Can Matt Scott help the Cats keep pace with the Ducks?
Photo by David Wallace/The Arizona Republic

The Oregon Ducks are now at a point where simply winning a second consecutive Pac-10 title may be viewed as a disappointment.

The Ducks are in the driver’s seat for a berth in the BCS championship game. Does the extra incentive make them more dangerous or does the added pressure make them more vulnerable?

Vulnerable means nothing if there isn’t anybody good enough to take them down. Who has the best chance of beating Oregon for the Pac-10 crown? This week’s Survivor Rankings have the answer.

1. Oregon
2. Washington
3. Oregon State
5. Cal
6. Stanford
X. Arizona State
X. Washington State

The Beavers and Wildcats have significant injury losses. The Huskies are #2 by default but they do have wins over OSU and USC.

Cal came this close to dropping from #3 to banishment but their next three games look winnable: ASU, at one-Rodgers OSU, and at WSU. Of course, all three of those teams are looking at the Cal game as winnable too.

Stanford remains stuck in 6th because every team above them still has a crack at earning the head-to-head tiebreaker with Oregon. But, hey, they have the best tackling quarterback in the league.

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The bowl bubble watch is back and the water’s getting muddy at the bottom.

Oregon (6-0)

Stanford (5-1)
Arizona (5-1)

OSU (3-3)
Cal (3-3)
Washington (3-3)

UCLA (3-3)
ASU (2-3*)

(*ASU’s second FCS win not included.)

It is really a toss-up with all these 3-3 teams. Each of them could get hot and make the postseason, or all of them could end up 5-7 and leave the bowl bids for the MAC.

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There’s a Thursday night game this week so it’s time for a TWIT-Pac Lite:

UCLA (3-3 / 1-2) at Oregon (6-0 / 3-0)
The game is at 6 p.m. Pacific/Arizona time on ESPN and Every eye that cares about college football will be watching this game, and most of them will be rooting against the Ducks.

Who do Wildcat fans want to win?
UCLA. Not that it matters this week. Although, does anyone remember the last time Oregon played on a Thursday as the #2 team in the BCS?

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Rapid-fire thoughts from the Washington State game:

The Cougars came out of the gate fast by starting the game with an onside kick and converting a 4th down at midfield on their opening possession. There will come a time this year when Arizona needs to make equally bold moves to pull off a big win. Will the Wildcats have the courage of a 1-5 team?

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In the 2nd quarter Jeff Tuel tried to scramble but he ran into a referee and fell to the turf. As Oregon State demonstrated, you want the ref to be a blocker, not a tackler.

Speaking of Wazzu’s running Tuel, he picked up a first down with his feet on 3rd and 15 and came up just short on a 3rd-and-19 run. Through the air he converted 3rd downs of 11, 13, 12, 10 (the touchdown), and 20 yards. Add in the Ryan Katz Show from the previous week and Jake Locker has to be downright giddy about facing this pass defense.

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WSU stuffed Arizona on 4th-and-inches when the score was 21-7 early in the 4th quarter. If the Cougar running back doesn’t decide to throw the ball directly to Brooks Reed things could’ve gotten interesting, and by interesting I mean very uncomfortable.

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I have given Keenyn Crier plenty of grief so I have to give him credit this week. Pinning three punts inside the 20 is a strong showing. He could be a valuable weapon in the second half of the season if the passing game is limited.

Speaking of the limited passing game, Juron Criner dropped two passes from Matt Scott. Those two need to spend every waking moment together until they’re in sync.

Lost in the hysteria surrounding Nick Foles’ knee is the fact that Criner didn’t finish yet another game. In the Toledo and Oregon State games he had a total of 22 receptions. In the other four games he only had 11 catches.

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It was a sign of confidence when freshman cornerback Shaquille Richardson took Antoine Cason’s old uniform number. Young Shaq is off to a good start in living up to the #5 with two interceptions (and a Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Week award) in his first career start. Mr. Cason probably wouldn’t approve of giving up that 83-yard reception though.

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Just in case you were over the OSU loss, if the Cats had beaten the Beavers they would be the #6 team in the country.

In happier ranking news, it was exactly one year ago that the UA was surprisingly included in the first BCS standings. Improving on that 4-2 start and appearing in the BCS top 25 for the second straight season is a tribute to the work Mike Stoops has done and it shouldn’t be ignored.

Stoops and his staff can win even more fans if they can bring out the best in Matt Scott. What does the best Matt Scott look like?

1-0 would be a great start.

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