Around the country, there are a bunch of really interesting games this weekend. Around the Pac-10… not so much. Arizona @ Stanford could be good, but the other three look like major duds.
Arizona (-7) @ Stanford
Preseason Pick: Stanford
One thing which strikes me when looking at this game is how powerfully the intangibles seem to favor Stanford. Homecoming is the obvious one, but there are some others. First of all, Arizona has yet to play anyone good, while Stanford has been tested repeatedly over their first six games. The Wildcats have shown themselves to be vulnerable to a physical team on the road, which is (along with a boatload of turnovers) why they lost to New Mexico.
But the big one is that this is essentially Stanford's most important game of the year. If they win, then they should also beat UCLA and Wazzu and make a bowl game. If they lose, they have to beat those two and then come up with an upset against one of Oregon, USC and Cal. That's very unlikely, which means that they're playing for the season in this game, while for Arizona, this is a game they'd like to win but really don't need to. They'll win at Pullman, which means they only need one other win somewhere along the way. Only the most ardent skeptic would think that to be anything other than a lock. So unless you think they're in the Rose Bowl hunt (which I don't), this game just doesn't matter that much to them. That's dangerous.
On the Other Hand:
Yeah, Stanford has played plenty of good teams, but who have they beaten? An Oregon St team that self-destructed, and a poor pair of teams in San Jose St and Washington. Meanwhile the Wildcats have Gronkowski back, which is a huge boost, and will be a big factor against a lousy Cardinal secondary. They showed against UCLA that they can take it to teams they're better than, even on the road. There's very good reason to think that they can turn this one into a blowout as well.
Arizona can't defend the run, and Stanford can't defend the pass. That means the game will probably be determined by which of these turnover and penalty prone teams makes the most mistakes. Since Stanford cares a lot about this game and Arizona is probably looking ahead to USC and Cal, I'll guess the Cardinal come in a bit more disciplined and win the mistake battle.
@ Stanford 31, Arizona 28
UCLA @ Oregon (-18.5)
Preseason Pick: Oregon
This could be a bit more interesting than people think. Oregon has been wildly inconsistent, bludgeoning the Washington schools and Utah St, but struggling in a win against Purdue, dropping one against Boise and getting killed by USC. For how good the Duck secondary was supposed to be, it seems like anyone with a pulse is torching these guys. And given that UCLA's big weakness is its own secondary (see: Arizona and BYU blowouts), playing against a team that's been iffy passing the ball is a nice matchup for the Bruins. They find ways to overachieve in games they have a shot at, knocking off Tennessee and nearly knocking off Fresno. Against another team that people think are good but might not be, the Bruins have a shot.
On the Other Hand:
Oregon has shown an uncanny ability to bludgeon bad teams. They beat the tar out of the Washington schools and Utah St, so the question is, are the Bruins a lot better than those guys? If not, you could be looking at a repeat of game one, where the Huskies hung around for a while but in the end the Ducks lit it up late.
Somehow UCLA just keeps finding ways to cover. The line seems maybe a point or two high, but generally reasonable. And when that happens, the Bruins make a big play or two to reward their investors. They won't pull out the upset, but they will make it respectable.
@ Oregon 34, UCLA 20
Arizona St @ USC (-28)
Preseason Pick: USC
This just does not look like much of a contest. Arizona St's defense is decent, so they'll keep the Trojans in the high 30's or low 40's, but USC will clamp down on ASU's offense and make it ugly early.
@ USC 41, Arizona St 3
Washington St @ Oregon St (-30)
Preseason Pick: Washington St
The Cougars are in a state of outright collapse. Not only are they 0-5 in 1-A games, they're 0-5 ATS, having gotten bludgeoned in each of those games. That kind of record makes me nervous about taking the points, since prolonged losing streaks are rare, but the injuries have really piled up, and their five losses are by 26, 63, 28, 49, and 25 points. Given that sort of record, and the fact that Oregon St has a really potent offense, even a 30 point margin seems a bit small on the road.
@ Oregon St 45, Washington St 7
National Games of the Week:
Oklahoma (-6.5) vs Texas
History lesson: since Bob Stoops has been here, when Texas is the better team, sometimes they win and sometimes they don't. When Oklahoma is the better team (which they are this year), sometimes they beat Texas and sometimes they destroy them.
Oklahoma 31, Texas 14
LSU @ Florida (-6.5)
Florida is probably the better team and they're at home, but LSU is off a bye and has done a great job of finding ways to win. The Gators win, but barely.
@ Florida 21, LSU 17
Penn St (-6) @ Wisconsin
If that late Ohio St fumble gets recovered by Wisconsin, they win the game instead of the Buckeyes. What that has to do with the fact that Penn St looks like the best team in the Big Ten, I'm not sure.
Penn St 28, @ Wisconsin 20
Oklahoma St @ Missouri (-14)
That's a very big line, but Mizzou has been destroying everyone. For now, they get the benefit of the doubt.
@ Missouri 42, Oklahoma St 24
Maybe I'm overreacting to UVA's win over Maryland, and there's certainly the potential for a big letdown, but ECU has been crummy lately and awful on the road.
Why is this line close? Iowa has played well in back to back games against legit Pitt, Northwestern and Michigan St teams, while Indy sure looks like the cellar-dwellar of the Big Ten.
I think Baylor is a lot better than they get credit for, and I'll keep picking them like it until they prove me wrong or Vegas changes their mind.
Central Michigan -7.5
I think Vegas is overreacting to Temple's win against Miami (OH). Considering CMU is at home off a bye, this line means they're essentially even in terms of team quality. I'm not buying it.
Michigan has NEVER won by this much this year. Not even against Miami (OH) in a "we need to rebound after losing to Utah" game. Toledo isn't very good, but this should be a "make our season" type of game, which means it ought to be close, especially with Michigan looking ahead to a huge game at Penn St next week.
In three of their six games, Auburn hasn't even scored 17 points, and now they've fired their offensive coordinator, while Arkansas has been doing some things well, as they hung with Florida for a while before getting blown out late.
The Bearcats has quarterback issues, but Rutgers has issues everywhere. I don't see how this is a single digit line. A competitive loss against West Virginia is no longer something to hang your hat on.
Aren't huge, soul-crushing lines reserved for really good teams? After five largely uninspiring performances, I don't see how Fresno makes that list.
Southern Miss +10.5
Boise going cross-country typically doesn't go very well for the Broncos. Doesn't look like the line factors this in, as 7-8 points would be better.
Last Week's Record:
Pac-10: 6-0 SU, 2-3-1 ATS
National: 1-2 SU, 0-3 ATS
Bad Lines: 6-3
Pac-10: 30-10 SU, 17-20-1 ATS
National: 12-8 SU, 8-11-1 ATS
Bad Lines: 19-13-1
Mr Pac-10's 2008 Blog
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