This is a really slow week for interesting high-profile games around the country (other than TCU-BYU, I really had to reach just to hit three "big" national games), as well as in the Pac-10, but there are definitely some under the radar games that at least have a chance of being good.
Oregon (-10.5) @ Washington
Preseason Pick: Washington
This is the most interesting of the Pac-10 games this week. Oregon has won five straight in this rivalry, has really started playing well the past few weeks, and now comes into an extremely hostile Husky Stadium against a Washington squad that is far better than most people thought they'd be coming into the year.
Obviously, Oregon is the favorite, and deservedly so. They've been playing really well of late, blasting Cal, blasting Wazzu, and winning comfortably at UCLA. Meanwhile, the Huskies haven't been quite so good. They were lucky to beat Arizona, and then screwed up the end of the game at Arizona St last week. On a neutral site, Oregon would be an absolute slam-dunk pick.
On the Other Hand:
This isn't a neutral site. This is Husky Stadium, where LSU almost fell and USC did, where magic happened against Arizona, where a fairly decent Idaho team got their asses kicked. If the Huskies can keep this close until the end, it just feels like something good is going to happen again. Just as importantly, this is THE game for the Huskies, partially because they desperately need a win to get back into serious bowl contention, and partially because they're going to be especially fired up to end five straight Duck wins in this rivalry. Certainly Oregon cares about this game, but ultimately, next week's game against USC is more important to their ambitions. When one team is going to pull out all the stops and the other team is going to be saving some bullets for next week, that's a substantial edge.
Picking the upset is a bit tempting given the huge intangible edges Washington will enjoy in this game. However, Oregon has just been playing so well that I can't do it. The Huskies give them all they can handle, but this time the magic won't be enough.
Oregon 31, @ Washington 28
UCLA @ Arizona (-7.5)
Preseason Pick: Arizona
Arizona is surging, and UCLA is reeling. Arizona has won two of three, including a rare road win at Corvallis, while UCLA has lost three straight, and hasn't been particularly close in any of them. Arizona is at home, where they're really tough to beat, and UCLA is on the road, which is rarely kind to them. Arizona has speed and a load of weapons on offense, and UCLA doesn't. UCLA's defense is supposed to be good, but has really struggled of late. Is this pick really that easy?
On the Other Hand:
UCLA still has a lot of talent on defense, and could absolutely turn it around. Moreover, the Bruins are a team that seems to succeed just when you're ready to write them off, and Arizona is a team that seems to fail just when you're ready to believe in them (see: Washington loss). And Stanford was a 4th and 2 conversion away from winning last week in Tucson, so it's hardly like the Wildcats are dominating.
UCLA has a shot at this game, but it's hard to see them seriously slowing down Arizona's offense, and they don't have the ability to keep up on the scoreboard.
@ Arizona 31, UCLA 21
Arizona St @ Stanford (-6.5)
Preseason Pick: Stanford
Right now, I'm not sure I believe in either of these teams. However, Stanford has been substantially better at home, and the only game where they really played poorly was at Oregon St; the other two losses could easily have been wins had a couple key plays or breaks gone the other way. Meanwhile the Sun Devils have major issues on offense, and are prone to turn the ball over, a very bad sign against a defense whose only strength is forcing turnovers. An upset is possible, but this ought to be a fairly easy win for the home team.
@ Stanford 27, Arizona St 13
Oregon St @ USC (-20.5)
Preseason Pick: USC
Almost three touchdowns is a tremendous amount of points, but USC is going to want some payback for last year, and they're good enough on defense to shut down the Beavers, and have the weapons on offense to light up the scoreboard against a vulnerable Beaver defense. Taking the points seems like the obvious pick, but I'm going the other way and will pick USC to have an easier game than most people think.
@ USC 38, Oregon St 10
Washington St @ Cal (-35)
Preseason Pick: Cal
Five touchdowns is a hell of a lot of points, even against a team as shaky as the Cougars. Cal has an important stretch against ASU, Oregon St, Arizona and Stanford coming up starting next week, so it's tough to see them really trying to run it up, and a rested Cougar ballclub ought to be decent enough to either keep the margin within 35 all game or at least come up with a garbage time score or two against Cal's second team defense.
@ Cal 45, Washington St 13
National Games of the Week:
TCU (-2.5) @ BYU
This is a tough game to call. TCU is better, but BYU is still good, and has a solid home field advantage. I lean towards the Frogs, but it's anyone's game.
TCU 28, @ BYU 24
USF @ Pitt (-6.5)
I like this game, and I think the line is very reasonable. Pitt is a bit better, and at home. Good game to watch, lousy game to pick.
@ Pitt 28, USF 21
Oklahoma (-7.5) @ Kansas
Kansas is ranked, Oklahoma is not, but the Sooners are over a touchdown favorite at Kansas. Maybe the pollsters are geniuses and Kansas wins easy, but something tells me the real reason is that Oklahoma actually deserves to be ranked and Kansas is just a mirage, which I thought got convincingly proven last week in Boulder.
Oklahoma 34, @ Kansas 17
Virginia +5.5 vs Georgia Tech
The Yellow Jackets are playing well, but Virginia is really starting to surge, they're at home, and Tech may have a bit of a letdown after the huge win over the Hokies. It's also worth noting that Tech just doesn't win blowouts; against lesser teams they beat Clemson by 3, FSU by 5, and Miss St by 11.
Duke -4 vs Maryland
Maryland is lousy, and Duke is actually pretty decent. Even though Wallace Wade isn't much of a home-field edge, they're still at home, and 4 points is just too few for this apparent mismatch.
Indiana +4.5 @ Northwestern
I have no clue why anyone still thinks Northwestern is better than the Hoosiers. The closest thing to a quality performance by the Cats was a six point win at Purdue. Meanwhile, Indy has quietly been decent, playing reasonably well in every game except the ass-kicking at Virginia. Even in Evanston, this is more like a tossup.
Michigan +4.5 vs Penn St
The one time Penn St played a remotely quality team, they lost by double-digits, and they have yet to play anyone with even a slight pulse on the road. Michigan should win this game.
Arkansas +6.5 @ Ole Miss
Seven weeks into the season, the Rebels have done nothing worth mentioning, while the Hogs nearly knocked off Florida, right after blasting Auburn. There's no way this should be more than a three-point line, and honestly I think it should be less.
Central Florida -10 @ Rice
UCF is lousy but not awful, and Rice is awful. I have no idea why this is less than two touchdowns; the only hesitation I have at all here is that it's so completely obvious.
Boise St -24.5 @ Hawaii
Boise St is way better than a bad Hawaii team, even on the Islands, and will be very fired up to destroy them after taking flak for two straight closer than expected wins.
Idaho +15.5 @ Nevada
Just like with UCF, this line feels a bit too obvious; Idaho is on a 7-0 ATS tear and is still getting massive points against a very mediocre team. Moreover, pretty everyone likes Idaho and the line isn't moving, which means that Vegas really likes Nevada. However, I can't not recommend this. Nevada has had some nice moments, but only twice all year would they have covered this line, at home against UNLV and Louisiana Tech, and Idaho looks substantially better than both of them. It really feels like Vegas is refusing to believe that the Vandals are any good, and until they change their mind or until Idaho proves them right, they look like a solid bet.
Pac-10: 33-12 SU, 15-24-2 ATS
National: 9-12 SU, 8-12-1 ATS
Bad Lines: 26-10
Mr Pac-10's 2009 Blog
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