Cal (-3.5) @ UCLA
Preseason Pick: UCLA
The two UC schools in the Pac-10 resume their annual rivalry in a game that is huge for both of them. Both come in on two game losing streaks, Cal getting completely dominated by the two best teams in the league, and UCLA losing less badly, but also to lighter competition. Cal has definitely struggled of late, but they're supposed to be a very talented team, and if they can get back their mojo, they're going to be a very difficult team to beat. They still have some very good players of defense, and of course they still have Jahvid Best. UCLA's offense has struggled, so if Cal can build an early lead instead of the early deficits they've had the last two games, they should be able to hold on for a vitally needed win.
On the Other Hand:
UCLA's gameplan has been very simple: rely on a very good defense, and make just enough plays on offense to win. Obviously, it failed at Stanford and Oregon, but they gave Stanford a game, they were up at the half against Oregon, and don't forget, it got them the win at Tennessee. Cal certainly has some good players, but they simply haven't been playing well, and there's every reason to think that they'll struggle just as much against UCLA's defense as they did against Oregon's and USC's, perhaps even more so considering that the Bruins have some fantastic players in the secondary, which will enable them to stack the box, take away the run and force Kevin Riley to win the game. And their own defense has been shaky enough of late that the Bruins actually might be able to put some points on the board for a change.
Cal never wins at UCLA. They're talented, they'll be fired up, but they're generally bad on the road, they're especially bad here, and crazy as it sounds, UCLA has actually been the better team so far this year. And for whatever reason, pretty much nobody likes them (CFN Fearless, ESPN's Ted Miller, all of the CBS guys, everyone I can find is going with Cal). And when everyone agrees on a game where the line is close to a tossup, that's generally a good sign that they're all wrong. Two years ago, Alterraun Verner made a huge play that sealed the win, and it's going to happen again.
@ UCLA 21, Cal 13
Washington @ Arizona St (-6.5)
Preseason Pick: Arizona St
This is gut-check time in Tempe. Washington is 3-3, ASU is 3-2, and while nothing is certain, with nasty finishing stretches for each, it's safe to say the loser isn't going to a bowl game, and the winner has a pretty reasonable chance to hit the magic six wins. In some ways, the Sun Devils seem like the likely winner. Certainly, they have the best defense on the field, as their D has been great week in and week out. And while the offense has definitely had big issues at times, they have sometimes been able to move the ball. And in a vital game like this, home-field could well be an important edge.
On the Other Hand:
Weird as it sounds, Washington has been a bit better so far this year. They did beat USC, they did nearly beat Notre Dame, and they did beat Arizona. ASU, on the other hand, has beaten three bad teams, lost at home to Oregon St, and lost to a Georgia team that got completely exposed last week at Tennessee. In other words, not much of a resume. The Sun Devil offense has had major issues, especially in the last two weeks (not doing much against Oregon St until it was too late to matter, and an ugly six turnovers at Wazzu). If the Huskies can shut down the ASU offense, they have the playmakers to at least put some points on the board, which could very well be enough to pull off the win.
I feel like ASU is due to have a good game, and that Washington is due to have the magic wear off, especially since this is away from Seattle. That said, this should be a close, hard-fought game, and almost seven points is too much for a game that should be dominated by the defenses.
@ Arizona St 17, Washington 13
Stanford @ Arizona (-4.5)
Preseason Pick: Arizona
This is another interesting game in the league, this one between two teams who had been playing well early, but suffered road losses last week and are looking to bounce back. The winner stays hot, and has to be considered in the mix for a good bowl, while the loser is no longer a lock for any bowl game, though would still be in fairly solid shape. So far, Arizona has been a slightly better team, coming up with a big win at Oregon St, beating a decent CMU team, giving Iowa a contest, and only losing at Washington due to a very unlucky break. They have a good quarterback, very good receivers, and there's no question that Stanford is very weak against teams that can pass the ball. Just like Oregon St last week, they have the skill players to put a lot of points on the board and turn it into a convincing win.
On the Other Hand:
Stanford has been a pretty good team as well so far, and suffered some bad breaks of their own, being victimized by bad officiating at Wake and a key drop on their first play of the game at Oregon St. Arizona is supposed to have a pretty good defense, but they've let other teams put some yards and points on the board. Stanford has some serious playmakers on offense, and when things are going well they can dominate a game with their punishing ground attack and get enough through the air to keep defenses honest.
Stanford has a reasonable shot at this game, but it's hard to trust them on the road. Unless Arizona pulls one of their patented late-game meltdowns (which is certainly possible), they should win this
@ Arizona 31, Stanford 23
USC (-10) @ Notre Dame
I know this game is getting plenty of press, and that it's getting trendy to pick the upset, but I just don't see it. Jimmy Clausen is good, but the offense still isn't quite where it needs to be without Michael Floyd, and the Irish defense is BAD. Even at home, even off a bye, they won't be able to slow down, much less stop, the Trojans. They'll get some points, and make some nice plays, but won't get nearly enough against a stingy USC defense to keep up with how frequently the Trojans will be scoring against their own D.
USC 34, @ Notre Dame 20
National Games of the Week:
Texas (-3) vs Oklahoma
This line seems pretty reasonable, all things considered. Bradford being back could definitely swing the game, but right now I just can't pick against Texas in this one.
Texas 28, Oklahoma 27
Virginia Tech (-3) @ Georgia Tech
The Jackets are playing well, and are at home, but the Hokies are just too good.
Virginia Tech 28, @ Georgia Tech 21
South Carolina @ Alabama (-17.5)
This line is very reasonable. I lean slightly towards Carolina covering, because Bama could get a bit of a letdown after the big win at Ole Miss and Tennessee always will get some of their attention, but I don't think there's a serious chance of an upset here.
@ Alabama 28, South Carolina 13
Rutgers +5.5 vs Pitt
Somewhat quietly, Rutgers is starting to play well again. They also have the edge of essentially having had a few weeks to prep for this game, since last week they had a AA team and before that a bye, while Pitt just had a very tough game against UConn.
Arkansas +24.5 @ Florida
I might be overreacting a bit to the Hogs' two-game winning streak, but they're really not looking like a bad team, and more than three touchdowns is a lot to give against a decent to good team, even for the Gators.
SMU +7 vs Navy
SMU definitely can self-destruct (see: Wazzu), but when they're not beating themselves, they're not that bad. Navy hasn't won in double digits against anyone who's .500 or better, and last I checked, SMU qualified. This feels like an over-reaction to Navy's annihilation of an awful Rice team.
Colorado +10 vs Kansas
The Jayhawks have only been on the road once, against an awful UTEP team. Duke pushed them harder than the final score indicated, and they didn't exactly dominate USM and Iowa St. The Buffs definitely aren't a good team, but they're not awful either, having hung with Texas for a half, with West Virginia most of the game, and frequently showing signs that they're better than a 1-4 record would indicate. This could be an upset, though I'd guess a close Kansas win instead.
ECU -17.5 vs Rice
Rice is really, REALLY bad. I'm not sure they should be getting less than 20 at home against anyone with a pulse, much less on the road. Their closest losses have both been by 17 points; I don't think they'll keep it that close in this one.
Mizzou +7 @ Oklahoma St
Assuming Dez Bryant won't be playing, why exactly is Oklahoma St supposed to be good? A&M isn't good and they squeaked by them. Houston is mediocre and beat them. Unless you really like Tennessee, it's hard to argue that the Georgia win is particularly good (and that was with Bryant). Mizzou isn't awesome, but they're certainly not bad. They have a very realistic chance of winning this game and getting some payback for last year.
Nebraska -10.5 vs Texas Tech
10.5 points is just too few for a Nebraska team that is starting to look dominant against a Tech team that has looked awesome against bad teams but that as usual probably won't be able to do much on the road against a legitimately good team.
Virginia -3.5 @ Maryland
Very quietly, the Cavs are starting to play pretty well. The Terps are improving as well, but not enough to win this game.
BC -2.5 vs NC St
I haven't seen anything from NC St to think they have a good chance of winning this game, and while BC has had serious issues on the road, they've been pretty solid at home.
Pac-10: 30-11 SU, 14-21-2 ATS
National: 7-11 SU, 7-11 ATS
Bad Lines: 20-7
Mr Pac-10's 2009 Blog
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