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September 17, 2009

Weekend breakdown of the Pac-10

MORE: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | SEC | Others

California at Minnesota, noon
Arizona at Iowa, 3:30 p.m.
USC at Washington, 3:30 p.m.
Utah at Oregon, 3:30 p.m.
SMU at Washington State, 5 p.m.
Cincinnati at Oregon State, 6:45 p.m.
San Jose State at Stanford, 9 p.m.
Louisiana-Monroe at Arizona State, 10 p.m.
Kansas State at UCLA, 10:15 p.m.
Ahh, memories.

Just about this time last year, a highly ranked team traveled to Corvallis and was upset by Oregon State.

No doubt, the Beavers always will remember that 27-21 victory over USC, especially with another ranked opponent paying a September visit. But a visit from No. 17 Cincinnati conjures others memories - and they're not nearly as pleasant. Oregon State played at Cincinnati in 2007 and was routed 34-3 in a game the Beavers would rather forget.

Or would they?

"I hope the guys who were around remember it," Oregon State coach Mike Riley said. "It won't be hard for our guys to see how good they are on film [this season]. It's a big game for both teams."

For Cincinnati, it's a chance to climb in the national polls. A victory over a successful program from another Big Six conference may even get the Bearcats included in the national championship discussion. Earlier this week, Riley suggested the Bearcats may be the best team in Ohio.

For Oregon State, it's an opportunity to prove it's better than it showed a week ago when it had to rally to win 23-21 at UNLV.

"It's is going to be a very big test," Riley said of Cincinnati. "They've had a super-impressive start - they're averaging close to 600 yards a game on offense. They have an outstanding system offensively, and they have good people running it. They are going to present a very big challenge for us defensively and also on special teams. Kick coverage will be a major factor in the game."

Cincinnati's Mardy Gilyard is a dangerous kick returner who took back two kickoffs for touchdowns last season. He also has 14 catches for 200 yards so far this season. Quarterback Tony Pike has thrown for 591 yards. Cincinnati has scored 117 points to rank second in the nation.

"They've shown that they can put up points better than anybody," Oregon State cornerback Tim Clark said. "The level of anticipation is high. The stage is set for us to show the nation what the defense is all about, and we plan on doing that."

That's what the Beavers did against USC last season. Remember?

Key matchup: Oregon State run offense vs. Cincinnati run defense. Cincinnati QB Tony Pike already has passed for six touchdowns, and the Bearcats are second in the country in scoring. The best way to slow them down might be keeping them from getting the ball. That chore will fall on Oregon State's running game and in particular Beavers star TB Jacquizz Rodgers, who has exceeded 100 rushing yards in both games this season. Rodgers ranks eighth in the country in rushing with 269 yards, and he has four touchdowns. Another productive performance would enhance the Beavers' scoring opportunities and would limit Cincinnati's time of possession. Pulling that off won't be easy, though. The Bearcats' defense has allowed just 104 rushing yards and one touchdown so far.

On the spot: The Washington State Cougars. Obviously, no one knows what the future holds. But there's a good chance Washington State will finish winless if the Cougars don't beat SMU on Saturday. Although SMU has managed just one win in each of the past two seasons, the Mustangs could pose a problem. SMU's passing offense ranks 21st in the nation; Washington State has allowed 682 passing yards to rank 117th in the country. The Cougars lost 38-20 to Hawaii last week in a game in which they trailed 35-0 in the first half. After two games, Washington State has been outscored 77-33 and hasn't managed a first-half touchdown. The Cougars finished 2-11 last season, with victories over FCS member Portland State and Washington. They don't face Portland State this year and Washington appears significantly improved. After the SMU game, Washington State has eight conference games and a game against Notre Dame in San Antonio. Marshall Lobbestael has been named Washington State's quarterback over Kevin Lopina.

Numbers game: Two teams' road woes need mentioning. In five years under coach Mike Stoops, Arizona is 8-17 on the road. The Wildcats play at Iowa on Saturday, and the Wildcats are 0-4 on the road under Stoops in non-conference games, with the losses coming to Utah (27-24 in '05), LSU (45-3 in '06), BYU (20-7 in '07) and New Mexico (36-28 in '08). California is making its first road trip of the season, to Minnesota. All four of Cal's losses last season came on the road; the Golden Bears also lost four road games in '07, and all three of their '06 losses were away from home. The Golden Bears are 19-20 on the road in coach Jeff Tedford's eight seasons.

What they're saying

"I think whatever the announcers say on TV is what gets in everybody's mind. We went to Maryland last year and our guys were bright-eyed. We didn't play well. Because the announcers, all they could say was, 'It's early, it's early, it's early,' everybody thinks it's early. We were sleeping, but it wasn't because of when we flew in there or anything like that. I really don't believe that." - Cal coach Jeff Tedford, on making a cross-country trip to Maryland the day before the game last season. This week, the Bears are leaving on Thursday for their game against Minnesota.

"We've been battle-tested and played in two big games. We talk about 'iron sharpens iron.' We've played a pretty good slate. Boise State's a heck of a football team, and obviously to go down to literally the last play of the game against Purdue, you hope those situations will pay off for you." - Oregon coach Chip Kelly, to the Eugene Register-Guard, on the Ducks' opening games preparing them for Utah.

"Cade came in here and started as a freshman, and I'm going to try to resemble him in any way I can. He went out there and beat USC four times and had great teams. As long as I can be somewhat Cade-like, I think I'll be OK." - UCLA freshman QB Richard Brehaut, who was named the starter for this week, is hoping to duplicate the success of former Bruins QB Cade McNown, who also started as a freshman.

Etc.: USC QB Matt Barkley is bothered by a bone bruise in his right shoulder and has been unable to throw in practice, so his status for Saturday's game against Washington is in doubt. If he cannot play, Aaron Corp, who was the first-team quarterback until he was injured in August camp, will start. An MRI exam showed USC FS Taylor Mays endured only a mildly sprained medial collateral ligament in his knee during last week's win over Ohio State. He's been wearing a brace on his leg in practice. Trojans OT Charles Brown missed practice earlier this week because of illness. If he's unable to play against Washington, he'll be replaced by Butch Lewis. ... UCLA starting CB Courtney Viney is among four players suspended for Saturday's game against Kansas State for breaking team rules. Also suspended are RB Milton Knox and WRs Morrell Presley and Randall Carroll. ... Arizona TE Rob Gronkowski missed the first two games of the season with a strained lower back, but he practiced earlier this week and could play Saturday against Iowa. ... Not that anyone would notice, but Arizona's Keenyn Crier is one of the country's best punters. The catch is Crier has kicked just three times this season. He was not called on to punt in last week's win over Northern Arizona. ... Arizona State is having offensive line problems. C Garth Gerhart has turf toe and may not be able to play against Louisiana-Monroe. In addition, G Zach Schlink likely will miss the next two games because of a knee injury. Sun Devils WR Kerry Taylor and S Clint Floyd are among five players who will play after being suspended for the first game. DT Lawrence Guy also will be in action after missing the opener with a strained bicep. ... California TB Shane Vereen is stuck behind Heisman candidate Jahvid Best on the depth chart, but he's made the most of his opportunities, scoring five touchdowns. ... Oregon FS T.J. Ward (ankle) and LB Spencer Paysinger (elbow) are slowed by injuries, but they are still expected to start against Utah. ... Oregon State QB Lyle Moevao, who has been out with shingles, has returned to practice and likely will back up starter Sean Canfield. In addition, WR Darrell Catchings, who has been out with a wrist injury, could play against Cincinnati. ... Stanford is concerned about its run defense, which allowed 251 yards in last week's loss to Wake Forest. Sanford figures to get a break against San Jose State, which is averaging just 15.5 rushing yards per game. Stanford DT Matthew Masifilo is expected to be out six weeks because of a knee injury. ... Washington TB Chris Polk was barred from speaking to the media this week after making comments last week that the USC game was "personal" to him. Polk originally committed to USC, then decommitted.

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.

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