A quick look ahead

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

A few sentences looking at this week's matchups.

Oregon State (2-2) at No. 15 Utah (5-0) (Thursday): Any other Pac-10 fans feel like this is a big game, not only to validate the Beavers win over USC but to at least momentarily hush all the crowing coming out of the Mountain West Conference? Beavers bullied the Utes 24-7 last year, but they've got to prove they can win on the road.

No. 23 Oregon (4-1, 2-0) at No. 9 USC (2-1, 0-1): The Ducks are the nation's fourth best rushing team (309 yards per game), and surely eyebrows were raised at how poorly the Trojans defended the run against Oregon State. Oregon won a battle of top-10 teams a year ago, 24-17.

Arizona State (2-2, 1-0) at California (3-1, 1-0): California emerged with more questions than any team in history has following a 42-7 victory. The Bears lost star RB Jahvid Best to an elbow injury, the quarterback competition between Kevin Riley and Nate Longshore has begun anew and the injury bug hit starting defensive end Rulon Davis and offensive guard Chris Guarnero. The Bears also probably remember seeing a 13-0 lead disappear in a 31-20 loss to the Sun Devils last year.

Stanford (3-2) at Notre Dame (3-1): If Stanford has designs on making a statement that will resonate with college football fans, here's an opportunity. The Cardinal has lost six straight in the series -- including a sloppy 21-14 defeat last year -- and haven't won in South Bend since 1992.

Washington (0-4, 0-2) at Arizona (3-1, 1-0): Will the Huskies make any effort to save Tyrone Willingham's job? Or will the Wildcats take Washington too lightly and ruin a nice start to their season? Washington begins life after Jake Locker with redshirt freshman quarterback Ronnie Fouch running what figures to be a more conventional offense. Last year, Arizona scored the final 22 points to overcome a 41-26 fourth-quarter deficit and win 48-41.

Washington State (1-4, 0-2) at UCLA (1-3, 0-1): UCLA's reinvigorated running game meets its perfect match: The nation's 118th-ranked run defense. The Bruins spoke of improvement after losing a tight game to Fresno State, but losing at home to the woeful Cougars and their redshirt freshman quarterback, Marshall Lobbestael, who is making his first start on the road, would be crushing, perhaps as crushing as the 59-zip loss at BYU. It's notable that the Cougs beat the Bruins 27-7 last year.