Week 1 Fearless Predictions - Pac-12, Part 2

Posted Aug 26, 2013

Week 1 Fearless Predictions & Analysis - Pac-12, Part 2

Week 1
- Northwestern at California
- Boise State at Washington
- Nevada at UCLA
- Rest of the Pac-12, Part 1
- Rest of the Pac-12, Part 2

USC (0-0) at Hawaii (0-0) Aug. 29, 11:00, CBS Sports Network

Why You Should Give A Hoot: USC kicks off a crossroads season for head coach Lane Kiffin at Aloha Stadium versus old friend Norm Chow. The Trojans are eager to get back to work after last season's 7-6 disaster that essentially got Kiffin placed on probation. Naturally, there's an abundance of talent at Troy, but there's also an equal number of question marks, especially as the post-Matt Barkley era begins behind center. Chow won just three games in his Hawaii debut, though the Warriors did win the final two games of 2012. While eight returning starters on both sides of the ball ought to signal improvement, a nasty first-half schedule will likely prevent progress from appearing in the standings.
Why USC Might Win: The Trojans not only enjoy a substantial edge in talent, but last season's collapse guarantees that they'll remain motivated against a weaker opponent as well. New defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast has spent the offseason crafting an attacking group that pressures from all angles. LB Morgan Breslin and ends Leonard Williams and George Uko will school a troubled Hawaii O-line for all 60 minutes, generating sacks, errant throws and turnovers.
Why Hawaii Might Win: The Warriors are a year older, improved behind center and just outside Honolulu, where they do their best work. Chow is pumped about the upside of QB Taylor Graham, a hard-throwing 6-5, 235-pound transfer from Ohio State. Graham will want to challenge a USC secondary that's getting overhauled, particularly the cornerbacks. Hawaii won't hesitate to use rookie receivers, as it looks for threats on the outside.

Who To Watch Out For: Chow fired offensive coordinator Aaron Price at the beginning of the month, testament to the chaos that Hawaii is currently enduring. Chow is likely to call plays and handle the position.

- So who replaces Barkley at USC? Sophomore Cody Kessler has had the best offseason, and he'll look to carry that momentum through the month of September as he learns on the job. However, Max Wittek will be getting his chances, too. The situation is still unsettled.

- Marqise Lee is the unquestioned star of the USC offense, but fellow WR Nelson Agholor is on the tarmac and preparing for liftoff in 2013. The sophomore is the next big thing at the position for the Trojans.

- Yeah, Silas Redd is the energized leader of the USC backfield, but rookie Justin Davis is a budding superstar at the position. The 6-1, 215-pounder might only carry the ball seven or eight, but don't be shocked if produces 65 yards and a couple of scores.

- Troy would love to jump all over Hawaii, building the kind of lead that allows the staff to work on its questionable depth before the schedule stiffens.

What Will Happen: At least for one week, Kiffin can breathe a little sigh of relief. USC figures to have few problems with a Hawaii team still very much in transition. The two storylines will be the new Trojans' quarterback and the newly-configured defense. Pendergast's first outing will be resounding success, with his defenders flying all over the field to create mayhem and shut down the Warriors' sputtering attack.
Prediction: USC 40 … Hawaii 13
Line: USC -22.5
Must See Rating: (5 Hard Knocks – 1 ‘N Sync at VMAs) … 2.5

Utah State (0-0) at Utah (0-0) Aug. 29, 8:00, Fox Sports 1

Why You Should Give A Hoot: Utah has played the role of the big brother in this century-old rivalry, but the pendulum has begun to shift in the Beehive State.

The Utes have largely dominated over the span of 110 games, but Utah State has narrowed the divide, snapping a 12-game slide with last September's thrilling overtime win. The Aggies are coming off a school-best 11-win campaign that included a WAC championship. But staying hot comes with challenges in 2013, including a move to a much tougher Mountain West and the start of the Matt Wells regime now that Gary Andersen is the head coach of Wisconsin.

Utah has been humbled thus far in its promotion to the Pac-12, going 13-12 in its two years in a new conference. Last season, the Utes slipped to 5-7 and missed a bowl game for the first time in a decade. Head coach Kyle Whittingham enters his ninth year in Salt Lake City with plenty of unanswered questions and a sense of urgency to bounce back after last season's unacceptable results.

Why Utah State Might Win: While the Aggies might not erupt on offense, they'll still outscore the Utes. Chuckie Keeton is the best quarterback in this game, a couple of grades higher than young Ute Travis Wilson. Plus, Utah State returns its entire O-line, led by potential next-level blockers Tyler Larsen and Eric Schultz. On defense, the Aggies are vastly underrated and unwilling to take a backseat to this week's host.
Why Utah Might Win: Yeah, a bunch of key players, like NT Star Lotulelei and DE Joe Kruger, are gone, but the Utes' D always seem to find a way. It's a scrappy bunch of defenders, with all-star contenders at each level. DE Trevor Reilly, LB Brian Blechen and FS Eric Rowe are the cornerstones of a unit that's going to be especially feisty versus the run. With an entire offseason to prepare, Utah ought to be ready.

Who To Watch Out For: Who replaces 1,500-yard rusher Kerwynn Williams for Utah State? Next in line is junior Joe Hill, who has sizable shoes to fill in Logan.

- Welcome back to the Pac-12, Dennis Erickson. The former head man at Arizona State and Oregon State will be coaching his first game as Utah's co-offensive coordinator.

- Besides Reilly, that stout Utah State O-line will need to neutralize DT Tenny Palepoi, a powerful Ute looking to make a statement in his senior year.

- Four Aggies caught five touchdown passes in 2012. All have graduated. Who steps up to become Keeton's favorite target this season?

- Utah RB Kelvin York is a man on a mission this year. The 5-11, 220-pound downhill runner is out to prove he's NFL timber after being hamstrung by injuries in his debut out of Fullerton (Calif.) College.

What Will Happen: Utah has home field advantage and a far more experienced staff. Utah State has Keeton. Edge, Aggies. No. 16 is that much of a difference-maker, a game-changer behind center who can quiet a rowdy crowd. With the outcome hanging in the balance, he'll deliver key plays, while Wilson won't. Utah State is a veteran squad that matured exponentially after taking down the Utes a year ago.
Prediction: Utah State 24 … Utah 20
Line: Utah -3
Must See Rating: (5 Hard Knocks – 1 ‘N Sync at VMAs) … 3