The Washington Huskies could play a huge role in the second half of the 2011 season.
-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)
1. Oregon vs. Stanford (Week 11)
Nov. 12, All-Time Series: Stanford leads 44-29-1
The Pac-12 conference title will likely be on the line when Oregon flies south to Palo Alto. Stanford has owned the all-time series, but over the last decade the Ducks have dominated. Oregon dropped 52 points on the Cardinal last fall and has won eight of the last nine meetings. The Ducks have struggled against power teams (Ohio State, Auburn, LSU) over the last two years and the Cardinal will have as close to a power rushing attack as there is on the West Coast. Will the Ducks’ front seven be able to pressure Andrew Luck and slow the ground game? And can the Cardinal keep the Ducks from scoring 52 points again?
Athlon’s Prediction: Cardinal by 4
2. Oregon vs. Washington (Week 10)
Nov. 5, All-Time Series: Washington leads 58-40-5
Two of the best uniforms in the nation will take the field in what should be a visual show
in the richly colored Pacific Northwest. The scoreboard shouldn’t be short on color either
as the winner of this game has averaged 43 points per game over the last nine meetings.
In fact, the winner of this game has scored less than 42 points only twice (31 in 2004,
34 in 2006). The Ducks have won seven straight meetings and will likely post another
crooked number. However, Steve Sarkisian has plenty of talent with Keith Price playing
well ahead of schedule. The Huskies are the primary challenger to Oregon and Stanford
in the North.
Athlon’s Prediction: Ducks by 7
3. USC vs. Notre Dame (Week 8)
Oct. 22, All-Time Series: Notre Dame leads 43-33-5
One the nation’s most prestigious rivalries will be renewed for the 82nd time when USC
heads to South Bend this weekend. The Irish got off the schneid last season when they
outlasted the Trojans 20-16 in Los Angeles as it was the first victory for Notre Dame over
USC since 2001 (0-8). In a series that has featured second halves like Anthony Davis'
and fourth quarter “heroics” like the Bush Push, this reunion is a must-see each and every
season. Both teams appear to be improved from a year ago and customary year-long
bragging rights will be on the line.
Athlon’s Prediction: Irish by 3
4. USC vs. Oregon (Week 12)
Nov. 19, All-Time Series: USC leads 37-18-2
This game should have been one of two potential Pac-12 championship game previews.
USC is the best team in the South but will not be allowed to play in the inaugural
conference title bout. That doesn’t really affect the players on the field, however, as these
are arguably the most talent-laden rosters in the conference. Despite being dominated for
the better part of the century, Oregon has reestablished its home field advantage in this
budding rivalry, winning five of the last seven meetings in Eugene. The Ducks have also
won three of the last four overall reunions, including a 53–32 shellacking in 2010.
Athlon’s Prediction: Ducks by 7
5. Stanford vs. USC (Week 9)
Oct. 29, All-Time Series: USC leads 58-27-3
If Oregon is the most talented roster in the Pac-12, then these two teams are the clear challengers when it comes to raw ability. Unfortunately the budding disdain between Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh has come to an end. But Andrew Luck and Matt Barkley are still around and are still two of the most talented passers in the country. The Cardinal power rushing attack will test the uncharacteristically porous Trojan front seven from 2010, while Barkley and super-soph Robert Woods will offer a formidable test for the veteran Stanford secondary. Stanford has won three of the last four meetings, including the last two trips to the Coliseum.
Athlon’s Prediction: Cardinal by 1
6. Washington vs. Stanford (Week 8)
Oct. 22, All-Times Series: Washington leads 40-37-4
This series was dominated by the Huskies from 1977 through 2003, but Stanford has
reversed the trend of late. The Cardinal have won five of the last six meetings in cluding
a 41-0 thumping last season in Seattle. With Keith Price now leading the U of W ship
with electric efficiency, the 2011 battle figures to be much closer. However, Stanford still
has the nation’s best player and will be on The Farm for this one.
Athlon’s Prediction: Stanford by 13
7. Notre Dame vs. Stanford (Week 13)
Nov. 26, All-Time Series: Notre Dame leads 17-8
This game has a chance to dramatically impact the overall national title landscape in
the penultimate week of the regular season. If things fall right for both, an at-large BCS
bowl bid could be on the line. The Irish struggled out of the gate with turnovers but have
righted the ship behind improved play by Tommy Rees. On the flip side, Andrew Luck
has been as good as advertised and has the Cardinal destroying opponents by 34 points
Athlon’s Prediction: Cardinal by 6
Other Key Games To Watch:
Cal vs. Stanford (Nov. 19)
UCLA vs. USC (Nov. 26)
Washington vs. Washington State (Nov. 26)