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The Underdog Strikes Back (Maybe): Predictions For Arizona's Football Weekend

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Well here we go. Once again, the whole country is sleeping on us. This weekend brings a great slate of gridiron games away from the sunny confines of Arizona, yet somehow us desert dwellers aren't supposed to win a single one.

It's not even close either. With all three spreads above five points, and two spreads hovering around nine, Vegas isn't even giving the Valley a chance.

Can we prove them wrong, show some fighting spirit, and steal a couple victories? Let's take a look.

Arizona State +5.5 @ USC

ASU always knows how to drive their fans right to the edge. Then just as they're threaten to throw in the towel for the season (like they always seem to do), they go and do something like this and totally redeem themselves.

I cannot overstate how worried I was coming into last week's Washington State game. Getting blown out by Cal is one thing, but losing to the Cougars is a different demon entirely. The program would have been in shambles. Dennis Erickson probably would have lost his job, and the Sun Devils would have probably lost out to end the season. I've seen this script before.

What a difference a game makes.

That being said, lets not make ASU out to be world beaters. They beat one of the worst teams in Division I football. Because of the two wins they hold over FCS schools, they need seven victories to even become bowl eligible. They currently have four, with four games left to play: @ USC, vs. No. 10 Stanford, vs. UCLA, @ No. 13 Arizona. That's quite a difficult schedule going forward. If the Sun Devils are going to turn this thing around and go on a run, they have to start now.

This year's version of USC should not be confused with the Trojan teams that have dominated the past decade. A combination of NCAA sanctions and Lane Kiffin being Lane Kiffin has removed a great deal of the luster that the program once held.

After losing three of their last four USC has dropped to a 5-3 record. With five games left to play, the Trojans are threatening to have their worst record since 2001's 6-6 finish.

ASU has lost to USC ten straight times. USC is coming off a disappointing loss to Oregon while the Sun Devils are riding high on the heels of a blowout. If there was ever a time to end the streak, it would be now.

Still, the Trojans played surprisingly tough against Oregon, holding a lead four different times before finally giving in to the Ducks' offensive fireworks. Matt Barkley is killing it this season, ranking fourth in the FBS with 21 passing touchdowns while compiling a 154.0 QB rating.

It's going to take a monster effort for the Sun Devils to overcome the Trojans within the inhospitable confines of the Coliseum. Frankly, I just don't think they have it in them.

Intern Prediction: USC 45, Arizona State 27                                                                                  

Arizona +9.5 @ Stanford

Backup Matt Scott has performed admirably in his short stint as starter, leading the Wildcats to two straight victories in which the offense pile up at least 500 yards. In recognition for his work, last week the mobile junior was crowned the Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Week.

However, reports coming out of Arizona are stating that injured star Nick Foles will be taking the field on against Stanford, with head coach Mike Stoops going as a far as proclaiming, "I feel comfortable in saying that Nick is 100 percent".

And not a moment to soon. Simply put, the Cardinals are one of the juggernauts of the Pac-10. Fresh off a destruction of the Washington Huskies, Stanford is still holding out hope that a BCS bowl bid will come their way at the end of the season.

Thus far the Stanford offense has been rolling, scoring at least 30 points in every game this season - the first time that has happened in school history. Quarterback Andrew Luck has been dominate through eight games, throwing for 1920 yards and 20 touchdowns while rushing for three touchdowns and 43.1 yards per game. If he chooses to opt out of school and enter the NFL draft, the kid is a guaranteed top-5 pick.

After last year's ridiculous back-and-forth game - which featured 1137 total yards of offense, 81 points, and a dramatic fourth quarter comeback - it is likely the Cardinals will be out for revenge. 

This match-up is basically a crapshoot. Stanford has won their last five home games while the Wildcats have won their last five away games. Something's got to give. Whichever team wins this game probably goes to the Rose Bowl, barring any sort of Oregon collapse.

My gut tells me this Stanford squad has what it takes to win a shootout on their home field.

Intern Prediction: Stanford 49, Arizona 45

Cardinals +9 @ Minnesota

And the Max Hall experiment comes to abrupt halt after three games. Everybody please file back in the Derek Anderson party bus!

At some point last week - probably around D.A. throwing the pick on first down despite the Cards being down three and in field goal range - I finally gave in to the same conclusion that so many others had already figured out. Arizona really is home to the worst quarterback situation in the NFL. It's not even a question. If the Redbirds could get even some semblance of mediocrity, they'd be destroying this division. The pieces are there. The veteran leadership is there. The talent is there. It's a ridiculous state of affairs.

Right now, watching a Cardinals game evokes this bizarre emotional mixture that somehow fuses resentment, sadness, and incredulity into a neat little packet of depression.

However, this week shall provide an intriguing social study. By meeting up with the Vikings, the Cardinals are somehow going to be facing a team that eclipses them in the completely-dysfunctional-and-falling-apart-after-a-series-of-bad-decisions category. Simply put, the Vikings are a mess. If they lose on Sunday at home, the state of Minnesota may spontaneously combust. Derek Anderson coming into their house and busting out a victory surely would be the tipper that imbalances the scale Brad Childress' job currently teeters upon.

Still, the Vikings have a manchild by the name of Adrian Peterson. That alone might be enough. The Cardinals have been getting destroyed with the run, allowing second-rate backs like Jason Snelling, Mike Tolbert, and LeGarrette Blount to go off for career days. AD has to be chomping at the bit to get a shot at these guys, especially after last year's dud in the desert - 13 rushes for 19 yards and zero touchdowns. 

The Vikings are desperate while the Cardinals are just anxious. There is a big difference. "AP + Desperation + Home Field Advantage" is just too one-sided of an equation for the Red Birds to overcome.

Intern Prediction: Vikings 32, Cardinals 23

 

Last week's record: 2-1

Total record: 11-7