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ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

If the schedule gives you lemons ….

Matchups don't look as appealing as last week, but something special still could happen. Pac-10 teams can affect the national picture.

September 15, 2010|Chris Dufresne

Comparing this week to last week is like comparing Bourbon Street to a lemonade stand.

Last week you almost had more good games than there was available popcorn — Ohio State-Miami, Penn State-Alabama, Oklahoma- Florida State, Michigan-Notre Dame.

If that was "Monster Saturday," as they were calling it, this week might require a Monster drink.

The only pairing of top-25 schools is No. 9 Iowa at No. 24 Arizona, which will set television ratings ablaze in Iowa City and Tucson.

ESPN is sending its "GameDay" crew to Clemson at Auburn, a minor skirmish featuring a team coming off a 17-14 win over Mississippi State and, well, Clemson.

Don't let the sound of crickets fool you, though, because often the quiet weeks end up "For crying out loud!"

Some teams and games to watch:

USC and UCLA. We're not talking conference titles or bowls anymore, but whether "12" is too high of a combined win total.

If USC can't go to Minnesota and walleye wallop a team that just lost to South Dakota, Trojans fans might take Reggie Bush's lead and start handing back things, like season tickets. More likely, USC will defeat Minnesota and then Washington State and own the biggest 4-0 fool's gold record of all time. Then what?

The Trojans embark on a Pac-10 patch against Washington, Stanford, California and Oregon. USC went 1-3 against that quartet last year. The Trojans also play at Arizona, which left the Coliseum last year with a win, and play at Oregon State — and USC hasn't won in the state of Oregon since shortly after Lewis & Clark departed.

With no bowl game this year but a 13-game schedule, USC might have a tough time matching last year's 9-4 record.

If UCLA, one week after a 35-0 home loss to Stanford, can't beat Houston at the Rose Bowl, the Bruins' season is headed from here to infirmary. Houston is followed by a trip to Texas, which has waited 13 years to pay UCLA back for that 66-3 drubbing in Austin.

Trying to find wins for UCLA after that is a Pac-10 Easter egg hunt. Mark "victory" down Oct. 2 against Washington State…and then? UCLA's next four games are at California, at Oregon, home against Arizona and Oregon State, and then at Washington.

Three Pac-10 schools have a decent chance to knock three schools out of national title contention: No. 8 Nebraska at Washington might be closer than anyone imagined last year at this point. Iowa at Arizona could thrill into the wee ESPN hours and Arizona State might have enough to make a defensive stand at No. 11 Wisconsin.

Boise State at Wyoming. This game comes with warning labels. All the talk of Boise State staying in the national title hunt means nothing if the Broncos can't buck the Cowboys in the high altitude of Laramie.

War Memorial Stadium is a tough place to play. Ask Texas about last year's visit.

East Carolina at Virginia Tech. East Carolina has scored 100 points in two games while Virginia Tech (0-2) is still in shock. The decision to play James Madison five days after the Labor Day opener against Boise State was questionable in foresight and disastrous in hindsight.

And Boise State is paying for it. "I wouldn't want to do that again," Hokies Coach Frank Beamer said of the scheduling. "I'll be honest with you….We got beat by two good football teams, but those short weeks are a tough deal."

Boise State needs a repeat of 1995, the year Virginia Tech lost its first two games and won 10 straight.

Massachusetts at Michigan. Sophomore quarterback Denard Robinson might be off to the hottest start in NCAA history and another breakout performance Saturday could make him tough to catch in this year's Heisman Trophy race. Robinson leads the nation in carries (57) and rushing yards (455).

Robinson's personal total-offense average of 427.5 yards bests USC's team total of 426.5. Robinson has more total yards than 87 of 120 major division schools. But can he hold up?

Asked what techniques Robinson has been taught to protect himself, Michigan Coach Rich Rodriguez quipped, "run fast." Actually, Rodriguez doesn't see the workload as a problem. "I see a lot of drop-back quarterbacks get knocked out of games, you know, attempting 30, 40 or 50 passes a game," he said. "And they're getting hit by big guys."

Blitz package

Florida Coach Urban Meyer had little to say on Wednesday's Southeastern Conference call about this week's arrest of Chris Rainey. "He's not with the team," Meyer said.

More on the Pac-10 officiating snafu in Saturday's USC-Virginia game: The referees incorrectly called an illegal block on a Virginia fake punt, which could have changed the course of a scoreless game. Virginia Coach Mike London could be seen, for good reason, screaming at the refs "I've never seen that called!"

Was there anything London could have done? Yes. Pac-10 spokesman Dave Hirsch said while London could not have used a challenge to dispute the call, "he can call time out and advise the officials that he believes the rule was incorrectly interpreted, but that's all he can do. If the decision is not changed, then he would be charged with a timeout."

It's no joke: Kentucky's Joker Phillips is the first Wildcats rookie coach to start a season 2-0 since Bear Bryant in 1946.

May the worst (disciplined) team win: USC and Arizona State, with 24 apiece, are tied for the nation lead in penalties. The Trojans hold the edge over the Sun Devils in total penalty yards, 240 to 224.

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

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