This is a good set of games in the Pac-10, and a really boring set of games everywhere else. The best non-Pac game this week is probably tonight's VTech-Miami game, which already started by the time I wrote this.
Cal @ Oregon St (-3.5)
Preseason Pick: Oregon St
This ought to be a really good game, between two teams that can play very well when things are working, and are still pretty decent when things aren't. At first glance, Oregon St seems to have the edge. Not only are they at home, where they're very good, but Cal also has to deal with playing away from Berkeley, where they've struggled majorly.
And, of course, the Beavers are a legitimately good football team. They showed it against UCLA last week, they showed against USC back in September, and they showed it in their close loss at Utah. When they're hot, they're extremely tough to stop. They can run it, they can throw it, and they can play defense. That's a tough combination, especially given that the Bears are limited by mediocre quarterback play and have a tendency to beat themselves, like they did last week in Los Angeles.
On the Other Hand:
When Cal gets going, they're also really good. They have a very good defense, a very good running back in Jahvid Best, a good offensive line, and enough talent in the passing game that they can get it going too. And don't forget, they've had tremendous success in Reser, winning two straight in Corvallis, neither of which were at all close. They know they can come in here and win, and will be a very tough out for the home team.
Oregon St is a bit better, has home-field, and has more to play for. Cal is good enough to have a realistic chance of pulling out the win, but it'll be the Beavers who pull it out in the end.
@ Oregon St 28, Cal 23
Arizona @ Oregon (-6)
Preseason Pick: Oregon
At first glance, it seems weird that the line is so high. Both teams have been up and down, but if anything the Wildcats have been the better team. They're the ones who nearly beat USC, they're the ones who beat Cal, and they're the ones who dominated UCLA. The Ducks' biggest scalp has been… Stanford? Purdue? Arizona St? None of them are nearly as good as the Wildcats, and two of the three were extremely close wins, Purdue in overtime and Stanford on a last minute game-winning drive. If this game was in Tucson, the Wildcats would be clear favorites, and would quite possibly win big with their potent offense and defense that has done all right.
On the Other Hand:
This game isn't in Tucson, it's in Eugene, where the Ducks have a very big home-field edge. The Wildcats have been very good at home, but on the road they've really struggled, beating only UCLA and Washington St, with losses to Stanford and New Mexico, neither of whom are as good as the Ducks. As far as explosive offenses go, Oregon can move the ball just as much as Arizona. They can score bunches of points, and when they need a big play, they can usually get it.
This has all the makings of a shootout with the last team to have the ball winning. The Ducks have a slight edge being at home, and Arizona's talent edge isn't quite enough to overcome it.
@ Oregon 38, Arizona 35
USC (-24) @ Stanford
Preseason Pick: USC
So, can lightning strike twice? Can Stanford beat USC again, this time at home, with a better team, and with something tangible on the line (six wins and a bowl game)? Coversely, can USC blow this game, like they did against Oregon St, like they came close to against Arizona, and like they could have against Cal were it not for the breaks they got?
As crazy as it sounds, you can make a case. The Trojan offense hasn't been remotely consistent, and if this is a down game for them, and they make some bad turnovers, Stanford could conceivably get ahead, play solid defense and gut out the win.
On the Other Hand:
Stanford's best player, running back Toby Gerhart, is hurt and will either be out or will play without being nearly 100%. When you're a big underdog, you can't afford that sort of bad break. What makes it much worse is that USC can really move the ball through the air, and Stanford is awful at defending the pass. USC will try to do the same thing to Stanford as they did to Virginia and Ohio St, and it's tough to say that the Cardinal D can stop it if the Trojans are hot.
USC would love to come into Palo Alto and totally destroy Stanford. However, there have been enough cracks in the Trojan armor to think that this could actually be a game. No, it won't be close, but a total blowout is also unlikely.
USC 27, @ Stanford 10
UCLA (-7) @ Washington
Preseason Pick: UCLA
If either of these teams were good, I'd move this game up on the list. Unfortunately, UCLA is poor and Wahsington is awful. The story here will be the same as it was when Notre Dame came to town; the Huskies would love to get a win against someone they don't like, but the other guy will be more fired up to come in and kick butt. UCLA is the better team, and they won't let their postseason dreams die here.
UCLA 31, @ Washington 20
Washington St @ Arizona St (-36.5)
Preseason Pick: Arizona St
The Cougars finally covered last week, thanks to bad weather, home-field, and some Wildcat turnovers. On the road against a team that can't afford to get lazy and risk a bad loss, they won't be so lucky.
@ Arizona St 49, @ Washington St 7
National Games of the Week:
Normally I try and do three of these, but even two is pushing it.
BYU (-4) @ Air Force
The Zoomies are home, on a winning streak, and just as good as a very overrated BYU team that is due for another loss.
@ Air Force 31, BYU 27
UNC (-3) @ Maryland
Do I really have to pick this game? The Terps are wildly unpredictable, and can win or lose just about any game any time. Still, the Heels sure look like the best ACC team, so I'll go ahead and pick them.
UNC 27, @ Maryland 21
The Bearcats are arguably the best team in the Big East (WV and Pitt are around the same level, UConn isn't far behind), and Louisville is barely a better team than Syracuse, who beat them. This is a really weird line.
Michigan isn't back just because they had one great game. Northwestern is the better team and will probably win.
The Gophers clearly aren't the same without their star receiver. That said, Wisconsin isn't two TD's better, even at home.
Syracuse isn't awful, but they're still bad.
The evidence is in, and it says that Kansas just isn't very good this year. And since there's a very real chance the Longhorns will end up in a three-way tie for the big 12 south, which would be broken by the rankings, it's safe to say they won't take their foot off the gas pedal until they're up big.
Auburn is a bad team who still hasn't beaten anyone close to good, while Georgia showed against ASU and LSU that they're very capable of blowing out teams that they're much better than.
New Mexico St +17
Fresno is better, but not by THAT much.
USF is home off a bye, but Rutgers has been playing very good football the past few weeks, and is very capable of winning this game.
This is about a field goal too high. Troy is better than everyone LSU blew out, and LSU isn't as good as the two teams who blew out Troy.
Last Week's Record:
Pac-10: 5-0 SU, 4-1 ATS
National: 2-1 SU, 2-1 ATS
Bad Lines: 4-4
Pac-10: 48-13 SU, 29-28-2 ATS
National: 20-16 SU, 15-20-1 ATS
Bad Lines: 47-31-1
Mr Pac-10's 2008 Blog
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