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Can Locker lead the Huskies to victory in the desert?
UCLA at Oregon, Thursday, 6:00 p.m. PT
The Ducks will take the field for the first time in school history as the No. 1 team in the nation. Oregon moved into the top spot of the Associated Press top 25 this week without even playing — the Ducks had a bye while former No. 1 Ohio State went down to Wisconsin. The week off allowed Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas to get healthy. He went out of the Ducks’ last game at Washington State with a shoulder injury but has returned to full participation in practice and will start against the Bruins. UCLA also is coming off a bye. The Bruins have had some extra time to figure out how they could beat Texas on the road but get completely dominated by Cal two weeks later. UCLA may once again be without starting quarterback Kevin Prince, whose balky right knee has forced him to miss practice time this week.
Arizona State at Cal, Saturday, 12:30 p.m. PT
Just when it looked as though the Bears might be able to contend in the Pac-10 this season, they appeared completely overmatched against a USC team that isn’t what it once was. Gone was the generally suffocating defense that Cal has featured this season. Stopped was Shane Vereen and the potent running game. The Bears will have to lick their wounds quickly, because the Sun Devils are fresh off a bye week and feeling good after their win over Washington in their last game. Cal quarterback Kevin Riley, who threw two first-half interceptions against USC, had one of his better games at ASU last season, throwing for 351 yards and two touchdowns and engineering a drive in the final minutes that led to a game-winning field goal.
Washington State at Stanford, Saturday, 2:00 p.m. PT
Dare it be said that the Cougars are becoming more competitive? Two weeks ago, they actually slowed Oregon down just a bit in a 43–23 loss. Then last week, it was a normal-looking 24–7 loss to Arizona. Granted, the Wildcats lost starting quarterback Nick Foles in the game, but Washington State continues to do some things better than in recent years. Most notably, there have been improvements in the passing game, where quarterback Jeff Tuel is one of only two Pac-10 quarterbacks to throw for at least 200 yards in every game this season. All that being said, the Cardinal at home should be substantially too tough for the Cougars. Plus, Stanford is coming off a bye and should be well rested.
Washington at Arizona, Saturday, 7:15 p.m. PT
Arizona will try to keep pace with the Pac-10 leaders with a new quarterback. Matt Scott is now the Wildcats’ man behind center for at least a couple weeks after starter Nick Foles went down with a knee injury last week. Scott took over in the second quarter of last week’s game at Washington State and helped the Wildcats to a 24–7 victory. The Huskies, meanwhile, are coming off a pulsating double-overtime win over Oregon State, resuscitating their bowl hopes and, for the time being, putting them in the thick of the conference race. Washington enters the weekend one of four teams at 2–1 in Pac-10 play, one game behind Oregon. The Huskies’ potentially explosive offense got going against the Beavers’ solid defense, amassing 475 yards of offense. Washington quarterback Jake Locker appeared to be recovered from the flu, throwing five touchdown passes and accounting for 346 yards of total offense.