but the injury status of starter Willie Tuitama could mean more snaps for the senior Austin.
Key stat: 201-31. Combined scores of Oregon's six losses in its series with Oklahoma. The Sooners beat the Ducks in 1958, '66, '72, '75, '04 and '05.
Take the line: Fresno State is a 3.5-point favorite over Washington on the road. Take the Bulldogs to cover after losing a close one Oregon 31-24. Season record: 1-1.
They said it: "We were really disappointed in their play and graded our receivers out an 'F' for their play in that game. We just thought they did a terrible job getting off the line of scrimmage, especially Dwayne Jarrett, For him to supposedly be pre-season All-American, an All-American last year with 95 catches ? We got on him pretty good that he might be living in the past and that doesn't do us good any more. We've really challenged him this week and kind of embarrassed him to get him going." -USC offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin on the wide receivers' performance against Arkansas.
Injury update: USC defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis will miss the Nebraska game after having arthroscopic knee surgery Tuesday. Linebacker Oscar Lua and running back Chauncey Washington are both questionable with hamstring injuries. ? Arizona coach Mike Stoops said Monday quarterback Willie Tuitama is between questionable and probably for this week's game after sustaining concussion against LSU last week. ? Oregon running back Jonathan Stewart says he will return at full speed against Oklahoma after having one carry ? a touchdown ? against Fresno State because of an ankle injury. The Ducks' starting cornerback Jackie Bates is out for the season with a broken leg. ? Washington State running back DeMaundray Woolridge will likely miss his second consecutive game with a deep thigh bruise. ? Cal defensive linemen Abu Ma'afala and Rulon Davis are expected to return against Portland State after missing part of the Minnesota game with injuries. ? The status of Arizona State wide receiver Rudy Burgess is uncertain after he sustained concussion in the first half against Nevada last week. ... Stanford wide receiver Mark Bradford is out indefinitely with torn ligaments in his right foot.
Worth noting: Stanford will play its first game the New Stanford Stadium, a remodel of the old Stanford Stadium. The new stadium has 35,500 fewer seats but improved sightlines and seats 70-100 feet closer to the field. ? Oklahoma has defeated Oregon each of the last two seasons: 31-7 in 2004 in Norman and 17-14 in 2005 in the Holiday Bowl. Oklahoma has never played at Oregon. ? Washington running back Louis Rankin leads the Pac-10 in rushing and is eighth in the country despite coming off the bench behind starter Kenny James. Rankin has rushed for 257 yards and two touchdowns and 27 carries. ? Arizona State coach Dirk Koetter will face longtime assistant Mark Helfrich, who is Colorado's offensive coordinator. Helfrich was Koetter's offensive coordinator at Boise State and Arizona State from 1998-2005. Colorado coach Dan Hawkins succeeded Koetter when he left Boise in 2001.
Looking back: Cal and Washington State recovered from disastrous trips East by returning home and soundly beating non-conference opponents. The Bears beat Minnesota 42-17, holding the Gophers to 109 rushing yards while the Cougars racked up 637 yards of total offense in a 56-10 rout of Idaho.
Freshman who impressed: Washington State running back Dwight Tardy. The redshirt freshman started in place of the injury DeMaundray Woolridge against Idaho and carried the ball 15 times for 92 yards. He should see action again this week against Baylor while Woolridge recovers from a thigh bruise.