Pac-10 Predictions: Week Six

Brad Vipperman@TeamVip33Correspondent IOctober 7, 2009

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 03: Jake Locker #10 of the Washington Huskies breaks away from Brian Smith #58 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on October 3, 2009 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

No. 13 Oregon @ UCLA (+3.5)

The Ducks are back in a big way. After their seemingly crippling loss in week one to Boise State, the Ducks seemed destined to be a team that would go 7-5 and finish behind “juggernauts” USC and Cal in the Pac-10. Now, just five weeks later, they look like the front-runner alongside surprising Stanford.

Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli has been on fire the last few weeks and has completely transformed Oregon’s offense into a scoring machine. His status for Saturday, however, is somewhat in question after he left last week’s game in the second quarter with a knee injury. The injury occurred with his team leading 35-0, leaving many to wonder if he should have been pulled earlier. Backup quarterback Nate Costa played well in relief, albeit against an extremely over-matched Cougars team.

UCLA will look to bounce back this weekend after receiving a tough loss at the hand of the Stanford Cardinal last Saturday. Kevin Craft is projected to be the starting quarterback for the Bruins again this week as opening-day starter Kevin Prince continues to recover from a broken jaw. Craft, head coach Rick Neuheisel, and offensive coordinator Norm Chow will have their hands full trying to score against an Oregon defense that has only given up nine points in their past two games.

Quite frankly, I think the spread on this game is more concerned about the health of Masoli than the threat of a UCLA upset. In fact, this was the last Pac-10 spread to post as oddsmakers scrambled to come up with a line that would draw action on both sides. 

As of this posting, it appears that Nate Costa will be the starting quarterback for Oregon, although I am not ruling out the chance that Masoli does play. However, if he does not, that certainly gives UCLA a much bigger opportunity to upset the No. 13 Ducks. Either way, however, I think Oregon is a team on a mission right now and they will find a way to win. If Masoli plays, it’ll be by double digits…without him, should be a close one.

Pick: Oregon, 24-20

Arizona State @ Washington State (+21)

Poor Washington State. You can’t help but just feel sorry for this team. It doesn’t feel like that long ago they were competitive and had players that were making NFL scouts drool. Jeff Tuel, a true freshman making his first career start last weekend against Oregon, only managed to throw two passes before being knocked out of the game by a hard sack and resulting hip pointer.

With the man the Cougars were counting on to breathe some life into their anemic offense sidelined in the first quarter, Washington State turned the offense over to Marshall Lobbestael who managed only 48 yards passing and two interceptions on 13 attempts. He did, however, score the Cougars only touchdown on a one yard run.

Arizona State also enters this game on a sour note after losing to Oregon State last weekend in Tempe. Quarterback Danny Sullivan, despite throwing for 338 yards, was the source of much discontent among Sun Devil fans and his hold on the starting quarterback job may be beginning to slip.

Sullivan was booed often by Sun Devil fans and chants for freshman quarterback Brock Osweiler could be heard throughout the second half. Head coach Dennis Erickson announced at his weekly press conference that Sullivan would be the starter this weekend, but that Osweiler could see some action as well.

A game against the porous Washington State defense may be just what Danny Sullivan needs to secure his job a bit more and gain some confidence heading into next weekend’s crucial battle at home against Washington. That 21-point spread may seem high but the Sun Devils could eclipse that by halftime against the Cougars atrocious pass defense.

Pick: Arizona State, 45-17

Stanford @ Oregon State (-1)

After three straight home games (all wins) the Stanford Cardinal head up to Corvallis to take on Oregon State. Stanford is starting to turn some heads in the college football world with their talent on both sides of the ball. The star that has shinned the brightest so far, however, has been running back Toby Gerhart.

Gerhart had another monster day last weekend against UCLA racking up 134 yards on the ground and three touchdowns. If you watch him play, you can’t help but be impressed with his patience and vision as a runner. Getting him going against Oregon State has to be a top priority for the Cardinal to take some of the pressure off of freshman quarterback Andrew Luck.

Oregon State finally won a game last week against a decent opponent. After disappointing performances in back to back weeks against Cincinnati and Arizona, the Beavers came out firing against the Sun Devils. Running back Jacquizz Rodgers ran for 81 yards and two touchdowns, while his brother James had 10 receptions for 114 yards and a touchdown.

I truly expect this to be a close game and for it to come down to the fourth quarter. The Beavers are traditionally very good at home but I really like what Jim Harbaugh has going on at Stanford this year. I think the Cardinal pull out their fourth win in a row behind the running of dark-horse Heisman candidate, Toby Gerhart.

Pick: Stanford, 26-23

Arizona @ Washington (+3)

What a game the Huskies had last weekend in South Bend. As a fan of college football you couldn’t ask for anything more. As a Washington fan, I guess all you could ask for would be “one more yard.” Notre Dame’s defense held the Huskies on what seemed to be an endless amount of goal line plays, to give their offense a chance to tie the game and send it to overtime.

This shouldn't detract from the performance of the Huskies the rest of the game. Jake Locker is the real deal and he is going to make a lot of money playing on Sundays in the very near future. New head coach Steve Sarkisian looks like he has complete control of the sideline and the future is very bright for the Huskie faithful.

Arizona fans also seem to think that things are looking up after the surprising, and excellent, play of sophomore quarterback Nick Foles. Foles replaced Matt Scott in the starting lineup in the Wildcats last game against Oregon State and led them to a huge victory and re-energized the Wildcat fans.

Foles was tremendous against the Beavers, throwing for 254 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. The key for Arizona will be if he can put on a repeat performance against a defense that has had a week to scout him and view tape of his game. The Wildcats also received some good news this week when star running back Nic Grigsby was given the go-ahead to play against the Huskies. Having him in the backfield should make Foles even more comfortable and give the Wildcats another dimension to their offense.

Overall, I understand the hype coming out of Tucson but quite frankly I don’t understand how they are road favorites against Washington. The Huskies have been involved in some huge games this year against some quality opponents (LSU, USC and Notre Dame) whereas Arizona has only played Iowa and Oregon State.

I think the Huskies will take this Saturday to show that while they may still be a year or so away from being able to consistently beat the big boys, they can take care of business against mid-level opponent.

Pick: Washington, 34-23