This is just about the least interesting weekend of college football games I can remember. Other than USC-Oregon, there just isn't much out there that's particularly compelling, either within the Pac-10 or around the country.
USC (-3) @ Oregon
Preseason Pick: USC
This is it, the Pac-10 game of the year, the game that will all but decide the league winner. If Oregon wins, they have a two game lead on the Trojans, plus head to head, and USC is out of the race for the first time in a long time. If USC wins, they're tied for the league lead, with head to head and a pretty doable closing stretch, with only one road game, against a very beatable ASU team, while the Ducks will be tested at Arizona and Stanford, plus will have to deal with a tough Oregon St team at home.
On the face of it, Oregon looks like they might have the edge. They will have a hugely fired up crowd behind them, and they've been red-hot lately, winning big in each of their four league games so far, while the Trojans have struggled a bit, barely holding on at Notre Dame and vs Oregon St. If USC doesn't up their level of play, they might not just lose, they might get embarrassed.
On the Other Hand:
Oregon seems to be a team that relies on its defense to keep them hanging around until they get a big play and explode for a bunch of points. However, USC has the defense to shut down any huge plays, which means that the Ducks are going to have to find another way to win, which I don't know if they can do. Also, the atmosphere and the crowd will be crazy, but one huge edge USC has is that they've been there before. They already went to Ohio St and overcame a crazy crowd, and they went to South Bend and did it there too. They've been tested, and they've proven they can get it done even in incredibly hostile environments.
This is a really tough game to call. However, I think that USC is the better team, and I think that once again they prove it.
USC 28, @ Oregon 21
Cal (-6.5) @ Arizona St
Preseason Pick: Cal
Cal seems like a really easy pick in this game. They're starting to get hot again, having blasted UCLA and Washington St. They have a powerful offense with a lot of speed, which is a tough matchup for the Sun Devils. And their own defense, which has struggled at times, could do pretty well against an ASU attack that hasn't done much of anything. If Kevin Riley gets hot again, this could be a total blowout.
On the Other Hand:
It's Cal on the road, in a game that seems easy. That's generally not a good combination. Yes, they won at Minnesota, but that was close way too late. Yes, they won at UCLA, but they were helped by an early Bruin turnover and some awful decisions by UCLA's coaching staff. If ASU doesn't beat themselves, this could easily turn into an upset. Yes, the Sun Devils have done little on offense, but this is one of the worst defenses they've seen. If there's anyone who can get this unit to look good again, it's probably the Cal D. And, despite a lousy showing last week at Stanford, ASU has still been really good this year on defense. They ought to have at least some sort of bounce-back performance here. If they can shut down Jahvid Best and the Cal run game, they can force Kevin Riley to beat them, and there's a pretty good chance he won't be able to.
I am seriously tempted to pick the upset. However, I think that Cal will make a couple key plays, and the Sun Devils a couple key boneheaded mistakes, and that'll be the difference.
Cal 24, @ Arizona St 21
UCLA @ Oregon St (-9)
Preseason Pick: Oregon St
UCLA seems to be imploding, while the Beavers are once again getting better and better as the year goes on. Oregon St nearly came back and beat USC; even with five turnovers and one defensive touchdown the Bruins still couldn't give the Wildcats a serious game last week. Is it really this easy?
On the Other Hand:
This is a very important game for the Bruins; if they lose this then they need three straight wins to make a bowl games, and that's not easy even against a winnable stretch of games. Just as importantly, the Beaver defense could be just what the Bruins need, as they haven't been able to do much on offense of late. In addition, UCLA frequently seems to win this series even when they're the worse team; that could certainly happen again this year.
Arizona and Oregon St are similar enough that it's hard to see why UCLA should do well against the Beavers after doing so poorly against the Wildcats. This shouldn't be particularly close.
@ Oregon St 28, UCLA 13
Washington St (+27.5) vs Notre Dame
This isn't a tremendously interesting game. Notre Dame should win fairly easily, but I haven't seen anything from them to make me think they should be getting four touchdowns, even against a weak opponent like the Cougars.
Notre Dame 31, Washington St 13
National Games of the Week:
Texas (-9) @ Oklahoma St
The Cowboys are a bit better than you might think, and have had a strong tendency to play this series close. I look for that trend to continue.
Texas 37, Oklahoma St 31
South Carolina @ Tennessee(-6)
I got no clue on this one. South Carolina plus the points is the obvious pick, so for no good reason I'll lean the other way.
@ Tennessee 28, South Carolina 21
Ole Miss (-4.5) @ Auburn
Auburn is in free fall, and Miss is starting to play well, so I lean slightly towards the favorite here.
Ole Miss 27, @ Auburn 17
Georgia Tech -11 @ Vandy
This is a fairly unimportant game for Tech, which worries me a bit, but Vandy just isn't good. Unless their surprisingly close game last week against South Carolina was a harbinger of good times coming, I just don't see how this is close at all.
Indiana +17 @ Iowa
Just so we're clear, Iowa has covered this spread in precisely ONE of their games, and Indy is far from the worst team they've faced. Throw in a potential letdown (this comes right after three straight bigger games against Michigan, Wisconsin and Mich St), and this might actually go down to the wire.
Michigan -7 @ Illinois
Michigan isn't great, but the Illini haven't come within a touchdown of a 1-A opponent yet, and I fail to see why this game should be different.
Northwestern +17 vs Penn St
On the face of it, this line looks a touch high for a Wildcat team that has generally hung with teams, but if you add in how this comes between two big games for Penn St, it looks even better.
Arkansas St +3 @ Louisville
Louisville has yet to cover this line against a 1-A team, and Ark St has the added advantage that most people would look at this line and automatically back the BCS conference team. This is about a true tossup.
Idaho -3 vs Louisiana Tech
Tech has been lousy on the road all year, and there's little reason to think that is about to change. Idaho is the better team, and they're at home. This line should be around a touchdown, perhaps even more.
Pac-10: 38-12 SU, 18-26-2 ATS
National: 12-12 SU, 11-12-1 ATS
Bad Lines: 29-14-1
Mr Pac-10's 2009 Blog
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