<
>

What to watch in the Pac-10, Week 12

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Ten things to consider, underline or anticipate heading into the weekend.

1. Jacquizz vs. the Cal LBs: California might have the second-best crew of linebackers in the nation behind USC, which is the singular explanation for why the Bears adopted a 3-4 defense during the offseason. They lead a defense that is fourth in the Pac-10 vs. the run (117 yards per game). Oregon State freshman tailback Jacquizz Rodgers has six 100-yard games in eight starts. His ability to hide behind his line, read the creases and then explode is uncanny. Limiting Rodgers is priority No. 1 for the Bears.

2. Are those cheers or boos in Autzen Stadium? Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli was uneven, to say the least, against Stanford a week ago. He missed open receivers and fumbled twice, earning boos from frustrated Ducks fans. He also led a game-winning touchdown drive. The visit from Arizona likely determines the ultimate trajectory of the Ducks season: a quality bowl or a plate of mediocrity. What sounds will echo within the Pac-10's loudest stadium?

3. Mark Sanchez will get more than a passing fancy vs. Stanford's secondary: When an opponent passes, it's feast or famine for Stanford, with large portions of the latter. The Cardinal likes to blitz and is tied for the Pac-10 lead with three sacks a game. But if the attack fails, it's bombs away -- see a 63 percent completion percentage for opposing offenses and and a conference-worst yield of 248 yards per game. Twice in the past three games, the Stanford defense surrendered game-losing drives that concluded with short touchdown passes. The athletic mismatch between the USC receivers and the Cardinal secondary is profound. USC quarterback Mark Sanchez knows this.

4. Cal's offense would like some home cooking from Kevin Riley: As noted by the San Francisco Chronicle, from the first three games to the past six, California's offensive production has dropped by more than 150 yards and 18 points a game. Is it a coincidence that Kevin Riley started each of those three games but only three of the past six? Perhaps. Well, Jeff Tedford handed the offense to Riley on Tuesday, and the Beaverton (Ore.) High School product can make a statement in Beaver-Town against Oregon State.

5. On a scale of 1 to 10, how lusty will the boos be for Rick Neuheisel at Husky Stadium? With UCLA struggling mightily and Washington completely in the toilet, the interest in Neuheisel's return to Seattle seems lukewarm. Many fair-minded Huskies fans probably remember all that winning Neuheisel did (33-16 in four seasons). Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see if he merely encounters a small wave of half-hearted boos or three hours of vitriol.

6. Keegan Herring will rush for 200 yards against Washington State: Arizona State's chatty running back has suffered through a miserable senior season due to a tenacious hamstring injury. But he broke out for 144 yards at Washington last weekend and now faces the worst run defense in the history of the world -- or at least FBS football in 2008. He needs 170 yards to move up to sixth on the Sun Devils' career rushing list. He'll get that and then some.

7. Can Stanford go all Oregon State on USC? Do you think the Stanford coaches spent any time studying how Oregon State scored 27 points and gained 343 yards against the impenetrable USC defense? Of course, all Trojans opponents have since then, and the tea leaves from that contest didn't provide bupkis for them. What's often missed while tipping a cap to Beavers freshman running back Jacquizz Rodgers' performance, is how efficient Lyle Moevao was that night, completing 64 percent of his passes with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Stanford quarterback Tavita Pritchard won't be able to lean entirely on the Cardinal running game. He must pass efficiently for there to be any chance of another monumental upset.

8. Wet noodle vs. cotton candy fork: UCLA's offensive line vs. Washington's defensive front is a classic "somebody's got to win because there ain't nobody else on the field." The Bruins rank 116th in the nation in rushing (78 yards per game). The Huskies rank 115th in run defense (236 yards per game). UCLA ranks 112th in sacks allowed (27). Washington ranks 118th in sacks (nine). It's going to be a heck of a battle.

9. How will Lyle Moevao's shoulder hold up? The pained tone of Oregon State coach Mike Riley's voice early in the week suggested that his quarterback wouldn't be ready to start against California and that backup Sean Canfield would again get the call. But Moevao made progress by midweek and Riley said Thursday night that Moevao will start. So will the Beavers get the vintage, swashbuckling Moevao who looked like an All-Pac-10 quarterback? Or will they get a guy who's playing with a bum shoulder? And if it's the latter, will Canfield need to save the day?

10. Will the Ducks touted secondary finally show up this season? Many (who, me?) projected Oregon's experienced, athletic secondary to be the class of the Pac-10 and one of the best units in the nation. That hasn't been the case -- see a 58 percent completion rate for opposing offenses (eighth in the Pac-10) and 246 yards yielded through the air (ninth). That won't do against Arizona, which boasts the conference's best receiver-tight end tandem in Mike Thomas and Rob Gronkowski. If that duo piles up big numbers, the Ducks will be back in black but singing the blues.