Stanford @ Washington (-3.5)
Preseason Pick: Washington
Despite this being a game between two lower-division teams, this looks pretty interesting. On the surface, it's easy to see why Washington is a slight favorite. They're at home, they're off a bye, they were very competitive against a very good BYU team, and Stanford hasn't exactly set the world on fire despite starting 2-2, losing by big margins in both their road games, at ASU and TCU.
If there is going to be a game where the Huskies start a run to make the year respectable and try to save Willingham's job, this has to be it. At this point, there's simply no more margin for error if they even want to hit five wins, much less the six that are generally believed necessary for him to remain in Seattle another year. They've got the superstar in Locker, they've got the home-field advantage, they've had a week off to rest and prepare, and you have to believe they'll be fired up and desperate for a win. When it comes to the intangibles, the Huskies have a massive advantage.
On the Other Hand:
When it comes to the matchups, Stanford has the advantage. Yeah, Locker is a great player, but he's primarily a runner, who hasn't done much passing the ball. Considering Stanford is good at run defense and terrible at pass defense, this is about as favorable a matchup as they could hope for. If you can dominate up front, you can shut down this offense down. Stanford has a chance to do just that.
On the other side of the ball, Washington has been bad at pass defense and really bad at run defense. Against a run-first team, that's not a good recipe. If Stanford doesn't hit 130 yards rushing, it'll be a surprise, and there's at least a chance the passing game could be OK in this game too.
Three and a half points seem too much when Stanford has looked like the better team, and Washington seems to keep finding ways to lose instead of ways to win. This game positively reeks of a tossup that gets decided on the last possession. It's nothing more than a feeling, but I think Washington finally finds a way to get it done in a game they absolutely MUST win, but it'll be very, very close.
@ Washington 30, Stanford 27
USC (-24.5) @ Oregon St
Preseason Pick: USC
Here we go again, as once again USC starts the year off with a bang, and now tries to keep the momentum going in their first league road game. If it feels like we've seen this story before, it's because we have. In 2007, they started hot and then barely escaped Seattle with a win. In 2007, they won comfortably at Arizona (but no cover), then barely escaped Pullman with a win. In 2005, they bludgeoned Oregon at Autzen and followed it up with a close win at ASU. In 2004, they barely escaped a game at a bad Stanford team, and in 2003 they lost at Cal as a two touchdown favorite. History practically screams that if they've got a 20+ line on the road against an unranked Pac-10 team in September or early October, go the other way.
And despite how awful Oregon St looked in the first two games of the year, we've also seen this story before. Year after year, they stumble through September and, at some random point, suddenly put it together and make a nice late-season run. Yeah, Hawaii is terrible, but maybe that beatdown against the Warriors was a sign that they'll turn the corner earlier than usual. There are plenty of issues, but they have great receivers and some nice backs as well. There's enough talent to make this a game if things go well.
On the Other Hand:
USC has simply looked fantastic so far this year. You only have to look at their week one dismantling of Virginia to see how they handle overmatched opponents, even on the road. And the offensive explosion against a very good Ohio St defense can't simply be waved away as irrelevant; if they could do that against the Buckeye D, just think of how much they can light up the scoreboard against the Beaver D.
On paper, this shouldn't even be as close as the line indicates. Then again, if there's one thing that USC does consistently, it's take the foot off the gas pedal against teams they know they're a lot better than, especially on the road. Maybe this year will be different, but somehow I doubt it. It's a flaw that goes to the very nature of the program, and until they can consistently show that they don't take games off, it's hard to not expect it, at least to some extent.
USC 35, @ Oregon St 13
Oregon (-21.5) @ Washington St
Preseason Pick: WSU
Does anyone even know what to expect from either of these two teams? Oregon was supposed to be really good, looked like it for two weeks, and then started accumulating injuries, making mistakes, and looking incredibly vulnerable. Washington St was supposed to be really bad, looked like it for three weeks, and then suddenly looked good against a AA opponent. If both teams played like they did last week, the Cougars definitely have a chance.
On the Other Hand:
All that said, Portland St is still a AA team. Yeah, Oregon had issues, but those issues were against Purdue and Boise St, two teams light-years better than the Cougars. Yeah, Oregon seems to be on their 18th string quarterback, but Wazzu lost their first two guys as well. And don't forget, Wazzu hasn't stopped anyone with a pulse, while the Ducks have at least looked good at times on defense.
Three touchdowns is still a lot to lay on a team that's treading water as much as Oregon is right now. They should win comfortably, but the Cougars will put together a long drive or two, and once or twice make Oregon settle for field goals in the red zone, and it'll be enough to just barely cover.
Oregon 38, @ Washington St 20
Fresno St @ UCLA (+7)
Doesn't this line seem low? Almost, say, suspiciously low? You know, just like the Tennessee line? Well, Fresno has had some good moments, but right now it's hard to say they're much better than the Vols. All that said, the Bulldogs have built their program by beating mediocre BCS teams. It's what they do, and they're very good at it. Rutgers being terrible and Toledo nearly knocking them off doesn't change that simple reality. Fresno has too many weapons, and their defense is tough enough to contain a struggling Bruin offense, to see an upset unless something really weird happens.
Fresno 31, @ UCLA 13
Colorado St @ Cal (-26.5)
Well, I'm obviously missing something here. Cal is certainly a better team than the Rams, but almost four touchdowns better? Being at home off a bye obviously helps, but right now I don't trust this team that much. I think they'll win comfortably, but not that comfortably.
@ Cal 31, Colorado St 10
National Games of the Week:
Alabama @ Georgia (-6.5)
Since my initial gut, don't bother thinking about it, feeling is Georgia covers, and that feeling is seldom right about teams I don't know know very well, I'll take the points. Plus, Georgia is in the middle of a nasty stretch while the Tide may as well have been sipping Pina Coladas on the beach their last three games. The Dogs win, but not by much.
@ UGA 24, Bama 21
TCU @ Oklahoma (-18.5)
There's no doubt that the Sooners remember the last time they played these guys and will try to get some big-time payback. That said, TCU looks like a legitimately good team and will be the toughest test by far Oklahoma has seen. The Sooners get a late score or two to make it look nice, but this will be a good game.
@ Oklahoma 31, TCU 17
Virginia Tech @ Nebraska (-7)
When exactly did Nebraska become good? Was there a good win somewhere in there I didn't see, or a bad loss for V Tech? Because otherwise, the Hokies have been better, which makes anything more than a field goal look weird. Honestly, to me this looks like an upset, where Nebraska looks like the average team they were expected to be and the Hokies put that week one loss to ECU further behind them.
Virginia Tech 24, @ Nebraska 20
Before we overreact to Louisville's win over Kansas St, let's remember there's no way of knowing the Wildcats are any good. And this is still the same team that got killed by Kentucky.
I know, I know, the Owls crashed and burned against Penn St. But Western Michigan doesn't seem much if any better than the Owls, and it's in Philly.
Miami has looked good so far, but still hasn't beaten anyone good. Honestly, UNC has overall played almost as well, and has certainly shown the ability to play well on the road. This should be a close game.
Clemson still hasn't beaten anyone good, and the Terps are starting to play good football. They have a very legitimate shot at the upset.
Under the radar, the Gophers have been playing surprisingly well, and by now it's become increasingly clear the Buckeyes just aren't that good. An upset is a reach, but this ought to be competitive.
East Carolina -10.5
Houston had some decent moments against Air Force, but overall has looked like a big disappointment, while ECU is still a great team with a huge home-field edge. They should win this game easily.
I know Auburn's offense hasn't been all that great, but they're at home against a hugely disappointing Tennessee team. This line looks so bad I'm either missing an injury or completely getting suckered into a huge trap, but I'm going with it anyway.
Last Week's Record:
Pac-10: 7-3 SU, 4-6 ATS
National: 2-1 SU, 2-1 ATS
Bad Picks: 2-3
Pac-10: 21-8 SU, 13-14 ATS
National: 9-5 SU, 6-7-1 ATS
Bad Picks: 9-8
Mr Pac-10's 2008 Blog
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