2009 Pac 10 Fearless Predictions - Week 5

Posted Oct 1, 2009

Previews and Predictions for the Week 5 Pac 10 Games

2009 Pac 10 Fearless Predictions

Week 5 ... Oct. 3 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 | Week 4

- Week 5, Part 2 (Oregon State at ASU, and Wazzu at Oregon)  

Game of the Week

USC (3-1) at California (3-1),8:00 EST, Saturday, ABC, October 3

Why to watch: No, it's not the game many thought it would be last month, but it's still awfully significant in Pac-10 circles. Over the last two weeks, USC was shocked by Washington and Cal got exposed at Oregon, greatly diminishing the ‘wow' factor outside of the West Coast. Still, those losses coupled with the Ducks' resurgence mean this is a borderline elimination game in the race to the Rose Bowl. USC's seven-year grip on the conference crown has never been more vulnerable than right now. The seventh-ranked Trojans haven't thrown a complete game all year, and now are dealing with the freak weightlifting accident of leading-scorer Stafon Johnson earlier in the week. For years under Jeff Tedford, the Bears have been stuck with the pretender label, which became a lot more adhesive after last weekend's debacle in Eugene. A nationally-televised visit from the defending champs is the perfect opportunity for redemption for Cal. Another ugly loss, however, would be devastating.
Why USC might win: Rather quietly, the Trojan defense has been almost as statistically sound as last year's unit. In four games, it's allowed 40 points and has yet to give up a touchdown pass. The names may be new, but the results aren't deviating. Michael Morgan and Chris Galippo have been disruptive at linebacker, and DE Nick Perry has become a revelation as a pass rusher. With thumpers, like Taylor Mays and Josh Pinkard, roaming the defensive backfield, USC will make the Cal receivers earn every catch. Of equal concern in Strawberry Canyon is a Bear offensive line that gave up five sacks a week ago.
Why Cal might win: What's going on with the USC offense? Just 58 points over the last three games is cause for concern, especially since the last two defenses frighten no one. The Trojans are 114th nationally on third-down conversions and haven't been crisp in the red zone. Even with Matt Barkley healthy again, the passing game has lacked big-play pop. Last week certainly suggests otherwise, but the Bear defense will not be easy to navigate. On the front line, Tyson Alualu and Cameron Jordan have next-level potential and the corner tandem of Syd'Quan Thompson and Darian Hagan will make Barkley's life miserable.
Who to watch: Cal's Jahvid Best vs. USC's Joe McKnight. When these two game-breaking backs are in the same building, you can bank on at least four or five highlight reel moments. Best has something to prove after being bottled up last Saturday. McKnight will be counted on a little more than usual now that Johnson is unavailable. If either junior is permitted to get into the open field regularly and impact the energy of the crowd, the game will be over.
What will happen: Not so fast on USC's demise. There might be space for another trophy in Heritage Hall after all. Defense still dictates in marquee games, and few in the country are playing better than Pete Carroll's unit. Cal QB Kevin Riley has suffered from a lack of confidence at times in the past. How's he feeling after not throwing a touchdown pass in the last two games? It won't get any easier on Saturday night. His receivers will be neutralized by the Trojan secondary, making the Bears a one-dimensional team. If Best doesn't carry the team on his shoulders, Cal won't win. Although it'll be enough to get by, don't expect the struggling USC offense to suddenly turn the corner and become unstoppable.
CFN Prediction: USC 26 … Cal 17 ... Line: USC -5
Must See Rating: (Kourtney & Khloe Take Miami 5 … The Jay Leno Show 1) … 4.5

Washington (2-2) at Notre Dame (3-1),3:30 EST, NBC, Saturday, October 3

Why to watch: So which Washington team will show up in South Bend, the one that rode the back of USC into the Top 25 or the one that just got slapped around by Stanford? Although growing pains were still anticipated by Steve Sarkisian's young squad, a 20-point loss on The Farm was a rude reminder of just how far it has to go before becoming serious Pac-10 contenders. A second straight loss could mess with the psyche of this team and make that Week 3 upset just a little less memorable. Notre Dame has become the stunt men of the college football world, living dangerously in each of the last three weekends. After losing a heartbreaker to Michigan, the Irish has rebounded with nail-biting, three-point wins over Michigan State and Purdue. On Saturday night in West Lafayette, Jimmy Clausen threw a fourth-down dart to Kyle Rudolph for the game-winner with just 25 seconds left.
Why Washington might win: Opponents of Notre Dame have figured out that it has serious issues defending the pass. The Irish ends aren't getting penetration and the secondary has allowed seven touchdown passes to inexperienced players over the last three weeks. The Huskies will be looking to capitalize with QB Jake Locker, who needs to bounce back from last week's poor effort. He's the catalyst for the Pac-10's second-ranked passing game, making good use of talented receivers James Johnson, Jermaine Kearse, and D'Andre Goodwin.
Why Notre Dame might win: A visit from Washington may be the best medicine for the banged-up Irish offense. Clausen's toe is barking and RB Armando Allen has a bum ankle, but everyone will want a crack at a defense that hasn't had a sack in three weeks and can't stop the run. Sure, Clausen, Rudolph, and WR Golden Tate will continue to be the focal point of the offense, but Notre Dame might want to feed the backs a little more after seeing USC and Stanford grind out 571 yards rushing on the Huskies. As Allen rested last weekend, backup Robert Hughes ran well, going for 68 yards and a score on 15 carries.
Who to watch: With Notre Dame WR Michael Floyd out for the season, Tate has flourished in a more expanded role. Taking direct snaps out of the backfield on Saturday night, he had nine carries for 55 yards and a touchdown to go along with five receptions for 57 yards. More of the same is expected as the Irish look to maximize the production of its best skill position player.
What will happen: The Notre Dame offense is being held together by medical tape, but as long as Clausen is able to go, they'll put up points on average defenses. Although Washington figures to play much better than a week ago, it's not going to get enough from the running game or the run defense to deliver a second big upset in the first half of the season.
CFN Prediction: Notre Dame 31 … Washington 23 ... Line: Notre Dame -13
Must See Rating: (Kourtney & Khloe Take Miami 5 … The Jay Leno Show 1) … 3

UCLA (3-0) at Stanford (3-1),3:30 EST, ESPN Gameplan, Saturday, October 3

Why to watch: At 6-1 combined, UCLA at Stanford has evolved into a pretty intriguing undercard to the primetime showdown later in the day between USC and Cal. Whoever leaves Palo Alto with a win is going to have a gale-force wind at its back and a legitimate shot of breaking into the Pac-10's first division. The Bruins have had two weeks to let their first 3-0 start in four years sink in. While not works of art, beating Tennessee on the road and Kansas State in the Rose Bowl last month has the program on the doorstep of a Top 25 ranking. The Cardinal has bounced back from its only loss of the season at Wake Forest, thumping San Jose State and Washington in front of the home crowd. Battering a Husky team that had just beaten the Trojans sent a message that this Stanford team just might be for real.
Why UCLA might win: After messing around with average defenses throughout September, Stanford and first-year QB Andrew Luck are in for a rude awakening. The 15th-ranked Bruin D is yielding just a dozen points a game, while really clamping down on opposing running games. The front seven boasts bona fide stars in DT Brian Price and LB Reggie Carter, while the corners allow safeties Rahim Moore and Tony Dye to press up and force the action. When RB Toby Gerhart is held in check, the Cardinal almost always loses.
Why Stanford might win: A weak UCLA offense leaves the program with very little margin for error. While the Bruins survived with only three total touchdowns in the wins over Tennessee and Kansas State, it may not be so fortunate this Saturday. The Cardinal can be feisty on defense, getting after the quarterback with Tom Keiser and Erik Lorig, and shutting off running lanes before plays develop. Kevin Craft, who replaced injured starter Kevin Prince, is a marginal quarterback with an average set of receivers. As stout as the UCLA defense can be, it'll be facing Chris Marinelli and a Stanford O-line that's tied for fewest sacks allowed in the country.
Who to watch: In just his second season, Stanford WR Chris Owusu is emerging as one of the league's most dangerous weapons. Not only has he caught 13 balls for 210 yards and two scores, but he's also taken back three kickoffs for touchdowns. His match up with UCLA CB Alterraun Verner shapes up as one of the most intriguing and pivotal games-within-the-game.
What will happen: It may be the Pac-10, but defenses and special teams will rule the day in a low-scoring, hard-hitting chess match. The Bruin defense and PK Kai Forbath will the team close for 60 minutes, but an inability to get in the end zone will be its downfall. Gerhart will manufacture 85 yards and the go-ahead touchdown on the ground.
CFN Prediction: Stanford 24 … UCLA 20 ... Line: Stanford -6
Must See Rating: (Kourtney & Khloe Take Miami 5 … The Jay Leno Show 1) … 3

- Week 5, Part 2 (Oregon State at ASU, and Wazzu at Oregon)