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August 30, 2007

Pac-10 Breakdown: Cal facing pressure

MORE WEEK 1 BREAKDOWNS: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | SEC

Fox's Pac-10 picks
Thursday's Game:
Oregon State 21, Utah 17
Friday's Game:
Washington 17, Syracuse 14
Saturday's Games:
UCLA 28, Stanford 14
Oregon 35, Houston 10
Wisconsin 28, Washington State 7
Arizona 24, BYU 20
Cal 27, Tennessee 21
Arizona State 31, San Jose State 21

Best matchup(s): Tennessee at Cal is the only game this week between ranked teams. However, the Pac-10 is rife with intriguing openers. For starters, new Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson will face San Jose State and old friend Dick Tomey, who coached at Arizona from 1987-2000. Tomey's top player, Rivals.com second-team All-American cornerback Dwight Lowery, will be tested by the Sun Devils offense. BCS bowl hopefuls BYU and Utah will find out in a hurry if they're up to the test against Arizona and Oregon State. We'll also find out how much life Jim Harbaugh has injected into Stanford in its opener against UCLA.

The pressure is on: Cal. What hope will there be for Cal if the Bears can't beat a Tennessee team with a laundry list of issues? The Volunteers' quarterback has a broken finger on his throwing hand. Perhaps their best running back is suspended. UT may start a true freshman at corner against one of the best receiving groups in the country. Tennessee's receivers are unproven at best. If Cal loses this game, the Pac-10 - not just the Bears - will take a major hit when it comes to national respect.

Newcomer who could have an impact: Washington QB Jake Locker. A Rivals100 prospect in the class of 2006, Locker is the Huskies' hope for the future. Coach Tyrone Willingham refused to burn Locker's redshirt last year, even after starting QB Isaiah Stanback suffered a season-ending injury. If Locker doesn't pick up his first career win at Syracuse, there's no telling when it might happen. The redshirt freshman faces Boise State, Ohio State, UCLA (on the road) and USC to round out September.

Key stat: 155. The difference in passing yards per game between Week 1 opponents BYU (324 yards) and Arizona (169 yards) last year. Look for that gap to close with Arizona naming former Texas Tech assistant Sonny Dykes offensive coordinator.

They said it: "I will never forget that five-hour plane ride home. To get beat the way we did on national television is going to stick with you. I think every workout and every run, we had Tennessee in mind. We know what to expect this year."
-- Cal linebacker Zack Follett on the Bears' 35-18 loss in Knoxville last year.

Injury update: USC tailback Chauncey Washington will likely miss the opener with a sprained right shoulder. USC freshman running back Joe McKnight practiced this week with a brace on a right knee to protect a strained ligament. He also could miss the opener. USC wide receiver Patrick Turner (arm), tackle Drew Radovich (back) and center Matt Spanos (triceps) have been injured this week in practice and are questionable. Arizona State wide receiver Rudy Burgess (calf) and defensive end Luis Vasquez (ankle) are "50-50" for the San Jose State game, Erickson told reporters. Arizona defensive end Louis Holmes returned to practice Tuesday after suffering a concussion more than a week earlier. UCLA fullback Chane Moline (hand) could miss a month. UCLA backup quarterback Patrick Cowan (partially torn hamstring) is out for several weeks.

Worth noting: C.J. Gable, Stafon Johnson, Allen Bradford and Desmond Reed are in competition for USC's starting tailback spot with the injury to Washington. Oregon State coach Mike Riley does not expect wide receiver Sammie Stroughter, the league's leading receiver last year, to play this season. Stroughter missed most of the preseason following the deaths of three loved ones. In anticipation for the game against Tennessee, a Cal construction crew will fence off a group of tree-sitters who are protesting plans to remove the trees for a new athletic facility. Eight to 12 people have lived in the tree since December. USC has outscored Idaho 215-20 in seven games between the two schools since 1929. Oregon coach Mike Bellotti named season captains (rather than game-by-game captains) for the first time since 1994. The Ducks captains will be quarterback Dennis Dixon, center Max Unger, safety Patrick Chung and linebacker A.J. Tuitele. Oregon State will start quarterback Sean Canfield but will switch to Lyle Moevao in the second quarter. The remainder of the quarterback rotation will be decided at halftime. Former Arizona State quarterback Max Hall will finally get a shot at the Pac-10. He will start for BYU against Arizona following his transfer.

MORE WEEK 1 BREAKDOWNS: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | SEC



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