Pac-10 Predictions: Week Five
UCLA @ Stanford (-5)
Stanford made a nice statement last weekend by defeating the then 24th ranked Washington Huskies. Redshirt freshman quarterback Andrew Luck has looked very impressive so far this season, however, he wasn't asked to do much last week.
Instead of beating the Huskies through the air, the Cardinal turned to senior running back Toby Gerhart who ran for a career high 200 yards and a touchdown.
Luck threw just 14 times as the Cardinal controlled the game with the dominance of Gerhart and a fantastic defensive effort that held the Huskies scoreless after halftime. Sophomore safety Delano Howell had two interceptions and the Cardinal are starting to make a strong case for themselves in the Pac-10 this year.
Coming off a bye week, UCLA is looking to prove themselves against the favored Cardinal. Unfortunately for Rick Neuheisel and co. they will still be without the services of starting quarterback Kevin Prince who has a broken jaw.
Once again, the task of moving the offense will fall into the hands of backup (and 2008 starter) Kevin Craft. Craft played well in UCLA's victory over Stanford last season, throwing for 285 yards and two touchdowns. I'm sure UCLA fans are hoping for a repeat performance this weekend.
Overall, Stanford seems to have the edge, both in talent and in health right now. I expect UCLA to keep this game close, but Stanford should be able to pull away in the fourth quarter.
Pick: Stanford, 23-17
Washington @ Notre Dame (-13)
For the second time in three weeks, the Huskies get the opportunity to play "giant killers." However, if they are able to take down Notre Dame on Saturday, they may in fact, kill Charlie Weis' tenure as head coach of the Fighting Irish.
Quarterback Jake Locker is starting to receive national attention for his play and is moving up on NFL draft boards everywhere. A big game from him here could do wonders for him come April.
Locker's counterpart on Saturday, Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen, is also starting to show his talent. After a few years of question marks, Clausen is starting to show the talent and poise that made him the number one recruit in the country coming out of high school (in a class that included Locker).
The fact that this game will be played in South Bend definitely gives the Irish an advantage but I think a 13-point spread is still incredibly generous. Besides their 35 point blowout of Nevada in week one, the Irish have had every game decided by four points or less.
Steve Sarkisian will have his team fired up to play and with Notre Dame missing star receiver Michael Floyd, it should be a close game. I think the Irish win but the Huskies should cover the spread.
Pick: Notre Dame, 33-24
Oregon State @ Arizona State (-5)
Eventually I'm going to pick Oregon State to win and they will actually win right? I mean, it has to happen sometime.
After allowing the Arizona Wildcats to come into Corvallis and beat them with a brand new starting quarterback, the Beavers have to make some changes. Offensively the talent is there, but they haven't been able to put together a complete game since their opening day win against Portland State.
The Sun Devils have to feel good about where their program is, even though they too, lost last weekend. Quarterback Danny Sullivan put on a regrettable performance in Athens completing only 10 of his 32 passes for 116 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
Despite the loss, the Sun Devils played the No. 21 Georgia Bulldogs tough the whole game and showed that they can compete with high caliber teams.
I am still not sold on the Sun Devils this year though. Sullivan has yet to convince me that he can win a game with his arm. I'm also clinging to my faith in the Beavers...if only for one more week.
I think Oregon State shows up to play in this game and starts their patented midseason run. If they lose this weekend...clear the road because I'm jumping off the bandwagon.
Pick: Oregon State, 31-20
No. 7 USC @ No. 24 California (+4.5)
With the events of this week involving USC running back Stafon Johnson, it is hard to talk about this game as being "incredibly important."
It appears, as of now, that Johnson is doing well after undergoing intense surgery on his throat and doctors are expecting him to make a full recovery. Wonderful news considering how dangerous his accident was (Johnson was bench pressing when the bar slipped from his hand, landing on his throat).
On the football field, however, this game is incredibly important to both teams.
Another early season loss for USC would have fans and media start asking some questions that haven't been heard for a while around USC football teams.
Quarterback Matt Barkley appears healthy after a shoulder injury sidelined him during USC's loss to Washington two weeks ago. USC will look for him to have a big game against a Cal defense that was torched last week by Oregon quarterback, Jeremiah Masoli.
Another loss for Cal, following their embarrasing 42-3 defeat at Oregon last weekend, would all but eliminate them from a potential Rose Bowl appearance. Jahvid Best's Heisman campaign came to a screeching halt last weekend, as did Kevin Riley's draft stock. Jeff Tedford is going to have his hands full devising a gameplan to beat the talented Trojans.
When the smoke clears on Saturday I think USC will be the team left standing. If they ever had motivation to go out and play to their full potential, it's now. Good coaches have a way of rallying their teams in times of chaos or tragedy. Expect the Trojans to show up in full force on Saturday.
Pick: USC, 38-23
Washington State @ No. 16 Oregon (-32)
Wow. That's all you can say about the Ducks absolute dismantling of the California Golden Bears last weekend. Honestly, who saw that coming? Either way, the Ducks showed that despite their early season troubles, they haven't given up on 2009.
Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, who had been playing poorly leading up to last week, dazzled the Oregon faithful, completing 21 of his 25 passes for 253 yards. He also tied his career high in touchdown passes with three. A repeat performance this weekend seems in the cards against a Washington State pass defense that leaves much to be desired.
If you are looking for an interesting story line for this game, then look no farther than Washington State's new starting quarterback Jeff Tuel. Tuel will become the first true freshman to start a game at quarterback for the Cougars since 1990 when some guy named Drew Bledsoe was handed the reigns.
Cougar fans can only hope that Tuel will have the same success that Bledsoe had in his career, but for now I'm sure they would be pleased with just some positive play. At the very least, the guy has a great nickname from his fans already..."Tuel Time."
While Oregon has shown that they are, still, a very talented football team, I think that the Cougars will cover the spread this week. Call it a hunch, but I think Tuel will give Washington State fans some hope, albeit, in yet another big loss.
Pick: Oregon, 43-17
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