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Stanford coach: ASU rises from Erickson era.

Partly because the Pac-12's season lasts 14 weeks in 2013 with every school having two byes, the Week 4 schedule is unusually light.

Four teams are off this weekend, and most schools will begin conference play next week. But Saturday's only Pac-12 game might be one of the country's best matchups, with Arizona State visiting Stanford.

In the process of complimenting the Sun Devils, Stanford coach David Shaw took somewhat of a shot at the former ASU regime of Dennis Erickson, now Utah's co-offensive coordinator. "They've had talent, but they're playing so hard, so aggressive,," Shaw said, citing the program's rise "from where it was two years ago."

ASU coach Todd Graham labeled Stanford "a team that has a lot of things that we want to do, that we aspire to be. … All championship teams have an identity, and they have an identity."

The Sun Devils should be prepared for Stanford's power running game, having faced Wisconsin. Although the Cardinal's offense is considered bland, compared with the spread looks elsewhere in the Pac-12, Stanford's coaches are "extremely dynamic in their schemes," Graham said.

Colorado's unusual month

Colorado administrators are trying to reschedule last Saturday's game with Fresno State that was postponed because of the effects of flooding in Boulder. Regardless of how that's resolved, the Buffaloes will go three weeks between games.

Colorado tried to persuade California to move their meeting from Nov. 16 to this week, with both teams off Saturday. But Cal was not interested, coming off a game with Ohio State. So all the Buffs can do is make practices more physical, getting ready to resume their season Sept. 28 at Oregon State.

Rebooking the Fresno State game apparently will require cooperation from one or more other schools, juggling schedules. Nobody should feel obligated to help, Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre said, "but we're just hoping somebody does."

The Buffs spent last Saturday at Folsom Field helping to serve food to displaced families, and players provided other assistance in the community.

USC finds a quarterback

After struggling offensively in a loss to Washington State, USC made Cody Kessler the permanent starting quarterback. Coach Lane Kiffin's move produced good results in a 35-7 win over Boston College, as Kessler completed 14 passes in a row during a 15-of-17, 237-yard day.

The combination of more practice time with the No.1 offense, better performances around him and increased confidence worked for Kessler. "He was really comfortable, he was having fun, he was very loose," Kiffin said. "He really seemed different."

The Trojans, who host Utah State this week, generally responded well to the negative atmosphere in Los Angeles. "They did a great job of keeping the noise out," Kiffin said.

Attention, SEC fans

The Pac-12's showing in nonconference play this season — aside from his own team's losses to Northwestern and Ohio State — led Cal coach Sonny Dykes to rank the league in a class with any conference in the country.

"I'll probably get my house firebombed or something by saying that," Dykes added.

His gauge is the strength of the middle and lower tiers of various conferences, believing the Pac-12 compares favorably. Dykes has some credibility in judging the SEC, having worked at Kentucky. He also said the Pac-12 has improved since he was Arizona's offensive coordinator in 2009, with greater depth and better coaching.

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