What did we learn this week?
They're baaaaaack: The Oregon State Beavers are 2-0 in the Pac-10 after winning at No. 9 Arizona. Sure, their defense is suspect and the offensive line is questionable. Sure, it's not good that it appears All-American receiver James Rodgers was lost for the season with a knee injury. The bottom line is this: The Beavers, despite losing two tough nonconference road games, will be a factor in the Pac-10 race (again).
Arizona (still) is not ready for its close-up: While credit goes to Oregon State for a strong performance on the road, there was something clearly off about Arizona on Saturday night. That was not the same team -- the defense, in particular -- that made its superiority clear against Iowa. After the game, coach Mike Stoops seemed perplexed by the performance, particularly considering the Wildcats were coming off a bye week. One loss doesn't ruin the season. But this was a game the Wildcats could have won, and probably think they should have won.
The muddled middle is muddled: Washington wins at USC but loses to Arizona State at home. UCLA posts a dominant win at Texas but gets dominated at California. USC is closer to 6-0 than any other 4-2 team in the nation, but it's 1-2 in the Pac-10 just like ASU and UCLA. Washington State makes life surprisingly difficult for Oregon. Things are going to be messy in the Pac-10 this year. The conference is clearly nine teams deep, and even the Cougs -- the designated patsy -- are looking much improved. While Oregon is clearly at the top, the scramble for bowl pecking order and bowl eligibility is going to be interesting.
Fear injuries: Oregon seeing Kenjon Barner and QB Darron Thomas go down. Oregon State seeing the same with receiver Rodgers. UCLA's good games or bad games seemingly a direct result of whether QB Kevin Prince gets a full week of practice. The wear and tear is going to wear. The teams that keep injuries at a minimum will move up, while the less fortunate will move down.
Oregon (again) is a national-title contender: Alabama's14-point loss at South Carolina ended the illusion that any team is that much better than any other. It also opened up the national title race. Alabama was the only team in the hunt that most figured would rate as first among equals -- an unbeaten or one-loss Crimson Tide team would eclipse any other in the BCS standings. Now things have opened up. If Oregon wins the rest of its games, it's extremely likely it will play for the national title.