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Pac-12 notes: Home teams don’t fare well in conference

UCLA’s Ka’imi Fairbairn, center, reacts after missing field goal against Utah. (Associated Press)
UCLA’s Ka’imi Fairbairn, center, reacts after missing field goal against Utah. (Associated Press)

PULLMAN – Sports are inherently uncertain, that’s what makes them interesting. But it’s a widely accepted fact that it is an advantage to play any contest in your home stadium in front of a supportive crowd.

“I think there’s a home-field advantage – there always is,” said WSU coach Mike Leach during Tuesday’s Pac-12 coaches teleconference. “It’s just kind of the energy and the convenience of playing at home.”

However, so far this season the road teams have had the advantage in Pac-12 games, going 14-4 despite often entering the game as considerable underdogs. This past weekend USC won at No. 10 Arizona, Washington won at Cal and Oregon won at UCLA.

The week before that no home teams won with a couple big upsets as Arizona won at Oregon and Utah took down UCLA.

“Maybe there’s a psychological element when you go on the road you close ranks a little, that sense of mission maybe helps you a little bit,” UCLA coach Jim Mora said. “But that just doesn’t seem logical to any of us that are used to the home-field advantage thing.”

The Cougars have always had a little “road warrior” to them under Leach. Four of WSU’s last five Pac-12 wins have come away from Martin Stadium.

Buffaloes getting better

Colorado may not be winning Pac-12 games yet but at least the Buffaloes are becoming competitive, taking Oregon State to the wire a week after losing to California in double overtime.

“I think everybody sees it, I definitely see it,” Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre said. “I think we have really improved.”

The fact that the improvement comes while a young team gets used to college football is encouraging for the team’s future. According to MacIntyre 17 of the 22 players that regularly see time on defense are underclassmen.

“We’ve got to be the youngest team in America on defense,” he said.The fact that productive quarterback Sefo Liufau is only a sophomore also bodes well for the future. Of course, convincing star receiver Nelson Spruce to stick around another season may be the only way the offense gets better next year.

Fisher returns for Ducks

Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is likely the best player in the Pac-12 if not all of college football but left tackle Jake Fisher has proven to be nearly as important for the Ducks.

Fisher went down with a knee injury in the UO’s win over Wyoming and without him the Ducks offensive line became entirely unable to protect its prized quarterback, giving up 12 sacks in two games.

But the left tackle returned in time for Oregon’s critical matchup with UCLA and the offensive line gave up zero sacks in the 42-30 victory.

Oregon coach Mark Helfrich acknowledged the boost Fisher gives his offense on Tuesday, while adding that the senior isn’t yet where the Ducks will need him to be this week against a Washington defensive front that is No. 3 in the country in sacks per game.

“He was good, he wasn’t – he didn’t win the Outland Trophy last week.” Helfrich said. “He was good, you could definitely see that he had some rust as far as getting back into full-speed mode against a very good team and it’s a different challenge this week.”

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