Pac-10 Analysis

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Will Washington State return to its losing ways after a win in week three?

While Washington made headlines this weekend with its shocking upset of USC, its in-state companion created some breaking news of its own.

Washington State won a game!

After all, its only Pac-10 victory last season came against the horrible Huskies, and it took the team two overtimes to do it. (By the way, give those fans a raise. Seriously.)

But aside from that lemon of an Apple Cup, Wazzu's only other win last year came in late September in a non-conference affair.

The Cougars' first triumph of 2009 came in similar fashion, as they defeated Southern Methodist at home, 30-27, in overtime.

Their reward for getting their first 'W' of the season? Games against USC, Oregon and Cal in three of the next four games. All on the road. In fact, five of their next six games will be played away from the confines of Martin Stadium -- not that their home field has been much of an advantage in recent years.

Needless to say, it doesn't look like your pals in Pullman will have much to cheer about this year, especially now that Washington seems to have left its intrastate enemy in the dust and no longer looks like the bottom-dweller that it was in 2008.

Even after its victory this week, Washington State (1-2) still ranks last in the conference in scoring offense and defense and last in rushing offense and defense. That's not exactly a formula for success.

The Cougars also took a hit when running back James Montgomery -- who transferred from Cal -- had season-ending surgery on his left leg earlier this week.

So, although it looks like Wazzu might be able to manage more than four first downs against the Trojans -- that's how many the team had in last season's meeting -- don't expect coach Paul Wulff's squad to blow any houses down in the immediate future.

--Jeff Goodman

Is UCLA's undefeated record an accurate reflection of how good the Bruins are this year?

UCLA is 3-0. UCLA is not as good as that stat indicates.

If optimism is high in Westwood, Bruin fans should probably take it down a notch. Sure, UCLA beat Tennessee. But managing just 12 first downs against a team that turned over the ball four times is not exactly a marquee win. And victories over San Diego State and Kansas State? Color me unimpressed.

While the Bruins have found a way to win against mediocre competition, the problems apparent in those games will undoubtedly make winning in conference play a lot harder.

The Bruin offense remains, shall we say, anemic, and their first problem lies with the quarterbacks.

Kevin Prince started the season in the driver's seat, but was derailed by a jaw-breaking (literally) hit during the Tennessee game. With Prince's mandible being held together by wires, senior Kevin Craft took over in last week's game against Kansas State.

To be fair, Craft wasn't as bad as he was last year -- although it's hard to throw 20 interceptions two years in a row. But completing 13-of-24 pass attempts against a Wildcat squad that had barely beaten Massachusetts in Manhattan, Kan., is hardly a great accomplishment. And watching Craft has the added tension of knowing he's like a time bomb -- it's only a matter of minutes before he throws another pick.

On the ground, the Bruins are better but not great. Their leading rusher, redshirt freshman Johnathan Franklin, only averages 80.7 yards per game. On top of that, everyone's running behind a young offensive line, which brings with it all the proverbial growing pains.

Defensively, UCLA does have a stud in cornerback Alterraun Verner. But Verner's going to have to be everywhere at once to contain any serviceable offenses the Bruins face down the road, especially considering he is one of just two returning starters in the secondary.

I leave you with one last thought: UCLA surrendered 238 yards in the air to the Aztecs, a team that has never, in 23 contests, beaten the Bruins. UCLA's quarterbacks couldn't match that number.

--Katie Dowd


Contact Jeff Goodman and Katie Dowd at [email protected]

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