No. 8 California @ Minnesota (+14)
It seems like every year Cal has a host of talented skill position players that always put up nice numbers. The problem is that never seems to translate into a full season of victories. This year is shaping up in similar fashion and this weekend’s game against Minnesota will be their first real test.
Minnesota has a nice team with an experienced and talented quarterback in Adam Weber. His favorite target is Eric Decker, the nation’s third leading receiver. However, through two games, Minnesota has struggled heavily against two seemingly mediocre teams. If they don’t pick things up against Cal, things could get ugly real quick.
I expect another huge game out of Cal stars Kevin Riley and Jahvid Best. Minnesota should be able to hang around through most of the first half, but expect the Golden Bears to run away with this one in the second half and record their third blowout victory in as many games.
Pick: California, 48-20
No. 3 USC @ Washington (+18.5)
Gee, I wish there was an interesting storyline to write about for this game. I mean, is anyone really interested that USC’s quarterback is hurt? The same quarterback who carved himself a spot in the history books after leading his team on a memorable drive last weekend to beat Ohio State in “The Horseshoe.” Oh, and he’s a true freshman who was making just his second career start!
Kidding aside, it’s starting to look more and more like freshman sensation Matt Barkley will have to watch from the sideline as Aaron Corp leads the Trojans into their first conference game of the season. Corp probably feels that he is finally getting what he deserves after losing his starting job due to a freak injury right before the season. Either way, I don’t expect USC’s offense to miss a beat. Running back Joe McKnight is phenomenal and given that Corp hasn’t played a snap and Barkley can barely raise his arm, I think the game plan will be designed to run through him.
On defense, the question is will Taylor Mays, USC’s fearsome safety, be able to play after injuring his knee last weekend? My guess is yes. Mays is from Seattle and will do anything to play in this game. Plus the man is a competitor and as tough as they come. I would be shocked if he wasn’t ready to go on Saturday.
Washington has played very well so far, losing a tough game to LSU, followed by a rout of Idaho. USC, as we all know, is a completely different animal, however. Quarterback Jake Locker is as talented as they come and his combination of passing skill and hard-nosed running ability has led many to compare him to Tim Tebow. Quite frankly he’s going to need to play like Tebow if the Huskies are going to have any chance in this game. Unfortunately, either way I don’t think it will be enough. Trojans roll.
Pick: USC, 38-13
No. 18 Utah @ Oregon (-4)
Oregon’s having a great season so far, aren’t they? Starting running back LeGarrette Blount was suspended for the season after he sucker-punched an opposing player and tried to go after some fans in their Week One loss. The Ducks followed that debacle by squeaking out a victory against a mediocre Purdue team. Oregon is going to have to turn it up a notch if they want to compete on Saturday, because as we all saw last season, Utah doesn’t get intimidated by anyone.
The Utes come in to this game after two solid, if not unspectacular, victories against fairly easy opponents. Their “tune-up” games, against Utah State and San Jose State, were a little tougher than some of the ones scheduled by other top 25 teams, but nonetheless, Saturday will be their first true test of the season. Running back Matt Asiata and quarterback Terrence Cain are the nucleus of a talented Utah offense that always seems to be able to move the ball well.
Oregon definitely has the advantage playing this game at home and they certainly have more riding on it. However, with the way their season is going right now, I’m predicting Utah to continue its unbeaten streak and beat the Ducks in a game that goes down to the wire.
Pick: Utah, 27-23
Arizona @ Iowa (-5.5)
This game should be one of the best of the weekend. Arizona turned some heads with its Week One domination of Central Michigan. Iowa also made headlines week one, but for a different reason. The Hawkeyes barely escaped a battle with Northern Iowa and only because they were able to block two potentially game winning field goals.
Neither team has yet to play an opponent as good as the other so far in this young season, which is why I expect this game to be very competitive. Offensively, Arizona is looking impressive. New quarterback Matt Scott is slowly making the Tucson faithful forget about the Willie Tuitama days and running back Nic Grigsby (the nation’s second leading rusher) is an absolute beast. The Wildcats offense will get even more potent when TE Rob Gronkowski returns from his back injury (however, it’s not looking like that will be this week).
Iowa’s offense got back on track last week against rival Iowa State, led by Junior quarterback Ricky Stanzi who threw a career high four touchdown passes.
This matchup of the Pac-10 and Big-10 may not be a Rose Bowl preview, however given the talent these two teams have it should be a very interesting game. I know Iowa is favored at home, but I really like the way the Wildcats look this year. I expect a big game from Grigsby on the ground as Arizona pulls out a win late.
Pick: Arizona, 23-20
Southern Methodist @ Washington State (+6.5)
Things don’t get any easier for Washington State. After this weekend’s game against a feisty SMU team their schedule is an absolute disaster. Starting next weekend, they have road games at USC, Cal and Notre Dame all before the end of October. Not to be all doom-and-gloom, but if the Cougars can’t figure out a way to win this game, they might not get another chance the rest of the year.
SMU coach June Jones is a fantastic recruiter who knows how to find players to fit his system. He completely transformed Hawaii’s football program when he took over there, and he’s starting to put his stamp on the Mustangs now as well. Sophomore quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell is a young but talented spread offense quarterback who is capable of putting up huge numbers. Keeping him in check is going to be the key if the Cougars are going to have a chance in this game.
In the end, I just don’t think Washington State has enough talent, on either side of the ball, the hang with the high scoring Mustangs for four quarters. Looks like it’s going to be another long season in Pullman, WA.
Pick: SMU, 38-24
No. 17 Cincinnati @ Oregon State (+1)
This game should be extremely exciting. Cincinnati has been rolling over opponents, racking up 117 total points in their first two games (behind only the Florida Gators who have scored 118). Oregon State, however, is a very good football team on both sides of the ball. Playing the game in Corvallis is also a big advantage for the Beavers as they have won 26 straight non-conference home games there.
Cincinnati’s offense is extremely talented and they have proven this with huge wins over Rutgers and SE Missouri State. Quarterback Tony Pike is fourth in the country in passer efficiency so far and leading receiver Mardy Gillyard is a stud. Getting contributions from the rest of the offense will be the key to Cincinnati escaping Beaver Stadium with a win.
Oregon State’s offense is no slouch themselves. Led by running back Jacquizz Rodgers and his brother, wide receiver James Rodgers, Oregon State can move the ball against any team. Jacquizz, or “Quiz” as he is often called, is one of the most talented running backs in all of college football. Only a sophomore, Quiz’s name is already starting to sneak up when people talk about potential breakout Heisman candidates. This game could launch him into that discussion if he goes off on a Bearcat defense that has been extremely tough so far.
In the end, as much as I like the Beavers, I think Cincinnati’s offense will be too tough to slow down for an entire game. Expect this one to be high scoring, but Cincy should be able to fly home with the victory.
Pick: Cincinnati, 42-31
San Jose State @ Stanford (-17.5)
After starting the season with back-to-back road games, the Stanford Cardinal and coach Jim Harbaugh finally get to play one on their home field. It should be an entertaining game for the home crowd, too, as San Jose State, despite hanging in with Utah till late last week, should be overmatched against Stanford.
Freshman quarterback Andrew Luck has put up nice numbers in his first two college games and should have his best performance yet this Saturday. On the ground, the Cardinal have a talented running back in Toby Gerhart who rushed for 1,136 yards and 15 touchdowns last season.
Through two games, the Spartans offense has been pretty lackluster albeit against two tough defenses. They are going to need to get their ground game going early to take some of the pressure off of junior quarterback Jordan La Secla.
This game should be a nice home opener for Stanford who I don’t expect to have much trouble with the Spartans.
Pick: Stanford, 34-13
LA-Monroe @ Arizona State (-19)
Both of these offenses put up at least 50 points last week and I expect the scoring to continue this week…at least for one of the teams.
Arizona State played their first game without Rudy Carpenter last weekend, and his former backup, Danny Sullivan, played well in his debut as the starter. He had a lot of help, however, from linebacker Mike Nixon who had an amazing game. The senior finished with three interceptions (one returned for a touchdown) and a blocked punt. Sullivan is going to have to prove he can consistently play well if Arizona State is going to compete in the talented Pac-10 this year.
Louisiana-Monroe quarterback Trey Revell put on a fantastic show last weekend, completing 17 of his 19 passes for 238 yards and two touchdowns. He’s going to have to display the same kind of accuracy for his team to hang with the Sun Devils in what should still be a hot and dry day in Tempe.
In the end, I think the Sun Devils will have too much firepower for the Warhawks to keep up. I expect ASU to cover the spread at home.
Pick: Arizona State, 44-17
Kansas State @ UCLA (-12)
The UCLA Bruins will look to build on the momentum they established by going into Knoxville and beating Lane Kiffin and the Tennessee Volunteers last weekend. Winning in Neyland Stadium is always difficult and the fact that UCLA was able to do it shows that coach Rick Neuheisel has the program headed in the right direction.
The one downside to the victory last weekend was the loss of starting quarterback Kevin Prince. Prince broke his jaw on a late sack and is expected to miss three-four weeks. Neuheisel has yet to announce who will start this weekend, but my guess is it will be senior quarterback and last year’s starter Kevin Craft. Craft will have to show that he’s improved, however, to stave off freshman Richard Brehaut. Whichever quarterback starts, I’m sure they will have a short leash if they start playing poorly.
The Kansas State Wildcats have played two close games this season and haven’t done much to show what kind of team they’re going to be this year. However, it was apparently enough for the school to sign coach Bill Snyder to a five-year contract extension. His first test will be trying to cool off UCLA and what is sure to be a raucous crowd in Los Angeles. Junior quarterback Carson Coffman has looked shaky at best in his two starts since taking over for the departed Josh Freeman. He is going to need to play his best game so far if the Wildcats want to hang around in this one.
I think this game stays close through the first half, but I think toward the end, UCLA will pull away. Rick Neuheisel will have his team ready to go and Norm Chow will devise a scheme that will allow the offense to succeed, regardless of who is playing quarterback.
Pick: UCLA, 31-17