PAC-10 FOOTBALL THIS WEEK

Pac-10 teams to stay grounded

2010-09-15T00:00:00Z 2014-07-08T16:12:02Z Pac-10 teams to stay groundedPatrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
September 15, 2010 12:00 am  • 

Before he ever interviewed for the University of Minnesota's vacant head coaching position three years ago, Lane Kiffin went to high school in nearby Bloomington.

So he knows about Big Ten football and the stereotypes West Coast fans might have about the league's grind-it-out style.

"There's a little bit of it," he said. "There used to be a lot of it."

But when three Pac-10 teams play Big Ten squads Saturday, the ground game will be up and running.

The same is true for almost every other Pac-10 foe. Seven of the nation's top 25 rushing teams are playing against Pac-10 teams this week.

"The people still have that perception in their mind about how certain conferences play," Oregon State coach Mike Riley said. "But the reality of it is, if you look at Michigan, that's not your grandfather's Michigan playing that spread offense and going up and down the field.

"I think it's a lot of perception."

First, the historical runners: Arizona faces Iowa, the nation's No. 25 rushing team. Arizona State draws Wisconsin, No. 17 in the nation on the ground, and USC plays at Minnesota, ranked No. 18 in rushing.

"They are physical," ASU coach Dennis Erickson said of the Badgers. "That's the best way to describe them. They've got All-Americans all over that line."

But not all great rushing teams fit the stereotype.

Stanford's foe, Wake Forest, is ranked No. 4 on the ground, averaging 322 yards per game. Houston, ranked 23rd in rushing, plays UCLA in the Rose Bowl.

And then there's Nevada. Its pistol offense led the nation in rushing last season and is now ranked sixth.

Cal started teaching the pistol - think shotgun, but with a shorter snap and halfback behind the quarterback - to its scout team on Sunday.

"It's a little unconventional, there's no doubt about that," coach Jeff Tedford said. "To simulate it with the speed and precision in which Reno runs their offense is difficult to do. They're so good at what they do."

Nebraska, which will leave the Big 12 for the Big Ten next year, is the nation's third-best running team, averaging 324.5 yards per game. The Cornhuskers, No. 8 in the AP poll, play Saturday in Seattle and might provide the biggest obstacle for any Pac-10 team this week.

"You caution playing too many of these real physical teams" for fear of injury, UW coach Steve Sarkisian said. Still, the toughness needed to stop a rushing attack tells a coach a lot about his team.

"It gets you prepared for some of the games down the road," Sarkisian said.

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