This is a nice week of games, with two interesting Pac-10 matchups, plus a few others around the country that will be well worth watching.
USC (-15.5) @ Arizona
Preseason Pick: Arizona
Does USC remember Oregon St? Because this game looks awfully familiar. The Trojans are on a run of blowing teams out, and now they're on the road against a team with a pulse, a smallish running back, a quarterback with good physical tools but a tendency to throw picks, and an OK defense that is sometimes good and sometimes mediocre.
The Wildcats are certainly capable of copying the Beaver blueprint for beating USC. They'll run Antolin and see if the Trojans have trouble finding him in traffic, but they'll also have the ability to force USC to respect the pass with a deep receiving corps and a great tight end in Gronkowski. As long as Arizona's offensive line can adequately protect Tuitama, they'll be very capable of lighting up the scoreboard.
On the Other Hand:
If Arizona's offensive line can't protect Tuitama, this could get really ugly. Pressure leads to turnovers, turnovers lead to points, and points lead to a major blowout. And lest you forget, the Trojans are pretty good at moving the ball themselves. The Wildcats play decent defense in spurts, but seldom for anything close to a whole game. And USC is great at exploiting defensive weaknesses to put lots of points on the board really quickly.
Arizona has a shot at this game, even with USC coming in focused and ready to play. They are simply a massively better team at home than on the road, and they'll prove it again here, taking the mighty Trojans to the brink before the better team finally prevails.
USC 28, @ Arizona 21
Oregon (-3) @ Arizona St
Preseason Pick: ASU
At first glance, this looks like it could be a surprisingly easy game for the Ducks. ASU can't seem to stop anybody on offense, and the Ducks are certainly capable of moving the ball. Their spread attack is hard to stop, the Sun Devils are a disaster defending the run, and the Ducks have done very well against ASU the past couple of years. As an added bonus, the bye week has really come in handy for getting healthier, as they'll be a much improved group from the team that struggled the past few games, getting blasted by USC before squeaking by the Bruins at home.
On the Other Hand:
Arizona St should be pretty improved themselves. Rudy Carpenter ought to be healthier, and against a Duck secondary that has struggled massively against much worse passing attacks than this one, that's bad news for the visitors. Just as importantly, this a huge, season on the line sort of game for the Sun Devils, and with an extra week to prepare, that means they'll be ready to defend all of the things that Oregon does, which is a big problem for the Ducks, as much of their success depends on the fact that their offense is so different from what everyone else does that teams can't adequately prepare.
But perhaps the biggest factor is home-field advantage. This year, road wins have been brutal to come by for Pac-10 teams (except against the Washington schools), and the Ducks have been mediocre at best away from Autzen. Beating Wazzu doesn't count for much, and their other road games were a squeaker over a mediocre Purdue team and a butt-kicking by USC. That's not the sort of record that inspires confidence, especially against a team with a decent home-field advantage like Arizona St.
To win this game, Oregon will have to have a huge day on the ground, because ASU is going to light it up through the air. They'll come close, and it will be a good game, but like seemingly every other game this year, the home team will win.
@ Arizona St 38, Oregon 31
UCLA @ Cal (-17.5)
Preseason Pick: Cal
17.5 is a LOT of points. However, the Bears have had a strong tendency to crush mediocre to poor teams (see: Colorado St, Wazzu), and UCLA has had a bit of a tendency to get their butts kicked by top 30 teams (BYU, Arizona). If Cal implodes like they're capable of doing, UCLA could actually win this game, but the most likely scenario is a big win for the Bears. UCLA on the road isn't good enough to compete unless Cal hands them the game.
@ Cal 34, UCLA 10
Notre Dame (-10) @ Washington
Everyone seems to be looking at this game as the point where somehow the Huskies get off the mat and do something noteworthy. The problem, however, is that Notre Dame will be just as motivated to stick it to their former coach. And that Washington hasn't shown us ANYTHING which makes them seem competitive against anyone good (keeping it close against BYU's "D" game isn't enough). And that the Huskies turn it over a lot, which Notre Dame feasts on. And that the Huskies can't stop other teams' offenses, like Notre Dame's explosive passing game. And that the Huskies can't seem to score very much, even against mediocre defenses. That's enough of a list to suggest that 10 points is way too low.
Notre Dame 38, @ Washington 10
National Games of the Week:
Oklahoma St @ Texas (-12)
I'm really starting to come around on Texas, as their beating of Missouri last week was very impressive. That said, Oklahoma St is pretty solid themselves, and Texas is in the middle of a nasty five-game stretch while the Cowboys sandwich this game around Baylor and Iowa St. In other words, I expect this to be close.
@ Texas 34, Oklahoma St 24
Penn St (-2) @ Ohio St
Ohio St at home is really tough to beat. However, Penn St has been just fantastic so far, and I think that's good enough to pull out the win.
Penn St 28, @ Ohio St 21
Georgia @ LSU (-1)
It's Death Valley at night. But Georgia is great at winning big road games, anytime, anyplace. For me, the tiebreakers are that Georgia is a bit better and that LSU is on the tail end of a nasty three-game stretch (remember how well that worked for Georgia against Bama a few weeks ago). Of course, Georgia has failed to cover five straight years before the Florida game… but they still won all five.
Georgia 21, @ LSU 13
Cincy is off a bye, but UConn is home. If that roughly cancels, then the line should favor the better team, which I think is UConn by a bit.
Despite the recent history between these two teams, the Gophers look like the better team by a pretty solid margin. Even though it's homecoming for Purdue, a bye for Minnesota largely cancels that edge out.
The Terps are up and down, but the Wolfpack is just down, especially on the road.
Either there's an injury or I'm flat-out missing something big, because this line looks crazy to me. Tulane is lousy, maybe awful and Rice is mediocre. Home-field isn't nearly enough to overcome that difference.
Georgia Tech is a solid team that plays good defense and gets enough from the offense to win. They aren't the sort of team that tends to steamroll opponents, and the Cavs have started to look decent, though they're always an adventure on the road. Still, two TD's is a bit much.
Unless Matt Grothe just got hurt and only Vegas knows, this looks really weird. Louisville is lousy, and USF is still one of the top two teams in the league (right now Pitt looks like #1). Now that the Cards are playing someone decent again, reality will set in quickly. This should be a blowout.
Vegas still doesn't like Baylor, and suddenly the Huskers are supposed to be good after hanging with Tech (possibly a paper tiger) and blasting Iowa St (who sucks). And Nebraska just might be looking ahead to that game next week at Oklahoma.
Let's see: best team in the Sun Belt vs the worst team in 1-A. And a line less than 30 points. OK, I'll bite.
Maybe the Vols will catch Bama napping before the Tide's huge, season-defining game against mighty Arkansas St. Or maybe they'll get waxed, like they did against Florida. One beating of Miss St does not make a good team, and we'll see the proof in this game.
Rutgers isn't good enough to hang with Pitt right now, and it doesn't help that it's homecoming, or that the Panthers will want payback for three straight losses, or that Rutgers will be beat up and tired after a tough three game stretch against West Virginia, Cincy and UConn.
Last Week's Record:
Pac-10: 2-2 SU, 0-4 ATS
National: 0-3 SU, 0-3 ATS
Bad Lines: 5-5
Pac-10: 36-12 SU, 20-24-2 ATS
National: 14-13 SU, 9-17-1 ATS
Bad Lines: 31-20-1
Mr Pac-10's 2008 Blog
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