Pac-10 Predictions: Week Nine
No. 24 Cal @ Arizona State (+6.5)
Arizona State did not look good last week against Stanford. Not only did the Sun Devils lose by three scores, but they also looked uninspired doing it. Stanford was able to rush for four touchdowns on the day and a total of 237 yards (125 of them by Toby Gerhart). This does not bode well for ASU as they enter a contest with Cal, and one of the nation's most electric running backs, Jahvid Best.
Against the Washington State Cougars last week, Jahvid Best ran for 159 yards and two touchdowns at an incredible 12.2 yard per carry clip. Backup Shane Vereen added 66 yards and his own touchdown as Cal racked up 309 yards rushing against the hapless Cougars.
To me, this game pits two teams headed in opposite directions against each other. Cal, after a horrifying slump to start its Pac-10 schedule has rebounded nicely. There is undeniable talent on this roster and it looks like the Bears are starting to come together.
ASU, on the other hand, looks to be filled with uncertainty. Quarterback Danny Sullivan's job security seems about as perilous as Jake Delhomme's and injuries have hampered the team's effectiveness.
As far as the spread on this one goes, I like Cal all the way. ASU is tough at home and has some talent, I just think that Cal, as a team, is in a much better place right now and it'll show on the scoreboard on Saturday.
Pick: Cal, 34-20
UCLA @ Oregon State (-9.5)
UCLA will have more than one fight going on when the Bruins travel to Corvallis on Saturday. Aside from fighting the talented Oregon State Beavers, UCLA will be having a fight for its quarterback of the future.
After struggling through most of the season, freshman quarterback Kevin Prince will yield some playing time this week to fellow freshman Richard Brehaut.
This move is no surprise, and no guarantee of a quarterback change. As it stands, the situation reminds me a lot of the Derek Anderson/Brady Quinn debate in Cleveland. Two under-performing quarterbacks fighting amongst each other for the right to lose games.
Until one of them stakes their claim by performing well on the field, I am going to continue to think this way.
Oregon State put up a fantastic show last week against the mighty Trojans, even in a losing effort. Despite USC entering the game with a top-10 defense, Oregon State was able to put up an incredible 482 yards and 36 points.
Quarterback Sean Canfield led the way with his 329 yards passing, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Running back Jacquizz Rodgers chipped in with 113 yards and a touchdown on the ground on twenty carries.
I think Oregon State will cover the spread fairly easily in this game and cruise to a double-digit win. Oregon State is tough at home and with all the offensive uncertainty for UCLA I think the Beavers will jump out early, then ride Quizz Rodgers the rest of the way.
Pick: Oregon State, 34-17
Washington State @ No. 23 Notre Dame (-27.5)
Look at that . I was one-point off picking the final score of last week's Washington State game. Although they were still crushed by Cal, a glimmer of hope shone threw the final score for the Cougars.
Freshman quarterback Jeff Tuel, making his third straight start, had the best game of his young career going, 28-for-42 for 354 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He'll certainly get another chance to throw the ball this weekend as his team will be down early. That, coupled with the fact that Notre Dame's pass defense isn't exactly "stingy", and Tuel could be in-line for another 300 yard passing day.
After playing an incredible sixth consecutive game that saw the final score decided by seven points or less, the Fighting Irish and their fans will seemingly get to take a breath this weekend.
Outside of the Cougars fortuitous overtime victory against SMU, they have lost every game by double digits.
Notre Dame's offense, that had been on fire coming into last week, had a slight hiccup against Boston College. Despite the struggles, Jimmy Clausen continued his excellent play, throwing for 246 yards on 26 of 39 passing with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
The trick when it comes to gambling with Washington State is always trying to predict just how badly they'll be beaten. The spreads on them, like this week, are always extremely high and they've been able to cover some of them recently.
So which way to lean? The the team that can't lose by single digits or the team that can't win by double digits? If gambling was legal and I was going to throw this game in a parlay I would buy a point to bump the spread up to Washington State (+28.5) just to get that added security.
As it stands, I'm going to take Notre Dame in a blowout, but once again, the Cougars will (barely) cover the spread.
Pick: Notre Dame, 41-17
No. 5 USC @ No. 10 Oregon (+3)
Say what you want about the USC Trojans, but you can practically guarantee that any game they play in will be exciting. This weekend's collision with an Oregon Ducks team that has been on fire should be no different.
Both team's know that this game could be, barring something rather unexpected, for the Pac-10 Championship.
After dropping their season opener in horrifying fashion against Boise State, the Oregon Ducks have rattled off six straight victories. The Pac-10 has been their playground this year as well. The Ducks have won their four Pac-10 games this year by, 39, 46, 14, and 24 points.
Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli returned last week and should be healthy enough to give Oregon its best shot to beat the Trojans and make a run at the Rose Bowl. In order to get by USC though, they will need another fantastic showing from LaMichael James.
The fantastic freshman had another great day last weekend against Washington. James ran for 154 yards and two touchdowns on just 15 carries. If he can't get going, it is going to put a lot of pressure on Masoli and the Oregon receivers.
After not allowing over 15 points in the first five games, USC has given up 63 over the last two weeks (against Notre Dame and Oregon State). Luckily for the Trojans, that kid they have playing quarterback is pretty good and they've been able to score 76 points over the same period.
Matt Barkley seems to be getting better with each passing game. His propensity for helping the Trojans win close games will also be on display this weekend as this is arguably the biggest game of his young career.
The spread on this game is pretty irrelevant. Basically, I think this game will come down to which team is able to move the ball with the most consistency and win the field possession game. As tough as it is to bet against Oregon given the streak the Ducks been on, I like the Trojans in this one.
Pick: USC, 27-23
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