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Originally published September 8, 2013 at 7:29 PM | Page modified September 8, 2013 at 7:42 PM

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Chance for Pac-12 to flex football muscles in upcoming weekend

Key intersectional games give league opportunity to show its strength.

Seattle Times college football reporter

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Put away the chaise lounges, the overstuffed pillows and the umbrella drinks. What passed for a weekend of college football in the Pac-12 gives way this week to Discovery Saturday, a day in which the league is about to find out a whole more about itself.

UCLA is at Nebraska, Wisconsin at Arizona State. Washington goes to Chicago’s Soldier Field to see if Illinois’ sudden outburst against Cincinnati is meaningful.

Ohio State is at Cal, perhaps minus Heisman Trophy-hopeful quarterback Braxton Miller because of a knee sprain. Boston College visits USC, which seeks to find a quarterback, an offense and a future. Tennessee is at Oregon, and the operative question is: Who can hold the Ducks under 50?

Meanwhile, Oregon State visits Utah in a game that appears to hold a lot of importance for both programs.

What We Learned

The Cougars weren’t kidding. There was a good deal of bravado coming out of WSU’s weekly teleconference with players last Monday. For instance, Darryl Monroe, the middle linebacker, said he expected “frustration“ from USC’s Marqise Lee, who would go against freshman cornerback Daquawn Brown.

It seemed the perfect setup for Lee to catch about 200 yards worth of balls. Instead, shockingly, the night belonged to Brown and WSU, which muscled out a 10-7 win and produced the stat of this, or any, weekend: In perfect conditions, USC’s long pass play went for eight yards.

The audacious Brown, a Dorsey High of LA grad, came home for his first start and led his team with 11 tackles.

Oregon hasn’t lost a step. True, the opponent was Virginia, a middling ACC team. But for Oregon to go three time zones east and win by seven touchdowns was impressive.

“They threw 47 passes,” Ducks defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti told The Oregonian. “Their average per attempt was 3.7 yards. Their average per completion was 5.6. That’s in a whole other stratosphere.”

There’s little on the horizon in the way of a potential roadblock to Oregon being unbeaten when it arrives at Washington Oct. 12.

Max Browne must have really been struggling. The Skyline High product was eliminated from the USC quarterback competition not too deep into August, narrowing the contest to Cody Kessler and Max Wittek.

Neither Kessler nor Wittek has done anything so far, and if USC doesn’t get its offensive malaise solved soon, you wonder if the Trojans don’t beckon Browne from a potential redshirt year on the off-chance it could save Lane Kiffin’s job.

Oregon State can throw, but not run. Sean Mannion has passed for 794 yards on 68 of 86 in two games, but OSU has failed to unleash what was assumed to be an effective ground game, and now two starters on the offensive line, Roman Sapolu and Grant Enger, have injuries of unknown severity.

Arizona can run, but not throw. ‘Zona shredded a lifeless UNLV team, 58-13, behind 397 rushing yards, but quarterback B.J. Denker passed for only 81 yards on eight of 21.

Then again, it was all moot against a Rebel outfit that at one point, sent its punt team onto the field without the punter. Patience with ex-Washington assistant Bobby Hauck is growing short in Sin City.

Deandre Coleman gets a message. Cal sneaked past Portland State, 37-30, no thanks to the ex-Garfield defensive lineman. At least that’s what Bears coach Sonny Dykes said: “Deandre Coleman has been a non-factor to this point. Deandre’s a heck of a player. He’ll play better and we’ll coach him better.”

Stanford looked like Stanford. In a three-touchdown win over San Jose State, the Cardinal held top QB David Fales to his lowest college passing total (216 yards), converted 12 of 15 third downs and committed only two penalties.

Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or bwithers@seattletimes.com


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