Pac-10 Predictions: Week Four

Brad VippermanCorrespondent ISeptember 24, 2009

BERKELEY, CA - NOVEMBER 01:  Jahvid Best #4 of the California Golden Bears runs with the ball against T.J. Ward #2 of the Oregon Ducks during an NCAA football game on November 1, 2008 at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

No. 6 California @ Oregon (+5.5)

Cal answered a lot of questions last week and in the process cemented their claim as a legitimate threat to USC’s Pac-10 supremacy. Jahvid Best is an absolute phenom at running back, and Oregon is going to have their hands full all day trying to contain him.

Kevin Riley has also shown that he can consistently put his team in a position to win. Jeff Tedford has continually proven that he is one of the best cultivators of young quarterbacks in college football today, and Riley is his most recent example.

Oregon got a huge emotional boost last week by ending Utah’s Division I-leading winning streak. They also have to be pleased by the play of freshman running back LaMichael James, who ran for 152 yards and a touchdown last week. 

Honestly, I think Cal is ready to take the next step this season. Last week’s game was their turning point. Also, Cal’s rush defense has been very good so far this year, and Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli has been awful through the air. In last year’s meeting he threw for just 44 yards and two interceptions.

I think the Golden Bears win big in Oregon.

Pick: Cal, 41-20


Arizona State @ No. 21 Georgia (-11.5)

This year’s matchup doesn’t have quite the same amount of hype as last year’s “Duel in the Desert” did. At the same time, it’ll probably make for a better game...but who cares about that, right?

All signs are pointing to the Sun Devils having a rough day in Georgia. ASU is 3-27 against top-25 opponents this decade and hasn’t beaten an SEC team (0-4). Quarterback Danny Sullivan will be playing his first road game as a starter, and Georgia’s defense will be waiting.

After losing their opening game to a talented Oklahoma State team, Mark Richt seems to have righted the ship in Athens. New quarterback Joe Cox had a fantastic day through the air last week, and his offensive weapons are far superior to Arizona State’s.

An 11.5-point spread seems a little high for Georgia, but it would be hard for me to make a case for ASU. I think Georgia takes the lead early and forces Sullivan to beat them. I don’t think he can do it.

Pick: Georgia, 34-17


Arizona @ Oregon State (-3)

Well, I picked both of these teams to win last week, and both of ‘em let me down. That being said, I think only one of them was exposed as a pretender. That team was not Oregon State.

The Beavers lost a tough game to a very talented Cincinnati team but walked away with their pride. Any time you can hold an offense as good as Cincy’s to just 28 points, you have to feel good. Quizz Rodgers is a fantastic running back and should enjoy playing against the weaker Arizona defense this week.

The Arizona Wildcats are having a tough week. After losing an uninspiring game to Iowa, the Wildcats will be turning the offense over to sophomore quarterback Nick Foles after Matt Scott played his way off the field.

I have a buddy from high school who is a U of A alum (and my unofficial “Tucson Insider”) who claims that Foles looks like Sunshine from Remember the Titans. He’s going to need to give the Wildcats offense the same shot-in-the-arm that Sunshine did if they are going to compete up in Corvallis.

All-American TE Rob Gronkowski, who has been sidelined thus far with a back injury, was declared out for the rest of the season this week too. That is a huge blow to the Wildcats offense and too bad for college football in general.

I think this spread is way too small and only a product of the loss the Beavers suffered last weekend. I think they have their way with a Wildcats team with a new quarterback and devastated morale.

Pick: Oregon State, 30-16


No. 24 Washington @ Stanford (-7.5)

Well, well, well...look who’s cracked the top 25. The Huskies have to be the feel-good story in college football right now. We’ve all heard it a thousand times, but for a team to go from winless to storming the field after upsetting USC is pretty incredible.

Steve Sarkisian has his team believing, and as we’ve seen in the NFL with Rex Ryan and the New York Jets, that makes a major difference on the field.

Quarterback Jake Locker continues to impress me with his playmaking ability and his intelligence. I think he has a big game this week against Stanford.

The Cardinal are coming off a nice win last weekend against an overmatched San Jose State team. Running back Toby Gerhart ran for 113 yards and two touchdowns as Stanford easily rolled to victory. This week should be much more difficult against a defense that held mighty USC to just 13 points.

This game will most likely prove to be the best conference game of the week, but I think the spread is way too high. In fact, I think the Huskies will ride their wave of momentum into Stanford Stadium and beat the Cardinal on their home turf. Gamblers...take the money line in this one.

Pick: Washington, 27-23


Washington State @ No. 12 USC (-45.5)

Ouch. That’s all you can say about the Trojans' shocking defeat last weekend.

Ouch to quarterback Aaron Corp, who destroyed any chance he had of ever joining the likes of Palmer, Leinart, and Sanchez in USC lore. Ouch to head coach Pete Carroll, who, for some reason, always seems to drop a “meaningless” game in September to a team with inferior talent. Ouch to the USC fanbase and alumni, who will be haunted by the face of Steve Sarkisian for years to come.

The only hope right now for USC is that Matt Barkley’s ouch (his throwing shoulder) has healed enough for him to play effectively from here on out.

Washington State showed a lot of heart last weekend and capitalized on SMU quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell’s complete collapse.

Leading the Cougars by seven with less than two minutes to go, Mitchell threw an interception deep in Cougar territory. After driving the length of the field and scoring a touchdown with just seconds remaining, the Cougars forced overtime. SMU had possession of the ball first in OT when another Mitchell interception set up the game-winning field goal for Washington State.

Last week I said that if the Cougars didn’t beat SMU, they might not win a game all year. Now that they have, I still think they’ll have a tough time with the rest of their schedule. But sometimes getting a "W" on the board can do wonders for a program.

Even with Barkley back under center, I think a 45.5-point spread is incredibly high. However, after the drubbing USC put on Washington State last year (a 69-0 massacre), anything is possible. I think USC wins big, but I don’t think they have quite enough to cover the spread in this one.

Pick: USC, 48-10


-Brad Vipperman