2009 Pac 10 Fearless Predictions

Posted Sep 3, 2009

And away we go ... it's on. It all starts up tonight with a decent slate of games highlighted by Oregon's date Boise State in a late night statement battle for two top teams and two conferences. Check out the previews and predictions for the Week 1 Pac 10 Games. All the Fearless Predictions to come out over the day.

2009 Pac 10 Fearless Predictions

Week 1 ... Sept. 6 Games

- Arizona | Arizona St | California | Oregon | Oregon St
- Stanford | UCLA | USC | Washington | Washington St

Pac 10 Fearless Predictions

- Week 1, Part 2 (Maryland vs. Cal, LSU vs. Washington, & More)

Game of the Week

Oregon (0-0) at Boise State (0-0)
Thursday, Sept. 3, 10:15 pm ET, ESPN

Why To Watch: There are only a handful of games all year that'll decide whether a so-called mid-major earns a BCS bowl bid for a third straight season. This one in Idaho gets top billing. In one of the four match ups between ranked teams on the opening weekend, Boise State hosts Oregon in a primetime, national TV event that should wind up being as entertaining as advertised. If the Broncos can hold serve here, they'll be favored to win out and might even generate some Utah-esque chatter to play for a national championship. In an age when just winning the WAC is no longer enough, the direction of their season hinges on this one game. Oregon arrives flush with headlines of its own. One of the hottest teams down the stretch in 2008, it begins 2009 as one of the primary threats to USC's Pac-10 throne. The Ducks have a budding rock star at quarterback in Jeremiah Masoli and new head coach Chip Kelly, who takes over for the retired Mike Bellotti. This is an unmistakable launching pad game for whichever team survives.
Why Oregon Might Win: Did you watch last year's Poinsettia Bowl, in which TCU pummeled Boise State with a power running game? The Ducks have throughout August. They plan to unleash their prolific ground game on a Bronco D that lacks size and is looking to replace all but one starter on the front seven. Oregon has rebuilding to do up front as well, but that won't prevent Masoli and backs LeGarrette Blount and LaMichael James from getting outside the tackles and into the secondary. While Boise State has a knack for getting it done on defense, it's not facing your typical WAC opponent. The Ducks' quick-strike, high-scoring offense will spread the field, allowing their superior athletes to make plays.
Why Boise State Might Win: Although the Broncos won't frighten teams with their next-level speed, they are fundamentally sound and rarely make mistakes under head coach Chris Petersen. It all begins with the precision passing of Kellen Moore, a sophomore who plays with the poise and leadership of a senior. His efficient reads and play-action passes to Austin Pettis and Titus Young will test an Oregon secondary that's vulnerable, especially in the red zone. Boise State can also pound the ball, using the running of Jeremy Avery and D.J. Harper, and the blocking of FB Richie Brockel to dent an already soft interior of the Duck line. Don't underestimate the little things, like special teams and the crowd, which clearly tilt in the Broncos' favor.
Players To Watch: Whether he's a covering a receiver or returning a punt, Boise State senior Kyle Wilson is going to do something to electrify the locals. History says so. One of the best athletes in this game and a serious pro prospect, he's one of the nation's most dangerous return men and bolsters an air-tight Bronco secondary. If he and his mates can shut down passing lanes, stopping the Oregon offense gets a bit easier.
What Will Happen: On a neutral field in December, Oregon probably takes this game without much of a problem. On the blue turf in the opener, however, the Broncos are going to be very tough to beat and will play at a whole other level. Sure, things are a very different on both sides, but don't forget that Boise State dominated this game last September...in Eugene. In a back-and-forth affair that'll have no shortage of offensive fireworks, the Oregon running game will do just enough to control the game and win a thriller.
CFN Prediction: Oregon 33 ... Boise State 30 Line: Boise State -5
Must See Rating: (Mad Men 5 ... NYC Prep 1) .... 5 ... Free Expert Football Predictions

Portland State (0-0) at Oregon State (0-0) , 2:30 pm ET

Why To Watch: New year. New faces. Same results? Every season, it seems as if Oregon State has wholesale changes, starts slowly, and yet winds up leaving the pundits scratching their heads. Over the last three seasons, the Beavers have been the Pac-10's winningest program outside of Troy, so doubting Mike Riley and his staff has become an annual lesson in futility. Even with eight of last year's defensive starters gone, the program is hovering around the Top 25, a sign that voters are finally catching on. Portland State will be making the short trip south to Corvallis, its first in four years. The Vikings are led by colorful coach Jerry Glanville, who's always entertaining, yet is still working on getting the program beyond just the middle of the Big Sky Conference.
Why Portland State Might Win: The way the Vikings attack on offense, you better be well-conditioned and you better be able to defend the pass. This is hardly an ideal opponent for an Oregon State defense that will have four new starters in the defensive backfield. Portland State, which throws it a million times and led the nation in passing in 2008, brings back QB Drew Hubel and all of his top receivers, including Aaron Woods, Mario D'Ambrosio, and Raymond Fry.
Why Oregon State Might Win: You pretty much know what you're going to get from a team like Portland State. It'll force the action on offense, but defensively, it won't stop anyone. The Beavers will use this game to work in a few new starters along the offensive line and showcase the myriad talents of the Rodgers brothers. RB Jacquizz and WR James. In the open field, this dynamic duo from the state of Texas will run circles around the Vikings defense. QB Sean Canfield will make his selection as the starter look good for now, hooking up early and often with Rodgers and Casey Kjos.
Players To Watch: Remember the name Ben Terry. He's Oregon State's most likely option to pick up the pass-rushing slack left by the graduations of Slade Norris and Victor Butler. A classic speed rusher in the mold of an outside linebacker, the senior end should have a field day against a Portland State team that has problems in pass protection.
What Will Happen: If Oregon State wants to test its newly-configured pass defense, this is a pretty ideal place to start. The Beavers will spend much of the afternoon batting balls out of the sky, yet won't have to worry about getting picked off in front of a stunned home crowd. If the offense is forced to punt more than twice, it'll be a surprise. Oregon State will carve up the Portland State D, piling up more than 300 yards on the ground.
CFN Prediction: Oregon State 51 ... Portland State 14 Line: No Line
Must See Rating: (Mad Men 5 ... NYC Prep 1) .... 1.5   ... Free Expert Football Predictions

Stanford (0-0) at Washington State (0-0) , 8:00 pm ET

Why To Watch: Even after going just 5-7 and sliding down the stretch, Stanford has been one of the Pac-10's hotter teams throughout the offseason, raising expectations and assembling a killer recruiting class. A trip to the Palouse is the Cardinal's first opportunity to back up all the hype and get a jump on the rest of the league. If Jim Harbaugh's kids are going to end their seven-year bowl drought, they can ill-afford to fumble a game they're supposed to win. Last year couldn't end soon enough for Washington State, which was even worse than its 2-11 record indicated, if that's possible. A weekly punching bag for the rest of the conference, the Cougars were competitive in only those two victories, putting instant heat on head coach Paul Wulff to start turning things around. Folks around Pullman are wary of the fact that this program strung together three straight 10-win seasons and played in a Rose Bowl earlier this decade.
Why Stanford Might Win: The opponent has one of the nation's weakest run defenses. The quarterback play has been inconsistent. Yeah, there's no secret how the Cardinal plans to attack in this game. Stanford will ram the ball right down the Cougars' throats, force-feeding them a steady diet of 237-pound Toby Gerhart. The powerful senior has the luxury of running behind underrated FB Owen Marecic and a line that's capable of bullying Wazzu off the line of scrimmage. If Washington State falls behind, engineering a comeback won't be so easy against a Cardinal front seven that'll get after the quarterback with LB Clinton Snyder and ends Erik Lorig and Tom Keiser.
Why Washington State Might Win: While the Cougars take time to sort things out at quarterback, they'll lean heavily on a backfield that's gotten considerably deeper since the end of the season. Not only is senior Dwight Tardy back after suffering through an injury-plagued 2008, but he'll be joined by Cal transfer James Montgomery, who impressed on the scout team. Although the Stanford D has some nice individual parts, it hasn't always equaled overall success for a unit that can be beaten on the ground or through the air.
Players To Watch: Is this the coming-out party for Stanford redshirt freshman QB Andrew Luck? Regardless of how he performs in the short-term, there's little doubt that the hard-throwing Texan is the future on the Farm. He's coming off an outstanding offseason, and has all of the physical tools that the Cardinal has been missing at the position for years. Veteran Tavita Pritchard won't have the same role as the last two seasons, but he'll still be instrumental as a mentor and guardian for the program's franchise quarterback.
What Will Happen: A different team might feed off the energy of the home crowd in an opener, but not Washington State. The Cougars have too long of a road before being ready to knock off a decent opponent that's beginning to crest. Stanford will back up the recent attention it's been getting, riding the broad shoulders of Gerhart and a handful of turnovers to a comfortable conference win.
CFN Prediction: Stanford 38 ... Washington State 14 Line: Stanford -17
Must See Rating: (Mad Men 5 ... NYC Prep 1) .... 1.5 ... Free Expert Football Predictions

Central Michigan (0-0) at Arizona (0-0) , 9:00 pm ET

Why To Watch: At long last, Arizona ended its decade-long absence from the postseason in 2008, beating ranked BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl. Not only did the Wildcats get some hardware and trinkets from the trip to Sin City, but they also garnered some much-needed stability for head coach Mike Stoops. Now on solid footing for the first time since Dick Tomey was around, the program fully expects to take another positive step by remaining in the Pac-10's upper division. The ‘Cats, however, better stay focused on the task at hand. Central Michigan is a feisty school, with one of the nation's most dangerous quarterbacks. Entering his fourth season as a starter, Dan LeFevour leads a Chippewa team that's made the postseason three straight years, winning the MAC twice. With games in Tucson and East Lansing to start the season, it has the talent and the schedule to become an under-the-radar BCS buster.
Why Central Michigan Might Win: Sure, it all starts with LeFevour, the 230-pound multi-dimensional threat, but that's not where it ends in Mount Pleasant. The quarterback is surrounded by a fantastic collection of receivers that's comprised of Antonio Brown, Bryan Anderson, and Kito Poblah. In a game likely to be dominated by the offenses, Central Michigan has the weapons and the significant edge under center to keep pace in a track meet.
Why Arizona Might Win: Yes, the Central Michigan defense, particularly the front seven, will be better than a year ago, but it's not ready to compete with a solid and balanced Pac-10 offense. Although sophomores Matt Scott and Nick Foles will be seeing their first significant action at quarterback, both have tremendous upside and an outstanding supporting cast. With Nic Grigsby and Keola Antolin in the backfield, Terrell Turner and Delashaun Dean at wide receiver, and Rob Gronkowski at tight end, the Chippewas won't know where to go first. As long as the offensive line does its job, Arizona won't need P Keenyn Crier much on this night.
Players To Watch: Even with a pair of new starters, don't expect much retreat from an Arizona defensive backfield that soared beyond expectations in 2008. The cornerstones at cornerback and safety will be Devin Ross and Cam Nelson, respectively. The Wildcat secondary vs. the Central Michigan receivers is one of the sneaky good match ups of the entire opening weekend.
What Will Happen: Could Arizona get caught napping by a talented, veteran MAC squad? Possibly. Will it? Unlikely. While both teams can move the chains, the difference will be the Wildcat D, which will make more stops and create a few turnovers. Linemen Brooks Reed and Earl Mitchell will help keep LeFevour from getting too comfortable, something the Chippewas will be unable to do on defense. In the end, Central Michigan simply won't be able to put the brakes on a Wildcat offense that has so many different options.
CFN Prediction: Arizona 38 ... Central Michigan 28 Line: Arizona -13.5
Must See Rating: (Mad Men 5 ... NYC Prep 1) .... 2.5 ... Free Expert Football Predictions

San Diego State (0-0) at UCLA (0-0) , 7:30 pm ET

Why To Watch: The awkward transition period now behind it, UCLA is determined to make a quantum leap in Year 2 of Rick Neuheisel's return to Westwood. If it's still true that defense wins championships, the Bruins just might be one of this year's most improved programs out of the Pac-10. They're ornery on that side of the ball, and will need to be in order to offset a feeble, freshman-led offense. San Diego State is kicking off its new era under Brady Hoke, the former Ball State head coach brought west to instill some fire at a school that hasn't finished over .500 in more than a decade. Considering its location, ideal for attracting talent, someone is bound to start milking more out of the Aztecs one of these years.
Why San Diego State Might Win: The parts are in place for the Aztecs to have a pretty darn good passing attack. Hoke inherits QB Ryan Lindley, who showed plenty of promise as a freshman starter, and top receivers Vincent Brown and Roberto Wallace. Now, it will not be easy navigating that Bruin D, but how many connections will it take to outscore the sputtering Bruin offense? UCLA was awful in every area of its execution last fall, and now redshirt freshman QB Kevin Prince is being put in charge of the renaissance. If the offensive line plays anything like last year's group, it will not be a pretty debut for the rookie.
Why UCLA Might Win: Get used to hearing about the defense. It really is that good. In DT Brian Price, LB Reggie Carter, and CB Alterraun Verner, the Bruins have a legitimate All-America candidate at every level of the defense. They're especially stingy in pass defense, which could present a problem for the visitors. If San Diego State hits a roadblock in the passing game, it simply doesn't have the ground troops to change course and keep UCLA from dropping defenders back in coverage. If both offenses sputter, the Bruins have a huge advantage in Kai Forbath, an ace placekicker, who's accurate beyond 50 yards.
Players To Watch: Will a real feature back at UCLA kindly stand up? While Prince will have to mature quickly for the Bruin offense to get out of neutral, it would certainly help to have a consistent ground game for a change. In contention are veterans Christian Ramirez and Derrick Coleman, and redshirt freshmen Milton Knox and Johnathan Franklin. Out of that quartet, someone, possibly a fast-rising Franklin, needs to emerge and take heat off the young quarterback.
What Will Happen: If you're looking for style points, you'll have to choose a different venue. This has the potential to be a sloppy game, with a bunch of penalties and three-and-outs. While UCLA is headed in the proper direction, reaching its goals is going to take time, especially on offense. If Prince can use this first game as a learning experience and the Bruins avoid the upset, chalk it up to progress for Neuheisel's kids.
CFN Prediction: UCLA 27 ... San Diego State 14 Line: UCLA -20
Must See Rating: (Mad Men 5 ... NYC Prep 1) .... 2.5 ... Free Expert Football Predictions

- Week 1, Part 2 (Maryland vs. Cal, LSU vs. Washington, & More)