Cal @ USC (-2.5)
Preseason Pick: USC
This is an interesting game between two teams that we really haven't been able to fully figure out yet. Cal is 3-2, with three dominant wins, one loss about as good as you can get (barely losing at Arizona), and one absolute stinker at Nevada. USC, meanwhile, is 4-2, but without any particularly meaningful wins, an egg laid at home to Washington a couple weeks ago, and a surprisingly competitive loss at Stanford.
USC's level of play has definitely been a real concern. They struggled at Hawaii, really struggled against Virginia, struggled at Minnesota, lost to Washington, and lost to Stanford. The only really good showing they've had was at Washington St, which really isn't a result you want to read much into. Meanwhile Cal has blasted Colorado and UCLA, and very nearly won at Nevada. If you're asking "who's been the better team", it's been Cal so far. If they bring their "A" game, they have a very good shot at pulling the upset.
On the Other Hand:
It's Cal, on the road. That's generally not a great combination for the Bears. And it's especially difficult in this game, because USC's big weakness has been pass defense, while Cal's biggest (or at least most reliable) offensive strength has been the running game. If Kevin Riley plays well, they could do very well in this spot. If he plays poorly, they could have an extremely long day.
Meanwhile, the Cal defense really hasn't been tested against a quarterback who can do the things Barkley can do. Yes, they've had plenty of success this year (except at Nevada of course), but USC's offense is simply a step above the teams they've largely shut down.
This is a tough game to call. Cal could certainly pull the upset, and to be honest they've been the better team so far, but USC has their backs to the wall, and I expect a strong effort from them in this game.
@ USC 28, Cal 24
Oregon St @ Washington (-1.5)
Preseason Pick: Washington
It's interesting that Washington is the favorite in this game, given that Oregon St is ranked, and the Huskies have suffered some bad losses this year, losing at a bad BYU team, getting humiliated at home by Nebraska, and really not looking very good last week against ASU. Locker and the Husky offense have been hit and miss, while the defense has mainly just been miss.
Meanwhile, the Beavers have been playing pretty well so far. 3-2 may not look like a fantastic record, but they've had a nasty opening five games and are still above .500. That's a nice achievement for what they've had to face. Katz has been a big positive surprise (especially for a program not known for doing well with young QB's), and the team as a whole has been playing at a very solid level. There's no question they're capable of winning this game if they can play the same quality football as they've done so far this year.
On the Other Hand:
If you believe that a lot of Washington's struggles last week were due to Locker being sick, and that he's going to be a good deal better this week, then this actually looks like a decent spot for the Huskies. They had a bye to recover from an unpleasant opening stretch, and while a USC-ASU stretch isn't easy, it's just two games, and neither one is a truly top-shelf opponent. Meanwhile Oregon St has just had back to back to back games against Boise, ASU and Arizona, two of which were on the road. Getting another road game right away in a hostile environment like Seattle is a crappy draw, and there's a very real possibility that they simply will be a bit too beat up physically and emotionally to bring their "A" game, especially after notching a big upset last week in Tucson.
Moreover, Oregon St is going to suffer to some degree offensively without James Rodgers, and I'm not sold that they have the defense to clamp down on Locker and the Husky offense here. Given that this is an absolute desperation game for U-Dub (if they hit 2-4, they can pretty much kiss the postseason goodbye, given that they still have to play Arizona, Stanford, Oregon and Cal), I would expect the Huskies' best, or close to best effort, while it's harder to see Oregon St being at their peak here.
Oregon St is the better team, but the intangibles almost overwhelmingly favor Washington in this game. It's fair that this line is close to a tossup, but ultimately I think that the Huskies will somehow find a way to get it done here.
@ Washington 31, Oregon St 28
Arizona (-23.5) @ Washington St
Preseason Pick: Arizona
This line seems fairly reasonable to me. However, Arizona is a team that simply has the ability to roll against teams that are substantially worse than they are. While Wazzu has shown some positive signs, are they meaningfully better than Toledo? If not (and I suspect not), then what's to keep this score from looking a lot like that one? I think it'll be closer than that romp… but I still like Arizona to cover in this game.
Arizona 38, Washington St 10
National Games of the Week:
Ohio St (-3.5) @ Wisconsin
To be honest, I think Wisconsin has simply been overrated, and their ATS record (0-5 if I'm counting right, with a few not even close to the line) seems to reflect this. And now the #1 team in the country plays them and is well less than a touchdown favorite. To me, that just looks too low. At some point Vegas will adjust to their performance, but it just doesn't look like we're there yet. While the Badgers do have a history of playing Ohio St tough… 3.5 is just too low of a line here.
Ohio St 28, @ Wisconsin 21
Arkansas @ Auburn (-3.5)
I'm not really sold on Auburn yet, and against a great Arkansas offense I think they're going to struggle. I think this is a true tossup, and I have a feeling the Hogs win this game.
Arkansas 31, @ Auburn 28
Texas @ Nebraska (-9.5)
This game is more interesting for the storyline than the football. Nebraska should have very little trouble here.
@ Nebraska 31, Texas 10
Army +7 @ Rutgers
Is Rutgers even the better team here? There's been very little evidence of it so far. Unless the UConn win was the spark they needed to really surge forward (possible but I think unlikely), this game is basically a tossup.
Florida St -21.5 vs BC
I hate to say it… but maybe BC just sucks. The "road team wins" dynamic in this series gives me a bit of pause… but FSU is simply a far better football team. BC's back was to the wall last week and they weren't even competitive. I have a hard time seeing why this game would be different.
Toledo -3.5 vs Kent
This looks like a total mismatch to me. Toledo's ugly efforts have been against Arizona and Boise (though the Wyoming loss wasn't so hot to be honest). Kent's ugly efforts have been against BC (who isn't very good), Penn St (ditto), and MiamiOH (ditto). I'd take Toledo -2.5 if this was at Kent, much less at Toledo.
Virginia +6.5 vs UNC
Maybe the Cavs are just cursed ATS, but to me this looks close to a tossup. The only time all year UNC would have covered this was at home against ECU; that includes their only road game so far, a 4-point win at Rutgers (who's been much worse than Virginia).
Pac-10: 36-7 SU, 16-20 ATS
National: 14-7 SU, 10-10 ATS
Bad Lines: 6-16-2
Mr Pac-10's 2010 Blog
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