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Follow the Pac: checking in with the Pac-10 this week

Week three in the Pac-10 was supposed to be "statement week."  An opportunity for the Pac-10 to flex its conference muscles, and show the SEC/Big Ten/BigXII/ACC/Mountain West/[every other conference] that us west-coasters are no slouches.  Of the ten Pac-10 games, all were against non-conference opponents, with every large conference represented, excluding the SEC and the Mountain West (the MWC is absolutely included in the Big Conference talk, just look at their record versus Pac-10 and bowl-game opponents). 

A strong showing in week three, and the Pac-10 could silence (some of) the doubters.  Two teams faced top 10 teams at home (Arizona, Washington), one team went on the road against a top 15 Big Ten team (Arizona State), UCLA hosted a top 25 program that could put up 50 points without blinking, and Cal went on the road against Nevada and their tough-to-defend Pistol offense. 

So, how did the conference fare?

Overall, the conference went 6-4 this past weekend.  That is a pretty good showing for what the conference was facing.  Two teams notched "upsets" over higher-ranked foes (yes, Arizona was favored by kick-off, but Iowa was a top 10 team).  Cal was embarrassed, and UW completely failed to show up.  So, is 6-4 enough to show how good the Pac-10 is this year?  Likely not, in the eyes of the mainstream media, and other conferences.  The top-3 of the conference (Oregon, Arizona, Stanford) would likely compete with the top-end of any other conference.  The rest of the conference (with the exception of WSU) look to be wildly erratic.

Nevada 52, Cal 31 - Friday night lights?  Rough start for Cal and the Pac-10 to Statement Week.  Nevada's offense was nearly unstoppable.  Pistol-Expert quarterback Colin Kaepernick had a huge game, throwing for 181 yards, rushing for 148 yards, and accounting for five TDs.  Cal quarterback Kevin Riley reverted to his inconsistent ways, tossing 277 yards, yet accounting for 3 INTs, including one back-breaking pick-6. 

USC 32, Minnesota 21 - The Trojans continued their play-just-well-enough-to-win style, and nipped a unremarkable Gophers team, in Minnesota.  USC player of the game, Allen Bradford, rushed for 131 yards on only 12 carries.  The jury is still out on Lane Kiffin and the Trojans this season.  They are clearly not where they were.  Can they improve over the season?  They have the talent to do so, but do they have the motivation with zero chance at the post-season? 

Nebraska 56, Washington 21 - One of the bigger games of the week for the Pac-10, and Washington was walked all over.  The Huskies were only a 3.5 point underdog, at home, and did nothing all game to show that they belonged on the same field as the Huskers.  Arizona fans can relate to that.  Still though, Hype Machine Locker looked terrible, completing only 4 of 20 passes, and threw some terrible interceptions.  Is Washington this bad?  Not likely, but they certainly did nothing to help their program-on-the-rise perception.  Washington should improve over the conference season, and should not be over-looked.

Wisconsin 20, Arizona State 19 - Completely unexpected result around these parts.  Through two weeks, ASU had only played sub-par FCS foes, and did not exactly look impressive doing it.  However, they traveled to Madison and really put the fear in Wisconsin.  One more yard on that 2nd quarter kickoff return, and we may be talking about the biggest conference upset of the week.  ASU displayed their speed and athleticism all day.  Can Dennis Erickson get that kind of hustle out of the Sun Devils all year? 

SMU 35, Washington State 21 - The Cougars actually went into half-time tied, but were out-played all 2nd half.  Things may not get much better out on the Palouse this year.  It seems like a long time ago that Jason Gesser was in Pullman, doesn't it?

Oregon State 35, Louisville 28 - Were the Beavers looking past Louisville, and to next week's match up on the blue turf against Boise State?  Hopefully, because they certainly did not dispatch the Cardinals as expected.  Louisville mounted an impressive late-game comeback that fell just short.  The Beavers can score, but can they stop anybody? 

Oregon 69, Portland State 0 - Well, the Ducks didn't score 72.  So, Portland State can claim they didn't give up the most points to the Ducks this season. 

UCLA 31, Houston 13 - The ADS Shocker of the Week.  The Bruins looked absolutely terrible last week against Stanford.  They were a 4 point home underdog to Houston.  The score was 31-3 heading into the 4th quarter, before the Cougars scored ten mercy points.  Good win for the Bruins.  They certainly needed it after losing to Kansas State and Stanford consecutively. 

Stanford 68, Wake Forest 24 - Stanford is not getting enough attention/credit for what they have done so far.  They are cruising under the radar, and people need to start paying attention.  Quarterback Andrew Luck threw four TDs, and the Cardinal showed off a balanced rushing attack to easily dispatch Wake Forest. 

Arizona 34, Iowa 27 - Arizona did what it had to do.  Yes, this game was a huge victory for the program.  Now, conference play starts, and the same intensity/preparation/emotion needs to translate to the conference slate.  The season is 25% over, and the tough stretch begins now.  Huge game by the offensive and defensive lines, and the special teams (except for punting. Wow the punting was bad).  Get back to work tomorrow, Cats.