Week 7 Pac-12 - Az-USC, Stan-Utah, Col-ASU

Posted Oct 9, 2013

Week 7 Fearless Predictions & Preview - Arizona at USC, Stanford at Utah, Colorado at ASU

Oregon at Washington
Cal at UCLA Oregon St at Washington State

Arizona (3-1) at USC (3-2) Oct. 10, 10:30, Fox Sports 1

Why You Should Give A Hoot: Life after Lane begins with a Thursday night visit from Arizona.

College football will no longer be able to kick around Lane Kiffin, who was fired following a 62-41 loss to Arizona State nearly two weeks ago. It was the end of a tumultuous three-plus-year tenure marked by misfires and disappointments, on and off the field, in the aftermath of NCAA sanctions. USC is now in the hands of Ed Orgeron, at least for an interim basis. The players seem to have embraced the change so far, but will it be enough to overcome incessant depth issues and the dark clouds of a rocky start? The Trojans are eager for their first chance to provide an answer to that question.

The Wildcats have had almost two weeks to process and digest their first loss of the year, a 31-13 defeat at the hands of Washington. No one really knows for certain what to expect from Rich Rodriguez's second team in Tucson. It rolled through inferior competition, Northern Arizona, UNLV and UTSA, before losing in Seattle to the Huskies. This could be a crossroads game for the ‘Cats, who'll have a chance to capture a tailwind just prior to entering the softest stretch of their conference slate.

Why Arizona Might Win: The defense under coordinator Jeff Casteel is markedly improved. Facing inconsistent and banged-up ought to help the Wildcats make further strides.

The Trojan offense has been at the crux of the team's problems, ranking near the bottom of the FBS in passing, third-down conversions and pass protection. The Arizona back seven, which has twice as many picks as touchdowns allowed, will be a particular problem for USC. It's very active and athletic, led by linebackers Marquis Flowers, Scooby Wright and Jake Fischer, and DBs Jared Tevis and Tra'Mayne Bondurant.

Why USC Might Win: The Trojan D is much better than it looked in its last outing versus Arizona State.

Clancy Pendergast's defense didn't become rotten overnight. In fact, it just had a bad night. Prior to Tempe, the Trojans were stifling and suffocating, especially in the front seven. Troy won't have OLB Morgan Breslin, who has a hamstring injury, but it will get after Arizona with a combination of linemen George Uko and Leonard Williams and linebackers Devon Kennard and Hayes Pullard. Even better, the Wildcats are woefully one-dimensional. Yeah, that one dimension happens to be All-American RB Ka'Deem Carey is getting no support from a passing attack that's produced just two touchdowns, a 50% completion percentage and a long gain of 31 yards. Orgeron will be able to commit the maximum number of resources to stop Carey without paying the price over the top.

Who To Watch Out For: Arizona's star skill player will be ready to go, but will USC's? WR Marqise Lee remains questionable with a knee injury that could further stifle the growth of inconsistent sophomore QB Cody Kessler.

- Wildcat QB B.J. Denker is in danger of losing his job, but there's no viable Plan B waiting in the wings, or else RichRod would have enacted it already. Javelle Allen is one option who could see the field at some point Thursday night.

- The Trojans will need to tighten up their run defense after getting gashed by the Sun Devils two weeks ago. If it means pressing up safeties Su'a Cravens and Dion Bailey to stop Carey, USC will take its chances putting the corners in man coverage.

- Good news for the USC offense, former starting RB Silas Redd is finally expected back from an offseason knee injury. Barring any setbacks, he'll add much-needed veteran depth to the backfield.
What Will Happen: Even if only for a week, USC is going to play with something to prove, a sense of purpose. The issues haven't gone away on either side of the ball, but the Trojans have looked more relaxed at practice now that the coaching change has been made. They'll return to flourishing on defense, bottling up Carey just enough to take some pressure off the erratic offense. Troy will get a welcomed win to help continue the healing process for a fractured program.

Prediction: USC 27 … Arizona 20
Line: USC -5.5 o/u: 50.5
Must See Rating: (5 Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight – 1 I Dream of NeNe: The Wedding) … 3
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Stanford (5-0) at Utah (3-2) Oct. 12, 6:00, Pac-12 Network

Why You Should Give A Hoot: No. 5 Stanford remains unbeaten and in the hunt for everything from a Pac-12 title to a national championship. But there were plenty of tenuous moments last Saturday on the Farm. The Cardinal got all it could handle—and more— from visiting Washington, holding on for a 31-28 win that provided more questions than answers. David Shaw's program is terrific, but it might also be a little more vulnerable down the road than originally anticipated. Utah has gotten off to a solid start, but it's been tantalizingly close to being so much better. The Utes own quality wins over rivals Utah State and BYU, but narrow losses to Oregon State in overtime and UCLA by seven points last week have left the Utes wondering where they'd be if they could close a little better.

Why Stanford Might Win: If Utah is still a work in progress in the trenches after losing three O-line and D-line starters from a year ago, the Cardinal is sure to exploit the weakness. Stanford boasts one of the best combinations of lines in America. OG David Yankey and OT Cameron Fleming lead a front wall that'll create daylight for assertive, downhill backs Tyler Gaffney and Anthony Wilkerson. The defense is nasty in the front seven, harassing opposing backfields with DE Trent Murphy and a slew of physical linebackers.

Why Utah Might Win: As good as the Cardinal D is this fall, U-Dub exposed fault lines with 489 total yards last week. While the Utes don't harbor as many playmakers as the Huskies, they're certainly not without weapons. Rangy QB Travis Wilson presents a dangerous run-pass look, accounting for 16 touchdowns in his debut as a starter. RB Bubba Poole can pick up the tough yards, while Dres Anderson and Sean Fitzgerald are capable targets in the passing game. LT Jeremiah Poutasi and the O-line have done well in pass protection, allowing only seven sacks, despite facing a bunch of really good pass rushers.

Who To Watch Out For: It's been a very long time since Stanford had a flashy star on offense. Junior Ty Montgomery is filling the much-needed role, both as Kevin Hogan's favorite target in the passing game and as a big-play kick returner.

- Utah has used three different starting middle linebackers in five games. The current one, sophomore Jared Norris, will be asked to fill running lanes as quickly as possible. If he's slow to the play, Gaffney and Wilkerson will go head-to-head with defensive backs more than the Ute staff prefers.

- The Stanford secondary needs to step up its play after yielding 350 yards to Keith Price last week. The Cardinal is flush with talented cover guys, but it wasn't so evident last Saturday night.

What Will Happen: For Stanford, a trip to Salt Lake City the week after an emotional conference win will be wrought with hurdles. Rice-Eccles Stadium is always a tough venue for visitors, and Utah has already shown it can compete with quality opponents. The Cardinal will escape for a second week in a row, but not without some timely second-half heroics from Hogan and Montgomery.

Prediction: Stanford 34 … Utah 23
Line: Stanford -9 o/u: 52
Must See Rating: (5 Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight – 1 I Dream of NeNe: The Wedding) … 3
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Colorado (2-2) at Arizona State (3-2) Oct. 12, 10:00, Pac-12 Network

Why You Should Give A Hoot: Arizona State gets a temporary respite following what had to be the toughest four-game stretch in the country since mid-September. The Sun Devils split games with Wisconsin, Stanford, USC and Notre Dame, bowing to the latter, 37-34, in Arlington, Tex. this past Saturday. At 1-1 in Pac-12 play, ASU hopes to get on the kind of roll that results in a South Division crown Colorado has gotten a reality check since starting 2-0, losing consecutive lopsided games to Oregon State and Oregon. Still, the Mike MacIntyre-led Buffs are improved from a year ago, which should be serve as a caution sign for the final eight opponents on their schedule.

Why Colorado Might Win: While Arizona State harbors a lot of individual defensive talent, the unit as a whole is not making enough timely stops, especially on the perimeter. The Buffaloes will attempt to capitalize on their opponent by getting WR Paul Richardson in man coverage so that he can burn the Sun Devil secondary deep. Richardson is a bona fide game-changer, catching 31 passes for 621 yards and five of QB Connor Wood's seven touchdown passes.

Why Arizona State Might Win: The Sun Devils are beginning to prove that they can score on anyone. They're averaging 42 points, peaking with 62 last month against a talented USC unit. Best of all, ASU is diverse and multi-faceted, which will force the Buffs to account for the run-pass of QB Taylor Kelly, the rushing of Marion Grice and the physicality of WR Jaelen Strong.

Who To Watch Out For: ASU is having a difficult time generating consistent pressure this season, a stark contrast from a year ago. The front does expect to return NT Jaxon Hood, who missed time with a hamstring injury, which will help a sagging run defense.

- A Sun Devil O-line allowing too many sacks must get a hat on Colorado DE Chidera Uzo-Diribe this weekend. The senior leads the team in tackles for loss and quarterback pressures.

- Someone on the visitors will need to spy Sun Devil RB D.J. Foster on third downs. He won't take many carries from Grice, but he's extremely slippery as a safety valve in the passing game.

What Will Happen: ASU must be careful as it enters a potential trap game that rests between last week's meeting with Notre Dame and next week's visit from Washington. Colorado is feisty, and will play to the whistle even during blowouts. However, the Sun Devils have enough speed and talent on offense to avert a costly upset in Tempe.

Prediction: Arizona State 42 … Colorado 20

Line: Arizona State -25 o/u: 68
Must See Rating: (5 Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight – 1 I Dream of NeNe: The Wedding) … 2.5
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