Pac-10’s reputation on the line Saturday

Arizona at Iowa, 11:35 a.m. Saturday (ABC/ESPN2)

Last week, the Wildcats beat Big Sky opponent Northern Arizona, but not in the dominating fashion many had expected. Iowa, although having problems of its own, promises to be a stiffer test. Arizona will need running back Nic Grigsby to continue his torrid start to the season against Iowa’s tough front seven. Grigsby is averaging 162.5 yards per game, second in the nation. Arizona All-American tight end Rob Gronkowski might return from a back injury.

Key stat: 2-0. The Pac-10 is 2-0 against Big Ten teams this season, with wins coming from Oregon over Purdue and USC over Ohio State.

Louisiana-Monroe at Arizona State, 7 p.m.

Arizona State is coming off a bye week, and should handle the Warhawks of the Sun Belt fairly easily. In its season opener, Arizona State beat Idaho State 50-3, with linebacker Mike Nixon earning Pac-10 Player of the Week honors with three interceptions. However, in 2007 Louisiana-Monroe did upset SEC power Alabama, so the Sun Devils should be on their guard.

Key Stat: 3. The Sun Devils have given only three points all year, and their stingy defense will give Louisiana-Monroe fits.

No. 8 California at Minnesota, 9 a.m.

Coming off a 59-7 smackdown of FCS foe Eastern Washington, Cal has yet to be pushed to its limits. Underdog Minnesota, who notched a 20-13 win over Air Force, hopes to provide that push. Thus far, Cal is a well-rounded team, leading the conference in sacks with 10, while ranking sixth in the nation in rushing. Minnesota wants to use home field to its advantage, as the Bears have lost four in a row on the road, dating back to last year.
Key Stat: 9 a.m. The last time Cal played at 9 a.m. PDT was last year against Maryland. The Golden Bears fell behind early and ultimately lost to the Terrapins, 35-27.

No. 17 Cincinnati at Oregon State, 3:45 p.m. (FSN)

Oregon State’s first major test arrives in a big way with the Big East favorite Bearcats. The Beavers beat UNLV 23-21 on a last-second field goal last week, while Cincinnati eviscerated FCS foe Southeast Missouri State 70-3. OSU quarterback Sean Canfield ranks No. 14 in the nation in passing efficiency and first in completion percentage, and Bearcat quarterback Tony Pike is No. 4 in the nation in passing efficiency. That combined with no returning starters in the secondary for OSU and just one for Cincinnati should make for an entertaining aerial assault.

Key Stat: 34-3. The Beavers suffered a 34-3 loss to Cincinnati in 2007, one they haven’t forgotten. Canfield threw three interceptions and has vowed to play better.

San Jose State at Stanford, 6 p.m.

Against WAC opponent San Jose State, Stanford looks to recover from a painful and controversial loss to Wake Forest last weekend. A late clipping call that erased a crucial Toby Gerhart run had the Cardinal steaming. Head coach Jim Harbaugh said it was “one of the worst I’ve ever seen.” Fortunately for Stanford, SJSU should provide little resistance; it is coming off a 24-14 loss to Utah. Pac-10 counterpart USC opened its season against SJSU, and had no trouble, winning 56-3.

Key Stat: 120. San Jose State ranks last in the nation in total defense after two weeks. Stanford’s powerful running game should be able to find plenty of holes.

Kansas State at UCLA, 7:15 p.m. (FSN)

UCLA is on cloud nine after last week, when it went into a hostile environment in Knoxville and beat Tennessee 19-15. Linebacker Reggie Carter and kicker Kai Forbath were honored as Pac-10 Players of the Week. Carter recorded 14 tackles against Tennessee, while Forbath hit 4 of 5 field goals. The win was not without cost, however, as quarterback Kevin Prince is lost for 3-5 weeks with a fractured jaw. Kansas State is coming off a 17-15 loss to Louisiana-Lafayette. UCLA should win, but potential for a letdown is high.

Key Stat: 5. UCLA safety Rahim Moore leads the nation in interceptions with five.

No. 3 USC at Washington, 12:30 p.m. (ABC)

The only Pac-10 conference game in the slate this weekend should be an intriguing one. Washington head coach Steve Sarkisian and defensive coordinator Nick Holt were on USC head coach Pete Carroll’s staff as assistants last year. Their insider knowledge on the Trojans’ program, and USC quarterback Matt Barkley’s shoulder injury, might make this a closer than expected game. USC beat No. 8 Ohio State 18-15 in Columbus last week, and UW won its first game since 2007, defeating Idaho 42-23. UW’s dual threat quarterback Jake Locker is No. 14 in the nation in total offense with 321.5 yards per game. Washington will need all that and more if it hopes to defeat powerful USC.

Key Stat: 56. USC put a whopping 56 points while shutting out Washington last year.

SMU at Washington State, 2 p.m.

After a 38-20 loss to Hawaii last weekend that wasn’t as close as the score indicates, Washington State’s best shot at a win this year might come this weekend. SMU finished 1-11 last year, but has opened this season 2-0. Cougars quarterback Kevin Lopina has been benched in favor of Marshall Lobbestael in an effort get something going offensively. WSU also was saddled with several injuries last week.

Key Stat: 277. SMU is No. 17 in the nation in passing offense with 277 yards per game. WSU is last in the conference in passing defense. It will need to shore up the secondary to get a win.

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