I want you all to stop for a minute and cherish this moment. It's been a long time since Bruin fans have been looking forward to the next game with optimism and anticipation, getting impatient in the face of bye weeks. Yes, UCLA has been 3-0 in the past, but we all know there is a different feeling now. I am certainly not saying that our next game against Utah will be an easy one, far from it. However I do not dread it with the certainty of a looming loss, as I used to do in the past. So many times before, my heart would tell me we have a shot, while my brain would laugh at my delusion. Now it is the opposite. By all accounts, my brain tells me I should be confident about our next game, but my heart succumbs to a BBS syndrome that I still can't seem to shake. I wonder if I ever will...a BCS bowl would certainly go a long way towards achieving that...
Player of the Week: Steven Nelson, Oregon State - Nelson's pick-6 at the end of the 4th quarter against San Diego State ended up being the game winner, after the Beavers trailed all game. It capped a 20-point effort for the Beavers in that quarter and may have been the jolt they needed to get their season going.
Stat of the Week: 26-4 - that's the Pac-12's nonconference record so far, with half of those coming from Cal (though against Northwestern and Ohio State). Three teams (ASU, Stanford, Southern Cal) still have to play Notre Dame. Even with some less than stellar competition, that's not bad at all.
Game of the Week: Southern Cal @ Arizona State, 7:30pm PST, ESPN2 - every Pac-12 team plays a conference game this week. All of them are important but I think this game will be an important barometer for both teams and for the South division. ASU will try to rebound at home after being demolished by Stanford, while Southern Cal will try to remind everyone that they are Southern Cal and that Lane Kiffin is a great coach.
1. UCLA (3-0, 0-0): while the opponent was somewhat forgettable, the victory over New Mexico State did help us remember some important things. First, Nick Pasquale will be with all of us, always. Second, Brett Hundley is awesome but certainly not flawless. Third, the penalty bug has not yet been eradicated. 15 penalties...sloppy, even by SPTR standards. UCLA gets to watch its future opponents this weekend and hopefully realize that it's time to take it up a notch, starting with Utah next Thursday.
2. Arizona (3-0, 0-0): the Wildcats had a bye but benefitted from a poor showing by ASU to move up the poll. This week, they travel to Seattle to take on Washington and get a sense for exactly what kind of team they have, after crushing some lame competition so far.
3. Arizona State (2-1, 0-1): Ouch. The luster is off of ASU's good start. The Sun Devils were manhandled by Stanford, who led 29-0 after just one half, and were only able to rush for 50 yards all game. That may be a function of being behind all game, but Marion Grice is a good RB. That put a lot of pressure on Taylor Kelly, who ended up throwing 2 picks. Meanwhile, the defense got run over as well. At least, Coach Graham was quick to take the responsibility for this loss. They need to put it past them with Southern Cal visiting Saturday night.
4. Utah (3-1, 0-1): the Utes were only 1-14 on their 3rd down conversions, but were still able to earn their fourth straight victory over rival BYU. With a 13-0 lead at halftime, Utah held on and prevailed behind a solid performance from their QB Travis Wilson. The Utah defense somewhat limited BYU's running game which had stomped all over Texas. A much improved team awaits UCLA on Thursday night and will be pumped for the national spotlight.
5. Southern Cal (3-1, 0-1): A Heidari field goal in the fourth quarter ended up being the game winner for Southern Cal, who continues to play well enough to save Lane Kiffin's job. It was another ho-hum performance by the offense, which was once again bailed out by a solid defense. People probably do not realize that Kiffin is playing things safe and close to the vest in order to save the big stick for the big games. He is a shrewd tactician and he gets to show it off again when he takes his team to Tempe to take on ASU, a big division game.
6. Colorado (2-0, 0-0): with the devastation of the floods in the Boulder area, the game between Fresno State and Colorado was postponed two weeks ago and not yet rescheduled. And then Colorado had a bye. Coach McCarthy is probably thrilled and hopefully no one was too affected by the disaster. After this impromptu mini-camp of sorts, Colorado will try to prove that it made the most of a bad situation when they visit Corvallis to take on Oregon State.
1. Oregon (3-0, 0-0): the Ducks had a bye and probably still scored 84 points somewhere. If not, they'll have a chance to do so against Cal's porous defense at home on Saturday.
2. Stanford (3-0, 1-0): Well it looks like the Cardinal is, uh, blooming? Stanford showed that it remains very much the same steamrolling powerhouse by crushing and demoralizing ASU in a single half, controlling the game with their tough defense and a stout running game. Serving a notice (or a reminder) to the rest of the conference and the country, Stanford now travels to play against Washington State. Luckily they will not have to go to Pullman, as if they needed any more breaks. But then again, last year, traveling to Washington with a top-10 ranking didn't work out so well for them.
3. Washington (3-0, 0-0): With a home game to start their conference slate, the Huskies are out to prove that they are for real this year. They will also look to avenge the beatdown they took from Arizona last year. Consistency will be key for Sarkisian's crew, who so far has looked dominant in its three victories, though its last one came against an FCS opponent (booooo).
4. Washington State (3-1, 1-0): Mike Leach's team is winning games with...defense? The Cougars have only allowed 17 points in their last 3 games, which included an away game against Southern Cal. The other opponents were not exactly powerhouses, but it is a good sign for the Pirate and his crew. Now the stakes increase, as Stanford rolls into town with their punishing style, a stark contrast to the Cougars' style.
5. Oregon State (3-1, 1-0): with their backs against the wall, losing to a winless San Diego State team, the Beavers came up big in the fourth quarter to avoid a big downer. Sean Mannion was key to the comeback, throwing 2 TD passes in that quarter, but no play was bigger than Steven Nelson's pick 6 in SDSU territory, after a foolish throw by their QB. The Beavers got somewhat lucky, but also showed some gumption in the comeback, perhaps gaining the confidence needed to make some noise in their division. They host Colorado this week and look to build on that last quarter.
6. Cal (1-2, 0-0): The Bears had a bye this week, and hopefully they used it to improve their defense, otherwise it will be a long game against Oregon in Eugene. Still, their offense has definitely been productive. The Ducks will probably not punt all game...I know another team that's done that a couple of times.