Oregon St @ Arizona (-2.5)
Preseason Pick: Arizona
This is a really important game for the Oregon St Beavers. With just this game and next week’s Civil War against Oregon to go, they need two more wins to clinch a Rose Bowl berth. Meanwhile Arizona is relegated to the spoiler role, losing two of their last three after pulling out a big win over Cal. If emotion will play a role, the Beavers could have big edge there.
Just as importantly, the Wildcats have had big issues with putting together complete football games. Against New Mexico, they put up good numbers but lost due to five turnovers. Against Stanford, they had a good first half but lost it with a bad second half. Against Oregon, the reverse was true, with a bad first half and a second half not good enough to close the gap. Against Cal, they struggled in the first half but put together a fantastic third quarter which was enough to spring the win. Oregon St is a legitimately good football team, and just one quarter or just one half simply won’t be enough for the win. Their defense is too good, and their offense to explosive, to win the game with a few big bursts. A consistent effort is an absolute must, and it’s tough to expect that out of them given their past history.
On the Other Hand:
The Wildcats are at home, where they knocked off Cal, nearly knocked off USC, and have generally played much better. At home is where they’ve scored most of their big wins the past few years (two against UCLA, two against Cal, one against Oregon, one against ASU in 2004). Meanwhile the Beavers have had issues on the road. Sure, they put together big wins against Washington and UCLA, but against tougher opponents, they’ve found ways to lose late (see Stanford and Utah) or just gotten blown out (Penn St). And Arizona is a good team, too. They may not have a lot at stake, but they’d love to play spoiler and move up in the Pac-10 standings to score a better bowl berth.
Also, there have been rumblings that Moevao won’t be near 100%, and that either he’ll play hurt or that Canfield will have to sub in. Either way, that will be disruptive to the Beaver offense and a potentially significant advantage for the Wildcats.
Oregon St is a bit better, and has a lot more to play for. Even on the road, that should be enough of an edge to pull out the win.
Oregon St 28, @ Arizona 24
Stanford @ Cal (-8)
Preseason Pick: Cal
At first glance, it seems weird that the line is so low. One week after being 24 point dogs to USC, Stanford goes on the road (where they’ve really struggled) and is only an eight point dog to Cal. This is the same Cal team that has a good defense, a good running back (and quick backs are the type Stanford has really struggled with this year), and a passing game that when working can put points on the board quickly, which is a big problem for a Stanford secondary that has gotten torched time and time again. Quite honestly, Cal has significant big-play potential, whether returning punts and kicks, runs by Best from scrimmage, or big pass plays. They’re very capable of putting lots of points on the board quickly, and building a big lead and turning the game into a big blowout.
One underappreciated aspect of this matchup is how drastically different each team has played at home versus on the road. At home, Stanford is 4-1 with the only loss to USC and some wins over good teams, but only 1-5 on the road with the only win over a bad Washington team. At home, Cal is 5-0 with some wins over good teams, but only 1-4 on the road with the only win over a bad Washington St team. It’s normal for teams to be better at home, but these two have really gone to extremes, and considering the game is at Berkeley, that’s a very big edge for the Bears.
On the Other Hand:
Stanford should have a big edge on the lines. If their offensive line can control things and let the running game go wild, and if their defensive front can disrupt Cal’s offense, an upset could be brewing. Under pressure, Riley can make mistakes, and Stanford’s secondary can make some big interceptions (they’re lousy at coverage but good at picking balls off). If they’re going to make an upset run, that has to be the blueprint: running the ball effectively, living in Cal’s backfield, and taking advantage of turnover opportunities. It’s the sort of thing that they came close to doing in their losses at UCLA and Oregon; if they can up the effort level and avoid the bad game-ending drives, it may actually be possible.
With Cal suffering from some offensive line injuries, I wouldn’t completely discount the upset possibility, but the line still seems low. Cal has the potential to light up the scoreboard, and they’re likely to do so.
@ Cal 31, Stanford 17
Washington (-6.5) @ Washington St
Preseason Pick: Washington
No matter what happens, one of these two teams will pick up their first 1-A win of the year. The way these two have played, it almost seems impossible, but it’s actually going to happen. On paper, the Huskies seem to have an edge. They may not have been playing well, but by and large they’ve done a better job of competing than have the Cougars, since at least some of their losses (BYU, Stanford, and to a degree Oregon, ASU and UCLA before they became blowouts late), while the Cougars have gotten slapped around by just about everyone. If the Huskies can play relatively mistake-free football (turnovers have been a big problem at times), they could conceivably roll in this game.
On the Other Hand:
Washington has really struggled on the road, they’ve been turnover-prone, and one thing the Cougars have done a decent job of is take advantage of turnover opportunities. They’re capable of winning the turnover battle by two or three, and if they can do that, they definitely have a chance. Also, being at home in a game like this is a big edge, especially since Washington has struggled a lot away from Seattle (and have only had to leave home three times so far). Since each of these two teams is the worst 1-A opponent they’ve seen so far, it’s hard to draw many direct comparisons, so something like home field could become especially valuable.
Either team could win this game. The Huskies are a better football team, but they aren’t good enough to blast the Cougars on the road. It should be a fairly close game.
Washington 28, @ Washington St 24
National Games of the Week:
Texas Tech @ Oklahoma (-7)
Vegas is still skeptical about the Red Raiders. In Norman, I’m skeptical too, but not seven points skeptical. They will make this a game.
@ Oklahoma 38, Texas Tech 34
Pitt @ Cincy (-5.5)
These two teams are about as good as each other. At home, Cincy has the edge, but this should still be a close game.
@ Cincy 31, Pitt 28
Michigan St @ Penn St (-15.5)
This line seems high, but Michigan St has struggled against the better teams they’ve faced (Ohio St killed them, and Cal would have but for two awful Longshore picks).
@ Penn St 38, Michigan St 13
BYU @ Utah (-7)
This is a reasonable line. Utah is better, and they’re at home, but BYU has been coming on strong.
@ Utah 34, BYU 24
San Jose St +3.5
I’m not at all convinced that Fresno is better than the Spartans, and at home they ought to get the win. At worst it’s a tossup.
This is a weird line. The Wildcats are at home against a team that they seem to be better than. I’m not sure why Vegas likes the Illini so much, but I think they’re wrong.
Since 3.5 is home-field, Vegas is saying these two teams are about even, maybe with Tennessee a bit ahead. I don’t buy it.
By and large, the Orange haven’t been blown out, and Notre Dame doesn’t look to be good enough to buck the trend, given that they’ve only won by 20+ once this year, against a Washington team much worse than Syracuse.
Air Force +20
TCU is a very good team, but three touchdowns just seems too much against a good Air Force team.
Boise is better, but not by a huge margin, and at Nevada this game is much closer to a tossup than people expect.
Iowa is a better team, but at Minnesota the Gophers have a decent shot at pulling the upset, and should at least make a game of it. Six points is a bit too much.
UConn has had some issues on the road, but USF has had issues everywhere. UConn is likely to win this game, even at Tampa, so it’s hard to see why they’re getting points.
Last Week’s Record:
Pac-10: 5-0 SU, 3-2 ATS
National: 0-2 SU, 0-2 ATS
Bad Lines: 8-1
Pac-10: 53-13 SU, 32-30-2 ATS
National: 20-18 SU, 15-22-1 ATS
Bad Lines: 55-32-1
Mr Pac-10's 2008 Blog
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