COLLEGE FOOTBALL GRADES
Result: Beat Utah 34-10
Comment: The coaching staff did a first-rate job of moving quarterback Zach Maynard outside the pocket with designed rollouts and runs. Not surprisingly, Maynard was more comfortable than he has looked in weeks. ...The Bears' defense posted stellar numbers, holding Utah to 13 yards rushing (and 178 total). But don't read too much into it: The Utes are floundering without injured quarterback Jordan Wynn. ... Good news for the Bears: Their next three opponents (UCLA, Washington State and Oregon State) are closer in talent and execution to Utah than they are to USC and Oregon. ... The three FBS teams Cal has beaten have a combined record of 7-16. The three teams Cal has lost to have a combined record of 17-4.
Next up: at UCLA
The matchup: The Bears are catching UCLA at an ideal time, after the embarrassing loss at Arizona, with coach Rick Neuheisel under extreme pressure and with a handful of players hurt or suspended. ... It's difficult to envision UCLA's one-dimensional attack -- it's all about the ground game -- having success against Cal's sturdy defense. But the difference between a close game and a comfortable win for the Bears is Maynard and the offense.
San Jose State
Comment: The week off helped a handful of key players, including safety Duke Ihenacho (hamstring) and tailback Brandon Rutley (ankle), get healthy for the stretch run. ... The bowl math remains unchanged from a week ago: The Spartans must win three of their last five, and only one (vs. Idaho on Nov. 5) looks to be a gimme. ... Much has been made of SJSU's improved running game, and it's infinitely better this season than at any point in the past four years. But just as integral to the Spartans' improvement is their execution on third down (a conversion rate of 42 percent, compared with 26 percent last year) and their ability to generate turnovers (tied for eighth in the country in takeaways).
Next up: at Louisiana Tech
The matchup: Always a tough trip for SJSU, which hasn't won in Ruston, La., since 1993. (Then again, the Spartans haven't won a WAC road game anywhere in nearly three years.) ... LaTech lost close games to Mississippi State and Houston and just won at Utah State. ... SJSU's assignment: Minimize mistakes, stay within range of the Bulldogs until the fourth quarter and hope for a big play or two.
Result: Beat Washington 65-21
Comment: Stanford's most dominant game of the season given the quality of competition. ... The offensive line was superb in leading the Cardinal to a school-record 446 yards rushing. Tailbacks Stepfan Taylor (138 yards) and Tyler Gaffney (117) became the first Stanford duo to rush for 100 yards in the same game since Toby Gerhart and Anthony Kimble in 2008. ... Stanford held UW to 16 points under its season average despite missing injured safety Delano Howell (hand). Free safety Michael Thomas moved into Howell's spot and made the game's biggest play: a 62-yard interception return for a touchdown. ... Stanford is lower in the BCS standings (No. 6) than the human polls because of the computers, which take strength of schedule into account.
Next up: at USC
The matchup: The Trojans are coming off a two-touchdown victory at Notre Dame and have won three in a row. ... Stanford survived last year's matchup 37-35 when Nate Whitaker converted a 30-yard field goal on the final play. ... USC's combination of quarterback Matt Barkley and receiver Robert Woods (12 catches vs. the Irish) will challenge Stanford's secondary. But will USC's defense hold its ground against the powerful Stanford running game?