2009 Pac 10 Fearless Predictions - Week 3

Posted Sep 16, 2009

Previews and Predictions for the Week 3 Pac 10 Games

2009 Pac 10 Fearless Predictions

Week 3 ... Sept. 19 Games

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

Pac 10 Fearless Predictions
- Week 1
 | USC vs. Ohio State | Week 2

- Week 3, Part 2 (Kansas State at UCLA, & More)

Utah (2-0) at Oregon (1-1), 3:30 EST, ESPN, Saturday, September 19

Why to watch: While not quite as sexy as it looked three weeks ago, a Utah trip to Eugene still has plenty of appeal and storylines. The Utes haven't exactly turned heads in their first two wins over Utah State and San Jose State, handing most of its BCS buster equity over to BYU, Boise State, and even Houston. A road win over a quality Pac-10 team, however, changes everything. Used to getting more national attention, especially after last year's perfect season, the program feels it has something to prove Saturday afternoon. Oregon used a visit from Purdue to get past its disastrous opener with the Broncos. Hardly a breeze, the Ducks were a failed two-point conversion in the final minute from being dragged into overtime. They realize a win over a ranked team could propel them right back into the Top 25 and on track to achieve their 2009 goals.
Why Utah might win: Oregon needs to run the football to be successful. The Utes won't allow it. Bolstered by an outstanding front seven, ends Koa Misi and Derrick Shelby, and LB Stevenson Sylvester will hold the upper hand on a Duck offensive line that's struggling. Oregon has had uncharacteristic problems moving it on the ground, a trend that'll continue this weekend. If forced to throw, especially on third-and-long, the nation's 106th-ranked passing attack is unlikely to provide a solution. There's running room on that Duck D, which 220-pound Matt Asiata will look to exploit.
Why Oregon might win: Now that Jeremiah Masoli has started to recapture his 2008 form, the Ducks have a chance to catch fire, much like they did late last year. He's that incendiary. In the win over Purdue, he threw for 163 yards and ran for another 84 and a score. If he can help elevate the play of RB LaMichael James and receivers Jamere Holland and Jeff Maehl, there's serious doubt whether Utah will keep pace offensively. The Utes have moved the ball, but struggled to punch finish drives, scoring just seven points in the first three quarters last Saturday.
Who to watch: Masoli isn't the only former JUCO quarterback, who can make things happen with his arm and his feet. Utah's Terrance Cain continues to adjust as Brian Johnson's successor, completing almost two-thirds of his passes and rushing for 91 yards. While he has a long way to go, two games have helped flatten the learning the curve and bring him closer to where the Utes need him to be.
What will happen: Strange game. Neither school has started especially crisp, but both are capable of using this weekend as a launching point. Even after stopping the bleeding, something just isn't right with Oregon. The Ducks lack the physicality to put away Utah, which will win the battles up front and ride Asiata for more than 100 yards and a couple of scores. It'll come with a few tense moments, but the Utes will extend their winning streak to 17 games, holding off a late charge from Masoli.
CFN Prediction: Utah 34 … Oregon 31 ... Line: Oregon -4.5
Must See Rating: (Melrose Place 5 … Toddlers & Tiaras 1) … 3
Free Expert Football Predictions

California (2-0) at Minnesota (2-0),12:00 PM ET, ESPN, Saturday, September 19

Why to watch: Solidly entrenched in the top 10, Cal's mission will be to remain there for as long as possible. The Bears have cruised through Maryland and Eastern Washington, but have yet to face even a moment of adversity. That should change this week. They'll be traveling outside of the state and outside of their comfort zone. Remember last September's game in College Park? The program was in a deep ditch before even getting the sand out of its eyes. For Minnesota and third-year head coach Tim Brewster, a visit from one of the Pac-10's top teams affords an opportunity to jolt the blueprint for success into overdrive. The Gophers are hoping to make a loud national statement following a couple of quiet wins over Syracuse and Air Force.
Why Cal might win: So far, Minnesota's shift from a spread offense to a pro-style attack has produced disappointing results. In the face of average defenses, the Gophers have managed just 43 points while the running game has disappeared. The Bear defense is no place to bank on a turnaround. Cal has the personnel to shut down the opposition with a relentless pass rush and a nasty defensive backfield. If Minnesota can't run, the pressure will be on QB Adam Weber to deliver. However, he'll get a steady diet of Tyson Alualu and Cameron Jordan in his face, while Syd'Quan Thompson and Darian Hagan blanket top receiver Eric Decker.
Why Minnesota might win: Even as the Gopher offense has stalled, the team has gutted out two wins. Why? The defense has exceeded expectations, allowing just 33 points and stiffening in the red zone. If you're going to upset Cal and put a wrench in that explosive offense, you better be prepared to put a hat on someone and make key stops. Senior linebackers Nate Triplett, Simoni Lawrence, and Lee Campbell, in particular, have been fantastic as run and pass defenders. Triplett was the cover boy of the Air Force win, making 17 stops and scoring the go-ahead touchdown on a 52-yard fumble return.
Who to watch: Slow down Jahvid Best. That's the edict put forth by every defensive coordinator on the Cal schedule. It rarely has an impact. The junior has been every bit as good as advertised through two games, posting a Heisman-like 281 rushing yards and three scores on just 27 carries. For you non-mathletes, that's more than 10 yards a pop ... and more than this Minnesota defense can handle.
What will happen: Although Cal is saying all the right things, it'll still get off to a slow start. Minnesota will ride the wave of the home crowd for a while, but it'll take more than a loud student section to pin a loss on the Bears. They'll wake up before halftime, courtesy of a Best blast through the secondary. If it becomes obvious that Weber has to throw, he'll have a dreadful time navigating that athletic Cal secondary.
CFN Prediction: Cal 31 … Minnesota 21 ... Line: California -14
Must See Rating: (Melrose Place 5 … Toddlers & Tiaras 1) … 3
Free Expert Football Predictions

Arizona (2-0) at Iowa (2-0),3:30 EST, ESPN2, Saturday, September 19

Why to watch: While certainly not USC-Ohio State, Arizona at Iowa sets up as an intriguing match up between very different Pac-10 and Big Ten schools. The Hawkeyes are a blue-collar bunch, relying on a strong defense and a conservative ground game. After being fortunate to survive Northern Iowa in the opener, they played four outstanding quarters of football in Ames, blasting Iowa State, 35-3. If last week was the beginning of a trend, Iowa still has the time and the personnel to make the league more than a two-team race. The Wildcats have more flash and speed to go along with a more wide-open offense. While that offense has yet to hit top gear, it hasn't cost Arizona in games against Central Michigan and Northern Arizona. Neither school is ranked, but with a few breaks, that could change by Sunday afternoon.
Why Arizona might win: If the Wildcats can turn up the pace of this game and control the tempo, Iowa is in trouble. Arizona has more proven weapons, like backs Nic Grigsby and Keola Antolin, and QB Matt Scott is a nuisance outside the pocket. If the Hawkeyes remain inconsistent on the ground, it's asking a lot of Ricky Stanzi to go it alone against a Wildcat secondary that's often air-tight and gives up very little room to average receivers. No one on that Iowa offense is going to frighten that Wildcat D.
Why Iowa might win: For Arizona, this is going to be a culture shock. It's not as if Pac-10 teams aren't physical, but Central Michigan and Northern Arizona will not prepare a team for Iowa City. The Hawkeyes will make you earn every yard and feel every hit. The back seven is fantastic, featuring linebackers A.J. Edds and Pat Angerer, and safeties Tyler Sash and Brett Greenwood. Iowa has allowed just one touchdown pass in two weeks, while picking off five passes a week ago. USC aside, this could be the toughest defense the Wildcats see all year.
Who to watch: It's no surprise that Iowa needs to run the ball to be successful, which is why last week's results were so important. In the aftermath of Shonn Greene's early departure and Jewel Hampton's season-ending injury, freshmen Adam Robinson and Brandon Wegher have emerged as the go-to backs. They combined for 170 yards and a score on 27 carries, fueling hope that the running game has a pulse.
What will happen: Iowa is poised to give Arizona a rude welcome to the Big Ten on Saturday. The Hawkeyes will slow the game down, have some success on the ground, and beat up the Wildcat playmakers for 60 minutes. Stanzi is the veteran playing at home, which is a huge advantage over Scott, who's making his first road start. Special teams will be particularly important in this type of low-scoring scrum, so the placekickers, Iowa's Daniel Murray and Arizona's Alex Zendejas, will get a chance to be heroes.
CFN Prediction: Iowa 23 … Arizona 16 ... Line: Iowa -4.5
Must See Rating: (Melrose Place 5 … Toddlers & Tiaras 1) … 3
Free Expert Football Predictions

USC (2-0) at Washington (1-1),3:30 EST, ABC, Saturday, September 19

Why to watch: Is this the one? Every year, USC has had a habit of squandering a shot at national championship contention by losing a game as a heavy favorite. Is this the time? The Trojans are a little banged up on both sides of the ball and coming off an emotionally-draining last-minute win over Ohio State. It's not as if there isn't a precedent here. Plus, this isn't just any Week 3 opponent. Washington is now led by head coach Steve Sarkisian and defensive coordinator Nick Holt, a couple of former assistants under Pete Carroll. The Huskies have a little momentum after snapping its 15-game swoon, and can sure ramp up the rebuilding process by shocking the nation's No. 3 team. If nothing else, the atmosphere and the electricity in Husky Stadium is going to conjure up images of the glory days of U-Dub football under Don James.
Why USC might win: While Washington is clearly trending upward, the defense remains a work-in-progress. The secondary, in particular, is vulnerable, allowing three touchdown passes in the opener and 349 yards a week ago. Whether it's Matt Barkley, who's nursing a sore shoulder, or Aaron Corp, he'll be able to light up the Huskies with the help of WR Damian Williams and TE Anthony McCoy. The Trojans will enjoy a monolithic edge on the inside. They'll control both lines of scrimmage, blowing Washington off the ball on offense and creating defensive pressure with DE Everson Griffen and LB Michael Morgan. The Husky offensive line has been flat-lining for years.
Why Washington might win: With Sarkisian on the sidelines and Jake Locker back behind center, this is a different Husky team. That's undeniable. Washington outplayed LSU two weeks ago before getting a confidence-boosting win against Idaho. It's ready to shock the nation and is catching USC at an ideal time. Locker has made all the difference on offense, already throwing five touchdown passes and running for another, while flourishing under Sarkisian's tutelage. He has an exciting young supporting that includes RB Chris Polk and WR James Johnson, a pair of fast-starting freshmen. If S Taylor Mays' injured knee limits him, that's one less barrier to success for these kids.
Who to watch: While Barkley got most of the pub in Columbus, USC doesn't win without the heroics of RB Joe McKnight. Looking like the five-star recruit, who left Louisiana for Los Angeles three years ago, he's beginning to thrive now that he's healthy. He had 60 yards rushing and 45 yards on two key receptions, flashing the explosiveness this Trojan offense craves.
What will happen: While the upset will be in play for at least a half, Washington will eventually fold under the pressure of its deficiencies on both lines. USC will avoid its first loss with a strong final kick, quieting the crowd with the running of McKnight and Stafon Johnson behind one of the nation's best front walls. The Huskies will lose another close one to a top 10 opponent, but gain an ounce of respect and confidence in the process.
CFN Prediction: USC 35 … Washington 23 ... Line: USC -21
Must See Rating: (Melrose Place 5 … Toddlers & Tiaras 1) … 3
Free Expert Football Predictions

SMU (2-0) at Washington State (0-2), 5:00 EST, Saturday, September 19

Why to watch: Don't look now, but June Jones has SMU peaking around the corner, courtesy of the program's first 2-0 start since 1996. Just getting by Stephen F. Austin in the opener actually raised more questions than anything else about the Mustangs' direction. Beating UAB, however, had special meaning since it snapped a 17-game conference losing streak and a 15-game road losing streak. Now brimming with confidence, a 3-0 mark would put them halfway to that long-awaited bowl eligibility. Confidence and Washington State have no business appearing in the same paragraph. The Cougars continue to stake a claim to being the worst program among the BCS schools, dishing out lopsided home losses to Stanford and Hawaii. Short on experience and execution, they're already running out of winnable games left on the schedule.
Why SMU might win: Jones' former employer, Hawaii, cranked out 626 yards on the Wazzu defense in Seattle. Jones' current employer will approach that output. The Mustangs have scored at least 30 points in both games, getting unexpected balance. Miami transfer Shawnbrey McNeal has rushed for 225 yards and two scores, aiding the always potent passing game. Receivers Emmanuel Sanders and Aldrick Robinson have too much burst and speed for a Cougar secondary that was burned by Greg Alexander for 489 yards a week ago.
Why Washington State might win: Hey, when SMU is visiting, there's always a chance to move the ball and put up some points. While more opportunistic than in the past, the Mustangs are way too flexible, allowing big chunks of yards through the air and on the ground. The Cougars will try to take advantage with athletic QB Marshall Lobbestael and possibly true freshman Jeff Tuel, who'll be ditching his redshirt. Wazzu has a talented transfer of its own at running back, former Cal Bear James Montgomery, who had 118 yards and a score on 17 carries last week.
Who to watch: The big difference in Dallas this year actually centers on the defense. Yeah, they'll bend plenty, but they've begun to get the ball back to the prolific offense. SMU has a nation's-best 11 takeaways, including three interceptions and a forced fumble from SS Rock Dennis. If the Mustangs continue to be ball-hawks, they're going to be a far more dangerous opponent than in recent seasons.
What will happen: SMU and Washington State are headed in opposite directions, with no end in sight for the host. It's not as if the Mustangs are poised to relive the days of the Pony Express, but the Cougars have already begun to circle the drain. SMU will attack on offense, airing it out its usual 45 times and mixing in some draw plays from McNeal. If the Mustangs can take advantage of Lobbestael's youth, this could be over before the final quarter.
CFN Prediction: SMU 35 … Washington State 23 ... Line: SMU -6.5
Must See Rating: (Melrose Place 5 … Toddlers & Tiaras 1) … 1
Free Expert Football Predictions