Oregon (-7) @ Stanford
Preseason Pick: Stanford
In one of the two big games of the week (the other being not far up the road at Cal), a red-hot Oregon team visits Stanford, who has been dominant at home all year long. Off of a huge rivalry win at Washington and a mammoth win over USC, are the Ducks vulnerable to a letdown against a team that's good enough to tag them if they don't bring their A game? There are some reasons to think it might be the case. Oregon hasn't faced a team this physical yet this year, and will be far from the first good defense to venture onto the Farm; UCLA and ASU were supposed to have very good defenses, and both got reamed. As good as the Duck D has been, there's good reason to think that they'll just be the next name on the list of units the Cardinal has simply run over.
On the other side of the ball, obviously Oregon has a boatload of weapons and talent. However, Stanford has the advantage of a bye week, which against Oregon's spread option attack is an important edge. When they're on, the Ducks are nearly unstoppable, but if they're off, they can definitely be contained, and if that's the case, an upset could definitely be on the way.
On the Other Hand:
This is a lousy matchup for Stanford. Teams with speed kill the Cardinal defense, and while an extra week of prep time will help them avoid getting fooled as much by the option play, it won't help them keep up with the raw speed of the Ducks. Also, Oregon thrives on big plays and momentum, and Stanford has been very vulnerable to having off quarters and watching the other guys tack on a few scores in a row. At some point, Oregon is going to get hot, and when that happens, they're very capable of scoring something like 20 straight points.
Stanford will reach six wins and a bowl game… but not this week. They will have some good moments, and will make Oregon sweat for a while. And then the Ducks will put together a few big plays and that will be that.
Oregon 31, @ Stanford 21
Oregon St @ Cal (-7)
Preseason Pick: Cal
This should be a really fun game, featuring two teams with explosive offensive attacks and not a whole lot of defense. Cal is the favorite, and with good reason. At home they're simply a different team, as Maryland found out in week one. And while the Beavers did win at ASU, as usual they've had issues on the road, barely hanging on at UNLV and falling way behind at USC before making a late run (and that doesn't look nearly as positive as it did after the Trojans got hammered at Oregon). That's not a good sign for a team that needs to figure out a way to slow down Cal's offense, a task made even tougher by the fact that Kevin Riley is starting to play pretty well.
On the Other Hand:
Cal's defense should have just as much trouble trying to stop the Rodgers brothers, Sean Canfield and the rest of Oregon St's weapons. The Bears haven't been tested by a team nearly as good as Oregon St since they got destroyed by Oregon and USC in consecutive weeks. Against a team good enough to hang with the Bears and answer the bell, how will Cal respond? After they essentially folded twice when games started to go against them, it's a reasonable question, and it's impossible to know the answer until they provide it.
These two teams are basically even; Cal has a slightly better offense, and Oregon St a slightly better defense. At home, Cal should finally end Oregon St's winning streak at Berkeley, but it'll be another close game between the two. Though considering that the Beavers are an incredibly trendy upset pick by various experts (CFN Fearless, ESPN Miller and Feldman, and CNNSI Mandel all picked them), a Bear blowout win wouldn't stun me either.
@ Cal 35, Oregon St 31
Washington @ UCLA (-5)
Preseason Pick: UCLA
3-5 Washington visits 3-5 UCLA in a bowl elimination game for both. Actually making a bowl game is far from guaranteed for the winner, but the loser can forget about it. At home, UCLA has plenty of reasons to think that they can win this game. The main one is their opponent; Washington isn't bad, but isn't close to as good as any of the teams that have knocked off the Bruins during their losing streak. If UCLA can't beat these guys, they might not be able to win another game, and that includes their trip to Pullman. It's not just that, though; the Bruins are actually showing some signs of life. Last week in Corvallis, they mounted a late-game comeback that might have actually forced overtime if the clock hadn't run out. The offense is finally starting to come alive, and the defense ought to be good enough to have a bounce-back performance against a Washington team that has done virtually nothing away from Seattle.
On the Other Hand:
Washington still has plenty of talent themselves, including Jake Locker, who should benefit greatly from the bye week to rest and rebuild his confidence. He's not the only one on the team who should benefit; the lines, the backs, and the whole defense should be better after having the week off. They may have struggled on the road, but the Bruins are the most beatable opponent they've faced in a while. They're very capable of putting it together and coming away with an important win.
This is a tough game to call. Washington has played a bit better and is off a bye week, but UCLA is at home, where they generally do very well. The Huskies plus the points seem like an obvious pick, but my gut is telling me that the Bruins finally turn it around with a good performance in this game, especially since Jake Locker may not be 100%.
@ UCLA 27, Washington 17
USC (-10) @ Arizona St
Preseason Pick: USC
We all know how USC responds to losses. They come out and dominate the unfortunate souls who line up against them. An ASU team that has a sub-par offense and a good but not great defense isn't going to change that trend.
USC 31, @ Arizona St 14
Washington St @ Arizona (-32)
Preseason Pick: Arizona
Obviously this isn't likely to be a competitive game, so the only real question is about the cover. 32 points is a lot to cover, but Arizona has a boatload of weapons on offense, and they have what it takes to blast the Cougars. Maybe they start subbing early because they have four big games afterwards, but this is a well-rested team off of a bye, and I doubt they take their foot off the throttle in any substantial way.
@ Arizona 42, Washington St 7
National Games of the Week:
LSU @ Alabama (-7.5)
This line is too low. LSU is decent but Bama is just way too good for this game to be close.
@ Bama 28, LSU 14
Ohio St @ Penn St (-5)
At home, Penn St should win the game, but it should go right down to the wire.
@ Penn St 24, Ohio St 21
Oklahoma (-4.5) @ Nebraska
Nebraska has a shot at home, but the Sooners are just too good to be denied.
Oklahoma 28, @ Nebraska 21
Iowa -15.5 vs Northwestern
Northwestern just isn't very good, and while Iowa has issues, they're going to be fired up to finally have a game where they aren't tight until they end. Throw in the fact that nobody believes in Iowa after last week's stinker, and I'm happy to go against the public.
Duke +10 @ UNC
When did the Tar Heels get good enough to be getting double digits against a decent team like Duke? Yeah, they won @ Virginia Tech, but there's absolutely nothing else in their resume that supports this sort of line. At least 3 points too high.
Idaho +7.5 vs Fresno
Idaho may have failed to cover two straight weeks, but they're still a decent football team, and over a touchdown is way too much for Fresno, whose best win was Utah St, and that was a close win at home.
SMU -17.5 vs Rice
I'm just going to keep on fading Rice until they show a pulse or until Vegas adjusts to how utterly awful they are.
Georgia Tech -14 vs Wake
Wake is generally mediocre and lousy on the road. It would be a big surprise if they could even hang with Tech, much less have any shot of the upset.
Pac-10: 41-13 SU, 20-28-2 ATS
National: 14-13 SU, 12-14-1 ATS
Bad Lines: 30-19-1
Mr Pac-10's 2009 Blog
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