USC @ Stanford (-10)
Preseason Pick: Stanford
At first glance, Stanford seems an easy pick. They've played fantastic so far this year, going 4-1, dominating in each of their four wins, and only losing on the road to a great Oregon team in a game they were up at halftime. Meanwhile, USC has looked decidedly mediocre, also 4-1 but rarely dominant and without having played anyone even close to the top 25. Defense has been especially troublesome for the Trojans, and against a Stanford team that has a great quarterback and a physical running game, that's a real problem.
On the Other Hand:
There are a couple of things that really favor USC in this one. First of all, Stanford just played a huge game against Oregon and is likely to suffer at least some amount of emotional letdown afterwards (USC, on the other hand, really hasn't had a big game yet, and should be chomping at the bit for this one). Second, Stanford is likely without Owusu and possibly without Ryan Whalen (and if he plays, he's unlikely to be 100%). It's hard for an offense to be nearly as good without its top two receivers… and while Stanford's defense is better than last year, they're still likely to struggle to contain Allen Bradford and USC's other weapons.
Third, there's still a decent chance that USC really is better than they've played so far; it's far from certain, but they've still got a lot of talent, and you'd have to think it at least reasonably possible that at some point they're going to start playing much better. That point could be this game.
Stanford is good, at home, and likely to win. But this game is really about USC, and what happens here will answer a lot of questions about the Trojans, one way or the other. In a tough spot, with no one really believing in them, I think they step up and have a quality performance. It probably won't be enough to pull the upset, but it should be a good game.
@ Stanford 31, USC 24
Oregon St @ Arizona (-8.5)
Preseason Pick: Arizona
Arizona has flown weirdly under the radar for an undefeated team with a noteworthy win over Iowa (themselves a very good football team). It's way too early to say for sure, but this Wildcat team might well be even better than the very good TCU and Boise teams that Oregon St has already faced. They've got a strong defense, an extremely explosive offense, and have twice now shown themselves able to pick themselves off the mat and pull off tough wins against good opponents when in a bind. Against an Oregon St team that needed a +2 turnover margin to give TCU a game, a +1 turnover margin and a big punt return to sort of hang with Boise, and that barely beat ASU at home despite a +3 turnover margin, it's easy to see this getting ugly if Arizona doesn't beat themselves. They've got the better offense, the better defense, and home field advantage. Is it really that simple?
On the Other Hand:
At times Arizona has been their own worst enemy, most notably in the second half against Iowa, where they squandered a dominant halftime lead and needed a last-minute drive to pull off the win. And one thing Oregon St has been very good at is taking advantage of other teams' mistakes, without making many of their own. They've won the turnover margin battle in every game so far, despite having an inexperienced quarterback behind center. And they've got plenty of weapons of their own. The offense hasn't been firing on all cylinders yet, but you just know the Beavers are going to get really hot at some point. The ASU win may have been ugly, but it was still a win and a confidence booster. With that behind them, this could be the week that things start clicking for them.
Arizona is the better team, at home, and off a bye. That's worth more than 8 points. Oregon St will show acceptably well, but Arizona is going to win this game and probably cover.
@ Arizona 31, Oregon St 21
Arizona St @ Washington (-1)
Preseason Pick: Washington
If anyone can figure out the Washington Huskies, raise your hand. Anyone? Yeah… didn't think so. Maybe they completely turned things around in the bye week. Maybe Nebraska was just that good, and the BYU loss was opening week jitters. Or maybe USC got exposed, or that week was the fluke result. Theoretically, Washington was supposed to be better than ASU based on preseason expectations, and when you look at the teams' records, maybe that's actually what's happened. ASU still hasn't beaten a 1-A team, and Washington has gone 2-2 against a reasonably tough slate (Nebraska is a top 10 team, and USC is still a tough road game). And ASU continues to beat themselves, and quite frankly hasn't had to face a quarterback as good as Locker yet. It's completely possible that ASU gives away another bunch of turnovers, falls way behind, and it gets ugly fast.
On the Other Hand:
One of these weeks, Arizona St is going to come up with a largely mistake-free game, and the way they've hanged with teams that are, quite frankly, a whole lot better than Washington, when that happens they're going to roll someone. That someone could very easily be the Huskies, especially since Washington has seemingly been allergic to defense, music to the ears of a Sun Devil offense that, despite way too many mistakes, has shown an explosiveness that has been missing for far too long.
Anything could happen in this game. Either team could win by 2, 3, or more touchdowns, or it could go right down to the wire. I give the edge to the Huskies, partially because they're at home, partially because they might have actually turned the corner with their USC win (I'm skeptical, but I have to admit it's at least possible), partially because Washington recently had a bye while ASU has just had to run a gauntlet of Wisconsin-Oregon-Oregon St (the tank might simply be dry at this point), and partially because ASU has yet to actually beat a 1-A opponent, despite admirably hanging around some very tough opponents.
@ Washington 28, Arizona St 24
UCLA @ Cal (-7.5)
Preseason Pick: Cal
I actually don't think this is going to be a particularly good game. Cal's only real blemish so far was the Nevada game, and I saw that basically as Cal being grossly unprepared on defense and having Kevin Riley on offense. The defense bit is fixable, especially with an extra week of prep time, and while Kevin Riley will have one or two more crappy games this year, there's no special reason to think it'll happen here. Meanwhile, UCLA has done well with the pistol offense, but neither Kevin Prince nor Richard Brehaut can run the offense nearly as well as Kaepernick did. UCLA will have some good drives, and make it a reasonably competitive game, but Cal is simply better, and it will show in the final score.
@ Cal 31, UCLA 17
Oregon (-36.5) @ Washington St
Preseason Pick: Oregon
36.5 points is a LOT of points, and Washington St hasn't been completely awful (and were reasonably competitive twice already). This won't be a game, but since there's no real incentive for the Ducks to bother running it up here (no one cares about this score as long as it's not close), I'd lean towards a close cover by the Cougars. Yes, Oregon covered this with loads of room to spare twice already, but once was against a AA team and the other was against a New Mexico team that's arguably the worst in 1-A (and it might not be close). They certainly could get the cover, but I'm leaning slightly towards not.
Oregon 42, @ Washington St 10
National Games of the Week:
Alabama (-7.5) @ South Carolina
Alabama is a great team, but they're in a tough spot. South Carolina really needs to win this game to keep control of the East after losing at Auburn two weeks ago, they'll have a very fired-up home crowd, they'll be well-rested after their bye week, and Bama has to deal with yet another tough game after a hard-fought win at Arkansas and a highlight-type game against Florida (even though it wasn't close). On a neutral field, without intangibles heavily going towards the underdog, I'd take the Tide and not think twice, but Carolina is good enough to give them a tough test, and in this situation I like their upset chances.
@ South Carolina 28, Alabama 24
Florida St @ Miami (-6)
This should be another great game between these two programs. So far, Miami has looked better, against substantially better opposition. And they're better rested, since they had a bye the week before last, while FSU has played every week. However, this series has had five straight upsets, so you definitely can't count out the dog here. I lean towards Miami winning and covering, but it's a weak pick to be honest.
@ Miami 28, Florida St 21
LSU @ Florida (-6)
This is a tough game to peg. Neither of these teams have been impressive, and to be honest, this line looks about right. I give LSU a bit more credit on the theory that they were just overlooking Tennessee, but it's still in the Swamp, so I don't think they pull the upset.
@ Florida 24, LSU 21
Michigan St @ Michigan (-4.5)
I don't think this game is competitive. Michigan St has only beaten one quality team, needed a trick play in overtime to beat Notre Dame at home, and has yet to play on the road (yes, I know that FAU was a "road" game in Detroit… but that's not fooling anyone). Meanwhile Michigan has more talent, a far better quarterback, a fired up crowd, and the motivation to get payback after two straight losses.
@ Michigan 31, Michigan St 14
Minnesota +22.5 @ Wisconsin
This line is way too high. Minnesota has been bad, but not hideously awful; yes, they're 1-4 with a AA loss, but they've been consistently competitive in their losses, which suggest that, at the least, they're not really a bottom 25 team. Meanwhile, Wisconsin just hasn't been that good, struggling against SJ St, really struggling against ASU, and losing by 10 at Michigan St. Throw in Wisconsin's 6-game winning streak in this rivalry (typically the "danger zone" is in the 5-10 win range, where team on the bad end starts to REALLY want the game much more than the team used to winning), and this could be a surprisingly competitive game, with an upset at least slightly possible.
Iowa St +6 vs Utah
Iowa St has been better, and Utah worse, than people have been giving credit for. Utah deserves to be the favorite, but this is their first road game against even a halfway-decent opponent, and it's worth noting how much they struggled at home against a Pitt team that right now simply does not look like a good team. This shouldn't be anything over a field goal.
Ball St -5.5 vs Western Michigan
Western Michigan has been a non-stop disaster, while at least Ball St has shown some life here and there. This is a desperation game for the Broncos, but they're the worse team on the road.
NC St -9.5 vs BC
BC has just been a mess the past two weeks, getting totally lit up by both Virginia Tech and Notre Dame. Now they need to go on the road to try and pick up the pieces while playing an NC St team that has been legitimately good (though they had a nightmare second half against Virginia Tech last week). Anything under two touchdowns looks too low to me.
Virginia +10 @ Georgia Tech
Clearly the Cavs burned me last week.. but this line is just too high. Georgia Tech hasn't covered this line against a single 1-A team… and the Cavs are probably better than Kansas (who beat Tech) and Wake (who Tech only beat by 4)
Toledo +39 @ Boise St
Despite an ugly loss to Arizona and a really bad first half last week against Wyoming, I actually think Toledo is reasonably decent. And while they haven't beaten anyone noteworthy, they're still 3-0 on the road. Obviously Boise is running it up on anyone they can, and you never know when they'll get really hot… but I think Toledo is decent enough to keep the margin to the high 20's to mid 30's. Almost 40 points is a bit too much here.
Pac-10: 33-5 SU, 13-18 ATS
National: 13-4 SU, 8-8-1 ATS
Bad Lines: 4-12-2
Mr Pac-10's 2010 Blog
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