Cal (-5.5) @ Oregon
Preseason Pick: Cal
This game looked a whole lot bigger preseason, but it still a very important game for both teams. Cal comes in on a big roll, 3-0 and may well be the Pac-10 favorite after USC stumbled in Seattle, while Oregon has struggled a lot, getting physically dominated at Boise, barely squeaking by a (probably) bad Purdue team and barely beating a merely OK Utah team in a game that would have been much different had the Utes made a touchdown instead of zilch on the last play of the first half. On paper, this doesn't look remotely close. If Cal plays to their potential and the Ducks don't substantially improve, this ought to be a rout.
On the Other Hand:
It's Autzen, and it's a big game. No matter what is going on with the teams, that by itself is a very big deal. And while Cal has certainly been playing well so far, it's hard to completely trust this team on the road. Kevin Riley still hasn't completely proven himself, and neither has this team. Overall they had a nice performance at Minnesota, but just one game isn't enough to kill the road monkey on their backs, all the more given how it was tied pretty late.
Just as importantly, Oregon still does have a substantial amount of talent. They've had a hell of a time trying to put it all together, but at some point it's going to click and they'll start playing much better. It could well be this game when that happens.
Cal seems a really obvious pick here, which always makes me a bit nervous. That said, they still are the better team, and until and unless I see something substantial from the Ducks, I just don't believe in them.
Cal 35, @ Oregon 17
Arizona @ Oregon St (-2.5)
Preseason Pick: Oregon St
This is an interesting game between two pretty good teams trying to recover from losses last week. The winner gets important momentum and is a virtual lock for a bowl at 3-1, while the loser is stuck at 2-2 and will have to sweat for a while. At first glance, Oregon St seems like the team that ought to win this game. Quizz Rodgers should be healthier than he was last week (almost certainly a contributor to some of the Beavers' offensive issues), and the crowd will be fired up to avenge last week's loss.
Moreover, until proven otherwise, the Wildcats will still struggle on the road, and Gronkowski's season-ending injury and quarterback issues really aren't helping.
On the Other Hand:
Oregon St really hasn't played very well at any point this season, both in their squeaker win at UNLV and their loss last week to Cincy. The Wildcats still have a great receiver corps, and if they can get some kind of improvement from the quarterback position, they could potentially have a big game through the air against the Beaver secondary.
Oregon St seems like the obvious pick, but the Wildcats definitely have a shot. However, without Gronkowski and with upheaval at quarterback, it's tough to pick them to win this game, especially on the road.
@ Oregon St 28, Arizona 21
Washington @ Stanford (-8)
Who would have thought at the start of the year that this game would be for the lead in the Pac-10? At 2-0 in the league, the winner of this game is in solid shape to start making some noise in the league. Of the two teams, Stanford probably needs this one more. So far, they've only beaten the two worst teams they'll face all year in Wazzu and SJ St, and lost to Wake, who's probably little if any better than the rest of their road trips. If they can't knock of the Huskies at home, it's likely to be a long year for the Cardinal.
Fortunately for them, they have a lot of things going for them. Chris Owusu has really turned into a big weapon, and could have a big day against the Husky secondary, while Toby Gerhart leads a running attack that will be extremely physical and will be tough to stop. The big thing, though, is special teams. If Stanford can get a couple big special teams plays, like they did last week, they could have a huge day.
On the Other Hand:
Washington has a chance to hit 3-1 and make it clear that they're around to stay. They have the best player on the field in Jake Locker, a decent defense, and a decent running game. Moreover, Stanford has shown a tendency to turn it over (4 last week against SJ St), and their second half collapse at Wake makes them look very vulnerable. It may be tough for the Huskies to take their show on the road, but if they play well and mistake-free, they are definitely capable of winning this game.
This will be a different experience for the Huskies, away from their strong home crowd, and faced with a team that can match up with them most plays and come up with a huge home runs. Unless they play even better than they did against a USC team that made way too many mistakes, or unless Stanford comes up with a similar mistake-filled performance, they aren't going to win this game.
@ Stanford 27, Washington 17
Washington St @ USC (-45.5)
There are obvious parallels to two years ago, with USC looking beatable and coming off a very uninspired performance in Seattle. That said, they're still way better than Wazzu, and this one won't be close. The Cougars aren't good enough to cover if USC really goes for a blowout win, so the question is how hard they'll push. I'm guessing this line is a point or two high, but probably not much.
@ USC 51, Washington St 7
Arizona St (+12.5) @ Georgia
There are definitely parallels here to the Alabama game last year, with Georgia coming off a really nasty stretch and the other guys not having been pushed of late. That said, Georgia is the better team and at home. The line is a touch high but not much.
@ Georgia 28, Arizona St 17
National Games of the Week:
Miami (-3) @ Virginia Tech
This was almost a pickem at first, now it's a full field goal line. I really like the way Miami has been playing, but Lane Stadium is a tough place to play, especially in a game that's as big as this one, with the Canes able to essentially wrap up the division with a win; unless UNC comes up with a huge run, 3-0 with wins over Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech wraps it up barring an epic collapse. That said, the Hokies really haven't been all that good. Miami looks extremely strong, and two extra days to prepare for this game is a nice edge to have.
Miami 28, @ Virginia Tech 21
Iowa @ Penn St (-10)
I think that these teams are overall pretty close to each other, and I'm mildly tempted to pick the upset, but at Happy Valley the Lions should pull it out, though it'll be much harder than they think.
@ Penn St 24, Iowa 21
Rutgers +1 @ Maryland
Through three games, the Terps look completely awful. Yes, they struggled for a while last year before finding their groove, but they've shown absolutely nothing to think a turnaround is coming, while Rutgers at least can blame their ugly week one showing on Cincy being a really good team; they at least have a chance of actually being a fairly decent team so far, just losing to a seriously underrated opponent. Tom Savage's health is a question mark, but not enough to justify Rutgers actually being an underdog here.
Southern Miss +13.5 @ Kansas
This line is an over-reaction to the Eagles' struggles last week against Virginia. Overall, they're still a solid team, and have a legitimate shot at pulling the upset.
Pitt +1 @ NC St
I'm not sure what we've seen so far to think that NC St is good and/or Pitt isn't, but apparently someone must think so. Barring an injury I don't know about this line just looks completely wacky.
Purdue +7 vs Notre Dame
I have no idea if the Irish can rebound after losing Michael Floyd, and Purdue isn't as bad as they looked last week against Northern Illinois.
Idaho +17 @ Northern Illinois
Idaho almost covered this line at Washington, and looks like they're no longer a bottom 20 team, at least for this year. Throw in the possibility of a NIU letdown, and I actually give the Vandals a shot at the upset!
Pac-10: 21-6 SU, 9-12-2 ATS
National: 4-7 SU, 3-8 ATS
Bad Picks: 7-2
Mr Pac-10's 2009 Blog
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