Because we’ve got 10 games featuring Pac-10 teams (no league games, no byes), all the previews except Ohio St-USC will be short.
Ohio St @ USC (-10.5)
As of the start of the year, this looked like the latest Game of the Century. But then last week the Buckeyes struggled mightily against lowly Ohio U, and now it seems as if USC has it all wrapped up even before the first snap. With the Trojans looking fantastic after a blowout win and Ohio St looking anything but, could it really be this easy?
If Ohio St is close to as bad as they played against Ohio, then answer is a resounding yes. The Buckeyes made too many mistakes, and their offensive line play was sub-par. If either of those happens here, this will get ugly quickly.
On the Other Hand:
Has anyone else noticed that just about everyone is picking USC to win big (and probably betting that way), and yet that line has hovered around 10 the whole time? That’s a telltale sign that Vegas strongly thinks that everyone is making a bad bet, and in a big, heavily wagered game like this, you have to take a second look if the books are that confident.
The big thing you have to look at is the Ohio St defense. Lost in the offensive issues against Ohio is the fact that this is still a fantastic unit that struggled a touch early but overall did a great job as usual. Unless USC forces multiple turnovers, they’ll struggle to hit 20 points, and unless they totally shut down the Buckeye offense, 17 or so points probably won’t be enough to cover. And if Ohio St gets some breaks, like Sanchez’s knee acting up again or just a big mistake or two by the Trojans, it’s surprisingly easy to see them coming out of the Coliseum with a win.
At the start of the year, I looked at this game as a close Buckeye win. Red flags from the Ohio game, as well as USC’s demolition of Virginia, make me lean towards the Trojans instead, but I think this should still be a close, defensive struggle that goes right down to the wire.
@ USC 17, Ohio St 10
Oregon (-8) @ Purdue
So far the Ducks have looked really good, while Purdue is almost a total unknown. That said, Purdue looks like it’s going to be a pass-first team with a mediocre defense, more based on the guys they have than reading much into a AA beatdown. If that’s the case, Oregon matches up very well, since they’ve got an explosive offense and a fantastic secondary. The Ducks will make some mistakes, and Purdue will make some big plays, but in the end I think Oregon wins by a low double-digit margin.
Oregon 35, @ Purdue 24
Stanford (+13.5) @ TCU
Is it just me or does this line seem surprisingly high? This game features two teams who are good at running the ball and stopping the run, neither of whom can do much passing the ball. TCU has a decent pass defense while Stanford does not, so that’s an edge, and home-field should play a part as well. If the Cardinal can magic up a passing game or win the turnover battle they’ll win, but the most likely scenario is a defensive struggle that favors the home team.
@ TCU 17, Stanford 13
UCLA @ BYU (-8)
After the controversial close win for the Cougars at Washington and the thrilling comeback win against Tennessee for UCLA, Bruin fans have to be feeling good about this matchup. However, BYU has a far more potent passing game than the Vols did, which is bad news for a Bruin defense with a weak secondary (aside from Verner). UCLA will have some big moments against a mediocre Cougar defense, but they’ll also make some mistakes, while BYU is going to get a lot of big plays through the air, and make it clear to the country that until proven otherwise they are very much in the hunt for an at-large BCS berth.
@ BYU 42, UCLA 27
Cal (-13.5) @Maryland
Traveling cross-country to face a talented team looking for a big moment is a very dangerous proposition for any team, especially one with a relatively green quarterback. However, Cal will handle the challenge the same way they did against Washington St last week, with big plays from the running game and the defense. Maybe Josh Portis is the answer for Maryland and they’ll suddenly be light-years better with him under center, but even so, I don’t think that the Terps match up well enough against Cal’s defense to force the Bears to build a lead and put the game on Riley’s shoulders. And with the Terp defense looking pretty vulnerable as well, you have to like Cal’s chances to win big here.
Cal 38, @ Maryland 17
Oklahoma @ Washington (+20.5)
It’s tempting to take so many points, especially after Washington did play BYU close, but I think Oklahoma is just too good for this to be a contest. After what they did last week against Cincinnati, I don’t think the Huskies will be able to come any closer than the Bearcats did.
Oklahoma 49, @ Washington 20
Arizona (-10) @ New Mexico
This is the sort of game that a typical Mike Stoops team blows: first road game, an underdog that could conceivably be better than their record, and a game that the Wildcats feel confident of winning. All that said, I just don’t think the Lobos are any good. Yes, the A&M game was one they could have won with more breaks, but what have we seen that makes us think A&M is any good? If the Lobos were better I’d think hard about the upset… but they’re not.
Arizona 38, @ New Mexico 17
Washington St (+1) @ Baylor
The pillow fight of the weak. Baylor doesn’t look good, but right now they’re light-years ahead of the Cougars, who haven’t done much of anything right, and now have to deal with their first road game of the year. Not at all a good combination.
@ Baylor 35, Washington St 17
Hawaii @ Oregon St (-13.5)
As bad as the Beavers have looked so far (and make no mistake, it’s been bad), Hawaii has just been atrocious. I just don’t see how this one is a contest.
@ Oregon St 38, Hawaii 14
UNLV @ Arizona St (-23)
This seems like a midly lower spread than I agree with, though ASU is likely to be looking ahead to Georgia. I admit I don’t lean too strongly one way or the other; I’d advise staying away from this game (that means gambling AND watching).
@ Arizona St 42, UNLV 17
National Games of the Week:
Wisconsin (-2) @ Fresno St
This may well be the best game of the week, as it pits two hard-nosed programs against each other in a showcase matchup for each. At home, I really like Fresno; yes Wisconsin will take this seriously and be prepared, but that’s a long trip to take, and the Bulldogs have a great history of winning these sorts of big non-conference games at home. And, to be honest, I suspect that even without those factors they may well be the better team.
@ Fresno 28, Wisconsin 24
Kansas @ South Florida (-3.5)
There’s a bit of danger from a letdown after a tough game against Central Florida, but I simply think that USF is just too good to lose this game. Unless Kansas gets huge special teams play like UCF did last week, I think the Bulls don’t have much trouble.
@ USF 28, Kansas 14
Georgia (-7) @ South Carolina
In some ways, this looks like a trap. Georgia has a big trip next week to ASU, and Carolina ought to be fired up to turn things around after a very sub-par performance at Vandy. That said, there just isn’t much life in the Gamecock offense right now, so even if they’re fired up I’m not sure it makes a huge difference. Perhaps all the Georgia injuries take their toll, but until proven otherwise I just don’t have enough faith in South Carolina to think they’ve got much of a chance here.
Georgia 21, @ South Carolina 10
Yes, it’s just one game, but Notre Dame just looked awful against a really crummy San Diego St team. At least Michigan has shown some signs of life, beating a better team than SD St last week in Miami (OH) and losing close to a very good Utah squad.
Is Duke actually a favorite and am I actually advocating laying the points? Yes I am. The Blue Devils certainly aren’t good, but they’ve looked far from terrible, winning easily against a AA team in week one and nearly knocking off Northwestern in week two. Meanwhile Navy simply does not look good right now. If Duke is a slightly better team, then at home anything less than a field goal looks like a nice line to take.
Auburn wasn’t awesome against USM last week, but they’re still a very good team. Miss St just doesn’t look very good right now, and I think that the Tigers have more than enough weapons to win by around 14 – 20, even on the road.
Rice is coming off of a very fortunate win over a Memphis team that isn’t very good, and the week before beat a SMU team that is pretty lousy. Meanwhile Vandy is 2-0 against a talented South Carolina team and a Miami (OH) team that’s probably better than either of the guys Rice has knocked off. Either there’s an injury I don’t know about, or that line simply looks broken.
Iowa St +13.5
Right now the Cyclones don’t look terrible, and we all know how much Iowa tends to struggle in this series.
UNC looked awful in week one, and I honestly didn’t think Rutgers played that badly; they just lost pretty much all of the key plays in that game. The Knights look appreciably better than the Tar Heels, and on Thursday night at home I look for a low double-digit win for them.
Last Week’s Record:
Pac-10: 6-0 SU, 3-3 ATS
National: 1-2 SU, 1-2 ATS
Bad Picks: 2-2
Pac-10: 11-3 SU, 7-6 ATS
National: 5-3 SU, 4-4 ATS
Bad Picks: 4-2
Mr Pac-10's 2008 Blog
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