Welcome to week five of the topsy turvy Pac 10 where a football team can be the talk of the nation one week and in the toilet the next. Washington, California, and USC all enter the weekend with the goal of not seeing their season's flushed. For Washington it isn't as serious because if they lose to Notre Dame they are still alive in the conference. For USC and California on the other hand it is showdown time. Only one will likely survive to keep competing for a Rose Bowl berth.
Arizona has a bye....next up is Washington on the road.
UCLA at Stanford
UCLA is undefeated and had a big win over Tennessee on the road. Stanford is 3-1 after dispatching Washington last week and is on top of the Pac 10 standings. UCLA should do a better job slowing down Stanford's Toby Gerhart than Washington did. The Bruins defense has carried them so far this season. The problems for UCLA are on the other side of the ball. QB Kevin Prince will miss another game with a broken jaw which means Kevin Craft will get his second start this season. The Bruins have problems on their offensive line and really haven't had much click offensively this season. Stanford should be able to stop the Bruins on defense. Offensively they should be able to put toghether enough points to win this game because you can't control Toby Gerhart...you can only contain him. Containing him means he runs for around 100 yards and eats a lot of clock.
The home field advantage and the strength the Cardinal have on both lines will bee too much for UCLA.
Stanford by 14
USC at California
Can you say back against the wall? Jeff Tedford and his Golden Bears can say that heading into week two of the conference season. Nobody saw the demolition coming they suffered in Eugene last weekend. Who would have thought the previously porous Duck defense would hold the Bears to only three points? Who would have thought the Bears would give up more than 40? Could they have been looking ahead to USC?
USC has one of the toughest defenses in the country so they should be able to handle whatever the Bears can throw at them. The problem for the Trojans is on offense. They only scored 13 points against Washington and 26 against lowly Washington State. Matt Barkley returns for his second game in a row after missing the Washington game. That is a big plus for USC.
If history is any indication the season is on the line for the Bears on Saturday. For some reason this team has folded under adversity the last three years. If they lose this one they could go on a slide. The opposite of course is if they win they are back in it.
Can USC start a conference season 1-2? This is agoing to be a close game. Whoever makes the least errors and plays the best defense will win. The home crowd should help the Bears stay in this one till the last minute.
USC by 3
Oregon State at Arizona State
You aren't supposed to lose to an Arizona team at home that is missing its two best offensive weapons and starting a new QB for the first time. The Beavers did exactly that with sloppy play on offense and a defensive backfield that is giving up way too many yards.
ASU finally played a game against BCS competition and came out on the short end of the stick courtesy of a missed FG. The weather played a factor because a torrential down pour slowed the game down and negated Georgia's speed. A couple of Bulldog turnovers led to ASU TD's which allowed the Sun Devils back in the game.
ASU's defense looks stout at this point and they should be able to hold the Beavers under 30 points. The real question if they can score more than 30? Danny Sullivan could have a big day against the OSU defensive secondary that hasn't stopped anyone this year.
This one could go either way but I have to go with the home team.
ASU by 7
Washington State at Oregon
The Coug's picked up a moral victory in LA last week by beating the spread. Most thought the angry Trojans would pile on some serious points against the WSU defense but it didn't happen. The Coug's won't be that fortunate this weekend in Eugene.
The big question is which Oregon team will show up?
Will it be the one that struggled with Purdue, Utah, and lost to Boise State, or will it be the one that handed Jeff Tedford the worst thrashing of his life? I think it will fall somewhere in the middle. It really doesn't matter which Oregon team shows up because the Oregon cheerleaders can handle WSU.
Oregon by 35
Washington at Notre Dame
Washington has a seven game losing streak to the Irish. Only one of those seven games stretching back over 60 years has been competitive. The oddsmakers favor the Irish by 14 and after the butt kicking the Huskies suffered at Stanford that just may be kind.
Like most of the teams UW will face this season the Irish have more talent, depth, and speed on their roster than Washington has. The Huskies do have one serious thing going for them and that is they are led by a better game day coach. Sarkisan has never lost to Notre Dame as a coach. He also has never played Notre Dame with Washington's players before.
I think we are catching the Irish at exactly the right time because they are beat up on offense. Clausen is one play away from sitting on the bench. Turf toe's are nasty injuries, they take forever to heal, and they are aggravated easily. The top rusher for ND is gimpy and their best WR is out till November. all the irish want to do is dispatch U and make it to the bye week to get healthy.
Defensively the Irish are a pale comparison to LSU, USC, and Stanford. I am not saying they are terrible but they are small up front and the secondary is questionable. Washington's offensive line should be able to give Locker a lot more help this weekend. Whe Jake is on his game he can make a lot of things happen. Chris Polk should be able to have adequate room to run too.
This game really comes down to how well the Husky defense can stop the Irish offense. Hurting or not Jimmy Clausen is the best QB we have seen so far this year. If he has time he can pick a defense apart. The Irish are running the ball better but the health back there as the game goes on will be a major determinator of whether the Irish can get it going or not.
Like all the games still left on the schedule Washington can either win or lose this one. If UW turns the ball over like they did last weekend Notre Dame is going to win. Washington needs a plus turnover ratio in this one. They also need to get a score early to quiet the crowd.
My gut feeling is this one is too close to call. That being said my gut told me last week that we would beat Stanford by 10 points. This is a big bounce back game for Washington to prove they are better than they showed last week. Notre Dame is no pushover but they have struggled the last three weeks. Factor in the injury to Clausen and I have to go with the mild upset.
Washington by 3
For the Irish point of view please visit our sister SNB blog at Rakes Of Mallow.
For a national view please visit the official SBN game page at Huskies vs Fighting Irish coverage