PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Damante Horton, Washington State cornerback. Horton, a senior from Oakland, led the Cougars to an upset 10-7 win over USC in the first Pac-12 game of season. He stepped in front of a USC pass and returned it 70 yards for a touchdown to even the score at 7-7 just before halftime. Horton collected his second interception with less than a minute remaining to seal the victory. He also had two tackles for a loss for 12 yards. And he limited USC All-American receiver Marqise Lee to only 27 yards on seven catches.
The Pac-12/Big Ten Challenge — well it was not organized but happened to work out this way — occurs Saturday with four games between the rival conferences.
The conferences should split the four games with the highlighted game being UCLA at Nebraska. It has the making of another shootout like last year when the Bruins won 36-30 while compiling 653 yards of total offense. Nebraska playing at home with revenge on their minds will be too much for the Bruins.
Wisconsin travels to Tempe to play a night game against ASU. The Sun Devils are 8-0 vs. Big Ten teams at home. Make it 9-0. ASU’s speed will dominate Wisconsin’s size.
Washington plays Illinois at Soldier Field in Chicago. The Fighting Illini are showing signs of finally coming to life under embattled coach Tim Beckman. Illinois is averaging 493 yards of total offense in convincing wins over Southern Illinois and Cincinnati. The Illini averaged only 296.7 last year, which ranked 119th out of 120 FBS teams.
The Huskies should be too much with senior Keith Price leading the way. Much like ASU’s edge over Wisconsin, Washington should outlast Illinois with its athleticism. Look for elusive tailback Bishop Sankey to have a big game.
Finally, Ohio State and Urban Meyer travel to Cal. The Buckeyes struggled to beat a bad Golden Bears team 35-28 last year at home, which should give Cal confidence, especially at home.
Cal has already lost to a Big Ten team — Northwestern — at home. No reason to believe Ohio State will be victimized, especially with how Meyer should have the Buckeyes prepared.
The Golden Bears rank last in the Pac-12 in total defense, allowing 530.5 yards a game. Ohio State is averaging 452.5 yards a game. Ohio State quarterback Kenny Guiton, who will likely replace the injured Braxton Miller, will be too much for Cal.
Also on the schedule are interesting games between Tennessee and Oregon, Fresno State and Colorado and Oregon State traveling to Utah.
Oregon will be bent on showing the SEC nation it can dominate one of its teams. Take note Alabama and LSU. The much improved Buffaloes under coach Mike MacIntyre lost at Fresno State last year 69-14. Think a little revenge is on their minds?
This is a mind-blowing stat knowing how good Utah has been recently with Urban and Kyle Whittingham in charge: The Utes have started 0-4 in consecutive years in their Pac-12 existence. Look for that to change Saturday against an Oregon State team searching for itself.
The Pac-12 won two more games handily against Mountain West competition last week with Arizona routing host UNLV 58-13 and Stanford dominating San Jose State 34-14. That improves the conference’s record against Mountain West teams to 7-0 this season. The average margin of victory: 41.3. to 17. Ouch.
RANKING THE PAC-12
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