Cal (-2.5) @ Arizona
Preseason Pick: Cal
On paper, this doesn't look like much of a contest. Arizona may be 4-2, but their four wins were all against bad teams, and neither of their two losses were against anything close to a top team. Cal is by far the best team they've seen, whereas the Bears are already battle-tested to some extent, having beaten Michigan St and a still talented Sun Devil squad, and having already traveled cross-country in their loss to Maryland.
Personnel-wise, Cal also has a significant edge, and the matchups really seem to favor the Bears. Arizona is a pass-first team, but Cal has shown some serious chops defending the pass, as only Michigan St was able to put up over 200 yards through the air, and that was back in the first week of the season. And Cal likes to run the ball, which is something that the Wildcats have had massive difficulties with. Those are some huge advantages for the visiting Bears.
On the Other Hand:
Any Bear fans remember Tennessee, Arizona or USC in 2006? How about Colorado St, UCLA, ASU, Washington, and Stanford in 2007? How about Maryland in 2008? The past couple of seasons have been nothing short of awful for the Bears away from Berkeley (except for trips to the state of Oregon), consistently either squeaking by bad teams, losing to mediocre or worse teams, or getting pummeled by good teams. Any ideas that this year would be appreciably different got squashed pretty quickly by the trip to Maryland, which means that they are entirely capable of blowing pretty much any game on the road, including this one.
And how about Arizona? Year in, year out, they muddle along for half a year or so, and then suddenly turn it on and start knocking off much better opponents. Why can't they get it together a bit earlier than usual? They still have a fantastic group of receivers, they still have a QB capable of making a bunch of big plays, and they ought to be fired up to redeem themselves after getting outplayed and blowing a late lead in excruciating fashion at Stanford last week. And, of course, they've been playing very well at home so far this year. Sure, they haven't been playing good teams, but they've still been dominant. That's definitely a plus for them in this game.
It's still too early to expect Arizona to go on one of their runs. It's undeniably scary to pick Cal on the road, especially with a shaky quarterback situation, but they really do look like the better team. They ought to win this one.
Cal 31, @ Arizona 24
Stanford (-2.5) @ UCLA
Preseason Pick: UCLA
What's so remarkable about these two teams is how similar they are. Both like to run the ball, both are good at stopping the run, both have on again, off again quarterbacks, and both have shaky secondaries. At home, UCLA has to be looking at this game as winnable; other than a game at a reeling Washington, this is by far the most winnable game left on the schedule. In a year where any win is a good win, you have to expect UCLA to be as fired up as possible to keep hope for at least a respectable campaign and to assure themselves of escaping the league cellar.
Matchup-wise, this isn't bad for the Bruins. Stanford is fundamentally a power running team, and that's one thing that UCLA can actually stop on defense. With Pritchard at best not going to be 100% and backup Loukas lacking much experience, especially on the road, the Cardinal will need a big game on the ground from Gerhart and Kimball to put points on the board. They might not get it, and if Kevin Craft can get hot, he could have a huge game against the Cardinal secondary.
On the Other Hand:
If Kevin Craft gets cold, the ball could be going the other way a lot, as creating turnovers is the one thing Stanford's pass defense does well, and Craft has shown himself to be very susceptible to making bad decisions, especially when under pressure. Moreover, Stanford's passing game has shown some signs of life the past few weeks; against the worst secondary they've seen since Washington, they could potentially move the ball through the air if one of their quarterbacks shows up to play. And as far as intangibles are concerned, it's a bigger advantage to be playing for something important, like a bowl berth for Stanford, than it is to be hoping for something positive to finally happen, like UCLA is doing right now.
This feels like a bit of a tossup, but Stanford looks like the better team, even on the road, even with health issues at quarterback. They've been finding ways to win, while UCLA has been finding ways to lose. That difference will tell here.
Stanford 28, @ UCLA 24
Oregon St (-15.5) @ Washington
Preseason Pick: Oregon St
With Jake Locker still out, the Huskies have major issues. That said, they're at home, off a bye, and are getting more than two touchdowns against a team that's been pretty iffy on the road so far this year. They have little chance of winning, but a close cover is entirely possible.
Oregon St 31, @ Washington 17
USC (-42.5) @ Washington St
Preseason Pick: USC
42.5 is a LOT of points. At this point, USC is either going to go with Mark Sanchez's shaky knee or a backup qb, either of whom could throw up a few picks, just enough for the Cougars to cover in a game that the Trojans won't be pressing very hard in.
USC 48, @ Washington St 10
National Games of the Week:
Missouri @ Texas (-4)
This could be a Texas team that I've simply underrated, or it could be a case where they took advantage of an injured Sooner linebacker, picked on his backup for a bunch of yards and points, and will get tagged by a talented and ticked off Missouri team. I could definitely be wrong, but right now I lean towards the second option and like the mild upset here, although I must admit I liked this line a whole lot better when it was seven instead of four points.
Missouri 34, @ Texas 28
Ohio St (-3) @ Michigan St
The Spartans really struggled against Iowa two weeks ago, but other than that I've really liked what I've seen from them. Ohio St's win at Wisconsin got seriously undermined after Penn St shredded the Badgers, which means I'm still a bit skeptical. Home field ought to be the difference in a down to the wire game.
@ Michigan St 24, Ohio St 21
LSU (-2.5) @ South Carolina
I'm not quite ready to buy South Carolina stock, but I'm definitely selling LSU right now. Through five games I haven't seen much of anything from them, so until I do see something I'm going the other way.
@ South Carolina 24, LSU 17
I just don't get it. UConn is off a bye and is unlikely to suffer another total special teams meltdown like they did in Chapel Hill. Rutgers is improving but not enough to win this game.
Clemson has all sorts of issues, but to be a home dog against a Georgia Tech dealing with massive quarterback injury issues is just too much.
I continue to think that Baylor is wildly underrated. The Cowboys will win this game, but between a mild letdown and Robert Griffin's talents, this one ought to be fairly close.
Virginia Tech +3
Both teams got a bye week, so no advantage there. BC isn't bad, but the Hokies look like the ACC's best right now.
The Cuse is very quietly becoming not totally awful. USF ought to bounce back from the loss to Pitt, but that's a pretty big line for a team that really can't seem to get it together.
The wheels are falling off at Wisconsin, and Iowa is heating up, taking advantage of an easy opponent to blow the doors off Indiana after three tough losses against good teams.
One bad loss to Miss St and suddenly Vandy is rated as lousy again. The Commodores are good enough to make this competitive.
The way Pitt is playing, this seems a touch low. I like what I see from Navy, but not enough to think they have a good chance at the upset.
A point or two low. Army is playing decently, and Buffalo really hasn't done enough to merit double-digits here.
North Texas +18
The Mean Green is probably the worst team in 1-A, but Monroe is certainly in the bottom five. So 18 points is just way too much.
Last Week's Record:
Pac-10: 4-0 SU, 3-0-1 ATS
National: 2-2 SU, 1-3 ATS
Bad Lines: 7-2
Pac-10: 34-10 SU, 20-20-2 ATS
National: 14-10 SU, 9-14-1 ATS
Bad Lines: 26-15-1
Mr Pac-10's 2008 Blog
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