Cal @ USC (-22)
Preseason Pick: USC
Despite the huge line, this is the big Pac-10 game this week. USC comes in hoping to sneak into the national title race if enough higher ranked teams get knocked off, while Cal still controls its destiny in the Pac-10 race and can essentially knock the Trojans out of both the Rose Bowl and national title race if they can pull the upset.
So can the Bears do it? Actually… maybe. For all the quarterback issues they’ve had, the Bears can still get solid production from the passing game (sometimes), and they’re very good at running the ball behind Jahvid Best and a decent (though injured offensive line). And Cal’s defense has been consistently good. No, it’s not as good as USC’s, but it’s still solid. If the Bears can hit Sanchez a few times, force a couple of turnovers, get some big plays on offense, then yes they can win this game.
On the Other Hand:
Did you know that USC hasn’t lost in November under Pete Carroll? If you’ve been paying attention you might have heard it a few thousand times. Well, it’s been said ad nausem for a reason: USC gets better and better as the season goes on, and by the time November rolls around they’re extremely tough to beat. No, they haven’t been consistent, but that’s pretty much always been the case. In a big game that has their attention, they rarely lose. This one certainly qualifies, and with the weapons they have on offense, and a very strong defense, they’re obviously capable of turning it into a rout.
Call me crazy, but I think that there really is a chance for an upset here (almost 10:1 moneyline odds are well worth considering). And because of that, I think it’s silly to lay three touchdowns. No, Cal won’t quite pull it off, but they’ll give the Trojans a big scare.
@ USC 28, Cal 21
Oregon St (-8) @ UCLA
Preseason Pick: Oregon St
This is a bit of an odd game. Both teams have reasons to feel good about this game, but both also have plenty of reasons to worry. On the one hand, UCLA is at home (where they’ve been MUCH better than on the road), they’ve clearly been improving over the past month or so, and they’ve shown time and time again that they’re very capable of beating vulnerable teams (Tennessee, Stanford and nearly Fresno) that wander into the Rose Bowl.
And right now, you have to think Oregon St is vulnerable. The Beavers very nearly lost to Arizona St, and that was in Corvallis. And they’re going to be playing their backup QB in Canfield due to Moevao’s injury. And they’re on the road, where things have generally gone to pieces. Oregon St has beaten Washington and that’s it. Yeah, they gave Utah a game, but they played very poorly in their other two on the road (Stanford, Penn St). And don’t forget, the Bruins have owned this series (and coach Mike Riley) like no one else.
On the Other Hand:
Arizona was kind of vulnerable when they came into the Rose Bowl too, having just lost to a bad New Mexico team. Anyone remember how that game went? Oregon St has just as many weapons, and their running game is much better than the Wildcats’. Their defense has been decent (UCLA’s two wins and one almost win all came against mediocre to bad pass defenses), and quite frankly on paper they should blow the Bruins right out of the water. Since they still need one more to get to six, since they need to win to stay in control of their Pac-10 destiny, and since they’d love to finally get the UCLA monkey off their back, it sure seems likely that they’ll be focused and fired up for this game a bit more than they might have to be.
UCLA is improving, at home, and off a bye. But Oregon St is a much better team.
Oregon St 31, UCLA 13
Stanford @ Oregon (-14)
Preseason Pick: Oregon
This should be a fun game between two teams that like to run the ball, that defend the run well, and don’t do much either passing or defending the pass. And for good measure, it’ll probably be raining, which probably favors the Ducks since they just played under water last week at Berkeley.
Just as importantly, Stanford is a power-run team, which plays right into Oregon’s strong run defense. But Oregon plays more of a quick running team, with lots of outside runs, which should work well against Stanford’s weakness defending the corners and sidelines. And since both teams can make big game-changing mistakes from time to time, you have to think that a noisy and nasty Autzen crowd will make it more likely the biggest mistakes will come from the visitors.
On the Other Hand:
Stanford has already played a couple of teams somewhat like the Ducks in Oregon St and Arizona (spread offenses, meh defenses, though both passed more than the Ducks and the Ducks defend the run better). Both were wins. Oregon played a team somewhat like Stanford in UCLA (better pass game, worse run game, slightly worse defense), and that was a close win. In fact, the best teams the Ducks have beaten were Purdue, UCLA and ASU (all worse than Stanford), and only one of those wins would have covered the spread.
Stanford really needs this win, and they’re going to fight hard and bring everything they can to get it. If this were at Stanford, I might even take them. But it’s at Autzen, and the Ducks aren’t going to let themselves fall further behind the league leaders. They’ll get a game, but they won’t get a loss.
@ Oregon 31, Stanford 24
Arizona St (-14.5) @ Washington
Preseason Pick: Arizona St
ASU needs this game in the worst way, and all indication are that the Huskies have given up on the season. Easy pick.
Arizona St 35, Washington 13
Arizona (-40.5) @ Washington St
Preseason Pick: Washington St
Every time I see a Wazzu line, I think “well, they could cover, and that’s a LOT of points”. And then they don’t cover. This line actually seems reasonable given Arizona’s offensive firepower, although a forecast of rain could very well keep the score down. Still, from this point on I’m fading the Cougs until they cover a line or the spread just looks totally unreasonable.
Arizona 52, @ Washington St 3
National Games of the Week:
Oklahoma St @ Texas Tech (-3.5)
These are two teams that are about even. Tech is at home, but they will be vulnerable to a letdown after last week’s huge win against Texas, while the Cowboys had a light week and will be completely ready for this game.
Oklahoma St 37, @ Texas Tech 34
Penn St (-7.5) @ Iowa
Make no mistake, Penn St is an excellent team, and may well be the best in the country. However, Iowa is pretty decent, and this game could be a major trap for the Lions. Penn St is off a bye (which always helps), but something tells me they’re going to be at least slightly overlooking this game, especially after Iowa lost last week at Illinois. That will cost them dearly against a good defense and a very hostile environment.
@ Iowa 17, Penn St 14
Alabama (-3.5) @ LSU
I’ll be honest: I’m not a huge believer in Alabama, as week after week they look like a team ready to get tagged. However, I just don’t think LSU is good enough to pull it off, even at home.
Alabama 31, @ LSU 21
Wisconsin should win this game, but they really don’t look like a blowout sort of team, and Indiana may well have a shot.
Western Michigan +7.5
Does anyone out there think Illinois can play well in back to back games? Anyone?
Yes, NC St is off a bye, but they’re still abysmal. Duke needs a win to have a shot at a bowl game, and while they probably won’t reach six wins, they will reach five here.
Arky is a live dog, and the Cocks just aren’t good enough to lay nearly two TD’s against a decent team like the Hogs.
Florida St -4
Papa Bowden’s losing streak against Clemson ended when Baby Bowden got canned. He’s at home, with the better team, and you better believe he’s going to try and beat them as badly as possible.
Too many points for a very mediocre ECU team.
Pitt is still a good team, and Louisville is still mediocre and still struggles on the road (see: last week @ Syracuse).
Honestly, if this wasn’t a rivalry game, and if Michigan hadn’t dominated this series the past few decades, this would easily be double digits. And we all saw against Notre Dame and Michigan St how well the Wolverines have done against rivals. Oh wait…
Last Week’s Record:
Pac-10: 4-0 SU, 2-2 ATS
National: 1-2 SU, 1-2 ATS
Bad Lines: 5-4
Pac-10: 43-13 SU, 25-27-2 ATS
National: 18-15 SU, 13-19-1 ATS
Bad Lines: 43-27-1
Mr Pac-10's 2008 Blog
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