Week 5 – Arizona State at California

Posted Sep 26, 2012

Week 5 CFN Fearless Prediction – Arizona State at California

-CFN Fearless Predictions
Arizona State (3-1) at California (1-3) Sept. 29, 4:00, FX

Here's The Deal: It wound up landing well below the radar, but Arizona State is coming off one of its most important wins in years. Heading into last week's visit from Utah, a competitive opponent by most measures, no one really knew what the Sun Devils were all about in Todd Graham's first year. Yeah, they'd blown out Illinois, but that victory doesn't look so impressive today. And two weeks ago, it couldn't get past a Missouri team was without its quarterback, James Franklin. Yet, there was ASU, hammering the Utes, 37-7, in a rout that had to make the rest of the Pac-12 sit up and take notice. Cal has begun to circle the drain, losers of three games in four tries. The lone win came against FCS Southern Utah, and included some precarious moments. The Bears have admittedly played a tough schedule, but if they can't stop the tailspin now, it could be a long November for the team and head coach Jeff Tedford.

Why Arizona State Might Win: The Sun Devils are doing a lot of things well these days, which is going to make it tough to gameplan for them. The offense has been balanced, blending the efficient passing skills of Taylor Kelly with the eclectic running styles of D.J. Foster, Marion Grice and Cameron Marshall. The defense has been downright nasty for Graham, ranking in the top 10 nationally in sacks, tackles for loss and pass efficiency defense. The push in the front seven is coming from DT Will Sutton, Devil Carl Bradford and Spur Chris Young, making life easier for a mediocre pass defense that's already intercepted eight passes.

Why Cal Might Win: Although the record doesn't show it, the Bears showed spurts of progress in back-to-back tough road games versus ranked Ohio State and USC. The offense is home to a handful of playmakers who'll need to light a spark beneath the program as a whole. QB Zach Maynard is a veteran, with the ability to beat a defense with his legs and his arm. A deep stable of backs includes two potential starters, Isi Sofele and C.J. Anderson, and homerun-hitting sophomore Brendan Bigelow coming off the bench. And WR Keenan Allen will be better than any Sun Devils corner that covers him Saturday afternoon. Even against an improving ASU defense, Cal should be able to sustain drives.

What To Watch Out For: After yielding 14 sacks over the last two games, Cal has to figure out how to stem the tide of opposing pass rushes. It is not going to be easy against the non-stop, frenetic pressure of the Arizona State defense. The Sun Devils want to up the tempo, a concern for the lumbering and ineffective Bears blocking. This is one of those games that Tedford might want to lean a little heavier on draw plays in order to catch an over pursuing defense off guard.

What Will Happen: Based on four games of evidence, Cal has no business hanging with an improved Arizona State team. Welcome to the Pac-12, a parity-filled league that'll keep observers guessing all year. For years, the Sun Devils have struggled away from home, especially when the venue happens to be in the Golden State. The Bears will play as if their backs are against the wall, because, well, they are at this time. Cal's playmakers will come up big at a most opportune time, extending the fourth quarter drives that lead to a close win.

CFN Prediction: Cal 28 … Arizona State 24
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) Cal -2.5 O/U: 54.5
Must Watch Rating (5 – Ryder Cup 2012, 1 – SNL Thursday Weekend Update): 2.5