The race for Pac-10 runner-up certainly got more interesting after week nine. That is of course assuming that USC takes a seventh consecutive conference title, which at this point looks more than likely.
USC was simply too much for the Wildcats, as the Trojans prevailed 17-10. Arizona's explosive offense failed to ignite its fuse, gaining only 188 total yards and just 88 passing yards. Arizona's defense had a more than noteworthy performance that has unfortunately gone unnoticed to that of the Trojan defense. Arizona needs to shake off this loss, as losing to USC is never something to pout about. The road ahead (well, after Washington State) is difficult but the Wildcats still stand in good position to finish near the top of the conference.
Here's something else for Arizona fans to look forward to, they are without question the best team in the state of Arizona. Arizona State dropped its 5th straight last Saturday in a 54-20 home loss to Oregon. The Sun Devils could not stop the Ducks, allowing 537 total yards, 304 rushing yards, 8 of 14 third down conversions, and oh yeah 54 points. It's hard to say what happened to this team, but it's pretty easy to assume that they will to play the role usually designated for Arizona by needing a Territorial Cup win to reach a bowl game. Recent history says the Sun Devils will be home for the holidays.
Cal beat up on visiting UCLA 41-20. Quarterback Kevin Riley appears to have won the starting job as Nate Longshore didn't see the playing field. Who is the most talented player in the Pac-10? My vote may have to go to Cal running back Jahvid Best, who gained 115 yards on 17 carries, including a nasty 34-yard touchdown run that is deserving of a YouTube search. The Cal defense that gave up 42 points and 179 rushing yards to Arizona a week prior responded big time by allowing only 16 rushing yards from the Bruins, whose only touchdown came from a blocked punt.
Big road win by Oregon in Tempe. The Ducks continued to dominate on the ground, gaining 304 rushing yards against the Sun Devils. What is scarier is that after demonstrating terrible passing offense in past weeks, Oregon quarterbacks combined to complete 21 of its 30 passes, with 233 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. One could make a pretty good argument that Oregon's visit to Berkeley this weekend is the Pac-10 game of the year.
UCLA hung around for much for its 41-10 loss to Cal, but it would be difficult to say the Bruins ever had a grasp of this game. Quarterback Kevin Craft tied his career high with four interceptions, two of which went back for Cal touchdowns. The UCLA rushing offense, ranked last in the conference and third to last nationally, only gained 16 rushing yards against Cal. That makes three times in eight games that UCLA has had fewer than 30 rushing yards. Coach Rick Neuheisel called all three of his second half timeouts in the closing seconds of the game while Cal attempted to kneel out the clock. Bizarre.
Damn, they are good. The USC defense never let Air-Zona off the runway, holding the Wildcats to just 88 yards. It was Arizona's lowest passing total of the season and 145 yards below its season average. USC's stand on 4th and inches late in the fourth was mind numbing and dismissed the fact that the Trojans allowed more rushing yards than average. As for the offense, it continued to have trouble executing. One of the only criticisms I have of this team is how it will get comfortable with a lead and stop moving the ball, as they did at Arizona. The Bay Area schools look to be the only remaining threats on USC's schedule, and I'm only including Stanford because of last year's debacle at the Coliseum.
Lost 33-7 at home to Notre Dame. I'm starting to wonder which Washington school is worse at this point.
With Texas, Alabama and Penn State all winning over the weekend it looks as though USC is out of the national championship picture. To make matters worse, the "annual beat-down by USC" known as the Rose Bowl will likely include the "annual beat-down of the BCS", better known as Ohio State. If that's the case, the 2009 Rose Bowl will be the worst annual beat-down ever.