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September 27, 2007

Cal, Oregon set for major showdown

MORE WEEK 5 BREAKDOWNS: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | SEC

Saturday's games

Overview: Perhaps the biggest game of the week nationally is a Pac-10 showdown in Eugene, Ore., with the Ducks playing host to California in a matchup involving two top-12 teams in the polls. Both are among the best offensive teams in the country, each with numerous playmakers. Can either defense handle the other team's offense? In other league games, top-ranked USC heads to Seattle to play Washington, UCLA plays at Oregon State, Arizona plays host to Washington State and Arizona State is at Stanford. It's the fourth consecutive home game for Stanford and the Sun Devils' first road game of the season.

Best matchup: Oregon QB Dennis Dixon vs. California QB Nate Longshore. Obviously, they're not going to be on the field at the same time. But these are the guys who'll decide the outcome. Both have good tailbacks to rely on, but the one who's sharpest in the passing game is the one whose team is going to win. Oregon's pass defense (245.0 ypg) has been a bit better than Cal's (258.5 ypg). One reason for that, though, may be that Cal (102.5 ypg) has been far better vs. the run than the Ducks (164.8 ypg), meaning Cal's foes have had to go to the air.

The pressure is on: UCLA QB Ben Olson. Olson has struggled this season, but with Pat Cowan out for about a month with a knee injury, this is Olson's team now. The Bruins play at Oregon State on Saturday, and the Beavers have been tremendous against the run. That means the onus is on Olson to produce in the passing game, which he hasn't really been able to do this season (234.0 ypg, but just a 50.5 completion percentage with five TDs and four picks). Three of the Bruins' next four games are eminently winnable (Oregon State, Notre Dame, Cal and Washington State), but Olson needs to ramp up his play.

Who's hot: Oregon State has allowed just 118 rushing yards and two rushing TDs in four games. Arizona State has allowed only 16 second-half points this season. Oregon's Dixon is the only starting quarterback in the league who hasn't thrown an interception. He has 11 TD tosses. UCLA CB Trey Brown leads the nation in passes defensed with 11.

Who's not: Despite Brown's sterling play, UCLA's pass defense has been porous; the Bruins allow 304.3 ypg, which is 111th in the nation. Washington's defense has allowed 77 points the past two weeks and USC is the next opponent. Arizona is struggling in the red zone. In 19 forays inside the opponent's 20, the Wildcats have scored just 12 times (63.2 percent) - including only eight TDs.

Keep your eye on: Oregon senior WR Cameron Colvin had a career game last week, catching eight passes for 136 yards and a TD (a 71-yarder on the Ducks' first play) in a victory over Stanford. He was in the starting lineup because of a season-ending injury to Brian Paysinger. Colvin, from powerhouse De La Salle High in the San Francisco Bay area, never has lived up to his high school billing. Now, he gets another chance. Colvin (6 feet 3, 210 pounds), Garren Strong (6-3, 203) and Jaison Williams (6-5, 240) form a huge receiving trio, and they'll be going against two 5-10 corners in Syd'Quan Thompson and Brandon Hampton (a former strong safety).

Numbers game: Oregon has had at least one scoring play of 70 yards in every game this season. Of the 32 games involving Pac-10 teams this season, the home team has won 24. There were five league games last week, and the winning team averaged 47 points. The lowest points total for a winner was 44. Arizona QB Willie Tuitama has attempted 111 passes the past two weeks. The Wildcats are the only league team averaging 300 passing yards (318.2 ypg). Oregon State quarterbacks already have thrown 13 interceptions, contributing to the Beavers' minus-8 turnover margin. UCLA has won five consecutive Pac-10 games, the longest streak in the league. Arizona State has picked off a pass in six consecutive games.

Freshman to watch: As usual, Washington QB Jake Locker must play well if the Huskies are to win. This week, his running ability must come to the fore against USC. He's sixth in the league in rushing at 90.2 ypg and is averaging 6.6 yards per carry. If the Trojans shut him down in the running game with their active linebackers, they will tee off with their pass rush. Cal backup TBs Jahvid Best and James Montgomery have combined for 32 carries for 269 yards and four TDs in relief of starter Justin Forsett. When they're called upon Saturday, they must be productive and can't let the crowd noise bother them.

Injury update: Arizona State DT Michael Marquardt has a sprained ankle and is questionable for Saturday's game against Stanford. Cal likely will be without two defensive starters against Oregon. LB Zack Follett (neck) and DE Rulon Davis (foot) are doubtful for the game. K Tom Schneider (strained quadriceps) is questionable. Stanford TB Toby Gerhart has an injured knee and is expected to miss at least the next four games. UCLA's Cowan suffered a torn knee ligament last week and is expected to miss at least three games. ... USC may be without two defensive starters against Washington. CB Cary Harris has a dislocated right shoulder and LB Brian Cushing has a sprained ankle. Both are considered doubtful.

Arizona State1-04-0
Southern California1-03-0
Oregon State0-12-2
Washington State0-12-2
They said it :
"They know they have a great one in this kid. He's not a normal freshman out there playing."
USC coach Pete Carroll on Washington's Locker

"It's very tough. The crowd there is unbelievably educated about when to be loud and when to calm down when they have the ball. It's a very, very tough environment with the noise."
Cal coach Jeff Tedford on the crowd at Autzen Stadium

"I used to complain about being on a terrible high school team when I was younger, but I really do believe that was one of the best things that ever happened because it taught me a lot on how to make plays and how to get out of things, and it's really just instincts."
Arizona State QB Rudy Carpenter

"It's exposure for the entire university. It's not just Oregon football. It's Oregon athletics. It's the University of Oregon. It's the town of Eugene. I think it's really sort of a neat deal."
Oregon coach Mike Bellotti, on ESPN's GameDay appearance at Cal-Oregon, to the Salem, Ore., StatesmanJournal

Etc.: Cal coach Jeff Tedford spent four seasons (1998-2001) as Oregon's offensive coordinator under Bellotti. UCLA's defense forced four fumbles and had five sacks in beating Oregon State last season. The last time Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh faced Arizona State, he was Michigan's quarterback in the 1987 Rose Bowl. The Sun Devils beat the Wolverines 22-15. Harbaugh threw for 172 yards and scored on a run, but he also threw three picks. USC did not punt last week in its rout of Washington State. Arizona State is ranked this week. That's the fourth school Dennis Erickson has coached into the top 25. The others: Washington State, Miami and Oregon State. The only coach ever to have five schools in the top 25 is Lou Holtz.

MORE WEEK 5 BREAKDOWNS: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | SEC

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