California at USC, Saturday, 12:30 p.m. PT
This game should go a long way in setting the course for the rest of Cal’s season. The Bears are just over a minute away from being 2–0 in Pac-10. A late touchdown lifted Arizona to a win over the Bears three weeks ago, and then Cal came back to hammer UCLA last week. So are the Bears a legitimate player in the conference race? A win over USC on the road would mean a lot. The Trojans, meanwhile, are in danger of falling to 1–3 in Pac-10 play. USC, of course, can’t win the Pac-10 title because of NCAA sanctions, but that doesn’t mean the Trojans still can’t finish in first place and enjoy it internally. A third loss in conference play would pretty much eliminate any chance of that.
Arizona at Washington State, Saturday, 4:30 p.m. PT
Nothing soothes the pain of a tough loss more than seeing Washington State as the next team on the schedule. The Wildcats should hammer the Cougars and make up for last week’s tough 29–27 home loss to Oregon State. Then again, Washington State was surprisingly competitive with Oregon last week, although the Ducks lost starting quarterback Darron Thomas in the second quarter. Still, the Cougars were able to put up a respectable 336 yards of offense against Oregon’s talented defense, something that undoubtedly has the Wildcats’ attention. Arizona, which was riding high after a win over Iowa a few weeks ago, could easily be 0–2 in conference play right now were it not for a late touchdown to beat Cal 10–9 at home.
Oregon State at Washington, Saturday, 7:15 p.m. PT
It doesn’t get any easier for the Huskies, who are 2–3 and are entering a murderous stretch of their schedule. It begins against the Beavers, who are coming off two impressive wins to start the Pac-10 season. However, Oregon State now must respond without wide receiver James Rodgers, who suffered a season-ending knee injury during last week’s win at Arizona. Rodgers is one of the most underrated playmakers in the country, both as a pass-catcher and kick returner. The Beavers hope talented sophomore Markus Wheaton can ease some of the pain of Rodgers’ loss. Washington, meanwhile, needs a win to avoid heading toward irrelevance in the Pac-10 race. The Huskies hope for a better performance from quarterback Jake Locker, who played with the flu during last week’s loss to Arizona State and didn’t make much of an impact.