Stanford @ Oregon St (pick)
Preseason Pick: Oregon St
This is a really difficult game to call. On the one hand, Stanford has looked really good so far, building a 4-1 record that easily could have been 5-0 if they had gotten a couple of breaks at Wake, and Oregon St has looked really beatable, barely beating UNLV and dropping consecutive home games to Cincy and Arizona before bouncing back against ASU. If the question is who's playing better right now, it has to be Stanford.
Moreover, they have the weapons to put up a lot of points against an Oregon St defense that looks pretty vulnerable. Stanford may not be awesome at passing, but should still be good enough to move the ball against a Beaver unit that has been vulnerable through the air. And until proven otherwise, you have to assume Toby Gerhart is going to make a big impact on the game. The Beavers haven't faced anyone at all like him, and it'll be a big test for them to try and contain him as much as they can.
On the Other Hand:
Oregon St is generally strong at home, and you have to think that the back to back losses were a bit of an aberration. The defense is starting to play better, and the offense did a solid job against a very good ASU defense last week in Tempe. Just as importantly, this is a program that simply knows how to win, which is an issue for Stanford, as shown in their only road game against anyone decent a few weeks ago at Wake. When push comes to shove, if the Beavers have to get key yards and make big plays, the Cardinal secondary simply doesn't look good enough to stop them.
This game is pretty much a true tossup. Stanford is playing better, but Oregon St has the Rodgers brothers, really need the win, and are at home. That's enough to make me think that they'll probably win this game.
@ Oregon St 31, Stanford 27
Oregon (-3.5) @ UCLA
Preseason Pick: Oregon
This is an interesting game between two good teams who have suffered setbacks (Oregon in week 1, UCLA last week), but still want to make a big push towards the top of the league. Of the two teams, Oregon looks better right now, having annihilated Cal and Wazzu in successive weeks. The defense is playing very well, and the offense is finally starting to come around. Meanwhile UCLA looks somewhat vulnerable, having not really done much of note other than winning at Tennessee in a game that Crompton largely gave away; last week's loss to Stanford exposed the defense as being somewhat vulnerable and the offense has been OK, but was largely contained by Stanford and almost entirely contained by Tennessee, so they could have issues with the Duck defense.
On the Other Hand:
There are three consistent, year in year out, home-depenedent teams in the league, and two of them are playing in this game (Cal being the other, though Arizona, ASU, Oregon St and Washington aren't very far behind). The Ducks have only played once on the road this year, and that was the embarrassing showing at Boise. They've played well in the last two games at home, but it remains to be seen whether they can carry over their performance on the road.
Just as importantly, UCLA's quarterback Kevin Prince should be back, and he's a definite upgrade over Kevin Craft. Meanwhile, Oregon QB Masoli may not be playing, and at least won't be 100%. Good things are said about Nate Costa, but he's still the backup, and if he didn't get time when Masoli was heavily struggling against Boise and Purdue, there's probably a good reason. Add in a growing number of injuries in the Duck secondary, and there's definitely cause for concern. They're still playing well, but at some point you have to think the sheer number of injuries will take its toll on this team.
My gut is picking the upset, but Oregon has just played so well of late that I can't go against them. UCLA will play very well, but the Ducks will make the plays they need in order to win.
Oregon 27, UCLA 24
Arizona (-3.5) @ Washington
Preseason Pick: Washington
The Washington Huskies are starting to look like their win against USC a couple weeks ago wasn't nearly as much of a fluke as some thought, going into South Bend last week and very nearly pulling off the upset, falling to a late Irish comeback (and some very questionable calls from the refs). Jake Locker is playing very well, the defense is doing a decent job, and it looks like this team is starting to make some real progress. The Wildcats have played well so far, but they aren't always on top of their game, and their track record in road games against teams that they're supposed to beat isn't exactly great. If there's going to be a repeat of the more than annual Wildcat meltdown, this is a pretty good candidate.
On the Other Hand:
Perhaps no team in the country is as underrated as the Arizona Wildcats. They played decently well on the road against a really good Iowa team, and their wins against Central Michigan and Oregon St aren't getting nearly the respect that they deserve. They've had days when their offense has been off (Iowa), where their defense has been off (Oregon St), but overall they've consistently played very solid football, a big departure from their normal M.O. And while this game is on the road (where they've struggled in the past), they had a bye to prepare, and quite simply they are the better team, and it's probably not very close.
This definitely could be a "same old Arizona" game, where they blow a game to a lesser team and make you wonder why you started believing in them in the first place. However, they're the better team, they'll be rested, and they should win this game without too much trouble.
Arizona 28, @ Washington 17
Arizona St (-21) @ Washington St
Preseason Pick: Washington St
ASU really looked mediocre last week, and they're on the road in fairly cold weather. Traditionally, that's a very bad combination. However, Wazzu is a very turnover-prone team that has major injury issues on the offensive line. 21 points is a lot to cover, but the Sun Devil D will get a score, and consistently put the offense in position to succeed. The final score should hover right around a 21 point margin, and I'm guessing that ASU actually does manage to cover this line, despite their severe offensive issues.
Arizona St 35, @ Washington St 10
National Games of the Week:
Florida (-7.5) @ LSU
Tiger Stadium at night is always tough, and Tim Tebow probably won't be close to 100%, but Florida is just so good that I think they win much more easily than anyone expects.
Florida 27, @ LSU 14
Alabama (-4.5) @ Ole Miss
This should be a very entertaining game. Bama has clearly been the better team so far this year, but Ole Miss has a reasonable shot at this game. It's a gut feeling rather than anything tangible, but I smell an upset.
@ Miss 24, Bama 21
Wisconsin @ Ohio St (-16.5)
We've seen this play out before: a scrappy, underrated Badger team is up against a heavily favored Ohio St team that has looked great against bad teams but not so hot against everyone else. Result: either a Badger win or a very close call.
@ Ohio St 24, Wisconsin 21
Iowa -8 vs Michigan
It's amazing that this is over a touchdown less than the Wisconsin line, considering that the Badgers are probably better than Michigan and Iowa is probably not much worse than the Buckeyes. Michigan is living off of their close win over the Irish (who aren't exactly tearing it up these days), didn't look good in their only road game, and are about the face by far the best team they've seen all year. I look at Iowa's Penn St win as a template here; other than the one big pass play at the start of the game, they shut down the Lions, and at home they'll do the same thing to Michigan. This could very well be a total blowout.
Tennessee -1.5 vs Georgia
Despite being an underdog, Georgia is going to be picked by everyone, from experts to casual bettors. WATCH OUT! Everyone seems to be assuming that Georgia is really good, but I have to wonder. They lost by 14 at what now looks like a mediocre OK St team, they barely beat a mediocre ASU team, and they were really lucky to squeak out a home win over South Carolina. In terms of resume… meh. Meanwhile, Tennessee has (very) quietly not been that bad. As long as Crompton isn't self-destructing (see: UCLA), they can do fairly well, and with their strong defense might actually be the better team. They hung with Florida at the Swamp, and gave a pretty good Auburn team a scare. They're at home, in a desperation game (2-4 would be a major crisis), and NOBODY likes them. Works for me.
Michigan St -4 @ Illinois
Through five weeks of the season, the Spartans are mediocre, and the Illini are completely awful. Maybe they finally wake up and play to their talent level, but right now I've got to see it to believe it.
Minnesota -3 vs Purdue
Umm… why is Purdue supposed to be good? At Minnesota this line says they're basically even, which seems a big over-reaction to the Badgers' close loss last week to Wisconsin, or way too much credit being given Purdue for close losses against Oregon and Notre Dame. I'm not buying either one at all. Minny wins, probably easily.
Idaho +4.5 @ SJ St
Even off of a bye and at home, I just don't think the Spartans ought to win this game. Despite a 5-0 ATS run (@ Washington was close to a push), Idaho continues to be overlooked, while SJ St seems to be coasting on reputation rather than performance. Either the Spartans had a breakthrough during their bye week, or they simply aren't winning this game.
Navy -11 @ Rice
Rice is just completely awful. Navy will run circles around the Owls.
Colorado St +8 vs Utah
Very quietly, the Rams have not been bad, and at home they're always tough. Utah has struggled a bit so far this year and is very susceptible to getting knocked off here.
Pac-10: 27-10 SU, 13-18-2 ATS
National: 5-10 SU, 6-91 ATS
Bad Lines: 14-6
Mr Pac-10's 2009 Blog
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